Rea­sons for va­ca­tion­ing in New­found­land and Labrador

The Compass - - TRINITY SOUTH - Free­lance jour­nal­ist Bur­ton K. Janes lives in Bay Roberts. His col­umn ap­pears in The Com­pass ev­ery week. He can be reached at­bur­tonj@nfld.net

Spring has sprung, and it isn’t too early to start think­ing about va­ca­tion time. My peri­patetic life has af­forded me the priv­i­lege of liv­ing in a baker’s dozen of com­mu­ni­ties in this prov­ince, in­clud­ing Clarke’s Beach, Car­manville, Twill­ingate, Ham­p­den, Port aux Basques, Shearstown, Deer Lake, Makin­sons, Labrador City, Rod­dick­ton, Howley, and now Bay Roberts.

How­ever, I still have a dream of some­day spend­ing weeks at a time travers­ing the width and breadth of New­found­land and Labrador, veer­ing off the beaten track and check­ing out yet other venues of the nat­u­ral beauty found in our prov­ince. The next time I head out, I plan to take as my guide Jan­ice Wells’ re­cent “New­found­land and Labrador Book of Musts.” Dubbed the “ultimate in­sider guide,” it’s a com­pi­la­tion of 100 places she be­lieves ev­ery New­found­lan­der and Labradorian must see or, rather, ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I use the word ‘ex­pe­ri­ence’ rather than ‘see’ de­lib­er­ately,” she says. Our “ his­tory and places are so in­te­gral to our sense of self that any­one who just sees a place, drives through it, with­out a guide, writ­ten or lo­cal, or with­out tak­ing the time to ex­plore it, is re­ally miss­ing its essence.”

She di­vides her book into seven sec­tions: St. John’s (sites 1 through 14), the Avalon Penin­sula (15-39), east­ern (40-49), cen­tral (50-69), west­ern (70-84), Great North­ern Penin­sula (85-96), and Labrador (97101). In re­cent days, I’ve been re­view­ing what she be­lieves are the places here on the Avalon Penin­sula I should ex­pe­ri­ence.

I in­vite you to ac­com­pany me as I visit some of these un­for­get­table sites and sounds.

Karl Wells, for­mer CBC weath­er­man, de­clares, “ You’ll not find a bet­ter-tast­ing blue­berry any­where in the world” than in this prov­ince. Per­haps Bri­gus is the place to start. I per­son­ally have of­ten vis­ited this town of blue­ber­ries and Bartlett, and I al­ways ex­pe­ri­ence some­thing new.

Jan­ice Wells writes about Bri­gus’ “ beau­ti­ful stone walls, nar­row wind­ing streets, shady lanes, and well­main­tained cen­turies-old houses (that) make for a dis­tinct old-world vil­lage feel.” Sherry and I of­ten brought our chil­dren to the “80-foot­long tun­nel blasted out of solid rock in 1860 by a miner im­ported from Corn­wall. A Bartlett an­ces­tor had the work done to pro­vide eas­ier ac­cess to his wharf.”

“ The newly opened Cupids Legacy Cen­tre, a state-of-the-art fa­cil­ity billed as a place ‘ Where the Present Meets the Past,’ of­fers an in­no­va­tive and in­ter­ac­tive mu­seum ex­pe­ri­ence that cel­e­brates this mile­stone,” the birth­place of English Canada. What else can one say about his­toric Cupids that was not al­ready said last year, the four hun­dredth an­niver­sary of the found­ing of the town?

Frank D. Moores (1933-2005), the sec­ond (Pro­gres­sive Con­ser­va­tive) premier of this prov­ince, called the Port de Grave fish­er­men “the best of the best,” adding the caveat, “even if they are Lib­er­als.” Nat­u­ral­ists, pho­tog­ra­phers and ge­og­ra­phy en­thu­si­asts love the so-called “New­found­land Rock,” de­posited by glacier ac­tion in an area known as Foxes Rock.

At Win­ter­ton, the men “ac­quired a rep­u­ta­tion years ago as out­stand­ing boat­builders. Us­ing only hand tools and lo­cal tim­ber, they built skiffs, punts (or ‘rod­neys’), mo­tor boats, and schooners. These ves­sels were fine of form and made for work, not idling about.” Check out the wooden-boat mu­seum. Where else, but on the sec­ond floor, will you ex­pe­ri­ence such “an ar­ray of ar­ti­facts, in­clud­ing the old­est English head­stone in the prov­ince, a magnificent horse-drawn hearse, farm tools, and vintage mil­i­tary, do­mes­tic and trans­porta­tion-re­lated items?”

Heart’s Con­tent is “world-fa­mous and it has noth­ing to do with love or ro­mance.” The Cable Sta­tion Mu­seum cel­e­brates “ the be­gin­ning of in­stant com­mu­ni­ca­tion be­tween Europe and North Amer­ica.” You can see, among other at­trac­tions, “an orig­i­nal cable op­er­at­ing room, a replica of the orig­i­nal Vic­to­rian cable of­fice, and dis­plays and ar­ti­facts.” The sense of his­tory is pal­pa­ble.

In 2001, Har­row­smith Coun­try Life Mag­a­zine named Dildo one of Canada’s 10 most beau­ti­ful com­mu­ni­ties. Though talk-show host Jay Leno once ref­er­enced the com­mu­nity, it has its own claims to fame, in­clud­ing what Jan­ice Wells calls “the pro­lif­er­a­tion of whale bones in the area.” Be sure to check out “a replica of a gi­ant squid caught in Dildo in 1933.” On a lighter side, “Dil­do­nians are ac­cus­tomed to re­marks about the name, but they have no in­ten­tion of chang­ing it, so you can still get your pic­ture taken un­der the fa­mous Dildo sign.”

If you al­ready think you know New­found­land and Labrador in­side out, then per­haps read­ing this in­for­ma­tive guide to the prov­ince will change your mind.

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