Brr.

2009/06/27

So it was stinking hot and miserable in when we left Toronto, warm enough when we landed in Deer Lake and quite sticky when we woke up in Rocky Harbour on Friday.

When we got up in St. Anthony this morning, it was 5 C.  With 48 km gusts of wind, that made it -2 C.  We did not have enough layers to make it possible to go out on the whale and iceberg watching boat…. which probably didn’t go out anyway.

We dressed as warmly as possible and then spent most of  the day at Fishing Point where we saw whales and icebergs anyway, despite the rain, fog and wind.   Lovely people in the gift shop telling us stories about polar bears floating into town every spring on ice floes and showing us how to watch for whales, and an exploratory drive around St. Anthony.   We also had a fabulous lunch at Lightkeeper’s Cafe — fish and chips with fresh local cod and the best batter on the planet for me, pan-fried cod for Phil and the ubiquitous date square, with ice cream and partridge berries.  We’ll be going back.

A great day and, in some ways a genuine Nfld experience.  Weather can just be brutal here!

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A great night at Mountain Range Cottages in Rocky Harbour — we’re coming back after Canada Day — then on the road to St. Anthony.  It’s a spectacularly beautiful drive, easy with many charming towns of salt-box houses along the coast.  Stops at local cafe bakeries — where else? – and for lunch in Hawke’s Bay.

Along the way, we notice odd rectangular gardens, fenced by all manner of materials.  A few are grown over, most are tilled and ready, some already sprouting vegetable plants.  They’re no where near homes, each is different from the other and they’re all within yards of the Highway 430.  They make us wonder and it’s not until we get hooked up in St. Anthony that we learn what they are from a Web site:

When the roads were constructed, the ground was disturbed to the point where one could actually work the thin soil enough to plant a garden. These plots are coveted and passed down through families and they never display a sign of individual ownership. We have seen them everywhere throughout Newfoundland. Little patches of ground in the right of way, these gardens have split pole fences surrounding them, to ward off the moose and caribou. The only no trespassing signs are plastic bags fluttering from the poles, old clothes drenched in urine draped on the sides, and one with a dead raven hanging upside down from a nearby tree. Within the boundaries are neatly growing rows of potatoes, always potatoes, turnips, carrots, beets and other root crops. And no garden would be complete without a row of cabbage. The growing season is short and the plots have been in the family for sometimes 20 or 30 years. These vegetables are moved to outdoor root cellars for storage. And no one steals from the gardens or the cellars.

 I found a photo here: http://www.paulillsley.com/newfoundland/092.html 

We noticed that schools were called academies, that there is highway improvement going on along 430 — already a fine road.  We also decided that Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism must pay people to hang their washing on the line for that look of small town charm.   In some areas, the roads are lined with what must be thousands of lobster traps.

When we arrive in St. Anthony, about five hours later — having used the GPS to good advantage in order to forecast when we’d arrive here or there in order to plan lunch and afternoon tea, etc — we immediately saw an iceberg.  Mission accomplished!

We picked up groceries and then pulled into Grenfell Heritage Hotel where we have quite a nice housekeeping unit with a barbecue and a sweet balcony overlooking the bay. 

The  flowers in the planters are the first we’ve seen — despite the charm of the salt box house villages, there’s not a shred of landscaping.  We assume the wicked winds off the sea makes ordinary gardens  impossible.  Certainly the vegetable plots are sheltered by trees that stand between them and the coast.

A few glitches at the otherwise lovely hotel — more about that later — but lovely front desk staffer Marilyn made everything all right.

…so to speak.

Actually, we  were in the sky today, flying to Deer Lake, Newfoundland, completing our set of 10 provinces.

We missed Nfld when we were PEI Bound in 2007 and are happy to have another chance two years later.

It was threatening a thunderstorm in Toronto so our plane left an hour late.  The flight was, happily, uneventful.  Not free of turbulence, but more like driving on a gravel road than riding a roller coaster.

We arrived in Deer Lake to the unsurprising discovery that this airport is built and operated on a human scale.  I’ve decided that this is what I mean when I call something civilized — it functions on a human scale. 

We picked up a nice fancy car with a GPS as a new toy for both of us.  We  would have happily travelled around Newfoundland on a train but they are decades gone and we are left with the roads or hopping around in pu ddle-jumpers.  We decide to drive.

So, drive we did from Deer Lake to Rocky Harbour where we have a lovely cottage-in-the-woods with all the mod cons.  The drive itself was mildly angst ridden as its very very curvy and hilly, only problematic because the rental car — a Chevy Malibu — has no pick up whatsoever and the road is heavily populated with very big trucks that want to go very fast.    The drivers were gentlemen, however, so we were none the worse for wear when we arrived in Rocky Harbour 67 km later.