Newfoundland 2005.6 – Vikings and Low Growing Trees

On our way to L’Anse aux Meadows
 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:

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:


Cinque Terre, The Italian Riviera

Vernazza from above
May 16: Vernazza from the path to Monterosso, Cinque Terre

In May, 2007 we visited Italy with a couple of long time friends. We stayed centrally in Rome for a few nights before joining our Insight Vacations bus tour of central Italy. When the tour ended Anita and I did more self directed travel:

  1. Bus to Siena, not in our Insight itinerary.
  2. Bus Siena to Florence mainly to see the Ufizzi Museum and wander that fabulous city on our own using a day bus pass.
  3. Train Firenze to La Spezia, the rail connection for the five towns on Italy’s riviera, the gorgeous Cinque Terre.

May 16: We got off the Cinque Terre train from La Spezia in Vernazza, the 4th Terre from  La Spezia, found a nice B&B and then relaxed and watched the huge waves crash into the breakwater. They sometimes flowed under the restaurant tables, forcing the patrons to raise their legs and, gently cry out, “Ooohhh.” We watched an ambitious photographer who recklessly stood on the wall get drenched. She was lucky not to be knocked down. Vernazza is Rick Steve’s favourite terre. After we walked a little distance along the slopes N and S of the town. The next morning we ate an early breakfast and took the train S to Riomaggiore.

May 17 – THE Breakfast: Our host at Camera Fontana Vecchia had recommended a few places nearby to eat. We selected one, called Il Pirata delle Cinque Terre, that was run by two Sicilian brothers. It specializes in pastries. We stood at the counter and Anita pointed to what she wanted. Massimo, one brother, said to wait. Anxious to start our day, we pointed again to what we wanted. Once more he pressed us: “Wait 5 minutes, then you can have what is in there!” He pointed to Rick Steves’ Italy Guidebook in my hand. I didn’t know Il Pirata was even listed in Rick Steves! We waited for the cannoli with risotto cheese. Sooo glad we did. We had stumbled into one of the best Italian pastry spots on the Planet and the best restaurant in Vernazza!

After the train S to Riomaggiore we walked back N on the path that leads through all five Terres and visited Riomaggiore’s neighbour, Manarola. Waiting for the train to Corniglia in Manarola I was impressed by the speed, wind and noise with which a train passed through – so close to us. I had my VCR ready to catch the next one when a man on a bench pointed South and said “There. Now!” In less than a minute I shot the next northbound train rocketing through and thanked him. We conversed until we got off in Corniglia, having learned that he was Corniglia’s stationmaster. He told us we had time to take the small bus to the upper village and still catch the train for Vernazza. So we did. Then, around noon, back down at the station waiting for the Vernazza train, we met a Californian woman named Teresa and, before the train came, I heard “Bob” shouted from a window in a nearby apartment building. The master, Valerio, was beckoning us to come and eat lunch with him. We asked if Teresa could come and he said “Yes.”

The Two “Sisters”: He served us a delightful pasta and salad lunch that he had cooked and offered us homemade red wine. Teresa, wearing a loose, modest white dress and behaving a little cautiously, also declined the wine. He asked if she was a Sister. Anita laughed, since our tour guide in Pompeii had asked her, dressed modestly, and coolly, in white, the same thing before taking us through the brothel, not wanting a religious nun to be surprised by the visual menu offered in racy murals on the ancient whorehouse walls.

Pompeii Brothel Selection
One Pompeii Brothel Selection – May 12 – With Tour Group

After lunch Teresa, Anita and I caught the next train for Vernazza. Facing a sea of tourists at the station wanting to board our train so anxiously that they were preventing our exit, I assertively called out “Please let us off! I have two “sisters” with me.”

We collected our luggage and caught the train back to La Spezia. From there another train brought us, past the famous marble quarries of Carrara, back to Rome for our last night in Italy.



This kept calling until I surrendered
These kept calling until I shared my morning coffee with them.

 Morning through bedroom window

Tree and sun say, “Come.

Be present in reflection.”

I enjoy my back yard often looking at the migrating birds, but only occasionally do I go out and be present to it. Mowing the lawn or pulling weeds out from between patio stones represent the lion’s share of my back yard activity. I promised myself to get out there and enjoy.

The above sugar maple tree is now the best tree in the yard. It seems to be recovering nicely from the ice storm damage and happy to be out from under the ash.

After an early treadmill and tai chi session I made coffee and a usual light breakfast. I forgot about the back yard, but the autumn-coloured maple and spectacular sky stubbornly appeared again reflected in our glass-topped breakfast nook table as I sat reading and sipping. I couldn’t resist this second beckoning.

Barefoot, I went down the deck stairs and set out a very old redwood chair on the cool, dewy lawn. We slowly lost a 40 foot white ash tree to the invasive Emerald Ash Borer. Sadly, we had the ash removed last fall. I sat on the space where the ash once stood, enjoying the lovely, eclectic gardens that Anita has created and nurtured since we moved here in 1985.

I finished Helen Oyeyemi’s wonderful book, The Opposite House, in that chair. This book has contributed much to my sense of interconnectedness. Having appreciated interconnectedness for a long time, this morning I felt it with profound emotion. I could even smell the remains of the tree beneath me – or at least the fungus that was gently consuming its roots. It said “I am not all gone, just changed, and you are not alone.”

A bee checked out my coffee mug on the arm of the chair. I relaxed, grateful, in its company. I swatted no mosquitoes and, surprisingly, they did not take advantage.