Roadtrip Episode 4: Introducing Newfoundland

Day Twelve:

We woke up this morning to a lovely breakfast prepared by the manager of the B&B we were staying at in Brigus, Lori. Her Newfoundland style of conversation was so sweet and boisterous, and provided much entertainment for us during our meal. Before we headed out of Brigus, we drove around the small town a bit and checked out the harbour. We explored a tunnel that was constructed in the 19th century and hiked up a little ways out of town to get a lovely view of the harbour

As we were pulling out of town to head to St. John’s an older man came up to my window and rapped on it with his knuckle. I rolled down the window and he leaned into the car, so far that I thought he might just crawl on in and take a seat on my lap. “Long way from home ye’ are,” he said. We engaged in small talk with this friendly gentleman for a while, telling him about our trip and hearing all about his children as he leaned further into the car. We told him we were headed to St. John’s and he muttered a warning that we could barely understand through his incredibly thick Newfoundland accent, “George Street. Ye’ ‘eard about et? Et’s a wild place. Oh, S’ Johns, that’s sin city. Ye’ girls be careful.”

Only about an hour away we were soon in the downtown core and scrambling to understand the labyrinth of streets that criss-cross each other in elaborate patterns throughout the downtown area. With streets that are rarely at right angles to each other and intersections that often provide the meeting place of up to seven different roads, we found this city a little hard to navigate. But the cute brightly coloured houses lining the streets did their best to make up for it.

St. John's

St. John’s

We made our way up to Signal Hill, a historic fort set on a hill that looks out over the bay and city. We explored the various trails clinging to the mountain side, overlooking gorgeous views of the harbour and spotted our first iceberg off in the distance. Charissa named it Jared. We like to name things. We were pretty excited about Jared. Little did we know this was nothing compared to what we would get to see in the coming days. We clambered over the old cannons scattered throughout the site, dating back to the early 19th century, and then headed to our next stop – Cape Spear.

Signal Hill, St. John's

Signal Hill, St. John’s

Signal Hill, St. John's

Signal Hill, St. John’s

Cape Spear is the most eastern point of North America and is home to two lighthouses, and as we soon learned, the most powerful gusts of wind. The difference in temperature between here and the city, just over 10km away was wild. So we did a fairly whirlwind (literally) tour of Cape Spear, ducking into the old, crumbling battery buildings dating back from WWII to temporarily escape the wind. On our drive back we spotted another moose, who we presumed to be Elliot’s girlfriend, running across the road.

Cape Spear, St. John's

Cape Spear, St. John’s

We headed up to Memorial University, where we would be staying for the next three nights, to check in and get settled as I had to hop on the phone for an interview. In the evening we headed back downtown to scope out St. John’s nightlife. We hit up the Yellow Belly brewery for dinner and to try their beers. Unfortunately we were a little disappointed. Halifax spoiled us with amazing meals and delicious brews, so overall our food experience in St. John’s was a little bit of a let down by comparison.

We strolled up and down the streets of St. John’s and made our way onto George Street: sin city. Well, let’s just say we made it out alive. To be honest, it wasn’t really our scene. Maybe we were just tired, or we’re really lame people, but the Irish bars filled with older men and blasting Jimmy Buffet weren’t really for us, at least not at this time of year with most of the student population out of town.

We ended up gallivanting to the only liquor store in town open late by foot, winding through the back streets of St. John’s for a bottle of wine. Naturally, when we made it back to our rooms in the university we were too tired to drink it and just went to bed. Winners.

Day Thirteen:

We had a bit of a slow morning with a much needed sleep in (until 8 am! Wild!). And then headed out lazily to explore downtown. Our first stop of the day was Quidi Vidi, a small historic fishing village tucked away at the base of Signal Hill. It’s become fairly developed in recent years so doesn’t carry quite as much charm as some of the other small towns we had already visited. The Quidi Vidi brewery, much to our dismay, was also closed. It was a gorgeous sunny day so we had left the university donning shorts, but decided the gusts of wind throughout the city would require changing into pants. Cue stupid Kelsey moment.

I took off my shoes and put them on the road right outside the van, climbed into the back and shut the door behind me. I changed out of my shorts and into pants, then promptly crawled back into the front seat. We peeled away from where we were parked and headed toward the base of Signal Hill on the St. John’s side to park for our venture into downtown. Of course, when I tried to get out of the car to walk I realized I had left my shoes on the side of the road in Quidi Vidi. So back we went, luckily to find my shoes lying all by their lonesome on the road. You know you are tired when…

Once we finally made it downtown, with all of our shoes on our feet, we spent the next few hours exploring. St. John’s has some absolutely stunning churches and cathedrals, and the Basilica in particularly is gorgeous. An archway leads to the main entrance and the stone towers pierce the sky, flanked by statues on either side. Looking back over the harbour through the arches reminded us a little of a Grecian scene. True to its reputation, St. John’s is a very colourful city; the houses a painted rainbow framing the streets. It made me reminiscent of my San Francisco days.

Basilica, St. John's

Basilica, St. John’s

Once we had had our fill of the city, we asked for a local recommendation for a nearby afternoon drive. Based on this knowledge, off we headed to Middle Cove. As we were driving along the coast, heading north of St. John’s, true to my mother’s style I made us pull over every couple hundred metres to snap photo after photo of the spectacular coast line. Dark rock formations and cliffs jut out into the deep blue ocean which shimmers in the scorching sun. Before long, we spotted another ice berg a little ways in the distance.

Charissa and I looked at each other and in that moment knew what to do. We popped on our imaginary Iceberg Hunting hats and hit the gas, following the coast, taking every right turn until we literally stumbled right into the bergs. There were two that had made their way into a bay off the town of Torbay. They were both probably only about 150 metres from shore at the closest point. Totally gorgeous. A local woman came over and chatted with us while we were admiring their massive beauty and told us that we ere incredibly lucky to see ice bergs here as there hadn’t been any in this part of the bay since 2008. We stayed for quite a while, basking in the sun and stunned by our luck. Poor Jared, these two had fair surpassed his awesomeness.

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Back in town that night we went to The Works burger joint, which despite being a chain, totally blew our minds with its cute charm and humorous branding. A lady at the table next to us proved to be the most rude and challenging customer I have ever witnessed, sending her food back multiple times and then finally not even eating it. I seriously cannot comprehend people like this. It’s just a burger. Once she and her family left we ended up giving the waiter, who was adorable, a bit of a pep talk. It was near the end of his shift so he just ended up sitting down and chatting with us while we ate our meals. He told us that he regularly runs up Signal Hill three to four times. We walked up half of it the other day and were tired. This might prove to be problematic for Gros Morne. It was another early night in which we bought more wine and beer, fully intending to drink it, but just opted for sleep instead. Clearly this whole being on the road for weeks business is starting to wear us down a little bit.

Day Fourteen:

Today was amazing. Totally mind blowing. I want to just spew all of the fabulously awesome adjectives that I can think of onto this page in one massive block of text, but I realize that wouldn’t really tell you anything at all. Positively glorious.

In the morning we headed out early to Bay Bulls, a town just south of St. John’s. We started off the day with a little jaunt on a small section of the East Coast Trail. We only went in about 1.5 km at this point. It reminded us a lot of the west coast; it had a very Uclulet feel especially with the fog and mist that was shrouding the bay in.

At 10:15 we headed to Gatheralls tours to get ready for the boat trip we would be taking. Then, we met Teddy, the most adorable mutt I have ever seen. It was love at first sight. Charissa and I were both secretly, or perhaps not so secretly, plotting ways we could run off with Teddy in tow. He was the most friendly, and adorable, creature. When we went to pay for the tour, he stood behind the counter, front paws on the desk, beside his owner, as if ready to register us himself.

Teddy

Teddy

The boat tour itself was about an hour and a half long. Since it’s still the off season, we only had to share the boat with six other folks, as well as the three crew, who entertained us with their accents and tales of adventures at sea, as well as an incredible amount of knowledge of the local bird life we would be seeing. We started off by getting up close to a couple of ice bergs, one of them quite massive on which you could still see thick dark bands: remnants of volcanic ash. It was pretty amazing to get up close to the bergs on the water like this. I have seen ice bergs when I was much younger and sailed with my family to Alaska, but I hardly remember it, so this was a pretty sweet treat. By the time these icebergs make their way down from up north, they are often up to three years old!

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From here, we sloshed through fairly large swells to the islands of the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, home to over 1.2 million birds. We saw hundreds of murres nesting on the rocks, and huge groups of puffins bobbing in the water around the boat and flying to and from their island nests.

Puffin in flight, Witless Bay Ecological Reserve

Puffin in flight, Witless Bay Ecological Reserve

Once back on dry land, and feeling a little more nauseous that we would have liked (especially me, who grew up living on a boat and should have a stomach made of rock by now…. but I suppose this is what happens when you try and instagram on a very rocky boat), we headed to Cape Broyle to grab some grub.

Cape Broyle

Cape Broyle

From here, we made our way down to Ferryland. The little town was shrouded in a thick layer of fog, and it was beginning to rain, making it less than desirable to get out and explore. We drove through and I demanded that Charissa head out on the “Lighthouse Picnic” route. We didn’t end up making it all the way out because quickly turned into a tiny little gravel road, shrouded in so much fog we could only see fifty feet in front of us, on the side of a cliff. Classic us. Finding all the hard places to drive.

After our wee little gander into Ferryland we headed to La Manche Provincial park for a hike along a stretch of the East Coast Trail to a suspension bridge that Charissa wanted to check out. It was only about 1.5km in to the suspension bridge from where we parked, which stretched over a gorgeous canyon. We thought this was pretty, but decided to continue along the trail about another kilometre. We stumbled on Doctor’s Cove which is now probably one of my favourite places on the entire planet Earth. It actually stopped my heart and took my breath away. We both teared up a little at the beauty of this place. I felt God/love/power/spirit, whatever you want to call it, as the waves crashed on the rocky shore and the iceberg in the distance peered around the corner of the wooded point. Words cannot describe and pictures cannot do it justice.

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Suspension Bridge, La Manche Provincial Park

Suspension Bridge, La Manche Provincial Park

 

View from Suspension Bridge

View from Suspension Bridge

Doctor's Cove, La Manche Provincial Park

Doctor’s Cove, La Manche Provincial Park

As we headed back on the trail, we decided to take a detour off the path to get closer to the iceberg. After a bit of bush whacking we ended up on another rocky point looking right out over it, probably only about 50 metres off shore. We watched the ocean slowly begin to devour the berg as its huge mass was tumbled back and forth in the rolling waves, water washing over it and gushing off one side in a waterfall. We were awe struck and mesmerized. It was a magical moment. We stayed for about forty minutes, watching the sea slowly chip away bits and pieces of the berg, leaving a trail behind.

It started to pour and by the time we made it back to the car we were absolutely drenched. For some reason, back in St. John’s, we were craving Chinese. So we drove around to three different places until we found the one that looked the least sketchy. The Chinese food was pretty good, but we were so exhausted, we just left money on the table. The meals we had ordered were $12 each, so we left $27 and called it a day. About a block away we heard someone running after us, shouting at us. Turns out, in our tired state we forgot to factor in tax, and had tried to short change the restaurant by $1.10. Oops. Time for bed.

And with that, over and out. Spent the day in Trinity and Bonavista today, but will write that on the road tomorrow. Then off to Gros Morne!

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