Tag Archives: Canada

Newfoundland – 4, Twillingate

9 Aug

Upon leaving the beauty of Gros Morne Park, we drove over 400km in pouring rain to reach Twillingate – hoping it would be worth the long trek.  This picturesque fishing town is located at one of the most northern tips of Newfoundland and is known for being a whale watching & fishing haven.

One of the first attractions we saw when we a crossed the causeway to enter Twillingate was the Prime Berth Interpretative Fishing Centre & Craft Studio (www.primeberth.com). It was hard to miss as it boasts a real live skeleton of a whale on the outside – super cool!

Apparently, some years ago, a dead whale floated ashore some 30km from where Captain Dave & his family lived (the whale’s tail was cut off so the locals suspect it got hit by an oil tanker).  Dave called up the local government and asked what they were doing with the whale and subsequently received permission to transport it with his boat to a deserted island, where he and his friend Bill let it rot.  They then proceeded to take the bones and took months to clean and rebuild the skeleton.  They also used other items such as the baleen etc. to put on display at their outdoor fishing museum (a nice educational spot to learn about the fishing trade).

Upon entering the interpretative centre, Bill Cooze welcomed us with his stories, big smile and songs, using an “ugly stick”– a locally made, funny musical instrument – that Filou loved and learned to play a bit.

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Filou with a Newfoundland “ugly stick”

After speaking to the charismatic Captain Dave, we decided that he was the guy to provide our fishing enthusiast Emile with his “dream” trip, and so we booked our tour for 1:30 pm the next day (the locals in town recommended him too, as the go-to guy).  Dave suggested we park our RV at the old fishing wharf – a deserted, beautiful historic place by the water where we ended up having two wonderful nights of rest.

 

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The old Warf – our sleeping spot for 2 nights

The next morning, we first drove up the hill to see the Lighthouse and the famous “Iceberg Alley” – where we did spot an iceberg – although on the very distant coastline.  To fully take in the beauty of this location, we took another gorgeous hike alongside the water, taking in the splendour of the impressive, rocky coast.

That afternoon, the sunshine gods were with us for our boat tour and Captain Dave and his granddaughter escorted us on board for our fishing adventure – with the promise that Emile would catch the biggest fish he ever had.  Dave, quickly realized that our boys like a thrill, so he put the boat at full speed – bumping us over high waves towards our “prime berth” – or best fishing spot.  We flew so high that once we got completely thrown out of our seats, while splashed by fresh ocean water everywhere.  The boys were giddy with laughter and “water girl” had a blast too!

Dave, a very skilled fisherman, had all the appropriate tools on board to get us to the best place for a catch, such as a fish finder (little computer that showed us the “fishing hills” under water).  Once there, he told Emile and Filou to lower their lines (just a really long line with a massive hook and lure on it) and gently pull the line up and down to entice the fish.

Within less then a minute, Emile caught his first cod fish, and Filou quickly followed.  The fish were undoubtedly the biggest the boys ever caught (and might ever catch again!) – Emile’s second fish was close to 8 pounds and looked as big as he is.  The smile on his face was absolutely priceless!

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Emile with his “8 pounder”

Filou who is usually not as excited about having the sit patiently for a catch, thought that this was the right kind of angling: drop a line and immediately wheel in your fish. However, he had to use all of his strength to get the big fish up and once on deck, make sure that the fish tale didn’t flap him in the face!

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Filou trying to keep his heavy “catch” up, and not getting hit by its tale

We kept the two biggest fish for dinner that night and once back on shore, Captain Dave gave the boys a nice show of how the fish are cleaned.

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Everything was filet-ed, up to the fish cheeks, tongue (a delicacy) and even the eyeballs (that apparently have a little piece in them that the fishermen chew like gum!).  What a show!  Captain Dave’s wife was so kind to pack up the cleaned fish for us (even gave us some flower for cooking), and that night we drove to “Little Harbour” a beautiful spot by the ocean, where we chatted with the creative locals (many of whom make beautiful boat models & paint the most gorgeous naval sceneries) and ate the freshest, most delicious fish we ever tasted!

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In Little Harbour, people hanging their laundry and their cod fish

Twillingate was absolutely worth the drive and Captain Dave’s fishing tour was the highlight of our stay there…

Newfoundland – 3, Gros Morne National Park

8 Aug

Gros Morne Park – one of these places that should be on everyone’s “bucket list”!

Gros Morne Park is one of Canada’s national parks and a UNESCO World Heritage Site. It is not hard to see why its distinction, given to the park in 1973, places it alongside such company as the Great Barrier Reef in Australia (which Anthony & I had the pleasure of visiting some 10 years ago – also stunning!), the Pyramids in Egypt or Yellowstone National Park in the United States.  It’s awe-inspiring. Beautiful like none of my words or pictures will come close to describing. Like I said, a bucket list item…. especially for my Canadian friends as Newfoundland is accessible and gorgeous all around, so this is a must!

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The park was designated a world heritage site for its “exceptional natural beauty” and its “outstanding example of representing major stages of the Earth’s history and development”.  The rocks of Gros Morne National Park tell the story of ancient oceans, and the collision of continents.  Many international scientists have already visited the park to study its rock formations.

Upon entering the park, you have two main routes to choose from, one that heads north on Hwy 430 or one that veers towards to west on Hwy 431.

We headed north, and our first stop was one of the lookout points along the highway where we stopped to have a little lunch and take in the incredible scenery. Anthony found the spot inspiring and picked up his travel guitar, while the boys did some crazy dancing and running around!

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Hiking is a must in Gros Morne, and the two hikes we did were completely different but equally spectacular.  The first one was a 10 km walk (which took us about 3 hours) to Bakers Brook Falls  – this path guided us through very lush and dense forests during which we enjoyed mountain views, encountered many a beautiful pond with frogs (which Emile was excited to photograph) and amazing wildflowers…plus at the end, an incredible waterfall (in my opinion, a rival to our Niagara Falls in beauty!).

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Bakers Brook Falls Hike 

We met a lovely retiree with his family at the waterfall – his son, a bit of a daredevil – started climbing the waterfall with his camera.  Filou, who is also a bit of a thrill seeker, was “encouraged” by him and quickly followed suit, taking Emile with him.  The boys actually found a spot on top of the waterfall where you could sit and have an incredible view of the water rushing down. They were delighted, and we took some nice pictures.

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Bakers Brook Waterfalls

Our second hike was a 6 km coastal trail hike (which took us about 2 hours). This walk took us along rugged shoreline and included landscapes of cobble stone beaches, marshy ponds, ocean breezes and many different kinds of shorebirds. Emile was really hoping to see a moose in one of the marshes, as it seemed the perfect place to spot them, but I think that the enthusiastic chatter of the boys probably kept them at bay.Image

Coastal Trail Hike (first part through forest)

Being a water girl at heart (I lOVE to be by, on or in the water), I wanted to take in the beautiful park scenery from the perspective of the water. So we drove to Norris Point and took the Bon Bay Discovery Tour, a delightful, children-focused boat excursion of the bay, plus a visit to the local aquarium.  On board, the boys enthusiastically partook in 3 different science experiments, and learned a lot about the local bay and marine life.  Emile even spotted a bold eagle soaring over the mountains (he has a fantastic eye for nature and often is the first one in the family to spot an animal or something else of interest)!

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Entrance point for our boat tour at Norris Point

In Norris Point, we enjoyed a nice meal out a little local restaurant (bit of an exception as we make most of our meals in the RV!), but the boys were tempted by the promotion of eating a MOOSE burger.  Anthony thought it was quite good, but Emile, who gave it a good try, did prefer his salmon.  Filou loved the local vegetable and turkey soup so much that we took 3 extra containers with us for lunch the next day (keeping up with the food intake for the boys remains a challenge especially now that they are so active and in fresh air all the time – non-stop eating machines!).

We ended up in a KOA campsite in Norris Point (which apparently is a large US chain of campgrounds), a location the boys really loved – mainly because they had a very large jumping cushion (big enough for 10 kids to jump on at once). This attraction provided for many hours of jumping fun – and facilitated the making of some buddies – such as Allen who thought that Filou was a nice “chatterbox” friend to hang out with.  Anthony & I also loved this location as it was a breathtaking spot for a quiet swim, overlooking spectacular mountains.

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Emile diving for the ball at Rocky Harbour

The KOA staff recommended us to go to Rocky Harbour for some children’s activities (again a stunning location!).  The local mothers of the area had organized a scavenger hunt on the beach – the kids were excited to look for anything from a curtain rod to pennies to mittens and goggles. Our team – Emile & Filou, me and 2 local girls put forward a nice effort and were awarded with a black t-shirt that said Rocky Harbour on it – little souvenir that the boys treasure – and can actually take with them (the moms had a variety of prizes such as backpacks, water bottles etc). 

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Filou & Emile in their newly acquired Rocky Harbour t-shirts

In chatting with the locals, we learned that no new developments are allowed in Gros Morne Park since becoming a heritage site, but that one can still build in existing communities that range from 50 to 1500 people.  Also, as work is limited for local women, some work for the Oil Sands – and get flown in from the park every 2 weeks, to work in Alberta.  Challenging for sure – but also incredibly blessed people that live in a place that provides such peace, serenity and incredible beauty!

Next: Twillingate; home of Iceberg Alley, whale watching and most importantly…a fishing paradise for Emile.

Newfoundland – 2, Port aux Basques – Corner Brook – Deer Lake

4 Aug

When staying in many provincial parks, such as we are doing during our time in Newfoundland, it is worth it to buy the family park pass (approx. $20) – as each park will charge you about $5.00 to enter, plus the cost for each nightly camp site. However, Newfoundland is unique in that it allows you to park your RV anywhere you like (at no cost), provided that the location does not have a sign for no camping. This is apparently not that common, and while you do not have electricity or internet for that night – it can potentially save you some money (as each camp site costs about $15-$35).

Our first night’s camp stay was at JT Cheeseman, conveniently close located to the ferry in Port aux Basques.  The campground itself is appropriately named after the “piping plover” – a nice little, protected bird that was nesting there.  Emile & I took a wonderful, early morning hike (yes, we both woke up at 5:30 am – don’t ask me why!) to the local beach – which was a 2 km trek through some lush forest and bird reserve (where we saw blue herons and many other stoic and beautiful birds) – it was so serene – incredible quiet and beautiful. When reaching the ocean, we sat on the shore admiring the waves and early morning mist when all of all of a sudden, at a distant shore line, a fishing boat appeared. Due to the mist we couldn’t see anyone on the boat – so Emile deemed it to be a “GHOST BOAT” (he must have read too many Scooby Doo adventures) – but I agree, it did appear a little creepy for a while!

From Port aux Basques, we continued…to make our way to Corner Brook, where we stocked up on food for our next few days – and bought the kids some colourful, funky, skinny jeans, complete with matching shirts & sunglasses – mainly for their upcoming time in Europe. It was nice to see that they finally showed some interest in dressing cool – and although they still prefer their comfortable sport outfits, and call these regular outfits “fancy clothes” – there seems to be a glimmer of hope for their fashion-conscious Dad – who will undoubtedly like to teach them his sense of style in the near future.

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Overlooking Corner Brook, you’ll find the gorgeous Bay of Islands, where we found the perfect picnic spot.  “Our little piece of heaven” consisted of a wonderfully secluded cove (yes another one with no-one on it – private beach all to ourselves!), gorgeous warm ocean water, overlooking spectacular mountains.  As it was a nice, hot day, the kids were thrilled to stay there and swim the rest of the afternoon. Filou noticed that there were a lot of dead crab shells on this beach, and he pleaded with me to help him collect them. Some of these shells were white, others still a beautiful orange (all found on the beach amidst dried seaweed and the occasional dead jelly fish!). Of course, we are trying to teach the children not to take away from nature – but instead take its beauty with us in our memory (or snap a photograph).  Filou loved the crab shells so much, we decided to make a nice display and snap a shot!

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That night we stayed at a very uninspiring camp ground just past Deer Lake airport – however the park was a privately owned and therefore provided laundry and hot showers (both quite welcome at this point), and all the facilities for us to recharge our RV.  After already some substantial amount of driving behind us, we took it easy this morning, and Anthony ventured into our first bout of homeschooling!  After some initial push-back (it is not September yet- why are we doing school stuff?), Emile and Filou realized it was actually fun to write about their travel experiences so far, and that Papa who they first couldn’t see as their teacher, wasn’t such a bad one after all.

Now it is onto Gros Morne Park, one of the Newfoundland highlights we were all very much looking forward to!