Space flight, a CD and a signature: Julie Payette's first official visit to P.E.I.
'I had a poster of her in my classroom as inspiration for the kids'
On a cloudy, rainy Monday, Gov. Gen. Julie Payette made her way across the grounds of the Fanningbank estate — where P.E.I.'s Government House stands — to mark her first official visit to the Island.
Payette was greeted by a 100-person honour guard including members of army and navy reserve units, as well as P.E.I. Lt.-Gov.Antoinette Perry and Premier Wade MacLauchlan.
"We'll make this quick," Payette said with a laugh as she inspected the honour guard in the drizzling rain.
The 5th Canadian Division gave a 21-gun salute and the national band of the naval reserve played O Canada, God Save the Queen and other pieces.
Inside Government House, Payette sat down at a table to sign the visitor's book. She affixed the Governor General's coat of arms on the page opposite her signature.
About 20 members of the public gathered in the out door covered veranda of Government House. Many were excited to welcome Payette and celebrate her new role as Canada's Governor General and her former career as an astronaut.
'A very accomplished Canadian'
"I was a core French teacher, I had a poster of her in my classroom as inspiration for the kids," said Helen MacPherson, a retired teacher from Glen Stewart Elementary School in Stratford, P.E.I. "She's a very accomplished Canadian and she's also a French Canadian."
"That's amazing. I can't believe it," said Zhijun Xu, a newcomer from China, learning of Payette's time in space. "It's very interesting for me, so I came here just to have a look."
After meeting with students and staff at UPEI in the afternoon, Payette later returned to Government House at 5 p.m. to give a speech.
"I've been coming to … Prince Edward Island for many years, camping on the eastern side going around the Island," she said.
"It's always a homecoming, but I really thank you for welcoming me on this first official visit as Governor General. … It's an extraordinary community and that is actually an enormous richness and strength that you have here in this province."
'One CD I've failed to return'
Payette surprised those in attendance with a special gift she had for an Islander.
On her second flight in space nearly 10 years ago, she took CDs from each province to represent sounds from across the country.
From folk to classic to rock, the music travelled to space with her and orbited the world. The point, she said, was to honour and celebrate Canadians in the performing arts.
She's returned all CDs but one: award-winning folk troubadour Lennie Gallant's.
"There is one CD I've failed to return from my 2009 flight," she said. "Today is my opportunity to return it right here in his home province."
She presented Gallant with his CD, which she said orbited Earth with her on the International Space Station about 250 times.
The Governor General will be in Halifax and Lunenburg, N.S., next as part of her visit to the East Coast.
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With files from Brian Higgins