DREAMSCAPES WINTER/SPRING 2022
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NEWFOUNDLAND: CHASING THE LIGHT AND FINDING SERENITY
 
(2022 - Winter/Spring Issue)

Writer: VANESSA DEWSON



For our long overdue mother-daughter trip we were supposed to visit the island of Crete. My mom and I had gotten a taste of the Greek Isles while on an earlier cruise pre-COVID but we decided this time around to play it safe and visit another island closer to home. Rather than whitewashed buildings, a rainbow of colourful houses peppered the rocky shoreline of Port aux Basques, where the ferry dropped us off in Newfoundland as the sun was setting. And just like that, we were hooked.

A Warm Welcome

“Is there anything else I can get you, my love?” our restaurant server asked us in that lilting Newfoundland accent in the bustling maritime hub of Corner Brook. Part of what makes Newfoundland so special is the unwavering hospitality of Newfoundlanders who warmly welcome those who “come from away,” as they say. With each conversation, calm washed over me and any anxiety about travelling in unknown parts during these challenging times disappeared.

It wasn’t until the following morning as we left Corner Brook for our one-of-a-kind road trip that we noticed the mountains sloping down to the long arm of the Bay of Islands. We were on our way to Gros Morne National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site famously photogenic for its moody mountains and teetering terrain. With every off-road twist and turn, it was easy to see why this is a mecca for hikers and adventurers. Neither Mom nor I felt up for anything gruelling, so we stuck to lookouts and easy strolls with great views.

Walking on the Earth’s Mantle

In one area of the park known as Tablelands, we traipsed on a part of the earth normally hidden but tectonic shifting has pushed up the surface, revealing a stark contrast in this harsh environment. On one side of the valley, there’s a lush green landscape while on the other a few scrappy plants and pine trees struggle to survive on the slopes of the barren plateau. The cold wind added to the eerie atmosphere, which forced us to shorten our exploration. Thankfully, we did find warmth in a bowl of chowder and another warm welcome in the nearby town of Trout River.

Hitting the Road

After being cooped up for so long in our homes, the open road felt freeing.

The ragged coast, full of coves, bays, peninsulas, and arms, means there is no ring road as on some other islands. Instead, the Trans-Canada Highway 1 arcs its way from Port aux Basques all the way to the capital of St. John’s.

Along the way, as we talked about life and family, we drove to the interior around the top end of Grand Lake, motoring past vast forests, and travelling east by places with cool names like Come By Chance, before finally reaching the Avalon Peninsula in the southeast.

Edge of the Americas

When we arrived in the capital of St. John’s, it was late afternoon, so we went straight to the part of town popularized in commercials and postcards. Mom and I fell in love with Jellybean Row with its colourful row houses. We certainly looked the part of gawking tourists with camera (me) and iPhone (Mom) in hand. Walking down to the harbour to watch the sunset, it was obvious to see why people settled here with the city being so well sheltered.

On another morning, albeit cloudy, we made our way to Signal Hill, which afforded a fabulous view of our next stop, Cape Spear. With clouds now lifted at this rocky outcropping the sun shone over the mighty Atlantic Ocean as we continued on our scenic drive to North America’s most easterly point. At Cape Spear, Mom wandered around, sightseeing and reading signs while I chased the light with my camera. Neither of us was in a rush to leave.

Fogo Island

One place I insisted we explore was Fogo Island. I heard about the stark isolation of the Fogo Island Inn and always wanted to see it. For this journey, we took a ferry from the town of Farewell (how fitting) to the town of Seldom, continuing our quest to find the inn that put Fogo Island on the map. It is an incredibly impressive building and I could see how the Newfoundland-born architect, Todd Saunders, was influenced by the traditional fishing sheds seen in the neighbouring village of Joe Batt’s Arm, a seaside community hovering on stilts.

The Fox Trot

The next day we drove to the Marconi Wireless Interpretation Centre. From this vantage point, you can see the nearby Town of Fogo Island. Just as I was about to pull out my camera, movement caught my eye. It was a silver fox, trotting up the hill! The wily fox soon curled up in a clearing. We watched in awe at just how at home it looked on this wild land.

We left Fogo Island with a smile and a sense of peace knowing there are places in the world where nature and humans can coexist in harmony.

Finding Serenity and Reconnecting

Crowded places have now become a source of anxiety for most of us—so going somewhere like Newfoundland, with only half a million people living on an island, nearly the same size as Cuba, was the ultimate escape. With every breath of salty sea air, every step on moss-covered rocks, and with each epic sunset I witnessed, I felt my batteries recharge. Being able to discover a new part of my own country with my mom is a gift I will forever cherish.

If there is a silver lining to this pandemic it has been to re-evaluate priorities and find amazing beauty and adventures much closer to home. In chasing the light on a dramatic rocky island, with Mom in tow, I managed to find blissful serenity in the not so faraway island of Newfoundland.

Insider Tip

Book car rentals, ferry tickets and accommodation as early as possible. For the ferry, run by Marine Atlantic, opt to reserve a cabin, even for daytime crossings, as you cannot return to your vehicle once the ferry leaves the port. The cabin can be a great place to rest, and to drop off your bags. marineatlantic.ca/sailing-information/schedule

Travel Planner

For more travel information see: newfoundlandlabrador.com

 
 
 
 
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