Span of Green Gables

From tomorrow, new bridges in Canada and Denmark mean the traveller can bid farewell to troubled waters.

Ask someone to list Canada's provinces. I bet they will miss out at least two, and I can guess which they will be - at least for the rest of today: Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick.

You could earn extra points in a pub quiz by pointing out that these are, respectively, Canada's smallest and the nation's only bilingual provinces (Quebec, of course, being monolingually French). But from tomorrow, life in the placid backwater of Canada's maritime provinces will never be the same again. New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island will suddenly appear on the inspired traveller's map.

The reason is a strip of concrete nine miles long and six lanes wide: the Confederation Bridge, arcing effortlessly across the Northumberland Strait. The tiny island province is about to get hitched to New Brunswick, tucked into a fold of the Canadian mainland.

The bridge itself is already a tourist attraction - not least because the 6,000 people who have built it over the past four years installed a deliberate meander. In order to counter the hypnotic effects of a 10- minute drive along a dead-straight road, the bridge has been built like an elongated "S".

As huge civil engineering projects go, it was pretty cheap: pounds 400m, about the same as the one-mile Limehouse Link tunnel through London's Docklands. Instead of having Limehouse and the Isle of Dogs at either end, the new bridge links two provinces which are as unspoilt as they are uncelebrated. But from tomorrow, they will be famous.

Prince Edward Island

You will be forgiven for concluding that the bridge was hypnotic after all, and that you've driven into a child's painting outfit. On PEI (as the locals always truncate it - often with a slur, to "pee-eye"), colours acquire a new intensity.

A strident stripe of yellow sand is squeezed between the sharp, primary blue of the Atlantic and the deep green that dominates this particular emerald isle. Human endeavours to compete with nature's bold, bright strokes are Fauvist in character: barns and boathouses cast in rich reds and blazing oranges, their angles leaping into the calm ultramarine of the sky.

The people are colourful, too. Almost everyone I met had roots on the Celtic fringe of Europe, many with hair the shade of the sun as it sets into the Strait - emulating the flaming curls of the most (or only?) famous Islander.

Anne of Green Gables is an entirely fictional creation, but her legend has been milked as assiduously as the plump cows that decorate the island's fields. Lucy Maud Montgomery's semi-autobiographical novel fuels an entire industry, and Anne's curly-ginger-haired visage is adored by thousands of young Japanese women. They home in on the handsome timber house known as Park Corner, where Ms Montgomery married - now the Anne of Green Gables Museum.

A fire 10 days ago caused some damage, and it is now closed for repairs. Luckily the museum's only real LMM relic, her battered typewriter, was saved from the flames ("as red as Anne's hair, as hot as her temper," etc) because it was in for repairs. But you can still enjoy the rustic serenity of the location, with lawns dancing lightly down to Campbell's Pond -"the lake of shining waters" - interrupted by the odd growling tour bus.

Some locals resent the intrusion. A correspondent complained to the island's newspaper thus: "Does PEI have nothing more to offer than the fact that it is the setting for an utterly beaten-to-death work of questionable literary merit?"

The island has plenty more to offer, not least its fun-sized capital. Charlottetown is an unassuming fishing village that accommodates institutions of state with elegance along the dignified, tree-fringed streets. One advantage that the layer of bureaucracy confers is a better range of restaurants than you could reasonably expect in a town of 50,000. I dined expansively but economically at the Gainsford, and washed the meal down with a pint of Murphy's Stout at the Claddagh - an Irish pub with more character than modern imposters.

The locals tell jokes about the supposed dullness of Canada's other provinces ("Scare away a dog in Saskatchewan, and you can still see it running four days later"), and worry about the loss of insularity. But for travellers, there is now a giant paintbox near the end of the Trans-Canada Highway. Just turn left for the new Span of Green Gables.

New Brunswick

Other parts of the world, other Canadian provinces even, bombard the traveller with possibilities. But in New Brunswick, life is uncomplicated: what you see on the road atlas is mostly what you get.

And what you see is a gentle province rolling in from the Atlantic shore, wrinkled by river valleys and speckled with small, workmanlike towns. Look at the fine print alongside each dot, and the place names reveal a province where French and British settlers co-exist in towns called Notre Dame and Canterbury.

On the Acadian Peninsula, poking into the Gulf of St Lawrence between PEI and Quebec, live survivors of one of the world's lost nations. The Acadians, the first French settlers in Canada, occupied the maritime provinces until the end of the 18th century, when the British began mercilessly to oppress them - with the help of Loyalists fleeing post-revolutionary America. Half were expelled, moving south to Louisiana, where their name was corrupted to "Cajun".

Those who remained managed to cling to their culture and language - which remains much closer to Metropolitan French than the mangled dialect of neighbouring Quebec. Stay this side of the frontier, where controversy comes a distant second to countryside.

Crossings

The best international airport for both Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick is Halifax, a short drive away in Nova Scotia. The only airline with direct scheduled flights from Britain is Air Canada (0345 181313), which flies daily from Heathrow. Lower fares are available through discount agents on Icelandair via Reykjavik and KLM via Amsterdam; these also give a choice of departure points outside London. In addition, charter carriers such as Bluebird Express (0990 320000) offer low fares.

From Halifax, reaching New Brunswick and Prince Edward Island will be tough unless you rent a car. Simon Calder paid C$59 (about pounds 27) per day to rent a small car from Hertz; lower rates may be available if you book in advance.

The toll for the Confederation Bridge is C$35 (about pounds 17) for a car; pedestrians and cyclists cross free, travelling in special buses.

Quiz note: Canada's provinces are, from east to west, Newfoundland (incorporating Labrador), Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick, Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, Alberta and British Columbia. The North West Territories and the Yukon are territories, not provinces.

The Independent travel offers: Discover a world of inspiring destinations

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Sheeran arrives at the 56th annual Grammy Awards earlier this year
musicYes, that would be Ed Sheeran, according to the BBC
Arts and Entertainment
AKB48 perform during one of their daily concerts at Tokyo’s Akihabara theatre
musicJapan's AKB48 are one of the world’s most-successful pop acts
News
Ian Thorpe has thanked his supporters after the athlete said in an interview that he is gay
people
News
The headstone of jazz great Miles Davis at Woodlawn Cemetery in New York
news
Arts and Entertainment
Brendan O'Carroll has brought out his female alter-ego Agnes Brown for Mrs Brown's Boys D'Movie
filmComedy holds its place at top of the UK box office
News
newsBear sweltering in zoo that reaches temperatures of 40 degrees
Arts and Entertainment
Professor Kathy Willis will showcase plants from the Royal Botanic Gardens at Kew
radioPlants: From Roots to Riches has been two years in the making
Travel
ebookHow to enjoy the perfect short break in 20 great cities
Arts and Entertainment
TV The follow-up documentary that has got locals worried
Arts and Entertainment
Eminem's daughter Hailie has graduated from high school
music
Arts and Entertainment
Original Netflix series such as Orange Is The New Black are to benefit from a 'substantial' increase in investment
TVHoax announcement had caused outrage
Life and Style
Swimsuit, £245, by Agent Provocateur
fashion

Diving in at the deep end is no excuse for shirking the style stakes

News
One Direction star Harry Styles who says he has no plans to follow his pal Cara Delevingne down the catwalk.
peopleManagement confirms rumours singer is going it alone are false
Independent Travel Videos
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Amsterdam
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in Giverny
Independent Travel Videos
Simon Calder in St John's
Independent Travel Videos
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs Travel

    Sales Manager (Fashion and Jewellery), Paddington, London

    £45-£55k OTE £75k : Charter Selection: Major London International Fashion and ...

    Volunteer Digital Marketing Trustee needed

    Voluntary, reasonable expenses reimbursed: Reach Volunteering: Are you keen on...

    Java Swing Developer - Hounslow - £33K to £45K

    £33000 - £45000 per annum + 8% Bonus, pension: Deerfoot IT Resources Limited: ...

    Corporate Events Sales Manager, Marlow,Buckinghamshire

    £30K- £40K pa + Commision £10K + Benefits: Charter Selection: Rapidly expandin...

    Day In a Page

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream as Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil

    Super Mario crushes the Messi dream

    Germany win the 2014 World Cup in Brazil
    Saharan remains may be evidence of the first race war, 13,000 years ago

    The first race war, 13,000 years ago?

    Saharan remains may be evidence of oldest large-scale armed conflict
    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Scientists find early warning system for Alzheimer’s

    Researchers hope eye tests can spot ‘biomarkers’ of the disease
    Sex, controversy and schoolgirl schtick

    Meet Japan's AKB48

    Pop, sex and schoolgirl schtick make for controversial success
    In pictures: Breathtaking results of this weekend's 'supermoon'

    Weekend's 'supermoon' in pictures

    The moon appeared bigger and brighter at the weekend
    Iraq crisis: How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over the north of the country

    How Saudi Arabia helped Isis take over northern Iraq

    A speech by an ex-MI6 boss hints at a plan going back over a decade. In some areas, being Shia is akin to being a Jew in Nazi Germany, says Patrick Cockburn
    The evolution of Andy Serkis: First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes

    The evolution of Andy Serkis

    First Gollum, then King Kong - now the actor is swinging through the trees in Dawn of the Planet of the Apes
    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial: Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried

    You thought 'Benefits Street' was controversial...

    Follow-up documentary 'Immigrant Street' has got locals worried
    Refugee children from Central America let down by Washington's high ideals

    Refugee children let down by Washington's high ideals

    Democrats and Republicans refuse to set aside their differences to cope with the influx of desperate Central Americas, says Rupert Cornwell
    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Children's books are too white, says Laureate

    Malorie Blackman appeals for a better ethnic mix of authors and characters and the illustrator Quentin Blake comes to the rescue
    Blackest is the new black: Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...

    Blackest is the new black

    Scientists have developed a material so dark that you can't see it...
    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    Matthew Barzun: America's diplomatic dude

    The US Ambassador to London holds 'jeans and beer' gigs at his official residence – it's all part of the job, he tells Chris Green
    Meet the Quantified Selfers: From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor

    Meet the 'Quantified Selfers'

    From heart rates to happiness, there is little this fast-growing, self-tracking community won't monitor
    Madani Younis: Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Five-star reviews are just the opening act for British theatre's first non-white artistic director

    Madani Younis wants the neighbourhood to follow his work as closely as his audiences do
    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    Mrs Brown and her boys: are they having a laugh?

    When it comes to national stereotyping, the Irish – among others – know it can pay to play up to outsiders' expectations, says DJ Taylor