Newfoundland! Yes, B’y

Highlights: the food! Oh my, such wonderful food.  The hikes!  Oh my, such gorgeous seaside scenery.  The colour!  Oh my, such bright and vivid colours every which way we turned.  The accented lovely way of speaking!  Oh my, so sweet: how ya be, me ducky?

We were on the escalator heading down to street level at the St John’s airport in early June.  Excited to start our eight days in Newfoundland’s east.  We had butterflies of excitement and I think we may have been holding hands, my love and I.  Dean, hailing from there, was all smiles to be ‘down home’ again to the salt air and the fog, the twang and the good-naturedness of Newfoundlanders. (Pronouced: newfundLANDers)

I was casually scanning the crowd on street level.  My glance fell on a dark-haired man sitting in profile to us on a bench against the wall.  He was smiling, looking around wide-eyed and boyishly swinging his legs back and forth.  Could it be?  I was almost sure it was him but what luck would that be?!  Michael Crummey, I said quietly.  I nudged Dean beside me.  Michael Crummey, I indicated with my chin.  We both said aloud for him then: Michael Crummey!  And he looked at us and smiled with recognition as we arrived at his level.  He and Dean had attended Memorial University of Newfoundland (MUN) back in the eighties and played a bit of soccer together.  We had attended Michael’s readings on his books and listened, rapt, while he read from his latest book the last time: Sweetland when he visited Wolfville’s Acadia University in the recent past.  We had pints and shared stories and jokes at Paddy’s Pub.  We were nearly best buds, the three of us.  Well, not really, but it was certainly wonderful to see his smiling face.  He was awaiting his mother and then she joined us and we were introduced.  A moment later we were offered a ride to our hotel and off we went in his car while Michael told us of places not to be missed and I jotted notes on a scrap of paper in the back seat…this was sure to be a great trip and it was that for sure.

Highlights: the food! Oh my, such wonderful food.  The hikes!  Oh my, such gorgeous seaside scenery.  The colour!  Oh my, such bright and vivid colours every which way we turned.  The accented lovely way of speaking!  Oh my, so sweet: how ya be, me ducky?

We checked into Hotel Newfoundland and were offered all manner of treats from the lady going by with a cart from the exec lounge.  Don’t want to throw it all away, she said.  We loaded up, then stepped out to look at Signal Hill via the crooked little neighbourhood of Quidi Vidi. Boardwalk clutching shear cliffs and spray of salt water with a backdrop of the huge deep St John’s harbour and small icebergs off in the big blue.IMG_0580 (3)

Colourful ancient houses clung impossibly on the hillside of rock and steps galore! as we made our way for the next two hours. Exclaiming at the beauty all the while and sweating while climbing the flights of stairs up the rock face.  I would not have wanted to be the builders of that staircase.  Newfoundlander builders wouldn’t have thought twice about it, likely.  I recalled my barrel-chested, cheerful brother-in-law in his good black leather jacket, hat less, stepping out into the driving, sideways freak icy rain one Christmas in Corner Brook. It’s not FIT! he turned, smiled and shrugged at us watching from the damp doorway or Dean’s eldest brother.

Next, a meal which had us enjoying the lightest, sweetest fish and chips ever and a pint of the local brew at The Duke.  Simply awesome.

Day two, we walked all over the pretty and old, twisty knotted downtown and then up around the University Campus after an incredible brunch at The Rooms Museum Cafe overlooking the harbour.The Rooms Cafe

We met Bill, Dean’s friend from University, at his house and then dropped everything to go take a look at Petty Harbour.  The sun just happened to come out while we were there.  Afterwards, we ate a wonderful steak supper with Bill, then walked back to the hotel still in the day light.  Gotta love the long days of summer.  We then fit in a pint with Michael Crummey and told the tales of our lives, three glasses clinked, then three heads together as we caught up on all the news at the Ship Pub.  We laughed at the memories of Codco who used to hang out at The Ship Inn which was sold and so imaginatively renamed.

Pint with Michael Crummey

Day three, we picked up our rental car after a scrumptious meal at Chinched and off we went to tour the Irish Loop with a stop to hike La Manche trail, part of the East Coast Trail system and see the suspension bridge out in the ghost-town wilderness.  Later that evening, we found a nice B&B and just got in the door when the rain began to pour down.  The owner was a small lively man with a few good stories for us.  Then we enjoyed some rest.

Day four, we ventured into Tickle Cove and did the little trail around the pond IMG_0550 then had a dessert and tea at Maudie’s Cafe, which was sweet.  Later, we found a small hotel room on Bay Roberts and walked for a ways to see the old churches, enjoying a pint overlooking the bay on the route back.

The next morning we were nearly ordered by the hotel manager to do the Shoreline Walk, which we are so glad to have done.  Simply beautiful, with its old stacked rock

IMG_0457foundations and stone cellars from before the town was moved further into the crook of the bay.  At the end of the two hour hike, we came across a diner and enjoyed touton (pronounced TOUT-on) BLTs and fish cakes, the server so talkative she forgot to take our order for several minutes.  It was scrumptious.  There, we overheard an exchange that we are still chuckling about. The server asked a guest how he wanted his eggs.  The Newfoundlander answered: I don’t want to be any trouble but, I’ll have one scrambled and one poached. but I don’t want to be any trouble.  Pause.  The server stood with a look on her face, searching his for a glimmer of fun, then all erupted in laughter.

IMG_0643Day five, we pulled into Trinity and booked a room for two nights in a large house with many rooms all with ensuite bathrooms.  It was like a hostel for adults, said Dean.  We enjoyed swapping stories with some of our house mates and then had food and drink and a stroll around town, marveling again at the use of colour.  Why so much colour we wondered?  It was so that the seafarers could find their way home in the fog, b’y.

mv with sea stacksDay six, we did the Skerwink Hike with its sea stacks and rugged coast, ending the trail beside a pond with a resident otter who made himself known.  This is my pond, he indicated with his snout held high and in our general direction.  Later that evening, we found our way out to the CBC TV Miniseries site of Random PassageIMG_0606 and were tickled to be the only folks there.  I had read these books and LOVED them, a quarter of a century ago living in Corner Brook and being new to the culture.  They shed a ton of light for me.

IMG_0649 (2)Day seven, we were back to St John’s were we met up with one of Dean’s nieces and had tea while catching up on all her news.  We had walked around Quidi Vidi pond to get to her at a little cafe, but first we had met Dean’s friend Bill at The Mallard Cottage for a pint and an incredibly delicious lunch.

Day eight, we were packing up to catch our plane back to Nova Scotia.  Our little tour of Newfoundand’s East coast had been amazing.  Colourful, sweet, homey, rugged and beautiful.  We shall return.

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All photos by Martha Valiquette

Highest Tides ~ Fastest Bird ~ Only in the Valley (part 3)

Today, we were in double digits with blue skies and ebbing tides….off to one of our many beaches to enjoy it.  Not knowing a) that this beach belonged to a pair of nesting Peregrines and b) that this would be a truly remarkable day…

We were scurrying quickly away from the possible dive-bombing Peregrine Falcons and their surely sharp talons on a local beach near Avonport, Nova Scotia.  (Peregrines are not to be trifled with, being the fastest creature on planet Earth, who can reach 320 km / hr with sharp talons and beak).  My hubby of 26 years, Dean and I had been strolling on the pebbly, blue-tinged shale beach marveling at the warm day in late May and kicking around ideas for future world travel, a topic we come back to again and again it seems.

Yes, the warm day…we have had an awfully cold spring which would have me donning a toque up until, oh, yesterday.  But today, we were in double digits with blue skies and ebbing tides….off to one of our many beaches to enjoy it.  Not knowing a) that this beach belonged to a pair of nesting Peregrines and b) that this would be a truly remarkable day.

About thirty minutes down the beach, the shreeeeeeeeek of the Peregrine.  (I have known this shreek and had heard it recently and curiously near our house in Wolfville.  That mystery was about to be clarified.)  It seems we were a little too close to their nest which was lodged up on a ledge in the sand-stone cliffs which towered over the beach.

A senior couple was coming down the beach in hats and rubber boots. Large camera had she, binoculars had he.  Pauline and her special friend Bernard Forsythe and was it truly our fortune to meet them!  Firstly warning them about the mad! mad! mad! falcons but they didn’t seem to want to turn around.  They nodded knowingly about the speedy upset pair and so, with one eye-ball peeled, we stood and talked on the pretty beach for the better part of an hour.

Bernie and Pauline

Turns out, Bernard has been a serious naturalist and birder since the 70s featured here on CBC Television.  Both he and Pauline had lost their respective mates in the last few years and had found friendship in each other through the Blomidon Naturalists Society.  Bernard told us that he is 77 and still climbing trees.  He has tagged more than 800 barred owls and routinely mounts owl boxes all over, to aid the owls in the nesting needs, now that old growth forests are not as prevalent as they once were.  Bernard kept us highly interested in the various and many conservation activities he takes part in, mainly he says, for fun!  He told us that Peregrines would have been in Wolfville due to it being on their flight path returning from the south.  That’s why I would hear them sometimes.  Mystery solved.  I made a mental note to let my friend Daisy know this.  She had wondered the same thing.

We asked Bernard if he happened to know our niece who had attended Acadia University and is now completing her masters in ornithology at York, Taylor Brown.  He said…. Yes, we met one day by chance at the eye doctor.  We were both bored and got to talking and then realized how much we have in common with regard to birding.

Dean and I were afraid to go back down the beach toward the nesting site but Pauline and Bernard assured us that we would be fine.  If we formed a group, they said, the falcons were unlikely to attack us.  I picked up a flat rock and used it as a helmet, to be extra sure.  Once near to but far beneath the nest, we were able to clearly see a proud, puffed-up Momma on the nest and a serene protective Dadda on a tree just a bit further on, standing guard.  Stoic.  Soon, Pauline exclaimed that she could see a fuzzy chick’s head moving just above the rim of the nest.  Time to leave them be, said Bernard.  They need to hunt and take care of necessary falcon parenting business and shouldn’t be interrupted too much.

On our way back up the beach, we were fully captivated by the many fascinating stories that Bernie told us about his adventures in ornithology, owl banding and nesting box mounting.  He would be called upon by Acadia University to take various students ‘under his wing’.  One such student was studying the murder of crows who would roost on Boot Island.  They would go to the island to study them together and so that Bernie could instruct the student in banding and other bird ways.

Bernard is also a wild-orchid enthusiast and counter.  We would have been at the Orchid Show at the Acadia University KC Irving centre in February when my sisters were visiting.  He pointed out that he studies and counts the wild ones though which he said involves a lot of hiking through the woods of Nova Scotia.

lady slippers
These were found on a hike with ‘The Bee Man’ Henry Hicks on his property in Halls Harbour

He then found us a highly interesting fossil of a fern and was bent over pointing at it as if he was in a teenager’s body.  This incredibly youthful senior man has done and still does many hikes and out-trips on his various conservation missions.  Now though most times with his friend Pauline by his side except when he is climbing trees.  At those times, she waits on the ground.  Both of them have a quick smile and a glint in their eye.  They are wise, vital, active, witty and incredibly interesting.  At one point, Pauline told me she wasn’t worried about the falcons dive-bombing because she was wearing blue and they don’t like blue.  Aren’t you lucky I said.  Why don’t they like blue? I asked. Only kidding she said.  She had me going and it was funny, we belted out a good laugh about that one!

Again, I felt completely privileged and indebted to these lovely folks of the Annapolis Valley where we now call our home.  They took a lovely day and made it even better, and… just by chance.

Only in The Valley.

Click here to read Part 1 (Reid’s Meats) and Part 2 (Dabro Farms).

 

(Peregrine picture was found on google images ~ thank you~ The other two are mine.)

Here’s another view of the area at low tide: