Tuesday, July 26: Englee, Arches and back to Rocky Harbour
Englee is a beautiful little community about 2 1/2 hours south of St. Anthony on the east coast. The drive from Englee to Rocky Harbour is another 4 1/2 hours. St. Anthony to Rocky Harbour is 4 1/2 hours, so our Englee visit added about 2 1/2 hours of driving to our Tuesday. If you climb up the long steps on Barr’d Island, you’ll be treated to one of the most beautiful views in the world – i.e. it was worth the extra driving.
We then drove back to Rocky Harbour, stopping at Arches Provincial Park for some more beautiful scenery. Our last, since we were flying home from Deer Lake on Wednesday at 15:15. We visited the Cemetery and the Lighthouse in Rocky Harbour before we left for Deer Lake Airport, about 55 minutes from Rocky Harbour on NL 430 South. Returning the car at the airport was very smooth. Boy, did we get our money’s worth out of that car!
Wednesday, July 27: Home to the GTA
One more heartwarming story about Newfoundland. We checked our bags at the airport. Then security noticed my Swiss Army Knife on my person. I thought, “I’ll be sorry; I’ve had it for a long time.” But they offered me the chance to put it back in my suitcase, which meant retrieving it from the storage area.
Monday, July 25: L’Anse Aux Meadows Viking Settlement and the Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve
The L’Anse Aux Meadows Viking Settlement is more than 1000 years old. The original French name for the place, found on a French nautical chart from 1862, was L’Anse à la Médée (The Médée’s Cove). There may indeed have been a ship called La Médée, since it was not uncommon to use Greek mythology when naming them. See the above link for more about its franglais roots, and for more about the Settlement. It needs no further description. Here are some photos:
I am inclined to cram a touring day really full of experiences. An ‘orrible vice, I know. I was attempting to turn a legal 45 minute drive from the Viking Settlement to the Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve into an illegal 33 minute trip (wasn’t sure when the guided tour hours were) and was stopped for speeding on the way.
The officer: “Do you, perchance, know why you were stopped?”
Me: “Yes, Officer.”
Officer: “And are you aware that your speed was more than 20 kph faster than the speed limit?”
Me: “Er… no, Officer, Sir.”
Officer: “Are you from away?”
Me: “Yes.” Big trouble coming, I thought.
Officer: “Don’t let me catch you speeding again.”
He handed me a written warning instead of a ticket and let us go. Again, the delightful mercy and grace of these island people surprised and overwhelmed me.
Burnt Cape is a hugely important botanical reserve. It contains rare plants that are not found anywhere else. Trees over a hundred years old grow out rather than up (less than a foot up!) because of the biting winds. We were taken on a superb interpretive tour. Our guide also told us of a time when she had a group out to see the rock formations near The Oven and a polar bear appeared below them that had swum from Labrador. The visitors had no clue how dangerous it was and were snapping photos.
Sound familiar? Like anyone we know?
She was preparing to abandon them, if necessary, and run for her own life but managed to persuade them to make a hasty, sensible retreat. Some photos:
Sunday, July 24: Port Au Choix, St. Barbe and St. Anthony
Port aux Choix
From Rocky Harbour the drive north to St. Anthony is 347 km., north along the west coast. Our first stop was to visit the Port au Choix National Historic Site. Different again, informative (there is an excellent interpretive centre with many fascinating historic displays, letters and artefacts) and, yes, it’s drop dead gorgeous. We were feeling so uniquely isolated that we decided to try and phone our eldest daughter at our home in Ontario. Success! So cool! Kindly ignore the flip phone…
St. Barbe Ferry Port
We also went off the main road to grab a bite and check out St. Barbe, a little further north, where one takes the ferry to Blanc-Sablon, Labrador.
Then we drove on to St. Anthony and visited the Sir Wilfred Grenfell Interpretation Centre, dedicated to St. Anthony’s truly great medical missionary, who graduated in Medicine in London, England in 1888 and four years later volunteered to come to Newfoundland. He was recruited by The Royal National Mission to Deep Sea Fishermen (RNMDSF) to care for the fishermen and communities here. Grenfell’s work expanded to include helping the indigenous peoples of Newfoundland and Labrador. He sometimes traveled in a hospital ship to serve the huge, diverse and far-flung community. By 1914 his mission was world famous and a charitable society, the International Grenfell Association, was formed because of influence from a group of New York businessmen who wished to advance his work. A concise description of the history of Grenfell’s life and of both the RNMDSF and IGF, is given at the above IGF link. Both the British Mission, serving 70 UK ports, and the St. Anthony-based IGF are still going today!
We stayed at the Haven Inn in St. Anthony for two nights. On Monday we planned to visit the Viking Settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows.
Now, there’s a screwed up franglais name for a ninth century Nordic village! So typically Canadian.
Friday, July 22: To Cap St.-Georges and Rocky Harbour
Our first leg was from Twillingate, via the Trans Canada Highway, all the way to Cap St. George on the southwest coast. We wanted to visit a French community in Newfoundland and maybe see some whales. We sort of struck out on both those goals. It was, perhaps, a little late for whale season and decades late for parlez-vous season. We stopped at a Tourist Information office near Port Au Port and learned that the French-speaking information person was from Québec.
After the bilingual TI Centre we visited Our Lady Of Mercy Church in Port au Port and then drove to the Parc Boutte Du Cap at the very tip of the peninsula. It amazed me to see big RV’s allowed to boondock in the unserviced parking lot. Just another way in which Newfoundland is so welcoming to visitors. Totally laid back and generous.
We drove back north and stayed in Rocky Harbour at the Fisherman’s Landing Inn where Maxxum had us reserved for two nights.
Saturday, July 23: Gros Morne, Two Rather Gigantic “Ponds”
This was a busy day. We drove a short way north and visited Gros Morne walking to the dock at Western Brook Bond and taking the boat tour.
A colleague of Anita’s at home had said we must also visit Trout River Pond, around the bay from Western Brook Pond but still in Gros Morne National Park. Someone we met on the first tour had done it and raved about it. So we carped the diem and drove back south, past Rocky Harbour and took a boat tour of Trout River Pond, which we found terrific.
Western Brook Pond:
A few, fit folk got off the boat at the steep end of the pond, planning to hike up (no doubt) to get that iconic photo with their arms outstretched standing on a scary-looking rock overlooking the whole pond from west to east.
Now the photos of the Pond: Very deep, very steep, and ultra, ultra clean:
Trout River Pond:
This is an exceptional UNESCO World Heritage site. The geology of the exposed features of reddish rock dates back to when two continents – Africa and North America – collided about 300 million years ago… give or take… the same collision that formed the Appalachian and Allegheny Mountains. Our boat tour, appropriately called A Journey Through Time, explained so much to us. The “pond” is full of fishy life and we saw a female moose in a forested area near the shore.
We ate a simple supper in a very nice family restaurant in Trout River.
We did not have time to investigate the science beyond what we learned on the boat. But we returned in 2014 with friends, visited the fantastic information kiosk and toured the tablelands with an experienced naturalist. Add some time to your holiday to see this unique area properly!
Drove west off the Bonavista Peninsula and then north through the Terra Nova National Park, 270 km to Boyd’s Cove and its fascinating Beothuk Interpretation Centre. It was then another 40 km to Twillingate.
The Beothuk Interpretation Centre is a fabulous museum near the site of a Beothuk settlement that was visited by the Beothuk from as early as 800 AD until they actually occupied this safe site from 1650 until 1720. They had learned early on that the European fishermen were serious trouble and hid from them as much as they could for centuries. Dependent on fish, they were forced inland to hide, where they hunted caribou, and by the time they occupied this site, with an excellent beach and fresh water from Indian Brook there were only about 3 dozen in this group. When the fishermen left in the late fall the Beothuk would visit two of their vacated camps and collect whatever was useful, including iron objects like nails and fish hooks. This site also provided them with harbour seals, ground fish and migratory birds.
On the large, forested grounds here is a statue of Shawnadithit (1801-1829), the last Beothuk. She, her mother and sister, having endured many hardships from the surrounding British, presented themselves, the last survivors of their people and extremely sick, to a settler. They were taken and cared for in St. John’s where her mother and sister died of TB. She lived for a few more years before dying herself of TB on June 6, 1829, dying while staying in the household of a scots gentleman (a good man with an interest in her, now gone, people), who recorded whatever Shawnadithit could tell him about the Beothuk and made notes on her drawings.
The centre has many exhibits, some in full size displays, films and samples of items found on this site. The trails are also very lovely and peaceful.
Near Twillingate, in Durell, we found and visited with Melvin Horwood, stylishly written up in the Globe and Mail by Julie Ovenall-Carter just before we flew from Toronto, because he regularly welcomes anyone who stops to photograph his small dock where his boats and fishing equipment, beautifully cared for, are displayed. At the end of the dock is a tiny souvenir museum. Melvin used to have visitors kiss a cod but, due to the decline in the cod and the moratorium on the cod fishery, he was no longer permitted to fish cod, so Anita was encouraged to kiss a crab instead. She accepted, and Mr. Horwood hauled up a trap on a line by the dock, presenting it to her courteously. He was still doing this, white haired now, in 2016! Twillingate was beautiful. We drove out as far as we good to long point, where there is – guess what – an old lighthouse.
We stayed at Kelsie’s Inn. The next morning I rose before dawn to go for a walk down to the water and take some moody, glassy photos. Later we left for the long drive to the famous Gros Morne area on the west coast.
Left St. John’s very early, taking a small detour for breakfast to Pouch Cove because our seat mate on the plane from Toronto was from there and recommended a local dish at a certain restaurant:neeps and tatties – (turnips or swede and mashed potatoes) a favourite with haggis in Scotland. We couldn’t find the place, so we stood on the shore and, while my camera had a light snack, a couple were walking a collie mix (named Simba) down the hill to our left. They told us that the restaurant had been closed all summer. Then, blow me down, they invited us to their place for sausage and eggs! We had breakfast and talked for a fascinating while, about parts of Canada, athletics & more.
Cape Bonavista and Trinity:
After this special encounter we drove west off the Avalon Peninsula to Cape Bonavista, passing through Trinity, where we would return to register at Sherwood Suites in nearby Port Rexton for two nights. We visited Cape Bonavista’s lighthouse museum and then, near the centre of town, another brilliant museum, the Matthew Legacy, where the story of the Venetian explorer, Giovanni Caboto (John Cabot), whom Henry VII of England paid to discover this land, is poignantly described and the museum’s high building houses a beautiful replica of his ship – when it is not on the water. The ship is called The Matthew – was this guy Venetian or not! After supper that night we went to Trinity’s Parish Hall, where we saw Therese’s Creed performed by Donna Butt, Order of Canada, who is the woman responsible for the Rising Tide Theatre, the theatre company that also produces the wonderful Trinity Pageant.
Wednesday, July 20
The Amazing Trinity Pageant
Visited Trinity and, at 2 P.M., took in the not-to-be-missedRising Tide Theatre’s Trinity Pageant. Cautions: it doesn’t start until July. And always check performance times. This show reenacts scenes of Trinity’s history in spots all over the town. The Pageant produces 10 scenes in places like Green Point, Harvey’s Cove and St. Paul’s Church; patrons simply walk from one place to another to watch each scene. Then, after a lobster supper by the water we drove/walked around Trinity during which my ravenous camera got its supper.
On Sunday, July 17 at 1:45 AM we arrived at St. Johns, Newfoundland after a 3.5 hour Canjet flight from Toronto to begin an 11 day self-directed driving tour of that beauty-filled, sooo friendly province. On the plane we shared three seats with a charming young woman from Pouch (“Pooch”) Cove, not far from St. Johns. The time flew by. Got our bags and rented a metallic grey Chrysler Sebring at the airport and slept at the Airport Comfort Inn.
We used Maxxum Vacations to organize our route, a rental car and our accommodations. They do an excellent job of putting tours together.
Wasting no time, after breakfast we headed eastward from the airport, driving around the south shore of Conception Bay, past Carbonear to a small place called Salmon Cove, where there was a community festival that sounded like fun. It was.
Near Salmon Cove we visited a place near Victoria that had some Newfoundland ponies, a uniquely beautiful, small, muscular animal ideally suited to The Rock that is now considered endangered. There are only a few hundred left mostly in Newfoundland and some in Ontario. I don’t know if the place where we saw them is still there. If you are interested, Google “Newfoundland ponies” or start here.
In Carbonear we visited the alleged grave of the Irish Princess, Sheila Nageira Pike, whose rather preposterous myth includes being captured by a pirate and rescued by yet another pirate. The museum in Harbour Grace was closed, but we still had to drive to our downtown hotel, the Delta St. Johns, and check in, then walk to catch a great dinner theatre at 7 P.M.
Monday, July 18: History, Old and Older… and Geography
Visited Signal Hill, drove south to the big dig of an early 17th C. community called Ferryland and visited the easternmost place in North America, Cape Spear, on the way back to St. John’s.