Tuesday, 15 September 2015



May the sun always shine on your wild wooded mountains.
May the sea beat as one with your rugged hearts alone.
May the doors of your homes always be open.
May God's hand guide your boats back home.
                        (Chorus  from Newfoundland Blessing by Rex Roberts)

What began as a trip to explore our son's adopted province morphed into a journey of discovery, learning, appreciation and inspiration. On numerous trips to visit Christopher, we have explored St. John's and the Avalon Penninsula to the south, but to quote Jim, The farthest north we have been is St. John's International Airport. Let's do it properly, he proposed. Et voila.

How little I knew of our most easterly province before this trip. I remember learning that Newfoundland joined confederation in 1949...and that's about it. No discussion of how Joey Smallwood garnered a majority vote to join Canada, no coverage of heart-wrenching resettlement issues, no description of early settlers, cod fishing or the seal hunt. When I asked Christopher what he had covered in school on our last province, he offered the memory of making popsicle-stick lobster traps. Now there's a real learning experience about a province whose economy at the time was based on cod fishing. How province-centric our education was.

Newfoundland's award winning ads portray a province of staggering, untouched, natural beauty. To experience its lushly forested mountains, rocky precipitous cliffs, windswept shoreline landscapes or tiny colourful outports is to realize that in real life, Newfoundland is even more beautiful than tourism ads portray. For me, the highlight and #6 checked off my bucket list, was the trip down Western Brook Pond. Sparkling blue waters, soaring cliffs, rushing waterfalls - an excursion I will forever remember.

Historic sites are meticulously maintained, guides, passionate and informed, and many lessons, for me, life changing.

Newfoundland's reputation for having the most hospitable, friendly population in Canada is no myth. I need only harken back to how Gander and its surrounding area responded to the 9/11 crisis. A heartwarming read is:

Not once during our three weeks were we greeted by anything but a smiling face and courteousness beyond measure in eagerness to serve meals, assist or answer questions. Perhaps this can be best illustrated by Christopher's experience during his first weeks in St. John's. Walking down Water Street, the equivalent of our Yonge Street, he stopped on the sidewalk. Had he forgotten something at home, he pondered. Thinking that Christopher's intention was to cross Water Street, like the parting of the Red Sea, traffic halted. No traffic light, no crosswalk, simply a section of busy road. At this juncture, Christopher, feeling guilty, crossed to the unwanted side of the street. How could he possibly disappoint all of these drivers?

And the dumb Newfie? Don't for a second believe it. Witty, keenly intelligent and well informed are the three descriptions that immediately come to mind when I think of the cross section of Newfoundlanders with whom Jim and I spent time.

Long gone are the days when Newfoundland cuisine immediately brought to mind Ches' Fish and Chips. Raymond's Restaurant in St. John's has been named by Canadian Chefs as the number one restaurant in Canada and justifiably so. Bacalao, Chinched Bistro and The Mallard Cottage would complete my personal St. John's favourites list. Newfoundland chefs refer to foraging and sourcing locally grown ingredients. With fresh seafood, game and produce abundant, this new regional cuisine has taken hold across the island. From Trinity on the east, to Fogo Island on the north, to Gros Morne on the west, Jim and I savoured some of the best meals ever experienced on our travels. So much cod was consumed by me that I have grown gills. And I promise that you have not lived until you have eaten a warm partridgeberry tart drizzled with custard. Oh my! 

If you have viewed those beautiful Newfoundland ads on TV or read the print versions and thought, maybe, I say, "Just do it. Go." I guarantee that you will experience a fascinating, beautiful corner of Canada whose warm heart is larger than its area. 

Newfoundlanders like to refer to, 1949 when Canada joined Newfoundland. Dear Newfoundland, I am so happy that Canada decided to do so. What a blessing!

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