One the places in Canada I have always wanted to visit is the province of Newfoundland and Labrador. Partially, I must admit, because of those beautiful promotional TV commercials put out by the province’s Tourism Office. You know the ones — red-haired children running along rugged coastlines and views of the Viking site L’Anse aux Meadows.
That wish became reality this July when my partner, Val Cavalini, and I, spent 12 glorious days touring the province by bus on Hanover Holidays’ The Viking Trail of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Rather than highlight each site and landmark we visited, I will structure this Blog under four headings: The Land, The People, The Culture, and The Tour.
Indeed, Newfoundland and Labrador is very much a wild, untamed region of Canada.
Calling it The Rock is not a derogatory stereotype, it’s a geological fact. We saw and visited many ports and seaside harbour communities and landmarks including St. John’s ( the provincial capital), Rocky Harbour, Cornerbrook, Signal Hill, St. Anthony, L’Anse aux Meadows, Gander, and many others.
A highlight of the tour was our visit to magnificent Gros Morne National Park — a breathtaking geological wonder that should be on anyone’s itinerary if visiting the province. L’Anse aux Meadows, the site of the Viking Village believed to been settled by Leif the Lucky in the year 1000, is also a must-see.
Each location had its own identity and stories to tell.
We saw plenty including three moose, one black bear, thousands of puffins, several whales, foxes, harbour seals, and gulls. One thing we learned is that there are no skunks or groundhogs on the island.
For two people who were primarily raised in an urban environment, the landscape of the province was simply breathtaking.
To be sure, one thing visitors to Newfoundland and Labrador should do immediately is toss out all of their lingering preconceived stereotypes of dumb, indolent “Newfies.”
Nothing could be farther from the truth.
The Newfoundlanders and Labradorians we encountered were intelligent, resourceful folks who all expressed extreme pride in their province. All of them were natural-born story-tellers with wicked senses of humour.
Most were old enough to remember when the bottom fell out of the province’s local fisheries economy when the federal government halted the cod fishing industry in 1992 due to over-fishing. They remember leaving the province to find work elsewhere and using all of their resources and resilience to survive the hard times.
Many have returned home with skills and tools they are now employing in their native province.
Younger entrepreneurial Newfoundlanders like Jen, the young woman we met in Gros Morne Park, who owns and operates a Newfoundland Wildlife Interpretative Centre with her husband, are proof that the province is in good hands for the future.
By the way, just about everyone we met thanked us for joining Newfoundland in 1949.
Music, storytelling and beautiful crafts account for most of the province’s culture.
We listened to several live musicians and groups, all of whom brought their style to the traditional music of the island. East Coast music is infectious and you can’t help but stomp your foot and sing along.
It may be a bit of an overstatement, but every “Newf” we encountered seemed to have a story to tell — usually one that was self-deprecating and had a twist. Many were politically incorrect, but who cares?
On the bus, we listened to one of the province’s leading comedians, Jimmy the Janitor, who had us in stitches.
Newfoundland crafts are, in a word, beautiful. Handmade items like socks, quilts, hats, silk screens and wood carvings were scooped up by our fellow bus-trippers.
Oh, and the food and drink. We ate our share of local cod, salmon, crab cakes, and lobster, all of which was delicious.
We were introduced to a local beer — Iceberg Beer — brewed with water from 20,000 year old icebergs. It was delicious, but unfortunately it is not available out of province.
We also became members of The Royal Order of Screechers with our shot of Screech Rum and obligatory Kissing of the Cod.
The Bus Tour
I know many people prefer to set their own itineraries and pace when traveling, but we have always preferred to let professionals familiar with the location introduce us to the sights of places we have visited, especially for the first time.
This is why we chose Hanover Holiday’s 12-day Viking Trail of Newfoundland and Labrador bus tour.
Our Tour Guide, Jan, and Bus Driver, Ron, were born and bred Newfoundlanders with a wealth of knowledge and anecdotal stories about every one of the sites we visited. Both were professional, approachable and very personable.
The hotels were for the most part excellent with all the amenities one would expect on a 12-day bus tour. Jag Hotel in St. John’s deserves special mention for its classic rock decor.
In terms of ranking, we would give the tour 5 out of 5 Stars. Highly recommended!
Cost: Twin – $4695.00, Single – $5699.00
For more information about the tour, visit http://www.hanoverholidays.com/