Thursday, June 29, 2017

Hello darling and other observations about Newfoundland (6/29/2017)

It has been a while since I've written.  I have somewhat hinted at it in my last post, we were on vacation and too busy for some serious writing.  But it is time.  It was a great vacation, with great impressions; we experienced a lot and I have a lot to share.

In my previous blog I somewhat hinted at it, but we left the country and traveled to Canada; to Newfoundland to be exact.  There are so many impressions to report without making this a travelogue that I foresee that two or more postings will be on this subject.

So what are my impressions?  I really don’t know where to start, but for sure, the people in Newfoundland are among the friendliest people I have met.  That it what the title of this post implies.  Everyone is a “darling” to them, and they genuinely mean it!  The one disappointment I had was when my cellphone was stolen, but that was my own fault and it was on the trail and I suspect it was a tourist; actually I know exactly who it was.  But as they say hind sight is 20-20 and I could not have confronted him about it anyway.  It is only a phone and I am not going to let it spoil one of the best vacations I’ve had.

People here and in Newfoundland asked us: why visit Newfoundland?  The answer is not so clear cut.  We wanted to do something special for our 40th wedding anniversary.  Looking through one of my sailing magazines I ran into an article from someone who sailed around the island and along the Labrador coast.  Photos from that article combined with photos from our daughter’s trip to Nova Scotia and a past trip to Scotland convinced us that the Canadian Maritime was in order.  Pictures of puffins, iceberg, the colorful houses in St. Johns and Gros Morne National Park did the rest.  Simple as that!

Oops, I actually meant a different iceberg, but the Iceberg berg beer made from real iceberg water was mightily tasty and went great with this outstanding seafood chowder! 
  • At a gas station, you can fill up fill up your car first and then pay.  It took me to the last day of our 14 day visit and I was still not used to it.  What, you did not have to pre-pay or stick your credit card into the pump?  No!
  • Everybody wanted to talk to you; they wanted to know where you were from, why the heck you wanted to come to Newfoundland, how long you were staying, where you had been and where you were going.
  • In one of the national parks I had a fun and interesting discussion with a park ranger on empathy.  On his computer he pulled up stories on how local fishermen saved U.S. sailors from two navy ships (USS Pollux and Truxtun) that sank off the coast of Newfoundland, which he shared with me.  Yes it was a quiet morning, but he could have ignored us too.  This just sets the tone for the entire vacation: relaxed, fun, educational, and recharging.  I have never experienced this anywhere else.
  • We absolutely could not find one person who supported our current president.  One was lukewarm, but his wife kept rolling her eyes.   Most people expressed how sorry they felt for us about what we had to go through during and after the elections and our choice of president.  They went even further after the shooting on the baseball field, when many actually gave us their condolences.  We tried to give ourselves a complete news blackout, but that obviously did not work.  Many people did tell us that while in previous years they vacationed in the U.S., they were now actively looking for other places to vacation and avoiding coming to the U.S. (Florida, Arizona) in winter.  This was not because of fear for terrorism, but because of the political climate.  So much for being on vacation and trying to avoid politics for two weeks.
  • Newfoundland has a lot of potholes in the road, some of which can swallow a car (yes I am exaggerating).  At times it felt like I was back in Scotland, driving on the left side of the road (avoiding potholes).  We just used every part of the road that was available at the time.  Surprisingly, the sections of road through the national parks were in the best shape!
  • We experienced global warming as it happened.  Predictions are that this part of the world might actually get colder as part of global warming, which might have been what we saw.  So what did we see?  In a normal year, the glaciers in Greenland calf off and pieces float down the Labrador Current and you can see them from various points in Newfoundland.  The best time to view these appears to be late May and early June.  This year, for the first time since 1974 (according to the locals) the polar ice cap broke up (global warming caused?), and the Labrador Current combined with the north winds pushed it all south against the island.  The entire north shore was covered with sea ice, with large icebergs embedded in it.  It was so bad that tourist boats could not go out, the ferry to Labrador was stopped and fishing boats were stuck at their moorings.  One fishing boat that made an attempt while we were there was actually crushed and sank.  The crew got off and needed to be pulled of a sheet of sea ice by helicopter.  But as a result when the wind was from the north, is was damn cold along the coast.
  • It appears that cars and moose don’t mix.  Everywhere there are signs that if you should call a certain number when you see a moose near the road.  I guess they chase them off, turn them into moose burgers or moose sausages, or whatever they do to them, but they do not want them near the road.  We actually only saw one moose (near the road) and one bear, also near the road.  Both were in Gros Morne National Park, and no we did not call them in.
The view from the French Beach trail on Twillingate Island.  Here you can really see the sea ice and the icebergs that came down with the Labrador Current. 
For right now, these are some random impressions that have come up in my mind of my visit.  Probably not very philosophical or educational today, but fun to share.  I will do some more in the future.  One thing is for sure: go explore, experience different places, different cultures; broaden your horizon.

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