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Our Canada Blog
Newfoundland & Labrador September 2016
Each year we try to get as many staff out on the road as possible to see and experience the products they sell. Cat and Fiona are off to Newfoundland, the closest province in Canada to the UK. Over the next 2 weeks they will be following our fly drive trip plus some extra site inspections. Newfoundland offers a lot, with great sightseeing and wildlife viewing, and some of the friendliest people on the planet. Enjoy following their trip.
Friday 16th September, 2016
After safely travelling down to Heathrow in the worst UK heat-wave to date, we arrived at the Ibis hotel for our overnight stay. The hotel was conveniently located for terminal two and had a very good restaurant located on site for an evening meal.
The next morning, we looked at the weather outside our window and concluded that it didn’t seem so bad to be leaving. We hoped the weather wouldn’t follow us to Canada!
We used the ‘Heathrow Hoppa’, to take us from the hotel to terminal two, which took around twenty minutes. Arriving back at terminal two, we followed signs for Air Canada, located in area A. For anybody travelling in economy, it was a self check-in service, which allowed your boarding pass and luggage labels to be printed off. You then proceeded to bag drop. From there, we followed through security and onwards to the Air Canada Maple Leaf lounge located in B gate. We were extremely fortunate to experience this type of airport luxury! For anyone who hasn't travelled from B gate before, you must be aware that it took roughly fifteen minutes to walk. Although not as big as in A, there were shops such as Boots, Dixons and a range of duty free products to purchase.
The Air Canada Maple Leaf lounge offered fantastic service from the beginning and in the seating area, we were treated to full-length views of the airport, plus we had the opportunity to see various aircrafts arriving and departing. At this point, we weren’t sure whether we wanted to leave as the lounge had an extremely relaxed atmosphere! Before arriving, Cat and I concluded that we were most looking forward to the food and it didn't fail to disappoint us. We both enjoyed a cooked breakfast however; there was also a continental selection available from fruit to cereal, toast and even pancakes! If you were still hungry or thirsty, you had the option to go back for more! So once you were finished, what else could you do? Well, the lounge offered reading material such as magazines, newspapers and WIFI. There was a computer suite and a TV area in case you needed it or perhaps do as we did, which was sit back and watch the world from the window.
We relaxed in the lounge till we were ready to board our flight to St. John's. Flying time from Heathrow to St. John's was around five and a half hours, which was equal to flying not much further from the UK to the Canary Islands.
The flight with Air Canada was peaceful and stress-free. After half an hour of being in the air, we were served promptly with lunch, where you were given two options to choose between either chicken or pasta. We both decided to have a different option to the other and found both food choices appetising. This was later followed by beverages and during the flight; a light snack was handed to each of us. Refreshments for instance water, was regularly provided. Additionally, there was an entertainment system on the back of the chairs which gave a selection of movies, TV shows, children’s programmes and audio.
On arrival at St. John's airport, we were surprised on how small the airport actually was, but this gave no issue with security and immigration as the process went very quickly.
On retrieving our luggage at one of two carousels, we made our way through the doors and turned left towards the car hire depot desks, which were all located towards the right hand-side of the terminal.
After signing relevant paperwork with regards to car hire, we were given a diagram of the vehicle to report any scratches or dents. This in fact, must be reported before leaving the car park.
As a pleasant surprise, we were greeted by Charlotte from the tourism board of Newfoundland who kindly stayed with us while we sorted out the hire car. Charlotte also advised us to visit the information desk to help with directions to our hotel in St. John’s. We found this very helpful, as it gave us sighting tips as well as maps and guides.
Driving out from the airport was straight forward into St. John’s, as we were lucky because we had a GPS already built in. We knew that a lot of our clients had asked before, however, there was a charge but to be honest you didn’t really need it as it was relatively straight forward into the city. I, (Catherine) took to the driver’s seat, and I will admit that it was a little nerve wracking to begin with. I had been driving for years in the UK, so it was more of a concern as to whether my natural instinct kicked in and if I was going to end up on the wrong side of road! I did what was recommended and drove carefully to the hotel without any problem at all even with the one way streets! I did wonder that by the time I was completely comfortable, it would be time to go home but that didn’t stop me in the meantime as I couldn’t wait to explore the rest of the province. St John's was a great place for anybody who hasn't driven in a North American city before, as it was quiet but you did have to watch the steep hills.
Sheraton Hotel was well located in the downtown area. Most of the rooms had great views of the harbour which was what we were blown away with when we first arrived. The room itself included two double beds, a TV, desk, chairs, storage facilities and a decent sized bathroom. There was also a clear love for Newfoundland by the art-work which was displayed. A restaurant was onsite that served three meals a day at an additional charge. We would also recommend checking out their conservatory area, located close to the reception hall. It was brilliant, and clearly the hotel enjoyed many events which took place there. Other features of the hotel included the art gallery, conference rooms, gym and swimming pool. For those, like us who needed to keep in contact with home, the WIFI was excellent.
Needing to stretch our legs, we explored the city and admired the scenic colours. Each traditional-styled building whether a home or business was painted different in all sorts of colours. It did make us wonder if we could somehow do the same back home, but which colour would we most likely want to choose? There were numerous restaurants, cafes, pubs and boutique shops in the downtown area. If you needed a more retail experience, there was a mall located in the Avalon Peninsula area.
Before we knew it, we headed back to our hotel, as Charlotte and Jeanette, from tourism St John's, were meeting us for dinner. The Sheraton had plenty of taxis waiting just outside, and the taxi ride was a short distance to the restaurant. We went to the, Reluctant Chef and thoroughly enjoyed the tasting menu. This was a five course dinner ranging from tuna to duck, the cod course was especially outstanding and our evening was finished with a chocolate tart. It made at least one of us very happy indeed! The staff were exceptional with detailed knowledge of the food and beverages. For those who enjoy wine, there was a good choice or alternatively, they provided a pairing with each course for an additional fee. This particular restaurant was on the higher end of the market and reservations were recommended. Towards the end of the night, the staff would even order you a taxi.
Even though there was only three hours and thirty minutes difference between here and back home, we were exhausted and couldn’t wait to continue our journey tomorrow!
Saturday 17th September, 2016
So waking up 4:30 wasn't a lot of fun, but it could have been worse. We decided that getting up properly was essential, in the search of breakfast. Having such a filling meal last night, we opted for something small so we did what some locals do and headed to Tim Horton's. This was a fast-food chain that seemed bigger than McDonald's and was founded and named after the Canadian hockey player, Tim Horton's. Normally, we wouldn’t suggest a fast-food chain but it served hot or cold drinks, donuts and cakes as well as some hot food depending on the time of day. It was especially good for those of you who like to eat breakfast on the go. As nice as it would be, we were not sure whether we could eat big breakfasts every single day on our trip.
A bit later on, we headed out of St. John's to the small fishing town of Bulls Bay. It was a relatively straightforward drive out of the city. However, you did have to watch for the signs for the speed limit as they constantly changed and appeared out of the blue! In Bulls Bay, we intended to do puffin and whale watching with Gatherall's, a family-ran business with over thirty years experience. Each year in the summer, whales and a multitude of different birds came to the Witless Ecological Nature Reserve to feed or raise young. If you were lucky, you might be lucky to see icebergs. On this particular trip, there were no icebergs or whales as it was late in the season but there were birds and specific puffins. The puffins gathered here for about four months to nest before returning to open sea. In the area, there were four islands that birds nested. This was in the most prominent Gull Island and that was where the puffins were. During this time of the year, some of the puffins had already left but there were still many in the area gathering food. It was great to see them flying to and fro in their nests at such fast speeds, where the wind aided. This meant that as well as their small size, it was almost impossible to catch them on a camera. We had a lot of futile attempts before giving up and watching them instead. We even saw a Bold Eagle from above which was great for us but not for the puffins as they preyed on chicks. Now, we did this trip in a Catamaran which was different to experience, although being windy, it was extremely choppy. There were areas outside where you could stand or sit, or you could choose to remain inside, where you could happily view everything from large windows. There were also washrooms onboard too! The trip was narrated by Luke who informed us at great detail about the landscape and any creatures we encountered. He also told humorous stories and even sang a couple of cheerful songs. The Catamaran was piloted by Captain Al, who also interjected with some helpful knowledge. After viewing the puffins, we took a slightly longer trip round the back of the harbour to see if the whales were in the area, but sadly there were none to be seen. Now, back on dry land! We would like to thank everyone at Gatherall's for such a unique experience.
Arriving back at the hotel, there was no time to waste as we then boarded the bus for the city tour with McCarthy's Party. Hosted by Larry, we headed off to see the highlights. It was important to mention that although it was a city tour, it diverted slightly and headed out to Cape Spear. Cape Spear, a designated heritage site, comprised of two different lighthouses, one of which was one of the oldest surviving lighthouses in Newfoundland and Labrador. This site was the most Easterly point in North America as well having remnants of the bunkers that were built during World War II, as Newfoundland was considered a valuable gateway point to Europe. The walk included several sets of stairs but it was worth it when you got to the top which, on a good day, allowed you to experience clear views of the coastline and the ocean. You could even see the harbour entry point to St. John's. In June or July, it could also be possible to see whales from the shore.
Another note to make before we left Cape Spear was that we had the pleasure of meeting Chief, a Newfoundland dog which just made the whole day more pleasurable!
Next, we were taken somewhere a little different which was Piddy Harbour, a nice little fishing town full of colour and character. We captured some great photos and were fortunate enough to be taken off the beaten track to see somewhere that we had never heard of before.
Afterwards, we were taken up to Signal Hill. The heritage site was currently under construction so no vehicles were able to go up there which was a bit of a shame. If we had more time, then we might have done the walk up there instead. It was the site of St John's defences from the 17th century to World War II. It was also here, that the first transatlantic wireless signal was received. The view of the city and surrounding areas were amazing! There was also a geological museum, which had a display outside so that you could find out more information about what was exactly below you.
Moving on, we went to our last major stop which was the small village, Quidi Vidi (the only village in North America, pronounced kiddy viddy!) A small community outside the downtown area of St. John's, this place embodied both the history and the artisan scene it had become. The community was sheltered in the 'Gut' from the Atlantic Ocean but there was a path that you could walk to, that ended at a sea wall so you could see the ocean for miles! It was also home to one of Newfoundland’s most popular and largest microbrewery, the Quidi Vidi Brewing Company. We recommended stopping and seeing if you could taste some here or perhaps at the Quidi Vidi Inn of Olde. It was also popular for wedding parties, as there were four different weddings happening. We also looked at various wedding pictures which took place there.
Leaving the village, we were then driven through St. John's to see the colourful residential houses and through the main streets where Larry pointed out places to eat and drink. Before we knew it, it was back to the hotel. A big thank you to McCarthy's Party and especially to Larry, who made our second day really enjoyable!
Sunday 18th September, 2017
Fishers’ Loft Inn
Fogo Island Inn
Cloudy start today, as we said our final goodbyes to St John's and made our way to Brigus for a brief stop on route to Trinity. Brigus was a small fishing town, known for the world famous explorer, Captain Bob Bartlett. We enjoyed a short walk round, and ate a delightful Cod Chowder and Blueberry Crisp. This was actually the little cafe's signature dish. The cafe was called Country Corner and was well known on Trip Advisor for its great food and location. It was definitely well worth a visit if you had the time.
Making our way along the highway, we passed by Butter Pot provincial park.
The views on route were breathtaking even though the heavens opened and we had rain for the majority of the time! We later arrived with a warm welcome at Fisher's Loft Inn. This was located in Port Rexton, not far from Trinity. The access to the property was by dirt road and on arrival; it was recommended that you parked your car near reception. Upon check-in, you were given directions on where your room was located and how to get there. You were also given information on the area and hiking trails located close by.
Our room was located in the yellow building next to the dining room and bar. The room itself was very spacious, with a double bed in a separate room to the lounge, in which there was a pull-out sofa bed. You were also treated to binoculars in the room so that you could take in the magnificent views. They had thought of every little detail to make your stay as relaxed as possible in your surroundings.
We were fortunate enough to be able to eat in the restaurant at Fisher's loft Inn, with our host for the evening Ella, from Tourism Division Newfoundland Labrador and the service and food were both fantastic, especially the fresh halibut. Delicious! They did recommend reserving a table for dinner in the evening as they were usually busy with locals.
We woke up to a slightly clearer day, not much fog but the rain still remained. Breakfast was served in the dining room, which was also included in the stay for our clients. You helped yourself to a continental breakfast, while tea, coffee and juice were brought to the table. You also had a choice of a cooked breakfast, either bacon, toast and eggs the way you liked them. You could even choose a selection of pancakes! Food again was very good and you had the amazing views from the dining room to compliment.
After breakfast, we checked out and headed back down highway 230, the Discovery Trail, making our way back to the Trans Canada Highway.
Traveling along the Trans Canada Highway west towards Gander, we passed through Terra Nova National Park. Spectacular views of green forest abound you either side of the highway. These were the tallest trees we had ever come across, as most of the trees dotted around Newfoundland were generally Tuckamore trees.
We made our way to the visitor centre in Terra Nova. As this was our first point of national park entry, we exchanged our parks voucher for the Discovery Pass. This now entitled us to entry into all National parks across Newfoundland.
Even though it was drizzling, we joined one of the many 2km trail walks.
After returning to the car, we set off on route to Farewell for our sailing to Fogo Island. We turned off at Gander on route, down highway 330 road to the shore. Gander itself would be an ideal place to stop, with a petrol station, food court and Walmart all situated in one area.
We continued along highway 330, till we came across The Islands Experience route located on highway 335. We then drove for around forty-five minutes to the ferry terminal. On arrival, you paid for the crossing locally, which was roughly $35 dollars for two people and the car one way. You were then directed to where you lined up ready to board the ferry. They advised to arrive around an hour before sailing time.
The ferry across took roughly forty-five minutes direct from Farewell to Fogo, sailing through small uninhabited islands.
Arriving onto Fogo Island, the drive took twenty-five minutes to reach the area of Joe Batt's Arm, where the Fogo Island Inn was located on the left hand side down a gravel road between a white house and the church. On first sighting of the Inn, it took your breath away, the position, the structure and the views were truly extraordinary!
Fogo Island Inn was part of a charitable foundation, which was dedicated to the continuation of Fogo and the Change Islands.
Upon walking into the Inn, you get the sense of warmth and tranquillity. You’re greeted on arrival and taken to your room by a member of staff. They made you feel welcome and explained everything that happened at the Inn during the stay. Afterwards, they parked your vehicle for you. They did recommend booking in for a certain time for your evening meal as it helped to stagger the guests.
The room itself had spectacular views, with full-length windows of the ocean. Binoculars were provided in the room for your use throughout your stay. The room was modern but had a unique twist, which we liked a great deal about.
We were based on a full-board package. This included breakfast, a day break, lunch, and evening dinner. Alcoholic drinks were not included, but this was something that could be paid for at the end of your stay. The evening meal consisted of a starter, main course and dessert. All was fresh and locally produced. It was extremely tasty!
The Inn also had a range of activities taking place every day, ranging from geological hikes to half day tours with local hosts. There was also an onsite cinema playing local documentaries at certain times throughout the day, detailing how Fogo came to be and the history. You also had a sauna onsite, and the hot tubs were located on the roof, including a gymnasium and bicycle hire. There was also a very nice lady called Rosemary on hand, to help plan your day-to-day schedule.
Well what could we say, Fogo Island was spectacular and we couldn’t wait for the next day to begin.
Monday 19th September, 2016
Fogo Island Inn
We awoke this morning to a lovely hamper, filed with juice, coffee and blueberry scones. This was what they called their day break, for those early risers!
We then relaxed and enjoyed the view from our room before heading down to breakfast. After being seated, we had the choice of six options varying between cooked and continental. You could definitely tell that blueberries were in season, as they were mentioned repeatedly in the menus. Blueberry juice was also a preferred juice drink in Canada.
After they had taken your order of drink and breakfast, they then offered you a choice of freshly baked pastries. You were also asked a preferred time you would like your evening meal to be booked in for.
After our delicious breakfast, we headed to see Sandra who helps organise orientations while you’re here as well as planning your day. After sorting an itinerary for the morning, we headed outside to capture the magnificent Fogo Island.
Our guide for the morning was Fergus. He was very knowledgeable and passionate about the Island. This tour was part of the schedule offered at the inn as a half day orientation for new visitors to Fogo Island, which introduced you to the local communities and the certain highlights worth visiting.
We saw Brimstone Head which was, if the world was flat, one of the four corners of the earth. We briefly stopped here on the tour, but returned later on. It was a fantastic climb up with a mixture of steps and rock trails. At the top, there was a great view of the ocean and parts of Fogo.
We visited Marconi Wireless Interpretation Centre, which had a wireless signal station put in place so that messages could be received across the transatlantic. Situated up the hill, the original signal station had now been replaced by the Canadian flag which commemorated the site. The information site detailed the original work, equipment, the staff and the different points of history. It was even believed that the distress signals from the Titanic may have been picked up here.
Fogo Island community was formed by fishing for cod. When the fishing industry had one of its most trying times, the ten communities came together to form the Fogo Co-Op, which had become incredibly successful. In fact, they would even be celebrating their 50th anniversary soon! It was important that we at least saw one of the processing stations whilst on the island. We met Steve, a local fisherman who showed us the catch from this morning, a large pile of cod fish. This would later be checked, weighed and possibly salted before being shipped on. About thirty years ago, cod nearly went on the endangered list from over fishing, which nearly ruined the fishing communities like these on Fogo but with careful engineering, everything had eventually made a comeback including the cod.
Fogo Island had an interesting history but it all started from fish. On the island, there were ten distinct communities which until over half a century ago didn't know much about each other, because there were no roads. All travel was done by boat. It wasn't until the 1960’s that electricity was introduced to the island. With the creative idea of the inn and the Shorefast Foundation of Fogo Island, the town was pinpointed on the map and tourism started. Visitors from all over the world came over specifically for the inn and ended up finding out there was more to the island and have returned ever since. There was one couple who were returning for the fifth time to be exact!
Whilst exploring, Fergus told us about the local wildlife as we saw a herd of caribou. Other creatures included coyotes, foxes, rabbits and in July or August, whales were seen in the bays. Another interesting detail, being the same in Newfoundland, was that sometimes polar bears could be seen here, as they had crossed the ice searching food. Any reported were quickly located, sedated and further transported to a more suitable habitat.
In Shoals Bay, you could see the Tower Studio designed by Todd Saunders, the architect of the Fogo Island Inn. There were also three other such like studios. Todd Saunders also designed the Long Studio located at Brookes Point. You also had the Squish Studio at Tilting and Bridge Studio at Deep Bay which you could clearly see from the inn.
Also in Shoals Bay, there was a great art gallery and shop called, Herring Cove Art and Linda's Quilt that sell original printings of Winston Osmond as well as quilts that could be found at the inn.
Heading back to Joe Batt's Arm, we stopped at the furniture shop just opposite the entrance to the Fogo Island Inn. Here, every piece of furniture you could see at the inn was made here. It was also not just Fogo Island that they catered for, but all over the world. Fiona and I saw a couple of pieces set for New York. These were designed at the shop but they also made for artists as well.
We headed for Tilting to take pictures of the Squish Studio, which looked lovely with a background of the coast and crashing waves. All the studios stood out in their rugged locations. We then headed to Lane House Museum, where we looked around an original salt-box styled house with two rooms downstairs and four bedrooms upstairs. It was also filled with historic artefacts which have been donated (some with tales) by the locals. These varied from tools to photos. Afterwards, we headed to Folyes, a local gathering place where everyone met for food, drinks and music. A great part of this visit was that we got to see and hold a bit of iceberg! It was fascinating! Locals gathered small parts of the icebergs when they were in the bays, as they were apparently great for freezers etc as the ice was dense.
After a couple of stops to take more interesting photos, we were back at our accommodation. We would like to thank the Fogo Island Inn for organising this exciting day and a huge thank you to Fergus for showing us around, whilst giving such an insightful and interesting tour.
It was then time for lunch!
Again the food was exceptional. We then decided to relax in our surroundings and waited till dinner that evening.
Tuesday 20th September, 2016
Bonne Bay Inn
Today, we sadly had to say goodbye to the Fogo Island Inn and the island itself. We definitely felt in awe with the destination and agreed that we wished we had more time to explore the island properly. There were a number of hiking trails that were on the list, if we had more time. For the inn, it was the details and touches that made it memorable such as a welcome snack and the excellent turn-down service at night. Even without leaving the sign for housekeeping, the staff still came in when you were out and spruced things up. There was a lot more that could have been mentioned, but everything from the staff to the room to the location, made the trip unforgettable! One final touch we would like to mention was that we got given a picnic-looking bag to take away for the journey onwards.
Getting back on the ferry was relatively easy and it was good to note, that when you pay at Farewell harbour on the mainland, the return journey was included. When we left to our luck, it was raining! However, it quickly brightened up as we boarded so we had a smooth sailing across. We would have liked to obtain a map of the area as we passed numerous islands along the way and this meant that we could only recognise the Change Islands. The Change Islands was a trio of islands in which two were populated, located between the mainland and Fogo Island. Like Fogo Island, the Change Islands had a rich history of European settlers as well as a beautiful rugged landscape. There was also a pony refuge for the Newfoundland pony, which was a rare breed and will hopefully be saved from extinction. We arrived on dry land to beautiful blue skies. One final note on the ferry ports was that there were bathroom facilities, but not much else in terms of amenities.
We were on the way west via Lewisporte with clear skies and empty roads. What we had also noticed, was the start of the fall colours, being splashes of reds and yellows. Fall colours in Newfoundland started late September to early October and you could imagine the colours in the next couple of weeks! The fall colours were unpredictable, so no one was 100% sure when they would start next year. The drive from Farewell Harbour to our next destination Woody Point was over four hours. It was a straightforward route from highway 335 to highway 340 to Lewisporte which was great as you travelled the waterline of Loon Bay and Indian Arm. In Lewisporte, you could find essential stores and petrol stations if you needed to stop at any point in the journey. You came across one or two petrol stations between communities so it was worth keeping this in mind, when you drove. Joining the Trans Canada Highway, we passed towns for instance Grand Falls Windsor and Springdale that provided facilities if you needed to pass through. Dorset Trail had a nice overlook if you would like to stop for a bit and stretch your legs. Turning off at Deer Lake on Highway 430 and then onto 431 took us down to Gros Morne and Woody Point. Words could not describe the sheer beauty of the national park as it was green as far as the eye could see (with some red and yellow colours), mountains and lakes. We stopped several times to take photos in the hope that we could capture what we were seeing. It took around half an hour to drive through the park to our destination.
The accommodation was called the Bonne Bay Inn, which was located the minute we entered Woody Point. It was wonderfully situated on the hillside so all the rooms had an excellent view of Bonne Bay. We received a warm welcome from Darlene, the owner who then took us to the rooms to make sure we were perfectly settled in. She also recommended a route around the town, which was a little short as the weather was questionable by this point. The route took us down to the harbour front where we passed local shops and restaurants. One feature was a charming, small lighthouse towards the end of the town. When we returned at the inn, we saw our laundry completely done! This was offered as a complementary service. Afterwards, we experienced the sun setting which was truly magical! Everyone including the locals and other guests had never seen anything like it before. It was the ideal opportunity to take a photo! Dinner was served in the dining room. Darlene and her husband took over the inn two years ago and this was the second season. Despite having plans for the future, there was a lot to offer as they were both incredibly passionate about their work lives. Everyone was so happy to help, with every aspect of attention to detail.
In the rooms, there were dressing gowns, tea and coffee, an information guide and an air controller (it was not an ac but you were able to reduce the temperature slightly). The inn also included a lounge, a bar and parking. If you were lucky in the morning and evening, you could see porpoises or Minke whales. They came into this bay whilst chasing herring and this could be seen most of the year. It had also been known to have seen Humpbacks here as well, with the last reported sighting last December. Dinner at the Bonne Bay Inn was lovely. The menu was a selection of small dishes so you could pick and ultimately mix. It was nice to select what you individually preferred and ate as much as you would like. There were plans to perhaps expand the menu but that didn’t appear as an issue, as there were recommendations for restaurants in the town as well.
After a long drive, it was time to relax for the evening and then we called it a night as we were heading North tomorrow.
Wednesday 21st September, 2016
Grenfell Heritage Hotel and Suites
We opened the curtains this morning to bright sunshine over the bay. It was looking to be a good day for driving. Breakfast was a continental selection, with tea, coffee and juice on hand. After saying our goodbyes to Darlene, we left the Bonne Bay Inn and set off through Gros Morne National Park on highway 431 towards Wiltondale. On reaching Wiltondale, we turned left onto highway 430, the Viking Trail heading north towards Hawkes Bay. This trail offered numerous viewing points, as you travelled along spectacular views of mountainous greenery with just the touch of the autumn colour starting to appear. As we became nearer to Norris Point, we decided to make a brief stop at the visitor centre. Here, you could learn all about the history of Gros Morne National park and also information on the Viking Trail. They also had a lovely gift shop, great for a little souvenir to take home. There was also a display detailing the local weather for the next couple of days. Carrying along the highway, you were greeted with fantastic views out to sea, whilst still having the visible mountains in the background. We carried along highway 430, till we reached Hawkes Bay. We then made a detour and headed for Port au Choix. They had a visitor information centre at the top of the hill, which told the history of the findings made around the area from the aboriginal ways of life. It was really interesting! They also had hiking trails around the National Historic Site.
After our brief stop, we returned onto highway 430, making our way onward to St Anthony and the Grenfell Heritage Hotel and Suites. On arrival, we checked-in and took in our surroundings. The hotel did not have a restaurant for evening meals onsite, so it gave you the chance to explore and experience one of the local eating establishments. This later brought an end to our day. We could not wait for tomorrow!
Thursday 22nd September, 2016
Quirpon Lighthouse Inn
We woke up and went to breakfast at the Grenfell Heritage Hotel. The continental breakfast was laid out in the board room and you made your own way into the conference room where long tables were laid out.
After breakfast, we left the hotel and headed for the closest petrol station to re-fill. We then set off towards L'anse aux Meadow which was around a thirty minute drive away. L'anse aux Meadow was a National Heritage Site, made famous by the archaeological dips that happened around fifty years ago, in which they found evidence that a Viking settlement was there. Today, the artefacts found from the original site, were located just down from the centre. They also had a fifteen minute video explaining why the Vikings were based in Newfoundland, what they did and about potential meetings with native tribes. It was still a mystery as to exactly why they left. We would recommend watching this before exploring the site.
After the video presentation, we made our way along the board walks towards the original site of the Norse settlement where there was a replica building showing their way of life. There was also a guided walk around midday, as well as costumed guides who could answer the majority of questions.
This area was also a good spot to see Moose, which unfortunately on this occasion, we did not see any but they were there, as many tourists have seen them before.
Leaving there, we made our way back down the highway and stopped off for lunch at Northern delight. The food was tasty and extremely filling! What we didn't know, was that they were famous for their fish and chips. As we still had time before needing to be at Quirpon Dock, we headed back to a little gift shop called Dark Tickle. This housed some lovely souvenirs from glass works to clothing. They also had a little cafe upstairs.
Turning off now heading towards Quirpon, the Lighthouse Inn was sign posted. You followed the road right to the end where Ed was waiting to great us. We then waited for the remaining guests to arrive. You were only allowed an overnight back pack for the stay, so travel light! When everyone was present, we were given life jackets, as we travelled by zodiac boat from the dock to the Lighthouse Inn. It was very cold and breezy so you needed to make sure you were well wrapped up.
Arriving on the Island, you were given the option to walk up to the main building, or you could ride in the ATV, which was an experience in itself. Now, there were two buildings. The first you came to had ten rooms and then you had the main building. Our room had its own private bathroom, which you had a separate key for. Some rooms had a shared bathroom. Meals were served primarily in the main building. Just down from here, you had a viewing room, looking right out to sea, where during the season, whales and icebergs could be sighted. On this occasion, we did briefly see our first humpback as well as a seal popping up near the rocks.
Around 7pm, we made our way to the main building, where you were asked to take off your shoes (so taking a pair of slippers may come in handy), as they tried to make you feel at home and part of the family. You had the opportunity over dinner to meet fellow guests and chat about your day. Dinner was freshly cooked salmon for this evening with mashed potatoes and vegetables, along with home-made bread on the side. Delicious!
After dinner, everyone made their own way to their rooms or if you wished, you could stay in the sitting area, where they had a small selection of books and board games to keep you entertained!
This concluded our first day on Quirpon Island.
Friday 23rd September, 2016
Quirpon Island Inn
This morning, it was quite breezy on the island but it had cleared up after last night’s rain. After getting ready, we layered up to go outside. The wind was quite strong but at least it wasn't foggy or raining. Afterwards, we proceeded up to the main house for breakfast at 8am as all meals had a set time. For breakfast, it was boiled eggs on toast. The bread and jams were both home-made!
After we finished, we got ready to embrace the outdoors and do a bit of hiking. There were a few trails on the island, where you could follow the path or you could purely cut across country. The landscape was rocky with bogs, ponds and fauna. It looked similar to moss! You did have to be careful where you stepped, as well as having the correct attire. We wore multiple layers with raincoats, waterproof trousers, gloves and hats.
Quirpon Island was truly described in one word... wild! It was glorious even with gale force winds coming off the ocean. Luckily, the wind was blowing inland so rather than worry about falling off the edge, it was more of a concern if we fell into a bog or pond. The changes in the landscapes, navigating the path and having a dramatic coastline made this a different experience to what we had experienced so far and one we would never forget.
At Quirpon Island, you were most definitely apart from the rest of the world. To make this even more so, there was no WiFi, no television in the rooms and the phone signal was not 100% reliable. Walking down the trail, there were no other settlements or even cars!
One of the main moments here, was that after lunch and what seemed like forever, we were lucky enough to see the humpback whales again, which was great because it lasted until dinner. There were two pods of two. One of the pods just circled the bay. We could see them from the viewing house, by the lighthouse and down further towards the cove. As they were feeding, it was best to get as close to the edge as possible, for a much clearer view. This was a true highlight especially as we were told it was too late for the whales to be seen in Newfoundland. Nature could not be predicted sometimes.
One more thing we learnt as we arrived was that we were the last guests of the season which made it even more special and the service wasn't any less professional.
Dinner was incredible! We were served pan fried cod with mash potatoes and vegetables. Whilst sitting together with the other six guests, we discussed travel plans and what everyone was planning on doing in Newfoundland. It was great to hear reviews on their trips. Ed, who owned the inn and ran the zodiac from the harbour to Quirpon Island, was very informative on the province (we now want to go to Labrador!) and amused us with funny tales of his adventures. This morning, as he piloted the zodiac into the cove to pick up departing guests, a whale breached behind and he came down with a splash. And to add to his story, he wasn’t able to leave as the whales were in the way. Typical! While he shrugged this off as if this was normal for someone who didn't see whales on a daily basis, it was difficult to not find this incredible.
It quickly became dark so it was to bed as it happened to be an early rise tomorrow. Leaving the main building, we would recommend for guests to bring a torch as there was only one street lamp (also a lighthouse), as the road was slightly uneven. Back in the warmth, it was time to sleep to be ready for tomorrow.
Satuday 24th September, 2016
Neddies Harbour Inn
Time had flown as we made ready to leave Quirpon Island, after a good breakfast of bacon and eggs. Departure time was 10am with luggage picked up from the buildings at 9:30am. This freed up more time to take several photos and hopefully whale watching. Ed brought round the zodiac and we all boarded after saying goodbye to the majority of the staff. Ed then took us on a detour around the island, which opened our eyes as to how big it was. As it was stated before, there were no other settlements except the two buildings for the inn and the lighthouse. Travelling around, we encountered fishing vessels and amazingly, dolphins and whales! This was a great finishing touch to the end of our stay and their season.
Back on dry land, it was goodbye to Ed and we would like to thank everyone for the stay. In the car, we drove back to the main road. Now, we could have gone back to L'anse aux Meadows to see if we could spot the moose but, we decided to head back down the Viking Road to explore some more of Gros Morne and finish in Norris Point.
On route, we stopped off in the Gros Morne area at Archers Point, which had some interesting rock formations. The biggest was in the form of an arch but there were arrangements that were built by hand that made the area a perfect spot for photographers. We also stopped off to see SS Ethie, a shipwreck. This wasn't as spectacular, as the body of the ship had been in salt water for some time but it was good for a quick stop.
Norris was a community on the waterfront. Neddies Harbour Inn was really a getaway, wonderfully situated on the Bonne Bay giving a different perspective from Woody Point. The inn had all the amenities including a fabulous sun room in which you could read, play games or listen to music. We had the great fortune of seeing Minke whales and made use of the binoculars that were to hand.
Dinner was at the Black Spruce restaurant which was the eatery on site. This was a lovely open space on the top floor, with large windows on either side giving decent views. The food was delicious with a choice of seafood and alternatives. The only thing we couldn’t tell you about was the desserts as we were too full by this stage!
It was time to call it a night after a long day.
Sunday 25th September, 2016
Neddies Harbour Inn
Breakfast this morning, consisted of omelettes, hash browns, fruit and cereal, accompanied with juice and coffee or tea. Breakfast was served between 7 till 9 in the Black Spruce restaurant, the same area the evening dinner was served the previous night.
After breakfast, we had an hour or so to relax before making the thirty minute journey back along highway 430 to the location of the Western Brook Pond tour. After parking your vehicle, you made the 2.5km trail walk down to the dock area. This took around forty-five minutes at a slow place, taking in the landscape, as you walked by a fragile environment of forests, bogs and lakes. They also had informative stands at certain points along the walk. The pathway was also quite easy to stroll on, as the paths and board walks were well maintained.
On arrival at the dock, you needed to check-in for the tour before doing anything else. If your tour was pre-booked, you would be handed a ticket to present as you boarded. After, you had the option to take advantage of some hot food, snacks or just a drink, while you waited for departure. They also had a small gift shop area, where you could buy souvenirs of your time here, or venture out onto the decking to learn more about how the area was formed.
Once ready, we boarded West Brook 2, for our two hour tour. This was their medium-sized boat, in which they had three in total. On our way out from the deck, we were fortunate to see a moose, well that's if you had binoculars or a very good camera to zoom in, as this moose was very good at hiding behind the trees!
Making our way further through the fjord, we had a lovely lady called Shelby giving commentary during the boat ride, along with Carter and the Captain. The fjord was very spectacular in its own right, with waterfalls around every bend, valleys and landslide scars. It was also centred amongst the Long Range Mountains so you could imagine a very dramatic landscape. The fjord was also land-locked which was quite rare on this side, if the world had been carved by glaciers. There was a feature during the tour that showed a v-shaped valley in the mountain range which would show you what the fjord would look like if it wasn't filled with water. You also had features in the rock faces. The first was known as the Tin Man and this could be seen clearer when making your way back through the fjord, being slightly closer. The second was of an old man, which could be seen at the top of the rock formations. It was fantastic to see the rain coming down, as the mist lay over the top.
The tour concluded with the journey back to the dock. On arrival, we decided to get a quick bite to eat before making our way back along the 2.5km to the car park.
Before heading back to Norris Point, we decided to make a stop at Lobster Cove, home to the well maintained lighthouse and Inn. We had a brief look around the house and even managed to take a few snaps of the lighthouse before the heavens opened on us again.
Arriving back in Norris Point, we had time to explore Neddies Harbour Inn. As the restaurant was closed on Monday, we made our way round to Rocky Habour, about a ten minute drive. We had been recommended to try the Fisher’s Landing Inn restaurant, by Joyce at Neddies. The food and service were both equally of a high standard, so it was definitely recommended.
After dinner, we headed back to Norris Point and settled for the night. Our time had sadly come to an end here, in Newfoundland.
Monday 26th September, 2016
Deer Lake Airport
Well it was sad to say, we came to the end of our fantastic journey. It was time to set off for Deer Lake Airport ready for our onward adventure in Halifax, even though it was a brief stop.
We had no idea of what to expect from the province of Newfoundland, but we could honestly say the province was magical! From the contrast of the landscape, to the people and the places, our time here was spent with interest and the not knowing what we were going to find around the next corner. This was well demonstrated as a whale blessed us with its present on our way to the airport, which gave a final farewell.
On arrival at Deer Lake airport, we followed the directions of where to leave the rental car and then made our way to the Enterprise deck to hand over the key. The hire car had served us well throughout our travels. Deer Lake airport was very small indeed and after checking-in and dropping off bags, there was only one restaurant before going through security. (Please keep this in mind)
Passing through security was quick and smooth and while waiting, there was a vending machine in case you were in need of a drink.
The flight to Halifax only took around an hour, so not long at all and our flight was with Air Canada Jazz. On arrival at Halifax Airport, we made our way to baggage reclaim. After retrieving our luggage, we made our way to the information desk where we were to pick up information kits and guides. Car hire rental desks were located downstairs and in a separate building. Relatively straightforward, just follow the signs and they take you straight there. The rental desks were located to both your left and right. Our hire car was with Dollar. After signing the relevant paperwork, we were given our key and told where to go. On the initial sign in at the desk, we were told it would be a VW Polo, but on arrival at the designated number, we were surprised to find we had been given a GMC Terrain, much larger than the VW Polo and the Ford Fusion we had been driving. However, it was fine because we adjusted to it pretty quickly. The journey time from Halifax airport to the Westin Hotel took around thirty minutes however, you had to cross the bridge in which there was a toll fee of $1.00 but as it was peak time, traffic was busy and they only had one lane open so you could expect a bit of a delay.
After following the Sat Nav, we found the Westin Hotel and checked-in. The hotel was located right next door to the Via Rail station, which was where you would arrive after traveling on the Ocean Train. It was also within close walking distance to the Seaport, where you had sights such as the Pier 21 Immigration. Whilst walking along the harbour front, we also saw the Maritime Museum. Unfortunately due to the time we arrived, both attractions were closed so we decided to wait until tomorrow.
We then made our back to the hotel to get ready for dinner that evening. A dinner reservation had been made for us at the Five Fisherman's, located on Argyle Street. It took around a five minute taxi ride, or fifteen minutes walking distance from the hotel. This restaurant was once a schoolhouse but afterwards, it became a school of Art set up by Anna Leonowens. Anna later wrote the book Anna and the King of Siam, to then what would have probably made it most famous, a Funeral Home. At this time, it was called Snow's Funeral Home and during the disaster of the Titanic, some of its wealthier victims such as John Jacob Aster, the wealthiest man on the ship and among others, were brought to Snow's Funeral Home so that appropriate arrangements could be made. The building today stood as a test of time, to all it had been through since it was built in 1750. The ambiance made you feel as though you had taken a step back in time, where the food brought you to the modern day. It was truly fabulous and tasty!
After dinner, we returned to the hotel and called it a night. We were looking forward to our sightseeing in the morning.