My husband and I were invited to to St. Johns, Newfoundland on business. Living in Chicago it hadn’t made the bucket list of places to go on vacation. Obviously, if you have been to Newfoundland you realize, we have been in the dark all these years.
We were blessed with information by the kind, proud folks in the area; yielding to their advice, we landed at a fabulous place for a two day sabbatical before our meeting. Hustling out of the airport and bypassing St.Johns for the moment, we settled into a three hour drive to Port Rexton, NF (a bit up the road from Trinity). We arrived by 8 pm as suggested because “one can’t travel at night because of the moose on the road” , a new way of thinking for us city folk. We followed signs and ended up on a small road leading us to The Fisher’s Loft Inn. The Inn, a series of five colorful wood buildings nestled into the hill, exceeded our expectations.
The Inn owned by Peggy and John Fisher started as one building and since 1994 has grown to five buildings each with their own unique charm. The latest addition provides a conference room and housing for 22 guests, decorated with an art show from the local college. The Fisher’s son Gabriel farms their organic garden, composting all of the inn’s vegetable waste. A red gorgeous green house is attached to the back of the garden providing warmth for cucumbers, lettuce, opal basil, sweet basil and tomatoes that grow from the ground up and twine them selves around rope attached to wooden poles hung across the ceiling.
I spent an hour photographing the rest of the vegetables growing. The Moulin Rouge Sunflowers caught my fancy enough to warrant two types of lenses on my camera. I can sense the beginning of a line of sunflower note cards! Hm-mm. Nasturtiums, yellow squash, zucchini, patty pan squash, chard, broccoli, peas, carrots, raspberries, garlic buds, fennel, dill, and parsley continued to fill my camera.
Along the side of driveway small red berries low to the ground grew. I assumed they were inedible, just because it is wise to assume most red berries are poisonous. Everyday at breakfast lunch and dinner we were served something that contained a red berry, every server told us they were partridge berries. Finally Peggy was sweet enough to clue me in, that the red berries along the driveway were indeed partridge berries, “similar to cranberries” I was told. They tasted different to me, I’ve done a lot of work with cranberries, I know a cranberry… with the help of Google, I realized that partridge berries are what lingonberries. They grow wild all over the trails of Newfoundland along with blue berries and raspberries!
A special point worth noting; breakfast and dinner were served nightly at the Fisher’s Loft Inn for $55.00 and picnic lunches were available upon request. They food was fabulous and service impeccable. The 4 course dinners changed daily; posted on a small chalk board on the porch. Adirondack chairs were available on the lawn for stargazing at the night’s conclusion.
Down the road along the old train line there is a path, follow it until you come to another path that seems to grow fresh soft grass over night, walking barefoot is a pleasure; reminiscent of The Mists of Avalon. The path is adorned with the wild raspberries, blueberries and partridge berries all ripe for the picking. The path winds to the coast as you enter The Skerwink Trail, rated top 10 in Canada by Travel and Leisure. The hike can be done in 1 1/2 hrs according to the staff at the inn, they do it for exercise each morning. Three hours later and 400 pictures, we completed the trail. It was a cross between the rocky coasts of Maine and the Amalfi coast, breathtaking!
Following the Skerwink Trail hike, we spent the afternoon in New Bonaventure on The Rugged Beauty Boat Tour with Bruce Miller, voted 5/5 by Trip Advisor, FYI. As you enter the community of New Bonaventure you travel past Blue and white buoys lining the water; mussel farms! New Bonaventure has been the filming location for the movie: The Shipping News and TV series: Random Passage; and now another movie The Grand Seduction is being filmed along this rocky shoreline. Celebrities are treated as locals, playing pool till the wee hours of the morning.
The Rugged Beauty Boat Tour was an amazing three hour personal tour, of the waters around the coast and stories of the Resettlement of Newfoundland communities, Kerley’s Harbour and Ireland’s Eye. Bruce, successfully maneuvered his boat into a cave as he tried desperately to find us a whale; even though whale sightings were close to the end of their season! We did find a Bald Eagle and watched her take off from a cliff and soar high above us. Bruce educated us on the Cod Fishing in Newfoundland and the how the moratorium on the industry has changed the way of life in the small communities. He showed us how he salts his cod in his boat house and on the way back to the car I was fortunate enough to photograph salt cod drying in the sun. Bruce was a wealth of knowledge sharing his family history; the day was capped by a cup of tea in his weekend cabin, located in a habour accessible only by boat. WOW, an amazing piece of history!
Day 2 was spent on exploring the northern tip of the Avalon Peninsula. We traveled to Cape Bonavista and back. Stopping in Eliston the “Root Cellar” capital of the world! Eliston also claims the mating grounds for Puffins. We hiked a short trail along spectacular cliffs to see the Puffins, walking past a garden of eggplant overlooking the crashing sea. Below is a link to a short video of the area, if you are interested.
We saw the Bonavista light house, it houses the oldest seal oil fueled catoptric light from the 19th century.
A drive down the northern shore of the Peninsula brought us to lunch in Upper Amherst Cove at the Bona Vista Social Club, a darling wood oven pizza and bread shop on the coast. Family owned by Katie and Shane Hayes. The restaurant took over her father’s woodworking shop ( Patterson Woodworking), as he built a larger shop up the hill from this porch front restaurant. Paterson Woodworking hand turned all the bowls and plates used by the restaurant as well as all the furniture at the Fisher’s Loft Inn. I had cause for distress when I wanted to buy some of these bowls and plates to take home and non were available for purchase!
Alas, the two days of play were over and we headed to St.Johns for our business celebration. The folks there were warm, friendly, kind and proud. An invitation to a kitchen party proved that they can sing with the best, accordions, guitars, tambourines and folk singing!
We became true Newfies; a celebration that involved trying desperately to pronounce “Newfoundland” correctly, kissing a frozen cod fish and drinking a shot of screech rum. The pinnacle of hospitality was shown by cracking part of the iceberg that landed in the Quidi Vidi Bay this summer. Vodka was served over this 25,000 year old frozen water that didn’t melt. We rounded out the evening with a tour of the Quidi Vidi Brewery and drank Iceberg beer!