Wednesday, 10 September 2014


The much delayed (6 hours!) finally left port at 11.30pm by which time all passengers seemed to be settled for the night either in private cabins or (as we were) in very comfortable recliner air seats in one of several seating areas. With plenty of leg room and in a carpeted and quiet room, it was not difficult to drift off to sleep with the hum of the engines as the ship made its way out into the Atlantic Ocean. The feared rough seas due to bad weather did not eventuate and our progress all the way to Argentia, Newfoundland was one of the smoothest sea journeys we've ever taken.

We arrived, surprisingly refreshed after our shipboard sleep, and finally drove off the Atlantic Vision at about 2pm in absolutely beautiful weather.

We had booked into Armstrong’s Suites in Witless Bay which is about an hour and a half from Argentia, and renowned for its Ecological and Marine park. Our ‘room’ turned out to be two bedrooms and a large living area with quite a good kitchen area. We were able to self-cater and so enjoyed some home cooking each evening – making quite a change from the usual range of food available from cafes and restaurants.

Unlike Nova Scotia with its strong Scottish roots, Newfoundlanders have an Irish background and their speech has a very Irish lilt to their Canadian English.

Our first Newfoundland adventure was a Whale & Puffin tour on board the ‘Molly Bawn’. The weather had turned cool and windy overnight and the sea was considerably choppy, but together with another couple, the guide and captain took us out through the waves into the harbour amongst the islands. It was the last day for these types of tours, as the puffins usually head out to sea for the winter by the first of September and the whales, too, move off to more wintry quarters. Nevertheless we spotted several Minke whales, and masses of different types of seabirds including the quite cute puffins so arrived back quite satisfied.

The next day we packed a picnic lunch and drove about an hour an a half around the coast to Ferry land where the Colony of Avalon is situated. The area had been first settled by Europeans around 1621 and after centuries of settlement lay abandoned until re-discovered in the 1930s. Small scale archaeology began but it was not until 1992 that the Avalon Foundation received sufficient funding to carry out the massive work that the site warranted. 
The original cobbled roadway uncovered.
Now at Ferryland there is a fully equipped conservation laboratory, a collection storage area, an absolutely wonderful interpretation centre with guided outside tours (we had our own personal guide on the day we visited), a reproduction of a (working) seventeenth-century kitchen and three heritage gardens. Digs continue with much, much more to uncover. It is a wonderful place set in stunning scenery especially when viewed in summer but I imagine life there would have been extremely hard in the long winter months.

Day three was spent in the Capital of Newfoundland, St Johns, and it is such a small but pretty city situated on the sloping shore of an almost landlocked harbour. It would have been (and still is, I suppose) a wonderful shelter for ships braving the North Atlantic Ocean in the days of sail. 
Stunning view of St Johns from Summit Hill.
At St Johns we once again searched for, found and photographed a War grave for the Commonwealth War Graves Photographic Project. Then, after some lunch at the very impressive “The Rooms” (the archives, museum and art gallery of Newfoundland), we visited their World War 1 exhibition, also the displays featuring early fishing life together with its icy tragedies early last century. Such a hard life for the islanders during those long ago times. 

Cape Spear Lighthouse.
Before leaving this area around St Johns, we drove to Cape Spear which really is the most easterly point of land – from here there is just the vast ocean. The old lighthouse, near to which Marconi proved that his invention of wireless communication actually worked, is a favourite spot for tourists especially on such a beautiful blue sky day being high on the Cape with spectacular views back over St Johns and also out over the vast Atlantic.

Our final day was another long three hour drive north-east to Trinity another early settlement with people mainly associated with the fishing (cod) trade from Poole in Dorset, England. This lucrative trade continued for many decades before finally going into a decline. The village still retains many of its gorgeous old buildings and some have been sensitively restored. There were Mercantile Premises, a Forge, various churches, a parish hall, a mortuary chapel, a museum (where there was an interesting demonstration of rug hooking which is quite a popular craft in the Maritimes) and Hiscock House where a widow, Emma Hiscock, became quite the entrepreneur during her lifetime. Trinity is not a museum, though, as quite a number of people live there. 
The town is a stunning place and we enjoyed visiting the various buildings where guides told the story of ‘their’ particular building. We spent some time in the Cooperage talking to a craftsman who explained the making of casks and tubs for the transportation and storage of fish in the early years.  His family of English origin had lived in the area for several generations but we were still able to pick the English West Country lilt to his speech. We really enjoyed our visit to Trinity, even though we faced another three hour drive back to our ‘home away from home’.

Finally, it was time to pack up and slowly make our way to Argentia to catch the ferry back to Nova Scotia. Along the way we stopped off at Placentia (from the French ‘Plaisance’ meaning ‘pleasant place’) to see the old Castle Hill National Historic site of the fort built by the French in the early 16th century. Next stop was the ferry for another long but smooth crossing back to Nova Scotia.

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