Looking out the window of our room I saw below the statue of Samuel de Champlain, the “Father of New France” and founder of Québec City in 1608. To the left the Canadian flag flew at half-mast to recognise the death of Bernard Landry, a former Premier of the Province, and a separatist. The image struck me as the concurrence of three texts: a beginning and an end, in a place willing to remember both.
I returned home last week, July 15th, after just over 8 weeks on our latest travel assignment. Since returning I've been able to prepare a slideshow (just over 3.5 minutes) of some shots from Newfoundland.
Yesterday was a gentle day, we drove north from Charlottetown to Prince Edward Island National Park, and then along the Gulf Shore Parkway to Green Gables and then south to Miscouche to spend the night.
Our goal for the coastal drive was to find the red sandstone cliffs facing the sea we recalled from our visit of 20 years ago. While we found something similar, they lacked the magnificence our memories pictured. Whether that was through physical erosion or mental elaboration I don't know. But certainly now what we saw is mostly fenced off; 20 years ago it was possible to climb the rocks.
After the coastal drive we visited Green Gables, the home of the fictional Anne Shirley. Although it was an attraction those many years before, now there is a visitor's centre and a whole host of visitors trappings. As I have not read the books, the scene offered little.
For dinner we picked up some groceries and ate on the shaded deck of the B&B in Miscouche we had booked; a nice light meal in a quiet and comfortable setting.
Yesterday we drove from Charlottetown to East Point, and then along the North Shore of the Island to Greenwich and the back to Charlottetown.
We climbed to the top of the lighthouse at East Point which gave us a view of the Point and beaches. On the North Shore we stopped into the fishing village of North Lake; a busy harbour with boats coming and going every minute. We ended the day's tour at Prince Edward Island National Park and a walk along the boardwalk out to the beach.
Miscouche, Prince Edward Island is our next stop.
We left Chéticamp Nova Scotia fairly early and drove about 6 hours to Charlottetown PEI.
We decided to cross over to PEI on the Confederation Bridge. While there is a ferry service to the island, that was closer, co-ordinating with the schedule proved more cumbersome than necessary so we drove the extra distance. The toll for the bridge is $46. return; payment is on return, not on entry. It strikes me as an encouragement to stay on the island. The Inn where we are staying in Charlottetown is located in the downtown area just up from the shore. After checking in we visited a nearby floating restaurant for a light lunch of a half pound of mussels and a beer for $9. We then walked over to Queen Street up to the Confederation Building which unfortunately is closed for renovations. We returned along Queen and had dinner. But here we changed our menu from fish to meat. Linda and I shared a Chateaubriand. A nice change.
As a result of the delayed ferry we had compress our visit to Louisbourg and our drive along the Cabot Trail. As it turned out, weather complemented these decisions.
We left the Inn where we were staying in Lousibourg and arrived just before the gates opened. At this time of year visitors are bussed to the site; we were on the first bus. The village and fortress were thus quite empty. While there was fog when we arrived it was not too dense. This changed over the morning until by noon visibility was severely reduced and we decided to leave. Louisbourg was a major centre in it's day. One guide called it the Fort McMurray of it's day. It was a resource-rich area (cod fishing) where people could come and make high salaries. An interesting perspective. Occupation of the area pre-dates the building of the fortress and the wall around the village. That came with economic activity and importance. The village contains business, residences and small farms organized along wide streets. One farm had turkeys and a proud male walking behind the house. When I played various turkey calls from my Bird App, the male responded with loud calls of his own and a full display of his tail feathers. The Fort was Built in 1720 and then destroyed by the British in 1760, or just about 40 years later. It was rebuilt starting in the 1970's so arguably it will have a longer life as a museum than an active fortress and village.
As we drove in-land from Louisbourg towards the Cabot Trail, the fog thinned. By the time we reached the trail the fog had lifted to expose a beautiful, warm day. We drove the trail counter-clockwise as recommended by many. This direction provides easier access to the lookouts and a slightly less encumbered view of the coastline. We stopped at several lookouts, but with our shortened schedule we took no hikes. The Park at the top of Cape Breton is quite large, and the trail just skirts the perimeter. Hikes into the interior would do the Park more justice. We ended the day in Chéticamp, just outside the Park, where we spent the night.
Our next stop is Prince Edward Island.
Our last stop in Newfoundland was the terminal at Argentia for the ferry to Syndey Nova Scotia. Unfortunately the departure was delayed nearly 11 hours. This delay will impact our visit to Louisbourg and the Cabot Trail.
We had dinner on board while we waited for departure; it turned out to be excellent. We all had the halibut. Halibut is a difficult fish to cook without it becoming dry and unsavory. However this chef was able to avoid that problem and deliver a juicy filet.
At 4:00 AM the ferry departed Argentia, and arrived at Sydney at 7:00 PM local time or after 15 1/2 hours. The first third of the ferry's course seemed to be close enough to shore that we continued to receive a cell signal. This was a nice surprise. However, it was only until we reached Sydney Harbour that the fog lifted which was too bad because I had hoped to see something of the landscape.
While we were last to board, we were among the first to disembark which enabled us to get to our hotel earlier than I had anticipated, which was a pleasant outcome.
Yesterday's main event was a boat cruise out to Gull Island, off Bay Bulls, just west of St. John's. Prior to the cruise we returned to Cape Spear as it was along the way. We ended the day with a walk in the area we are staying in St. John's.
It was a sunny and warm day, the temperature in St. John's reached 20 or so. Thus it was a perfect day for a boat ride. The goal was (again) to see some puffins, which we did, but again even the reach of my 400mm was insufficient. However, on the way to the island we came across to some Fin Whales; no breaches, just the fin coming out of the water, but enough to say we had seen them.
As the cruise didn't start until 10:30, and the weather was good, we decided to return to Cape Spear and climb up to the lighthouse. Yesterday's blistering cold wind made that trek very uncomfortable.
Today we will drive to Argentia for the 5 PM Ferry back to Sydney Nova Scotia. The crossing takes between 16-18 hours, and thus without WiFi I may not be able to post for a day or so.
Yesterday, we drove to Cape Spear then continued west through Petty Harbour and Bay Bulls and finally returning to St. John's and a walk downtown.
Cape Spear currently hosts a lighthouse, but formerly hosted a fortress guarding the entrance into St. John's Harbour. The Cape is also the eastern-most point of land on the North American Continent. At that eastern-most point the seas were rougher than we had seen since arriving; the wind was strong and cold. A flag flew near by; it must be the eastern-most flag on the Continent.
In Bay Bulls we had lunch and returned to St. John's for a walk along the harbour and then back along Duckworth Street and then New Gower St. and then to our apartment.
Yesterday was our first full day in St. John's. We toured around some of the major attractions (Signal Hill and Quidi Vidi Brewery), met a friend for dinner and listened to Newfoundland Folk Music.
In St. John's we've rented a duplex, the main floor and basement portions. It is located within a 10 minute walk of the centre of downtown. The houses in this area are traditional St. John's architecture: colourfully pained row-houses, generally late 19th Century. While the floors are uneven (even wavy) and no room seems square, for a 4-day visit the accommodation are quite satisfactory. These foibles provide character rather than nuisance.
Like Fort Point in Trinity, Signal Hill has been a military post since the mid 18th century. Most of the buildings and fortifications are gone. The Cabot Tower is a newer addition, built in 1897. The Hill provides a great view of the city and the entrance to the harbour, as well as a number of trails. We walked the trail between the Tower and the Visitor's Centre. While we were at the top of the Hill to watch the firing of the noon-time canon, this time of year it is shot only if the guy turns up. On this day he didn't. Apparently, in July the ceremony is completed on a regular basis.
Next we drove over to Quidi Vidi Brewery, for a tasting. This Newfoundland Brewery brews 7 different beers and we were able to taste each one. On our tour through Newfoundland, beers from this brewery have been the most widely available, especially their Iceberg beer (lager) and 1892 (ale).
We met a friend in O'Reilly's Pub for dinner. The Pub has live Newfoundland/Irish music starting at 5:00 PM. We arrived just before 5 and were able to get a front-row table. Linda had pan-fried cod with scrunchions, Dad had rabbit and I had a moose stew. They also served Kilkenny on tap.
Next we will visit Cape Spear, just south west of the city.
Looking out from our cottage in Trinity, across the harbour, was a lighthouse. It occupies the spot that was formerly Fort Point. The Fort was built in 1746, taken by the French in 1762 and destroyed, recovered and rebuilt in 1780 and again in 1812 and then left to decay . Now there are few signs of the fort. The first lighthouse was built in 1871; the current lighthouse which is the third iteration, was built in 2007.
At the Interpretation Centre in the Fort is a very detailed map of Trinity made by the French in 1762. It shows each house, dock, and garden. It appears that Trinity in 1762 was more densely occupied than its is today; many of the lots and docks present then are now vacant.
Walking through the village one notices that, like many Newfoundland villages, the lots are irregularly shaped and the houses are often randomly arranged, unlike the village we live in where lots are of regular size and dimension and the houses on any one block face the same direction, north-south or east-west. I expect what may appear as random (and less efficient use of space) is in fact the best utilization of the ground on which they sit: a rugged coastline.
Our next, and last stop in Newfoundland, is St. John's.
Giovanni Caboto (or Zuan Chabotto in Venetian) landed in Cape Bonavista in 1497. We got there in 2016. Well, in fact the landing site was in dispute until "...for the 500th-anniversary celebrations, the governments of Canada and the United Kingdom designated Cape Bonavista in Newfoundland as the "official" landing place." Coming to a conclusion of course is comforting to us all.
On our way to Cape Bonavista we stopped off in Elliston to see puffins. The Atlantic Puffin turns out to be a smallish bird, about 32 cms or 13". For those of us who live in cities, a Puffin is about the same size as a [Rock] Pigeon; that bird often mounted on statues and the sides of buildings. We had been told that there was a good site to get up close to the bird, just off Maberly Road, in Elliston. A beautiful site reminiscent of the west coast of Ireland with rocky cliffs facing the sea. A trail guides one over a narrow causeway connecting two parts of the peninsula. At the end of the trail one faces the cliff wall of an island separated from the peninsula by about 100 - 200 meters. It is above the cliff of that distinct island that Puffins and some other birds were nesting. Yet, even with a 400mm lens it was hard to get a shot of the bird. Near St. John's is another Puffin site.
In Bonavista we drove out to the end of the Cape, where a Lighthouse is located. Fog limited the view but may be this ambiguity was compatible with the historic significance of the location.
We returned to our cottage in Trinity. We took diner at the Twine Loft Restaurant.
Trinity is a beautiful, maybe idealised, little village. It appears to be largely oriented towards tourism. Most of the people walking on the streets, in the stores and restaurants look like tourists. Many buildings look geared to tourism. Many are classified as historical buildings and are accompanied by a plaque outlining it's story.
We rented a cottage in the village. This gives us a kitchen as well as laundry facilities. On this trip I arranged to alternate between B&Bs or Inns and cottages with laundry facilities. The idea is that we can pack less because we can wash clothes more frequently.
The cottage faces onto Trinity Bay. On a clear day there would be a spectacular view. But on this day the fog had rolled in and visibility was limited to a couple hundred meters.
With fog comes the sound of the fog horns. They sparked a memory of my youth living on the west coast by the sea. Those horns in my memory sounded differently. Different lighthouses sound a different note and tune so sailors can identify where they are. A pre-GPS technique for location identification.
At night I openned the windows to let in the cool air and the sounds of the sea: the horns; the birds; but the water was still and issued no sound.
We stayed 3 days in Twillingate. On the first we took a few hikes, one by the Lighthouse on Crow Head and a second on Burnt Island Tickle. Our second day was spent on Change Island, which I covered in an earlier post. The last day was one to relax; it was raining so we visited a local winery and then after lunch we spent the afternoon at the B&B in repose.
As both Twillingate and Change Island are on the North Coast, and the Labrador Current, icebergs regularly float by. One floated into the harbour on the second day and lodged itself into the seafloor in front of the B&B.
In celebration of the event we bought a bottle of iceberg wine from the local winery. They have a wide selection of wines made from local fruits: blueberries, raspberries; baked apple; partridge berries; rhubarb and various combinations. They vary in sweetness from very dry to something suitable as a desert wine. I have tended to shy away from non-grape wines, but these were quite good and the range of offerings seemed to have something for every taste. In retrospect, grapes are fruits too so it may be a bit snobbish to elevate one over the others.
We took the 10:30 ferry to Change Island, located north east of Twillingate. The crossing was just under 30 minutes. The cost was $12 return for the three of us and the car. The return ferry, scheduled for 5:00 didn't arrive until 5:40. The weather turned out to be excellent; clear skys and a warm 13C.
From the ferry dock to the main settlement on the north side of the island is about 12 KM. It is a small town now of some 200 people. At it's peak the population was over 5,000; enough to support 5 schools. Now there is just 1 with 9 students covering grade 1 to 12. Overall, the island seems to have retained more of the traditional character of Newfoundland; or put another way the character has not been hidden behind fast food restaurants, big box stores, etc.. Like it's neighbour Fogo, it seems to be building up a bit of an arts community.
Yesterday was a travel day; a drive from Rocky Harbour to Lewisporte. As we approached our destination the weather changed to fog and drizzle. With that we decided to relax and have a quiet day.
For dinner we visited Chelsea's Fish & Chips, located just outside of town. Chelsea's is not a classic restaurant: it has a food truck and a seafood store complete with tanks holding various seafood. Food can be purchased from either place for take-out or eat-in in a dinning room shared by the truck and the store. The truck cooks hot meals such as fish and chips. We went to the store and each of us picked out a lobster from the lobster tank and they cooked (boiled) them for us. We also ordered a kilo of steamed mussels. It took about 30 minutes to prepare but it was all very good, and reasonably priced.
We arrived in Rocky Harbour Wednesday afternoon. The main goal was to see Western Brook Pond. Formerly a fjord, it lost that designation when it was cut off from the sea. However, for the layperson, few of the physical characteristics would suggest it is no longer a fjord.
Western Brook Pond is about a 30 minute drive from Rocky Harbour. Then there is a walk of just under 3km from the parking lot to the dock where the boat takes one through the fjord. The tour is about 2 hours. Adding this all up one can expect to spend at least 5 hours on the activity.
The walk between the parking lot and the dock is considered easy; the trail is wide and well marked; portions over bog areas are boardwalk and the remaining parts are gravel. There are only a few modest inclines. If the trail had been about a kilometre, my father could have completed the walk. But 6 km return was a bit much. Parks Canada will provide an all terrain wheelchair, but I was not able to fit it into the trunk. So Dad didn't go.
It was a chilly and cloudy day. Good for photography, but uncomfortable otherwise. With the cold wind, it felt colder than our previous iceberg boat tour in St. Anthony, even though I wore four layers including thermo-underwear and a windbreaker. Standing on the bow section of the boat exposed one to being splashed as the boat cut through the waves.
Most of the tour is typical; a boat crossing between stone cliffs rising a few hundred meters out of the water. The interesting part is at the end of the fjord, where the waterfalls empty into the pond. It was an almost prehistoric scene that tipped the scale of the value of the tour.
Our second full day in St. Anthony was marked with fog and drizzle. Along the shore, cold winds blew off the sea. As a result our outdoor activity was conducted within the protective shield of our car. We drove around the area, first to Raleigh, then to Ship Cove and Cape Onion co-located at the tip of the peninsula. Next we drove to St. Lunaire-Griquet for lunch and then a demonstration on how to filet a cod. After dinner we took a walk in the nearby fishing village of Goose Cove.
In weather like this it's easier to appreciate why the coastline is either barren or lined only with stunted trees. I suspect that these adverse conditions play into the friendly Newfoundland culture.
It's a place where the children are free to run around. As one person noted, when the 5:00 PM bell rings it's time for children to come home for dinner. There were no lines of mothers waiting at school bus stops. Driving at a speed of 40kms through town seems fast enough. Walking down the road, many passing drivers will wave.
St. Anthony is a relatively large town of 2500. It has many of the services one would expect to see: gas stations; hospitals; schools; hotels; grocery stores, etc. St. Lunaire-Griquet is smaller at about 700. Goose Cove East is almost 300 people. It seemed to have just one restaurant and a craft shop. Ship Cove has less than 100 people.
The day's interesting food item was the Iceberg Martini. The distinguishing feature being the ice cubes are actually glacial (iceberg) ice.
Next we return south to Rocky Harbour located within Gros Morne Park.
Yesterday started with a boat ride out into the sea to look for icebergs. Later we hiked around Fishing Point. Following that we drove north to Saint Lunaire-Griquet to buy some seafood at Hedderson's Fish Market.
While it was clear, but cool, in the harbour at 9:00 AM for the boat ride, once we got past the mouth we were into fog. Fog has it's pros and cons. It's good for icebergs and puffins; not good for whales (although whale season really isn't until July). The view of the icebergs was spectacular. We were fortunate to find two very different specimens: the first was tall and jagged; the second was flat. While we did see a couple of puffins, we saw no whales. That will need to wait for another excursion.
After returning and having a light lunch we took a hike starting at Fishing Point. The trail follows the coastline, then turns inland and crosses the neck of the Point to the other coast and then returns to the start. The fog moved in and out during our walk offering periods of sun and cover. The foghorn provided background music for the duration.
We then drove some 20kms to Hedderson's Fish Market. We bought two pounds of cod, a pound of scallops and two lobsters. The price was very low compared to those in Toronto: $3/pound; $8/pound; $8/pound respectively. The lobsters were boiled and the cod and scallops were panfried.