Tag Archives: Canada

Hay Cove where Jenny's B&B is

Icebergs!! L’Anse aux Meadows, Newfoundland

Canadian Maritime Trip Log Book Continues:  Returning to Newfoundland from the French islands of St. Pierre & Miquelon, dad and I rented a car in Deer Lake and drove up to L’Anse aux Meadows at the northern end of the western peninsula of Newfoundland. The trek took about 5 hours driving extra fast, and we checked in to our B&B, Jenny’s Runestone House in the early evening.

jennys
Jenny’s B&B

Jenny and her husband Dave were the sweetest, chattiest people. They brought all the guests together to foster conversation and were genuinely welcoming and warm. Her breakfasts were also filling and delicious. I can’t recommend this B&B enough.

Right around the corner from Jenny’s is L’Anse aux Meadows – the only known Viking outpost in North America! Our guide was AMAZING and so knowledgeable. I’m glad we did the tour and didn’t just wander around on our own: the site would’ve just looked like lonely rolling grassy hills with some plaques.

Bumpy grass in foreground are actual ruins. Hut in background is replica
Bumpy grass in foreground are actual ruins. Hut in background is replica
creek with visitor center in distance - l'anse aux meadows
creek with visitor center in distance – l’anse aux meadows

There was so much to learn – too much to recount here – but here are a few fun facts:

  1. Viking is the word meaning “raiding” – the people are Norsemen, not Vikings. What they did was “go a-viking”(pronounced “vic-ing”).
  2. This was not a settlement. This was an outpost that the Norsemen visited for an aggregate of 10 years over a 25 year period. We know there were at least two visits, perhaps more. From here, the Norsemen would travel around to gather resources to bring back to Greenland, such as wood, rocks and other natural resources.
  3. A new Viking outpost (maybe full-blown settlement) has potentially been discovered on the southern portion of Newfoundland. The folks at L’Anse aux Meadows are waiting eagerly to hear what is discovered. It could really change the whole perceived history of the Norsemen in North America.
  4. We saw our first moose siting here! Everyone told us there are tons of moose everywhere and to watch out when driving in case they bound out into the road. I was diligently looking all around as we drove and didn’t see a single one until we got to the park. (And as a PS, we didn’t see any more ever again.)

The next day, it was pretty rainy and cold (as has been the theme of the trip), but we booked a 2.5 hour boat trip out of St. Anthony (the largest town on the northern peninsula and about 35 minutes from L’Anse aux Meadows) to see icebergs and whales.

iceberg ice
iceberg ice scooped out of the water

Decked out in my anorak and rain pants, I hunkered down on the aft deck as we motored through the harbor out to the North Atlantic.

First, we came across a pair of humpback whales feeding by the rocky shoreline. We followed the sprays until we saw the slow backs arching out of the water, often followed by a graceful tail flick as the whales dove deep.

We didn’t see any full breeching or jumping, but we did see some side fins as the whales trapped fish against the rocks and swam by, huge mouths agape to sweep in the fish.

whale and iceberg
whale spray and small iceberg

Our boat guides with Northland Discovery Boat Tours were great – lots of whale info, as well as info about daily life in the town… like it’s an 11 hour drive to the closest Costco.

iceberg
this one was so tall

Next we got up close and personal with some incredible icebergs. We even saw a seal lounging on one of the ice hunks!

The blue streaks contained within the bergs are created by melted ice water pouring into a crack and refreezing. Apparently if you were to hold a chunk of that blue streak, it would be clear as glass. That’s how pure the iceberg water is. A St. John’s brewery, Quidi Vidi, makes “Iceberg Beer” with water they claim is 25,000 years old.

These icebergs break off from the glaciers on Greenland, as well as few from the arctic ice pack. They are eroded as they float southward by the lapping ocean; melting is actually only a small percentage of how they become smaller and smaller. Some may drag their bottoms on the ocean floor. As they change shape, they may “calf” (have smaller chunks break off) and even flip over if they get top-heavy enough. Jenny said she could watch icebergs all day, get up to use the bathroom, and when she gets back, the whole thing has flipped over and she’s missed it.

intense fog
intense fog

After our tour, we ate a warm lunch at Lightkeepers Seafood on Fishing Point (my French dip sandwich was so good) with a lovely views, wandered around Dark Tickle (a gift shop and local-berry jam factory in St. Lunaire-Griquet), and then went back to Jenny’s to continue watching icebergs and whales from the cliffs by the B&B.

Dark Tickle
Dark Tickle – berry jam factory and shop
fun sign
fun sign

As for food, we sampled some local fare: fresh seafood – mussels, scallops, shrimp, ate jam made out of local blueberries, partridgeberries, bakeapple (cloudberries) and crowberries.

sunset at the Norseman
sunset near The Norseman restaurant

We ate dinner the first evening at Northern Delight, where I had a not-too-greasy pan-fried local cod and dad had a whole lobster for $24 (CAD) – good deal. We were “treated” to a visit by some Mummers – people dressed up in masks and baggy clothes who danced around to local music (a typical Newfoundland Christmas tradition). I was creeped out, but I don’t generally like people in masks.

The second evening we ate at the more upscale restaurant, The Norseman by L’Anse aux Meadows, where we had freshly made butternut squash soup, scallops and mussels. All delicious. And here we were serenaded by a guitarist playing Newfoundland traditional folk songs and classic pop music. And actually that musician was also our costumed re-enactor at L’Anse aux Meadows the prior day!

I’d say two nights was the perfect amount of time to do all the things we wanted up in the north-western part of Newfoundland. 100% worth the visit!

Hay Cove where Jenny's B&B is
Hay Cove where Jenny’s B&B is
Advertisements
dad in a windy field

Ile aux Marins, St. Pierre

During our recent stay on the French island of St. Pierre, off the coast of Canada’s Newfoundland, my dad and I visited the harbor island of Ile aux Marins.

looking back at colorful town of St. Pierre
looking back at colorful town of St. Pierre

The sun finally broke through the rain a bit and the ferry was running from downtown St. Pierre to the tiny, ghost-town of an island. Years ago the island was inhabited by fishermen who would bring their catch back to be cleaned and dried on large rock beds all over the island.

a replica saline or fishing cabin with boats, fishing gear, snow shoes, galoshes, etc.
a replica saline or fishing cabin with boats, fishing gear, snow shoes, galoshes, etc.
Ile aux Marins
Ile aux Marins

It’s now uninhabited (although some of the houses looked really well-kept so maybe some are still in use on summer weekends, unclear), at least by year-round residents.

The day we went over was incredibly windy (as I think it tends to be over there) and the tall grasses whipped our legs as we walked the grass trails around the homes to the 1970s shipwreck of the Transpacific and to the former fort at the end of the island. The island has no trees and so the wind flows easily and quickly over the hilltop.

dad in a windy field
dad in a windy field

The “fort”at one end of the island is, at this point, a large hill with rusted cannons and a flag pole. The cannons were actually never used as the French government never went through with establishing a defensive base there. The cannons were, however, used for a while on Bastille Day for celebration.

Near the fort is the rusted hull of the Transpacific – a shipwreck from the 70s that doesn’t seem that large until you notice the small house next to it and the comparison is pretty cool. The ship was abandoned and locals looted the cargo – lawnmowers and juke boxes among other day-to-day items.

In the middle of the island is a stark white and red church. Its clean lines and perfect proportions make it seem other-worldly or fake, especially when viewed from St. Pierre through the mist. The shadows are crisp.

red-roofed church
red-roofed church

On a hill near the church is  a large crucifix.

cross on Ile aux Marins
cross on Ile aux Marins

Over another hill and down low is an above-ground, sea-side cemetery: eerie, quiet and spooky with not a few cracked tombs where you could look down in the dark depths within.

graveyard by the sea
derelict graveyard by the sea

The whole place was beautiful and peaceful, with the constant wind in your ear and the screeching circling seagulls. There was a woman running a small snack bar and she was the only person we came across until some local sanitation workers arrived to empty the trash bins.

boarding the plane to St. Pierre

St. Pierre & Miquelon: A Piece of France in Canada

The islands of St. Pierre & Miquelon are actually part of France, but they are tiny islands off the southern coast of Newfoundland, Canada. You can get there by plane from Halifax or St. John’s, or by ferry from Fortune.

It’s so neat to be in France but over here in North America! They speak French with French accents (not Quebecois which I can’t understand du tout), use the euro and you get a nifty stamp in your passport upon entering!

fishing boats in the harbor St. Pierre
fishing boats in the harbor St. Pierre

My dad and I spent two nights on the island of St. Pierre during our father-daughter Maritime Canadian road-trip. St. Pierre is the smaller of the two islands but is the more heavily populated, with almost 6,000 residents (mostly concentrated in the town of St. Pierre) to Miquelon’s 600 residents.

Given that in mid-July it was cold and rainy, we didn’t take the opportunity to get soaked on a ferry-ride over to Miquelon. I’m not even sure the ferry was running one day since the winds were quite high. Next time!

downtown St. Pierre
downtown St. Pierre

So we centered our time around St. Pierre and the ghost island of Ile aux Marins located in St. Pierre’s bay. Ile aux Marins’ last resident died in the 1970s I believe, however many of the island houses are well-maintained and I wouldn’t be surprised if families used them as weekend/summer houses.

In St. Pierre, we stayed at Nuits St. Pierre, owned and operated by the lovely local proprietress, Patricia who picked us up at the airport. She also owns the next door cafe, Delices de Josephine where we took our afternoon Orangina.

our hotel: Nuits Saint Pierre
our hotel: Nuits Saint Pierre
there was a tub in the bedroom!
there was a tub in the bedroom!

The B&B was warm and cozy. There are 5 well-appointed rooms with modern amenities (including adapters – good because I hadn’t even thought to bring one!), slippers, robes, free wifi and a very comfy pull out couch (dad said the bed was comfy too).

Each morning, breakfast was prepared by a friendly young lady who had moved from Montreal to work in the hotel. I had the requisite pain au chocolate an baguette with lots of butter and coffee.

Even though it was rainy and chilly for most of our stay, we wandered around town, visiting the lighthouse, the salines (colorful seaside huts where they clean and dry the day’s catch), the post office for stamps, the WWI/WWII memorial, the Musee de l’Arche with a great history exhibit, the look-out point with 360 views of the town, harbor and expansive above-ground cemetery.

The history centers mostly around fishing, although there was a great economic boom during the years of US Prohibition due to massive smuggling operations through St. Pierre. Al Capone even installed himself at the Hotel Robert (still in use) during that time.

According to one sign in the museum, there was prohibition in Canada too (who knew), but they allowed for the manufacture of alcohol so long as it was exported to a country who did not have prohibition. Well good thing St. Pierre is part of France – so convenient! So once the Canadians exported to France, the bootleggers took it from there to get it into the US.

Once Prohibition was lifted, St. Pierre’s economy collapsed, and they had to return to their fishing way of life with some added tourist income.

We ate our dinners at L’Atelier Gourmand and Le Feu de Braise. Neither were much to write home about – both solid and good – not incredibly memorable, although the scallops at Feu were tasty and fresh, and the steak au poivre at L’Atelier was up to snuff.

On our second day, the sun came out for a bit and we witnessed the end of the Halifax-St. Pierre annual regatta. The first sailboat arrived after setting out two days prior, battling some storms but finally making it safely to St. Pierre (some boats scratched out along the way). We joined in the end-of-race party tent for some snacks and people watching.

sailboat race winner of Halifax-St. Pierre regatta
sailboat race winner of Halifax-St. Pierre regatta

That evening we came across an outdoor concert near our hotel of traditional French music – old-timey feel good songs accompanied by drums and accordion.

Just as I had my fill of croissants at the local boulangerie (there are only two apparently, but we only stumbled upon one), it was time to move on to Newfoundland for the next leg of our journey!

 

 

Newfoundland, Canada: Ferryland

Ferryland is a small town about an hour and fifteen minutes south of St. John’s along the eastern coast of Newfoundland in the Canadian Maritime Islands. My dad and I are currently in the second leg of our father-daughter roadtrip (the first leg was through Normandy and Brittany, France two summers ago).

On this trip, we are exploring Newfoundland & Labrador, Canada, St. Pierre & Miquelon islands (which are part of France) and Nova Scotia. He’s then going on to Price Edward Island and Ile de Madeleine (Quebec) and I’ll head home.

Dad always travels with a little plinth and mini flags for the places he’s going. Can you figure out all of these below? Click on the pictures to check.

On our way from St. Pierre to western Newfoundland, we had a whole day layover in St. John’s. Having visited St. John’s on a prior trip, we decided to head for Ferryland instead.

flying into Newfoundland - look at those cliffs!
flying into Newfoundland – look at those cliffs!

(On a side note, the time zones here are so neat! St. Pierre & Miquelon are 2 hours ahead of east coast US. Traveling EAST to St. John’s, you set the clocks BACK 30 minutes. So not only are you traveling east and gaining time – very rare – but also all of Newfoundland is in an odd 30 minute time zone. So now we are 1.5 hours ahead of east coast US.)

So back to Ferryland. We rented a car at St. John’s airport (a debacle in and of itself as we accidentally booked a nonrefundable car at St. John airport….in New Brunswick). So after hanging around and finally getting the last car seemingly in the whole airport, we headed to Ferryland.

scenic overlook on east coast of Newfoundland
scenic overlook on east coast of Newfoundland

On the drive, the views overlooking sharp cliffs and rocky island outcroppings were breathtaking, and we even spotted a few sprays from whales off the shore.

rocky islands off newfoundland
rocky islands off the coast

Ferryland is town where the original colony of Avalon was founded in the 1620s by George Calvert aka Lord Baltimore!!! As you can imagine, this had been pre-researched and our Baltimore connection is why we wanted to go.

Lord Calvert really couldn’t stand the harsh winters there and so he only stayed a year before heading south and founding Maryland. The colony at Avalon continued on under other English leadership until such a time when it was destroyed by the French….but then the settlers came back and rebuilt.

The colony is an active archeological dig site and we watched as students from a local university used trowels to pull out shards of pottery, bottle glass, and other bits and pieces. They have over 2 million pieces in their archives (from the indigenous Beothuk people, to the first settlers, to 19th century residents) and they literally uncover hundreds of things from the ground everyday. Unfortunately, they no longer have the staff to reconstruct much of what they discover, and so it gets catalogued and warehoused.

tool shed at colony of Avalon dig site
tool shed at colony of Avalon dig site

We walked on the cobbles of Main Street that were uncovered intact, along with remnants of fireplaces, the village forge, kitchen and privy, as well as foundations for many homes, including the Baltimore “mansion.”

Lord Baltimore "mansion"
Lord Baltimore “mansion”

Fishing was the village’s main occupation, although it seemed like regularly fighting off French and Dutch were also high on the list. However, these were villagers and fishermen and were not defended by soldiers, so it seems more like they would flee, return, and rebuild.

Gold rings and coins were uncovered by the archeologists from what they believe were the trash heaps – probably where fleeing villagers “hid” precious items.

There weren’t many options for lunch along the route, so we stopped at one of the more highly recommended spots on Yelp: Benard Kavanaugh’s Million Dollar View restaurant, which was a glorified beach snack bar, complete with vinegar for the fries and soft serve ice cream cones. It did have a pretty view though, and don’t think we would’ve found anything different food-wise. Dad had a local Quidi Vidi beer from St. John’s – not the Iceberg beer that they claim to be made with ancient iceberg water, but the regular pilsner.

Ferryland was worth the trip and was a pretty cool experience: to see where Lord Baltimore originally thought he might set up shop to being on an active dig site. And look what was flying over the visitor center:

Maryland flag at colony of Avalon visitor center
Maryland flag at colony of Avalon visitor center