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.
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.
There was so much to learn – too much to recount here – but here are a few fun facts:
- Viking is the word meaning “raiding” – the people are Norsemen, not Vikings. What they did was “go a-viking”(pronounced “vic-ing”).
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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!