Racing, flying, eating on the itinerary as royals visit birthplace of Canada

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CHARLOTTETOWN - Prince William and Kate, who wed two months ago in a ceremony worthy of a fairy tale, are making their first visit to a province celebrated in history texts and immortalized in one of the world's most beloved storybooks.

The newlyweds' stay on Prince Edward Island — the birthplace of Confederation and home to Lucy Maud Montgomery's Anne of Green Gables — will be among the most hands-on stops of their cross-country tour.

For a while, the tourism slogan for Canada's smallest province urged visitors to simply "come play." The Duke and Duchess of Cambridge will do just that during their brief stay, with a dragon boat race on the official itinerary and an adventurous military demonstration.

One royal observer says it's clear that William and Kate want to enjoy themselves on their first official trip abroad as husband and wife.

"One thing the royals are famous for not doing are stunts . . . if they don't want to do a dragon boat race or participate in something like that, they wouldn't do it," says Barry MacKenzie, a spokesman for the Monarchist League of Canada. "So, I think in this case, it's very much William and Kate thinking, 'Oh, that will be a lot of fun.'"

The royal duo arrived Sunday under brilliantly sunny skies to a cheering, adoring crowd in the capital city of Charlottetown, fresh off a two-day visit to Quebec that was marked, at times, by protests. In Montreal, they dined with Premier Jean Charest and made stops at a children's hospital and a culinary institute before boarding HMCS Montreal for Quebec City where they visited a youth centre and enjoyed some private time.

There's plenty packed into their P.E.I. schedule, though the couple is only expected to spend about seven hours taking part in official activities.

The pair will begin the day at Province House — the second oldest active legislature in Canada — where Premier Robert Ghiz and Prince William are expected to make remarks. The national historic site is perhaps best known for hosting the Charlottetown Conference some 146 years ago, which laid the foundation for Confederation and the creation of Canada.

William and Kate will then retrace the steps of the fathers of Confederation by proceeding down Great George Street in a landau to the city's waterfront. At Confederation Landing, the pair will take in a musical theatre performance of "The Talking Stick," which tells First Nations' stories from across the country.

They will then travel by motorcade to Dalvay by-the-Sea, a resort along the island's north shore that has been featured in the Anne of Green Gables films and the TV series "Road to Avonlea." There, the couple will — quite possibly literally — get their feet wet competing against Premier Robert Ghiz in a dragon boat race.

P.E.I.'s culture and cuisine will also be showcased during the visit. The duke and duchess will be invited to sample some of the province's most famous and delectable exports, including new potato chowder, oysters and steamed mussels.

Dalvay by-the-Sea is also where Prince William will get the chance to show off his experience as a search and rescue pilot in the Royal Air Force by flying a CH124 Sea King helicopter.

William will be on board the chopper for a demonstration known as waterbirding, a unique training manoeuvre over water that's designed to simulate an emergency landing.

The tour's co-ordinator, Kevin MacLeod, says the prince will undoubtedly make note of what he learns from the experience and bring that knowledge back to the U.K.

MacLeod, who also serves as the Canadian secretary to the Queen, says the tour's events were specially selected so that the newlyweds can get to know Canada by being a part of it instead of acting merely as observers.

"They are not here just visiting," he says. "They're here to participate, to be amongst us and to do what we do."

Notably absent from the itinerary is any specific mention of Anne of Green Gables. The island has built an entire industry around the bestselling novel published more than a century ago.

For weeks, rumours have circulated in the media of Kate's affinity for the classic tale of the red-haired orphan, but MacLeod says there's been no official confirmation of that.

However, he says two actors from "Anne of Green Gables — The Musical" were slated to make an appearance at some point during the tour.

"Certainly, (William and Kate) are aware of Lucy Maud Montgomery and they're aware of the importance of the novel to the cultural identity . . . of P.E.I.," he says.

The royal couple will wrap up their stay on P.E.I. by travelling to the city of Summerside where they will observe a search and rescue demonstration and meet families before heading west.

More hands-on activities await the couple in Yellowknife and Calgary, including taking part in a game of street hockey with youth and officially launching the Calgary Stampede parade.

MacKenzie says he believes the couple's fun-loving attitude will linger in the minds of Canadians long after they've departed and help lead the monarchy into the future.

"The royal family . . . always has to consider what is necessary for its evolution and its survival," he says.

"They, like any other group, realize that these are the sorts of things that people want to see."

Geographic location: Canada

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