Thursday, August 7, 2014

What I Did on My Summer Vacation

The harbor at St. John's, Newfoundland 
In grade school and high school I liked the writing assignment my classmates loved to hate. “What I Did on My Summer Vacation” is still a personal favorite, so I must share with you my impressions of the six days my husband and I spent in and around St. John’s, Newfoundland, Canada.

Words can’t convey the power of the wind, the sea’s majesty, or the Jello-legs tourists get from walking up and down hills, but bear with me.

Those hills, by the way, are half-a-billion years old.  Yeah, I was impressed, too. St. John’s harbor opens onto the Atlantic, and the sea informs everything. Think I’m exaggerating about the influence of the sea? Because gulls peck open plastic sacks of trash put out on collection day, St. John’s now requires residents to cover those sacks. The most popular covering is fish netting.  Why? It’s relatively inexpensive, widely available, and it works.  

St. John’s Harbor is a busy place with a rich history. During World War II, for example, a German submarine was captured at Cape Race, south of St. John’s. What was it doing? It probably was meant to enter and torpedo St. John’s Harbor, which supplied boats and sailors to protect convoys headed to Europe.

Lighthouses dot the island that is Newfoundland. I find every lighthouse beautiful but especially liked Newfoundland's oldest surviving one, which sits on Cape Spear and has been restored to the way it looked in 1839, when the lighthouse keeper, his wife, sons, and the assistant keeper lived there. 

Iceberg sightings aren’t unusual during early summer in St. John’s. I saw a distant one thanks to the binoculars of a fellow tourist at Cape Spear. I also spotted whales and puffins, thanks to the O’Brian’s whale-watching boat out of Bay Bulls.

My first-ever sighting of a whale brought tears to my eyes. It’s something I’d looked forward to for a long time. I’d looked forward to seeing puffins, too. Their orange beaks and small black-and-white bodies belie the fact they’re tough and are capable of soaring, skimming along the surface of the water, and diving. They’re so good at foraging for food, in fact, gulls steal from them.
Me and Hubs, looking for whales

Newfoundland currently is home to my Younger Daughter, so she served as a guide to me and my husband. Along the way, other guides included Jake Bragg, and his parents Lorraine and Rob, my writer friends Prudence MacLeod and Charis Maloy, and walking-tour guide Michael Boyle.

Quidi Vidi
Jake introduced us to the Quidi Vidi Brewery and its Iceberg Beer. That’s right, the beer is made with iceberg water. In Quidi Vidi, I was charmed by Linda’s Inn of Olde, which bills itself as a place for “Stories, Beer, and Wood-Burning Stoves.” Who can resist the promise of stories?

I haven’t told you about the fish and chips in Petty Harbor, the ferry in Portugal Cove, or Goulds. (Can you tell I have a thing for place names?) 

The sign of an excellent vacation destination is the burning desire to return. I’ll be back, Newfoundland!


Sheila Seabrook said...

I have friends who went to Newfoundland on vacation, then returned to the prairies and packed up everything they owned so they could move. :) Even though I live in Canada, Pat, I've never travelled to the east coast. It's on my wish list!

Thank you for sharing the gorgeous pictures and the places you visited.

Patricia Rickrode w/a Jansen Schmidt said...

Wow - I am jealous. How fun!!!

I remember the first time I saw whales in the wild as well. It was pretty stinking cool. And as an added bonus, we got to see an entire school of dolphins (not sure if they're called a school or not since they're not really fish, but mammals), but that was even more breath-taking. Living fairly close to the Pacific Ocean, that is an activity I've participated in on several occasions. And in September I'm going to Alaska on a cruise where I hope to see a lot more whales; hopefully an Orca this time.

Love the pictures and am so glad you had such a lovely time.

Until next time, take care.

Patricia Rickrode
w/a Jansen Schmidt

Jennette Marie Powell said...

Wow, what a wonderful vacation! I'd love to visit Newfoundland. And I'm so envious - you got to meet Patricia last week, and now you get to meet Prudence and Charis!

Lark Howard said...

How wonderful! I've wanted to visit Newfoundland since I was a kid and we lived in Nova Scotia. After reading your post, it's moved up my wishlist. Gorgeous pictures!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Sheila,
As you know, a lot of Newfoundlanders headed elsewhere for work in the oil and gas business, but many have returned--and brought their mainlander friends. People like me, who want to see water, can get their fill in Newfoundland. I know you'd like it. Warning: food's expensive, probably because so many goods must be shipped to the island. I went a little overboard in the produce section of my local grocery store when I returned. Red peppers 99 cents apiece? What a deal.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Patricia,
You take the best vacations. I want to hear all about Alaska when you get back.

Google says school or pod of dolphins both work. I've never seen dolphins in the wild, but it's on my bucket list.


Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Jennette,
I had such fun meeting Prudence, Charis, and Patricia. When I get to Dayton, I hope you'll fit me into your schedule, even if you have to time travel to do it.

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Lark,
You lived in Nova Scotia? You always amaze me.

I didn't forget about your upcoming language-learning course in France. I hope you'll tell me all about it at Cafe Rabelais. Bon courage!

Coleen Patrick said...

Beautiful pics, Pat!!

Pat O'Dea Rosen said...

Hi, Coleen,
Younger Daughter took the pics. She's the one in the family with the Coleen-like eye.