It’s hard to know where to begin – but let’s follow the route we took (my dear friend Anna and I). Neither of us had ever ventured this far east so this was a trip we both looked forward too with great excitement. We planned and planned, booked accommodations and a car – I think the car is the most important to book early (very early) and we booked a few events that needed reservations. We were gone 12 days – 2 travel days and 10 days to explore.
We didn’t arrive (by air) in St. John’s until 3:30 or so in the afternoon on August 27 so we picked up our car (and were upgraded to a large, fully loaded vehicle) and headed for our first stop – The Clarenville Inn. We hadn’t planned to tour here – it was just a place en route to have a celebratory drink, dinner and bed & breakfast. The hotel was lovely – very comfortable and has a good restaurant. It’s right on the Trans Canada Highway which also made it convenient.
After breakfast on August 28, we headed to our first real stop – Gander (and The Albatross Hotel – also very comfortable with a good restaurant). We had lunch at “Rosie’s” – a very special restaurant with good food that feels like you are in your own kitchen – only much larger! We were booked that afternoon on the “Beyond Words Tour” relating the events of 9/11 for the people of Gander and surrounding communities (www.BeyondWordsTours.com). We both really enjoyed this – starting at the Gander International Airport and ending at the North Atlantic Aviation Museum. The highlight of this tour was a lengthy and engaging chat with Brian Mosher, the only reporter in Gander when the planes started landing. He told us about his “week from hell”, getting no sleep for 5 days, the people he met, the more-than-amazing people of Gander and nearby towns. He was a engaging speaker. Then in popped Oswald (Oz) Fudge who was the Town Cop during that eventful week. What a character he was/is. The two of them decided to try to teach us some “Newfie-speak”. Somehow they took 6 or 7 sentences and reduced them to 6-7 words and each perfectly understood what the other was saying. I know Anna has managed to remember one sound that represents the sentence – I’m fine or all is well – or I agree with you – it’s a clicking sound and she has it perfected completely. It was the event that changed lives forever. He and Oz are now ambassadors for Newfoundland, are portayed in the play ‘Come From Away’ and travel around the world to attend the play’s premieres. When we went to shake their hands to say thank you, Mosher said they don’t shake hands in Gander, they give you a ‘squeeze’.
The next morning (August 29), on the advice of Oz and Brian, we found a unique breakfast at a unique place – the Gander Bread Box and Cafe. It was suggested we try a Touton breakfast sandwich. We did – and it was nothing short of absolutely delicious. They take regular white bread dough, make it into patties and then grill it in a panini type press. Then you fill it with eggs, bacon and whatever else you want. Yummmmm! There were a group of local ladies enjoying their usual Thursday coffee club and we were immediately included. That was fun. You also got to choose your own coffee mug from a peg board filled with them. We joined the many “from away” visitors by having our picture taken with a chalk board that identified who we were, when we visited and where we were from. And, of course, got a squeeze from the baker!
Next stop was Twillingate for 2 nights (Aug 29/30). At the right time of year, this is the Iceberg Capital. Of course, it wasn’t the right time of year so we didn’t see any icebergs. It wasn’t the right time of year for whales or puffins either but more about that later. Our accommodation (The Anchor Inn) was perfect – in the Annex on top of a hill with beautiful views of the ocean and countryside with lovely princess style (tall and fluffy) comfortable beds. We were scheduled to do our first boat tour here – but it was cancelled due to high winds (50 knots). The same thing happened on day two – so we didn’t get out on the water here. We did see the custom zodiac we were to have been in – it looked like quite the boat! We went everywhere that was recommended by the locals – to the Crow’s Nest Cafe for coffee and treats, to the Long Point Lighthouse at Crow Head, to the Split Rock Brewing Company and around town (I should say up and down and around town). That night we attended the Twillingate Dinner Theatre and that was a real treat. Good food, great music and hilarious skits. The next day we visited the studio of Scot Lewis, Pencil Artist. His work was really lovely and we both succumbed to a purchase. Next stop – the Auk Island Winery where all of the wines are made from anything but grapes – partridge-berries, blueberries, rhubarb, dandelions. Of course we did the tour and had a tasting. Some of the wines were quite good. That night, after dinner, we went to the Captain’s Pub and were entertained by Matthew Hornell – he was kind of folkey and a little bit hokey and probably more than a little bit stoned but the music was good. Twillingate was a beautiful town stretched out along the cove.
The morning of August 31 found us leaving Twillingate with a plan to take the long way around to get to our next stop via the Kittiwake Coast and through Musgrave Harbour, New-Wes-Valley, Centreville and Gambo (birthplace of Joey Smallwood). Once again, in Gambo, Anna ended up in conversation with a small corner-store owner (right beside Joey’s statue) and discovered that many Newfoundlanders consider him a traitor who sold out the outposts of Newfoundland for a few Canadian trinkets (old age pensions). Very interesting interpretation of history.
It was a lovely coastal drive but we couldn’t always see the ocean – lots of pine trees, much like Northern Ontario and very few cars on the highway. In New-Wes-Valley we stopped at a small cafe for a break (Norton’s Studio & Cafe), had some specialty coffee and, of course, something home-baked, and then we toured around the small town. While at a stop-sign we came upon a gentleman out for a walk so Anna rolled down her window and what followed was a 15 minute chat about his life. He initially had a vacation home in this small village and had moved back permanently a few years back. He lived in a refurbished family home overlooking the sea. He talked about how harsh the winters were and how the neighbours all helped each other. In small-town Newfoundland, you could easily find somebody to chat with no matter where you were.
That night we stayed in Port Blandford at the Serendipity B&B. We had a full 1-bedroom apartment and a substantial group breakfast, including the hostess, the next morning. This was the end of the super-comfortable beds – at least for me – I was on a pull-out futon in the living room. The hostess/owner was charming and chatty.
September 1 we explored Bona Vista and then set off to find our Boat Tour (Sea of Whales) out of Trinity in a small grey Zodiac, complete with orange survival suits. The owner, Kris Prince, was a lovely young man – he and his wife helped us into our get-ups and then we walked (lumbered) a few blocks through town to get to where his zodiac was moored. There were six of us including Kris. We didn’t see any whales – but he told us that he had spotted a whale and a fairly large tuna that morning. We did see a bald eagle and enjoyed a mini picnic in a sea cave which was lovely – out of the wind, pink coral and starfish on the cave walls, colourful jellyfish in the very clear, emerald coloured water and a huge tub of wonderful baked goods with tea, coffee, water – followed by watermelon slices. As a bonus we got a salt- water facial and I got dunked under a waterfall. It was an exhilarating 3 hours on the ocean and I loved every minute of it. Kris was headed back out to find that tuna – he was determined to catch it.
We checked in to our accommodation – Bishop White Manor, part of Eriksen Premises in Trinity (for 2 nites – Sept 1-3). The buildings were historic (old), there were stairs to climb (unexpected) and the rooms were quaint (beds just “ok”). Our Manor, though, had a sitting room, dining room and kitchen that all could share. On checkout day, we found a contractor willing to haul our luggage down the steps to the car; two minutes for the luggage; 15 minutes for the chat. The restaurant at Eriksen Premises was very good – and after our afternoon on the water, we were hungry. Anna had a seafood chowder that could be turned upside down – just like a DQ Blizzard – it was that thick and full of fish.
After another great breakfast on day 2, we went to Elliston to the Puffin Viewing Site but found it too difficult to get to where we needed to be to see the cute little birds. We did see many root cellars (some still in use). On the way back to Trinity, we explored the many small villages along the way. We discovered that Trinity doesn’t even have a corner store – one has to drive 10-15 minutes to Port Rexton to get a bag of chips! At dinner that night our waitress told us the exciting news about a huge “catch” in the area of a 922 lb bluefin tuna by a local crew; Kris Prince -yes the same Kris who took us out in his zodiac the day before. I emailed Kris to offer my congratulations and his wife sent back a picture of this monster fish. It was the talk of the town and surrounding area. A large tuna had not been caught in the Bonavista Penninsula for decades. Immediately the fish was purchased by a resort in Fogo Island. After some research, we figured the value was in the $200,000 to $300,000 range. Imagine!
September 3rd found us heading to St. John’s by the long route, exploring all of the little towns with the funny names – Dildo (yes, we did see the Hollywood sign provided by Jimmy Kimmel), Heart’s Delight, Heart’s Desire, Heart’s Content, etc. and finally we arrived at our hotel about 15 minutes from the city centre. We were in St John’s for 4 nights at the Sandman Signature St John’s. Our room was fine but the 2 restaurants attached (Moxie’s and Denny’s) left something to be desired.
September 4th we were off to see Signal Hill (quite impressive and wonderful views of St. John’s Harbour), and to take a drive around downtown St. John’s exploring, in particular, Water Street and George Street with lunch at The Rooms.
September 5 we explored Quidi Vidi – a village with a brewery and a building where various artisans worked at their specialty. Of course we headed to Newfoundland’s oldest microbrewery and enjoyed a flight of beer, loving the Iceberg Beer made from iceberg water. Unfortunately, it isn’t available in Ontario. Then we headed to Ferryland to see the lighthouse before turning up at Witless Bay for our boat tour. The fog started to roll in. By the time we got on our boat (a larger craft this time), you could only see about 3 feet off the water and 2 feet in front of you. Obviously, whoever was piloting the boat had radar or some special ESP. We were “socked in”. The seas were rough but both of us managed as long as we stayed seated – we were at the front of the boat, of course. We reached an island where we floated around for a while seeing all sorts of puffins on the water and flying around and diving. They were too fast to photograph. We also saw a Minke whale surface twice. The trip was now complete – a whale and puffin sightings – in the fog.
September 6th I began to really worry about getting home because of Hurricane Dorion – I was booked to fly through Halifax. Luckily I was able to change my flight to take me first to Toronto instead of Halifax and then on to Ottawa. Once that was settled we set off for Cape Spear – the easternmost point of Canada (and lots of walking) and then back to downtown St. John’s to see the Jellybean houses and do a bit of souvenir shopping.
As much as everyone told us to make sure we did some evening pub visits on George street (live music, getting screeched in), we were always exhausted at the end of each day and found ourselves in bed by 09:30 or so – about the time the fun started to happen in town We did do a tour of the pubs and took some photos during the afternoon…maybe ‘next time’.
We managed to put 2,000 km on the rental car. We did get around! As you explore the countryside, you realize quickly why Newfoundland is called “The Rock”. Other than south of St. John’s, you don’t see any farmland, hydro wires are all above ground and the trees are all coniferous (shallow roots) and leaning. It is all rock, beautiful rock. The people are special – especially in the smaller towns – so friendly and always ready to give hugs and/or chat for a while. Amazing to me was the state of the roads – other than dirt roads – they were all extremely good – no pot-holes – it was obvious that they are well maintained with no highway garbage. Why can’t Ontario do the same?
Our flight on September 7th was at noon so we headed out early. The St. John’s airport needs to improve their rental car setup. Thankfully Anna stopped a shuttle bus to help with our luggage and drive us to the departure area of the airport. We managed to get our luggage checked using only electronic options and relax a bit before boarding the aircraft. We both felt sad that our holiday was over so soon. It just flew by. It was a wonderful trip – and there is still another whole side of the Island to be explored.
Now Anna wants to travel to Leduc, Alberta to find her eccentric flight companion. Yes, girlfriend!
Just loved it!
Loved the travelogue p, Sue. I knew you’d love Newfoundland…
I’m so glad to hear from you. I wasn’t sure you would have the same email address. How are you doing? What is your new phone number?
Sue, great blog. The pictures are fantastic. Pat