Thursday, June 13, 2013
The flight to St. John’s, Newfoundland is almost three hours long, but seats at the front of the plane allow for more leg room and some extra comfort. Off we go!
Note to travellers: Bring your snacks and earphones because nothing — except a cup of water, tea or coffee — is free!!!
Travelling in your own country has its perks: no need to exchange money and carry separate wallets, no need to bring electrical conversion plug, and no need to panic if you forgot your favourite analgesic because there is always a Shoppers Drug Mart close by!
Touchdown! Brrr!!! Very cloudy, drizzling and cold… Good thing we packed accordingly… Stopping for our rental car, a new Ford Focus: compact but very comfortable.
First lodging on the island: Leaside Manor, a 4.5 stars B&B in St John’s. Commissioned to a renown architect of that time – MacCarter – this lovely heritage property was built in 1921 for John Joseph and Flora Parker. Today, it still has many original features, including cedar sidings, colonial columns and lead-lined windows. Our room is splendid, with the only original fireplace in the house. This is quite a treat, and on this rainy day, the jacuzzi is very inviting. We will be spending four nights here.
Lunch stop: Piatto Pizzeria, 377 Duckworth street (www.piattopizzeria.com)
Soup + pizza with soft goat cheese, caramelized pear, prosciutto, Grana Padano cheese, balsamic reduction. De-li-ci-ous. Our waitress picked up on our “Frenchy” accent and switched to fluent French. I would say we are off to a good start!
Relaxing afternoon… Raymond had some work he needed to wrap up, so we had the fireplace going, and tea brought to our room… I am already contemplating moving in!
Friday, June 14, 2013
I am not a huge fan of fish and chips, but we were recommended to try it at the Duke of Duckworth (apparently, as seen on Republic of Doyle, if you watch that show – http://www.dukeofduckworth.com), and it was delicious! The batter was light and soft and the fish was moist and melted in your mouth. The pub had a great atmosphere; it was packed to capacity with a lively crowd of adults of all ages. We joined in the loud chatter and had a great time.
Our room at Leaside Manor is called The Port Royal Suite, and we could not have asked for anything more! With so many guests passing through, there are also many stories to tell… Here is one: one night, the water system failed and when the owner ran through the house to check it out, she could hear yelling behind one of the doors… One guest had set her hair on fire by catching the flame from the tealights. Everybody ended up on the lawn until the firemen were done!!!! I am afraid to ask if this happened in the middle of the winter!!
Breakfast was served in a common room, where guests sat around a huge table. When you are surrounded by a dozen of travellers like you, you hear about a bunch of places to visit and eateries worth stopping by. Looks like they are shaping our visit, telling us about all the hot spots… All we have to do is a little checking on the Web, and voilà!
Breakfast menu: Spinach omelette, fresh fruit, toast and home-made jams… That will do for a while!
Today’s weather: less rain, more fog. Time for indoor activities. We started with a visit to a geological centre — the GEO Centre — also featuring a Titanic exhibit.
Our attempt to conquer Signal Hill was not very successful (other than our stop at the Visitor Centre) because the fog was covering the entire valley. We will have to go back to take pictures. On a side note, we learned that the ongoing battle between the French and the British was really about… Fish!!!!
After that expedition, we visited The Rooms, a very nicely done museum combining archives, art gallery, and museum, where we discovered the work of Mary Pratt, a Newfoundland and Labrador painter. LOVE her paintings!
Dinner at a pub on George Street: Bridie Molloy’s Pub and Eatery, where I had scallops in a maple syrup reduction, with croquettes, while Raymond had salmon. Yum! Walking back to the car, we stopped for coffee and dessert at the Rocket Bakery, on Water Street. Now, we feel like pros in the downtown core…
We booked our dinner for tomorrow night at Raymond’s (it seemed fitting, not to mention posh…).
Back to our room, the fireplace is now going with a brand new log, and we are calling it a day.
What a miserable day with fog, cold and rain. Look at Anna, all bundled up. The temperature was 7 degrees and chill through the bones. Good thing we brought our hats.
Pictures from Signal Hill overlooking the bay (I think). We will need to come back if the sun co-operates.
We finished the day with a nice fish dinner in a pub (where else). I cannot believe how many pubs there are in St Johns. Surely it is an Irish town with a huge Catholic cathedral, which we will visit on Saturday.
In all this bad weather, Anna was able to find flowers. Go figure what women can see.
The canon was not loaded by the way. Just in case someone would think I wanted to blow her up. But she stayed out of the way, just in case.
The day ended with an artistic cappuccino.
Pictures of the day
Saturday, June 15, 2013
Reflexion of the day: As I am reading « 10 Days of Devotions » by Women of Faith, I came across this insightful little sentence “Without expectations, what can topple the surprising wonder of the moment?” So, let this day be full of surprises.
Breakfast menu: Ham, scrambled eggs or eggs Benedict, homemade muffins, toasts and jams, assorted fresh fruits. With that kind of breakfast, it is easy to skip lunch! We had stopped at a Sobey’s for some fruits and healthy snacks, and today’s lunch was fruit and almonds.
Surprise #1: It looked like the weather had stabilized when we left this morning, but after stopping for some NFLD chocolates made right here, in St. John’s… it poured!!
Forced to stay indoors, we visited the Railway Coastal Museum, featuring the interesting story of the Newfoundland Railway and Coastal Services, starting in the 1700s. Again, a story revolving around… fish!
Surprise #2: Back to Signal Hill to take some photos, we did not expect to see a military drill by the Signal Hill Tattoo squadron, practising for Canada Day!
Surprise #3: We had a great afternoon taking pictures and based on how many we took, we will go home with 5,000+ of them!!! Raymond is in heaven with his new tripod…
Next was a drive to Quidi Vidi (pronounced kidee Videe), a very colourful historical fishing village. They also have a local brewery that offers Iceberg beer, made from water melted from icebergs (www.quidividibrewery.ca).
As I mentioned yesterday, we selected Raymond’s Restaurant (www.raymondsrestaurant.com) for dinner tonight, and it was a feast for the palate (not so much for the wallet). This was our “going all out” meal for the entire vacation!!! Besides my crème brûlée, everything was quite an experience!!!
Exhausted because we walked so much today, and with bellies so full we could explode, we are now sitting silently in our room, savouring the last leg of the day.
A small sample of today’s shoot. Anna went for a walk at 6 am! (why?) and took some pictures around the Manor. So early that the flower was still wet!Some pictures from Signal Hill with the battery of canons and the tattoo academy marching squad. At least this time we can see the coast.
Pictures from Quidi Vidi fishing village. She did mention the restaurant we went for dinner (very pricy, but a treat). I had the cod and it was spectacular. They served me, 3 small pieces of different cuts of Cod and added some pulled pork, porcini mushroom, spinach gnocchi, and kale. And they added unbelievable sauces. Every bite was a different taste and nothing blended. I do not know how the chef did it, but, it was a firework of tastes!. My dessert was beets and chocolate with some orange ice cream. It was delicious.
The weather here is really unpredictable and the weather forecast is unreliable. We simply have to look at the sky and decide what to do next on the spur of the moment. Plans do change every hour.
That is all for today.
Tomorrow is church in the morning and then on our way to Cape Spear. It is supposed to be sunny. LOL!!
Picture of the day
Sunday, June 16, 2013
Shining through the curtains… the sun is finally here!
After another hearty meal, we attended mass in a large Anglican church (St. Patricks’s), at 11:00 am. All the fathers in the congregation received a nice bookmark with a verse. Happy Father’s Day!
Off to Cape Spear (which I keep calling Cape Fear… No reason… I hope!) It is the most easterly point in North America and now a national historic site, with trails high above the rocky shoreline. There is a restored lighthouse displaying the life of a lighthouse keeper in the mid-1800s (the new lighthouse is fully automated and no one lives on the premises). Both the coastline and the trails are very rugged, and heaven for landscape photography!
Nearby is the cute fishing village of Petty Harbour, also known for being the backdrop scenery in some Hollywood movies. In fact, it is rather small, with everybody congregating outside Chafe’s Landing, a popular eating place. We wanted to stop for dinner but had to wait 45 minutes (longer than what it would take to drive back to St. John’s). We took our sweet time strolling under the sun, then headed back to the “big city”.
Today’s lesson: NFLD wind is just as temperamental as the rain… and when it starts, it is very forceful and incessant. You need lots of pins to secure the loose strands of hair that always (and I a mean always) get stuck in front of the viewfinder, just as you are ready to take a picture!!!
Last dinner in town, followed by ice cream at Moo Moo’s Ice cream Parlour (recommended and very good, indeed).
Tomorrow, we are leaving St. John’s for Ferryland (No, not “Fairies Land”, you funny people…!)
Saturday, June 16. Four days in St John’s Newfoundland already. A great sunny day, finally with lots of sunshine … and high wind. We spent the afternoon at Cape Spear and Pretty harbour (small fishing village). Very scenic locations.
Tomorrow we are moving out and start the Irish Loop. Point A to Point B (Ferryland, NL).
Drive is 1 h and 5′. Wow, some adventure. LOL.
Picture of the day
As Anna said in her blog, today was a boat tour to see the puffins and whales.
Okay, I decided to post some of the pictures so that you have an idea of what whale watching is from the boat.
The captain was on the tower with a bird’s eye view and we were in the boat with a view just above the water.
What did we see? Well, the captain kept on saying, whales at 10 o’clock, whales at 2 o’clock, etc. What did he expect in this digital age that I was going to remember what some old needles were used for?
Anyway, from the gazillions bad pictures we took, I selected one. This was whale watching for us: nothing like national geographic where they spend 2 weeks shooting with huge lenses and then show 10 seconds of the best. I think expectations and reality, in this case, are very far apart from each other.
Same with the puffins on a huge rock. We are too far. Even with a long lens and the boat moving up and down, it is almost impossible to get a great shot, but we selected a few to illustrate what Anna was saying in her blog.
So, what are Cod tongues and what do they taste like? Well, it is not bad, but you need to forget what it is and simply eat it. No other comments from me.
Tomorrow, more of Ferry Land, if the weather cooperates.
I will put the alarm clock at 4 am (LOL) to watch the sunrise in front of our bedroom window. The view is very pretty.
Picture of the Day
Brigus south on the Irish Loop
Wednesday, June 19, 2013
Often, what makes trips memorable is the little hiccups that happen along the way…
After a wonderful breakfast prepared at Philip’s Café, we headed towards Cape St. Mary’s Ecologically Reserve.
We had been driving a few minutes along the coast when the lights on the dashboard signaled a low pressure in the tires. After assessing the situation at an Esso station, it seemed that all that gravel we drove on yesterday might have punctured a tire… So, back to Philip’s Café while some repair was being done. Never a dull moment…
By then, we had established that NFLD weather could fluctuate quite a bit in the span of 24 hours, and that making plans mainly based on the morning fog could not be the greatest idea. Going with the flow might be a better approach…
We continued driving south to Cape St. Mary’s and The Ecological Reserve to see the birds on the “rock”. What an awesome experience! It was foggy, rainy and windy, but nothing seemed to faze these birds! Our guide was a wealth of information on the species stationed here: Northern Gannets (the predominant group), Murres, Kittiwakes, Razorbills, and Cormorants. What a colony, what a cacophony and what an aroma! The trail from the interpretive centre to the “bird rock” was clearly marked with bright orange wooden pecks (a must in this foggy environment). Visitors were strongly advised to stay on the trail because there was virtually no protection along the cliffs.
At times very thick, the fog would move very quickly, pushed by the wind. Then, it would briefly dissipate to give us glimpses of a bird-jammed cliff, before thickening again without warning!
Every turn was a surprise… Suddenly, two big sheep stuck their head out of the grass, looking as puzzled as we were!!! More joined in the fun until they decided we took enough glamour shots and ran to better pastures! Without this excitement, the day would have been very gloomy indeed…
The naturalist at the interpretive centre encouraged us to return the following day if the weather was more favourable (our host at the B&B would have to call after breakfast to inquire about the conditions). We agreed!
Dinner at The Three Sisters again since the food is good and the location is nearby. Tortellini and pan-fried cod… Yum!
It’s a small world after all… In the afternoon, Raymond had met a couple with a familiar French accent and as it turned out, they were from Belgium!!! We met them again at The Three Sisters, and they invited us for a drink after dinner. We had a friendly long chat, sharing life experiences from both countries.
Well, today was not a good day for photography. Fog, fog, and more fog.
We went to Cape St Mary’s ecological centre to see thousands of birds but we ended up seeing … I am not sure of what. So we goofed around with video instead. Not very good either. So, today is a write-off.
Anyway, some pictures made the cut simply because we wanted to show fog. LOL.
One of the staff told us that tomorrow the wing will come from Northwest and that is good to keep the fog away. Can you imagine they have 200 days of fog a year!.
He suggested to call in the morning and if the conditions are clear, to come back. We might do that or not.
So, let’s go to sleep and it was an enjoyable day anyway. One had to be there to experience it. Otherwise, let’s just skip over today. Except for the flowers on the trail.
Remember this view until tomorrow.
Thursday, June 20, 2013
After breakfast at Philip’s Café, we decided to go back to Cape St, Mary’s reserve since the weather forecast called for a glorious sunny day (well, “glorious” might be an enthusiastic addition…).
Chris, the park naturalist, recognized us immediately and was genuinely pleased we had decided to come back. Fog is common 200 days a year on this part of the island but apparently, yesterday was particularly bad. No harm was done: we will be able to show some “before” and “after” pictures.
As an additional perk, we almost had the whole park to ourselves. According to Chris, the park is usually well attended on sunny days but for some strange reason, today was quite the opposite! He spent a lot of time with us, providing plenty of insights on the birds’ habitat and behaviour. With thousands of birds still perched on the rocks and the sheep still close by, it was a perfect visit!
Before leaving the area, we took a little detour to Point Lance, known for its 2-mile long sandy beach (something unusual around here as most beaches are covered with gravel and rocks).
The scenery between Cape St. Mary and Placentia is constantly changing and absolutely breathtaking. Here is the best way to describe it: Blink. California coast, big waves, deep blue water. Blink. Swiss alpine meadows with scattered little houses. Blink. Algonquin Park bogs. Blink. Rugged beaches. Blink. Pine forests. Blink. Wasn’t that amazing?
Leaving Placentia, we drove to Dildo, our next stop and the George House Heritage B&B (www.georgehousebnb.com), built in 1885. What property!
The house had 5 lovely bedrooms. In ours, the walls were covered with fabric rather than wallpaper. The ambience was definitely “turn of the century” with the luxury of internet access! Plenty of little extravagant details made this place memorable, like two robes nicely laid on the bed and a jar of berries jam with other munchies as an “after dinner” snack… A gourmet breakfast is scheduled for tomorrow morning, between 8:30 and 9:30…
We had dinner at the marina, in a local restaurant. We both had cod
and the Dildo chowder (a delicious spicy tomato broth chowder loaded with pieces of fish and seafood). Delicious!
An incredible day at Cape St Mary’s with our private naturalist Chris. Lots of sunshine to take great pictures.
So let’s start with a before and after from the same viewpoint, the deck of the interpretive centre. Chris had suggested I take these 2 pictures for fun (He knew we were going to come back). So glad he suggested it.
At the end of the trail, there is a large and tall rock where thousands of birds are nesting. We were standing about 40 ft away and had a great view. The fog was gone and it was like the curtain was raised and the show started. It was very hard to leave this place.
Raymond took a video to capture the activity on top of the birds’ “condo unit”, with us and Chris (our private naturalist of the day) carrying a conversation in the background on places we should visit next…
There is also a young chick (grey feathers) still living at home (!). The rock is overcrowded and there is constant bickering.
The ones that seem to duel with their beaks are actually expressing love.
Friday, June 21, 2013
The B&B at Dildo was definitely special, with a lot of attention to details and the best view from our bedroom so far.
Breakfast was wonderful: French Toast made with freshly baked raisin bread. The owners have also published an award-winning recipe book, which I could not resist to buy. As a final thoughtful touch, we were handed a small brown bag containing some peanut butter cookies (“for the road”). How sweet!!!
We then headed North on highway 80, towards Heart’s Content, where we visited the Cable Station Museum. It was in this community that the first permanent telegraph cable between Europe (Irish coast) and North America came ashore. The town flourished with the presence of the Telegraph Company, but not without some friction with the local fishing community.
As we continued on Route 80, the “Heart-naming” theme continued with places like Heart’s Delight and Heart’s Desire.
Our next destination was Trinity. To get there, there is a long stretch of driving on Route 1 (Trans-Canada Highway) up to Clarenville, then another long stretch on Route 230. It is a long drive, but absolutely beautiful! While on Route 1, we went through deep wooden valleys surrounded by mountains, lakes, and sea inlets.
Trinity lies further north in the Trinity Bay, in peaceful surroundings. We will be staying four nights at a very charming B&B called Eriksen Premises (www.trinityexperience.com/erikson-premises), mansard-style two-storey building with seven guest rooms.
Visitors could also take advantage of a large common room with sofas and a game table. As you entered the building, a quaint gift shop welcomed you next to the registration desk while on the second floor, a small Victorian-style gourmet restaurant praised for its fine cuisine and service was open for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
We took an early evening stroll in the neighbourhood, where we discovered bright coloured houses, narrow intertwining streets, old churches and a modest but well-attended live theatre.
- It is wonderful to travel outside the summer months: there are no crowds, little traffic, and no waiting to be seated in restaurants!
- Less is more… we are glad we decided to only cover a small part of the island because it gives us a real opportunity to savour the many facets of life in this unique corner of Canada.
Started the morning with a visit to a cable telegraph museum. Hearts Content, NL was the first successful cable laid between Ireland and Newfoundland. There were others before, but they all failed or got into problems after the initial success. The telegraph lasted 100 years before it got closed down. A single cable was laid to the bottom of the Atlantic in one single piece. Unbelievable.