Before taking this trip I didn’t know much about Newfoundland. As a kid I laughed at the famous Newfie jokes and I thought they were some kind of imaginary little people. It turns out Newfoundlanders need a pretty good sense of humor with all the crappy weather they get. The weather on our trip was really bad but could have been worse. We dodged the all-time record for May of 58 cm of snow that fell in the central part of the province on one day and we had fog and drizzle almost every day while most of the precipitation fell at night.
We had to say goodbye to some of the activities we had planned like a boat ride to Witless
Bay Ecological Reserve, and the new Star Trek in IMAX 3-D. We had to plan our activities according to Mother Nature and both agreed it could have been better but it also could have been worse.
Our flight from Moncton to Halifax was on a small plane of 18 seats with no attendants, only the co-pilot welcoming us and giving out the usual instructions. We arrived in Halifax after a short 40 minute flight at low altitude.
The flight to St. John’s was on a little bigger plane and was a little longer (90 minutes). I would say it was a fairly stress free transfer, easier than when we travel to the States passing through Montreal or Toronto having to go through customs and security again.
In St. John’s, Dami took care of the car rental while I waited for our luggage. We rented a compact with Hertz and we had brought our GPS which is one of the best purchases we made. It is very handy and makes traveling in a new city almost a breeze although our female robot voice sometimes has funny pronunciations for instance she doesn’t understand the word St. as an abbreviation for Saint so she pronounces “sit” and for airport she says “airpert”; the latter made me giggle. She also pronounces 250 (in 250 meters turn left or right) ta-hundred. Maybe it’s time we try a different robot voice!
There wasn’t too much fog and the weather called for fog and drizzle all weekend long so we headed for plan B (plan A was Star Trek in IMAX 3-D) which was Bell Island: what a cute little island it is! It was an obvious choice if we wanted to take advantage of the views. The ride from the airport to the ferry in Portugal Cove took 15 minutes but we had to wait in line about 30 minutes.
The ferryman took us for a ride when he told us we were at the wrong ferry landing… he didn’t led us too long though but had a good laugh getting me back for all the Newfie jokes I laughed at… Also some guys laughed at me when we got out of the car on the ferry to go and have a look on the deck: I guess they were wondering what I was doing with my winter coat and my toque but I was glad I had them because I hate to be cold.
From the ferry, Bell Island was hidden in a cloud and it felt like we were going to some mysterious island. We saw what we thought was a whale and unfortunately that was when the binoculars were still in the suitcase in the trunk of the car… doh!
Bell Island is very small; still we didn’t find it that easy to navigate even with a GPS. Landmarks were hard to find and the information centre was closed. I did have a small map that I had printed at home so at least we had a bit of an idea where we were. We found the lighthouse with the very steep cliffs and a sign that said that at least 8 people died there so we were very cautious and careful.
The fog had gone for a while and we were able to see the mainland across Conception bay. It was a beautiful site to visit with a big rocky island next to it inhabited only by birds. There were some tunnels at the bottom and the water was a beautiful lush turquoise. We got back to the ferry after having a snack bought at a small convenience store and headed for the hotel to check in.
Our Super-8 Hotel was very well situated, on Portugal Cove and was a straight drive from the ferry. The girl at the front desk messed up our names saying that was how they were pronounced in Newfoundland… Our room was very clean but the view was one of the worse I had ever had.
Ours was facing the Portugal Cove Rd with an Esso, and a big electrical wire post right in the window. No matter where you sat in the room all you could see was the wire post and as the fog set it was all you could see. We went to get food for supper and after supper we went to Signal Hill. As we walked around fog came and surrounded us until there was not much to see.
Back at the hotel, there was no chance to unwind and relax because we were surrounded by a young dance group with girls screaming and running back and forth from one room to another. Sure they went to bed early but we both agreed we are due for a step up in our hotel choices… family hotels are not for us.
We don’t have children and we need a quiet place after our long days of walking and sightseeing. We managed to fall asleep later than we would have liked because the neighbor on top was pacing back and forth for at least 2 hours on the squeaky floor; even earplugs didn’t cut the noise. We woke up tired and not well rested but we were in good spirits.
We had breakfast at Chez Cora where I unwrapped my presents and cards. The breakfast was so expensive! We’re not used to eat at the restaurant anymore because food is so much cheaper and better at home… 35$ for a breakfast for two was way too much in our opinion.
Our cost of food at home is around 2$ per meal each and we eat very well and healthy. Our young waitress thought she was serving us maple syrup that was actually light corn syrup. There is no mistaking between the two syrups for us because both of us were fed the cheap stuff as kids and now we buy 12 liters of the maple gold each year which comes out to a liter per month! Yes! In our house we go through one liter of maple syrup every month.
After breakfast we went to The Geo Center. We started with a walk around the foot paths and it was so eerie with the fog. It was a very nice walk. The visit at the center was awesome. This is a world class exhibit for everyone. I was really impressed and I learned lots.
There was even a 3-d presentation called Micro world that was about insects. We had lunch in the car and went to the Railroad Museum which is at mile zero of the Trans Canada Trail. We then took a 15 minute ride to Cape Spear. It was cold, windy, drizzly and foggy.
As we walked towards the lighthouse that was only noticeable when you got really close, there was a little souvenir shop that was actually opened. I thought somebody might have forgotten to turn the sign when they left but no, it was really open and walking in feeling the soothing warm dry air was like finding an oasis in the middle of the desert!
That night we went to Ches’s for a take-out Fish&Chips and we thought it was really expensive: 16$ for 3 pieces of bland fried battered cod and overly sweet soggy French fries. The fish itself was tender but lacked seasoning and the batter was crunchy but very oily and bland. Unfortunately our first choice was Leo’s but it was closed.
The next morning, as soon as Dami woke up he went to get us some generous amount of breakfast material from the free hotel cold buffet. Our first attraction of the day was the Commissariat which consists of a newly built building with Newfoundland historical facts and an authentic restored building that was the actual commissariat where everything having to do with business trades and purchases took place. After a short walk around Kent’s Pond, we visited the Fluvarium which we thought was too children oriented for us.
Our next walk was to Quidi Vidi village up on the Cockold Cove Trail where we saw a female eagle resting on her nest. There were a couple of photographers with super big lenses. It was so foggy that we couldn’t see very far but it was nice to see the plants and be on what they call the rock! I was amazed at how many ponds there was; thanks to all those depressions in the rock that filled with water a long time ago.
After a quick stop at the hotel room, we hurried to catch the Star Trek presentation but we were late and it was sold-out. Back at the hotel room the hotel was filled with loud kids again and we were so exasperated! We love kids but we like our intimacy and tranquility.
Next trip we have to choose a different kind of accommodation… maybe a B&B would suit us better although it is hard to find one with rooms equipped with a fridge/microwave / stove-top. Our choice for supper was A&W. I have been craving a mama burger and onion rings with root beer for so long! We rarely eat fast food at home and only splurge occasionally. I must say that for 20$ our meal was way better than our last dinner plate at Ches’s.
Come the morning of our return flight, we stopped by the Municipal Botanical Gardens and walked the 5 trails in the rain. There were lots of interpretive panels along the way and a huge cow parsnip plant that I mistook for giant hogweed.
There were hungry ducks at Oxen pond but we didn’t have food for them although they did sell some dried food for them at the field center. I was happy to see that they asked people not to feed them bread because it is not good for them and it pollutes the water. We saw the biggest carnivorous pitcher plants we ever saw and brought back lots of new ideas for new plants and flowers in our dream garden.
I must say it was an interesting and very well filled fast-cation. We would love to return to Newfoundland although this time we will wait a little later in the season, that is end of May beginning of June.