Saturday, December 9, 2017

Adventures in Newfoundland

It's time to get back to my Cross Canada adventures to celebrate Canada's 150th Birthday.  Four more to go...oh oh, the pressure is on!

Next up is the province of Newfoundland and Labrador.  This consists of the island of Newfoundland and mainland Labrador.   This province is the youngest in Canada, joining Confederation on March 31st, 1949.  Previously it had been a colony and dominion of the United Kingdom.  It has a population of over 500,00 with 40% of that population living in the capital city of St John's.

I visited Newfoundland for the first time in 2008 and then again in 2010 so my pictures will be a combination of both trips.

On my first trip I stayed in a Bed and Breakfast run by a fantastic couple but sadly they had retired when I returned two years later so I stayed in a hostel...but a pretty cool one...


Yes, I got to stay in one of St John's famous Jellybean houses...it was the orange one in the middle.  These weren't as colourful as some of the others though!!!





Look at that view!  Oh yes, St John's has hills...oh yes they do.  My knees got a work out for sure and let's not talk about driving there....I had the "fun" experience of having to stop at a red light "almost" to the top of a hill in rush hour.  Stressful stuff for this prairie girl! I screeched my way through that intersection like a boss - one foot on the brake so I wouldn't roll backward and one on the gas to go forward. (it was an automatic)  I am sure there were a lot of shaking heads. 

One of the highlights of my first stay was walking over to Quidi Vidi..(pronounced Kiddy Viddy) which was a fifteen-minute walk from my Bed and Breakfast.   I loved it! 




I mean seriously..how cute is this place?

They have a brewery but it was too early in the morning for me to partake. 


There had to be dogs right?  Here are statues of the Newfoundland as well as the Labrador dog looking out towards St John's harbour...



Just in case the houses weren't cute enough...


And then I attempted the Signal Hill trail....attempted being the key word here.  And yes the walk involves walking across the local residents' decks....strange but that's how it is.


The trail by the sea....


The views were amazing.  However the path got too narrow and too damn close to the water and I suffer from vertigo.  No one was around to hear the splash if I carried on so I muttered a few choice words and turned around.  I attempted this walk on both of my visits and turned around both times....next time I WILL conquer it but I won't be on my own! (so I can cling to someone)  I did, however, make it to the top of Signal Hill another way - I zoomed up the hill in my rental.  Much easier!

As much as I loved St John's I wanted to see a bit more of Newfoundland so me and my spunky red rental car headed off around the Irish Loop.  The first stop was Cape Spear which is the most easterly point in North America excluding Greenland.



And then I pulled in at Bulls Bay and boarded a vessel to go and see ice bergs!




Late May/early June is prime iceberg season - the majority of these babies float down from Greenland with a few from the Arctic as well.  An amazing sight!

Also in that area is Cape St Mary's Ecological Preserve.  It is the most accessible seabird rookery in North America.  Bird Rock is the third largest and most southerly nesting site of Northern Gannets in North America.   I didn't visit with the rental as it was a bit out of the way but I was lucky enough to catch a tour through the hostel on my second visit.  I was able to get in on a tour that had been arranged for another guest - he paid $100 and I paid $50.  Shhh....I am not supposed to tell.  What a deal - even $100 was worth it!


I can't even begin to explain how exhilarating and beautiful it was...I was so lucky to have a beautiful but windy day...it is one of those days in your life you just never forget.  I wanted to stay there forever.


Bird Rock - I think they should call it sh*t rock.  It reeked!! 


Feeling on top of the world!  My faithful Taiga jacket...this is my second one.  Okay here is a plug for Taiga.  Awesome Goretex jackets that are made in Canada.  While they aren't cheap by any means they are less expensive than other brands and I love buying something made in Canada. The first one lasted ten years - I still have it but the lining is torn inside.  The second one is now 6 years old and good as new (although I do tend to save it mostly for traveling) ...and yes I kept the same colour because is there really any other colour but blue? 

Okay, now we are back in the rental two years before and headed over to Bonavista on the Avalon Peninsula. 


And then the rain rolled in...but I headed out to Trinity anyway




Here is a replica of John Cabot's 15th century ship The Matthew. 

I stayed in three different bed and breakfasts while on the road.  The last one cooked an evening meal if you wished and  I wished...and had my very first scallops.  They are still the best I have ever had. No pictures sorry! 


I drove mostly in the pouring rain for the last couple of days and I had been warned about moose wandering or even sitting on the highway.  Many people lose their lives this way.  Talk about a white-knuckle drive especially on the quieter roads.  I was very lucky to get the sun that I did as Newfoundland isn't known for its wonderful weather.


Seriously!  How can you not take a picture?

Newfoundland has unique food as well...and we all know how I love trying all the different food when I travel.


Toutons with beans for breakfast - Toutons are pan-fried bread dough.


Newfoundland cod cakes


Last but not least, Bakeapple cake.  Not an apple but a berry! Scrumptious!  I bought some jam as well.

I can't write about Newfoundland without mentioning the Newfoundlanders or "Newfies" as they are fondly referred to. Oh, the Newfie jokes I've heard...but seriously they are wonderful people.  The absolute best.  Even if I can't understand what the heck they are saying half the time.  My very first morning in Newfoundland my bed and breakfast host was chatting and told me "the fag comes over the mountain in the morning".  I was thinking "fag over the mountain?  Why is he going over a mountain? That's not very nice" (hey, I hadn't had my full quota of coffee yet) ...and then it dawned on me...the FOG!  And it's not every day you pull into a garage to get gas and not only are you asked to sign a guest book but given a free pen! 

A third trip to Newfoundland?  Oh yes please!  Sooner rather than later...stay tuned! 






Friday, December 1, 2017

Motoring around downtown Motown

One of my favourite expressions is "never say never".  For example....never in a million years did I think I would be walking around downtown Detroit, Michigan without a care in the world.  While in the past I attended a concert (guess who?) in suburban Pontiac, Michigan I never thought I would actually be in downtown Detroit.  To this Canadian, the word Detroit symbolized the wonderful music of Motown and of course the almighty automobile but most of all CRIME.  Gun shots and sirens were what sprang to my mind when I thought of Detroit.  Nope, you wouldn't catch me in Detroit ever.   Not on the radar at all - nada, nada - in fact I quivered at the thought of even changing buses there. (and trust me, I have seen my share of inner city bus stations in the United States!) Then Paul McCartney announced a tour...which coincidentally was happening around the time I was due to dog sit for my friend Terry in not so far away Chicago.  Hmmm....and not only one concert but two.  And so many of my Paul friends would be there and I hadn't yet walked in Michigan's state capital...just two hours away...hmmm....so I went online and got a ticket.  And yes, eventually a ticket for the second show.

So on the 1st of October I found myself in Detroit.  Let me tell you their airport transport sucks - however from what I have been reading public transportation in Detroit in general sucks.  Well it is the motor city after all...if you can afford it you have wheels. I will spare you my opinion on that!  I managed to get a shuttle to my hotel for about $25.

My hotel was a splurge.  I had originally booked an airbnb across from the concert..for various reasons I changed venues.  I did enjoy my stay at The Inn on Ferry Street though.  Because I travel on a budget, changing it up and splurging once in a blue moon is fun.


The "inn" consisted of six Victorian houses - this was the building where I checked in and had the included hot breakfast.

This was the building I stayed in: called Pungs house (originally the home of William Pungs) - it was built in 1891. My room was on the second floor (called first floor in the UK) and were the two sets of windows on the left.


Here was the parlour on the main floor -sad to say I never had time to use it.


The door to my room is on the left.


And this was across the street...yes it was a posh neighbourhood.

My room wasn't ready when I checked in so I set out to explore the neighbourhood.   I found the Detroit Historical Museum two short blocks away and settled in there for the next couple of hours.  I love learning about a city's history and Detroit has an interesting one.




Three of Detroit's famous daughters.


As you can imagine the museum was pretty heavy on the two things Detroit is famous for: cars and music. Above was Detroit's first car which was driven down Woodward Avenue (the "main drag" in Detroit) on March 6th, 1896.

There was a lot of information on the Detroit riot in late July of 1967 which lasted for five days.  43 people were killed, 1189 injured and many businesses were destroyed.  I remember hearing about it at the time of course because I am old but learning more about it had me in tears.



Just across the street from the museum was the beautiful Detroit Institute of Arts.  I decided to visit it another day...sadly that day never came as when I went to visit it was closed. 


Here is the Q line LRT gliding down Woodward Avenue in front of the Historical Museum.  I was able to take it once which was fun.

Paul McCartney concerts occupied both nights I was in Detroit which I must admit is my favourite way to spend an evening.

The next day I took the complimentary hotel shuttle service over to Mary and Linda's hotel (Motor City Casino Hotel) and from there we got a taxi to the waterfront.  We had wanted to visit the Motown Museum but it is closed on Sundays and Mondays. The shuttle driver from the airport had raved about the waterfront.  It did not disappoint.



That is Windsor, Ontario across the water.



This is a a statue honoring the Underground Railroad which ended here in Detroit.  The Underground Railroad was a network of safe houses and secret routes to enable slaves to escape to "free" states or Canada. There is an Underground Railroad museum in Detroit which I would have loved to have visited but it is closed Sunday and Monday. (this is becoming a theme)


Rollin' on the River....




I learned something new - the founder of Detroit was Antoine Laumet de la Mothe Cadillac.  Hmmm....where have I heard that name before?

We had a pleasant lunch on the patio of a restaurant which looked out across the Detroit River.


Hi Canada!


Crab cakes for lunch.



This is Mariners church founded in 1842.  Best known as the church sung by Gordon Lightfoot in the "Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald"  On November 10, 1975 the freighter The Edmund Fitzgerald sunk taking 29 lives.  Mariners church helped former slaves reach Canada through a tunnel in their basement. 

In a rustic old hall in Detroit they prayed,

In the Maritime Sailors’ Cathedral.
The church bell chimed till it rang twenty-nine times
For each man on the Edmund Fitzgerald.




Then it was time to take Detroits people mover back downtown.


Comerica Park where the Detroit Tigers Baseball team play.


I was more impressed with the Fox theatre - I wonder why.  Seriously, I love old theatres and would have loved to have seen the inside of this one.


I did see a lot of this place though - a brand new arena just opened in September of 2017.

48 hours in Detroit was not long enough to see too much with concerts and getting together with friends.  I would have liked one more day so that I could have visited the Motown Museum and the Underground Museum as well as seeing more of downtown.  Ah well...an excuse to go back and this time it won't be on a Sunday or Monday! 

Strawberry Hill House (forever!)

When I first saw a picture of Strawberry Hill House I knew I had to visit it.  A romantic looking white castley (is that a word) looking bu...