Sunday, June 7, 2009

Museum Review: Green Gables & LMM Cavendish National Historic Site

Cavendish, PEI, trades in shamelessly on its presumed relationship with Lucy Maud Montgomery's fictional town of Avonlea, most famously inhabited by Anne Shirley of Anne of Green Gables fame. But between the Shining Waters Family Fun Park, Kindred Spirits Country Inn, Anne's Windy Poplars Cottages, Bosom Buddies Cottages and Suites, and Avonlea Village, where you can "Live the story as you travel in time 100 years and interact with the characters as the story unfolds around you," there is an actual historic site to visit. The price of admission includes the Green Gables farmhouse, some re-created barnyard buildings, and the opportunity to walk through Lover's Lane and the Haunted Wood. The house, on which L.M. Montgomery loosely based the fictional Green Gables, was actually owned her cousins, doesn't have much in the way of gables, and was updated somewhat since the turn of the century. The site managers (marketers?) were in the unenviable position of having hordes of tourists coming through and wanting to see the "real" Green Gables, so they took the house and, with generous donations from Cavendish residents, attempted to recreate the book as faithfully as possible. The house floor plan therefore includes "Matthew's Room" and "Anne's Room," and (judging by our observations) the tourists are happy. Once you get past the genuine attempt to historically re-create a fictional character's homestead, the house itself is quite charming, although not rigorously authentic, with a simple layout and a few nice historical pieces.
The gardens immediately around the house are delightful, and Lover's Lane was scattered with profusions of Forget-Me-Nots and quivering aspens. Spring is farther behind where it was in Massachusetts, so we were treated to lilacs, bleeding hearts, and tulips, all of which have long since shriveled at home. In addition to the Green Gables site, a few extra dollars Canadian will buy admission to the Site of L.M. Montgomery's Cavendish Home, which is just that, a stone foundation where Montgomery's grandparents' house once stood, and where she lived until departing for Ontario in 1911. This site, while much quieter than Green Gables, is still run by the Macneill family, and had a very pleasant bookstore in which one could (and one did) buy postcards with scans of original Anne book covers. Returning to Green Gables by way of the Haunted Wood path (not that daunting during broad daylight, with other tourists brushing past), we were somewhat shocked to have the pleasant quiet of our day punctuated by the brash vulgarity of the gift shop, which was full of embroidered PEI items and blaring music from Anne of Green Gables: The Musical!. All I can say is: If I had to work in that shop every day, with that soundtrack as my background music, I would be a very difficult person to live with.

Overall Grade: B

Random Notes:

For such a small town, Cavendish also has a large assortment of kooky "museums" and amusements, presumably for parents to take their children to on rainy days when the beach is not an option and they are already bored with the limited charm of Green Gables. Some examples: Jurassic Bart’s Dinosaur Museum & Petting Farm, Ripley's Believe It or Not! Museum, The Fantazmagoric Museum of the Strange and Unusual, and Wax World of the Stars (including Willie Nelson!).

The good thing about seeing touristy things in Canada: You only have to read half as much stuff as you think you're going to have to when you first see the explanatory sign, because it's all translated into French. This part is also useful when the English part of the sign has been rubbed away, but only when your French skills aren't as rusty as mine are.

Several people from Salt Lake City and Orem, Utah visited this site yesterday. I am sure this doesn't have anything to do with me but, cosmically, it feels like it should.

1 comment:

rkaller said...

How about a shoutout to the hits from Texas? :P