Ed’s Cruise from London to New York on the Silversea Whisper – Part 3

Land Ho!  St John’s, Newfoundland

After 5 rather turbulent days on the Atlantic avoiding Hurricane Lorenzo, we docked in St John’s, Newfoundland!  Not that we didn’t enjoy our sea days because we did, even though the ship was rocking and rolling.  What’s not to like having all your meals prepared, your room cleaned, beds made and nightly entertainment!  We also enjoyed cooking classes, on board lecturers and a wide variety of premium cocktails and wines!

The above was at The Grill, outdoor dining on Hot Stones.

St. John’s, Newfoundland:  The beauty of arriving at St John’s is that the ship docks right downtown.  For more than 500 years, St. John’s has been visited by European explorers, adventurers, soldiers and pirates.  St John’s, the provincial capital, is the economic and cultural centre for Newfoundland and Labrador.

It was first discovered in 1497 by John Cabot and later claimed as the first permanent settlement in North America for the British Empire by Sir Humphrey Gilbert.  St. John’s has a rich and colourful history.  It offers an enticing combination of old world charm, unique architectural, historic and natural attractions, top notch facilities and services and is located in close proximity to spectacular coastlines, historic villages and a diverse selection of wildlife.

Our ship arrived a day earlier than planned as we had to miss our stop in Ireland.  Once docked we headed out.  Downtown St. John’s is truly one of the most unique destinations you will ever visit.  A place where old world charm mixes with a bustling business core in the oldest commercial district in North America.  Downtown offers historic churches, art galleries and museums, pubs and more pubs!  On George St, just a couple of blocks from the ship, there are more drinking establishments per square foot than anywhere else in North America.  So, off we go in search of some local brew and music.  We found it at Kelly’s Pub where we had to have a beer and listen to the wonderful local music.  The beer we had was called Iceberg Beer brewed by the Quidi Vidi Brewing Company.  They actually use chips from Icebergs to make the beer.  Apparently, the ice is formed tens of thousands of years ago from compacted snow. That means there are no minerals and lots of tiny bubbles trapped inside. They say “it gives the golden beer a special, very light taste.”

St. John’s has been the site of several significant modern events.  Marconi made the first reception of radio signals from across the Atlantic in 1901 on Signal Hill, above the harbor.  Cabot Tower on Signal Hill is the last North American landmark sighted by Charles Lindberg on his famous solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927 as St.John’s is located further east than any other city in North America.

This is where we started our Coastal Hike shore excursion.  While it was cold (5 C) and a bit windy, the hike was exceptional.  A school bus took us up to the top of Signal Hill.  The hike  is an awesome way to return to downtown along the 1.7km North Head Trail, which connects Cabot Tower with the harborfront Battery neighborhood. The walk departs from the tower’s parking lot and traces the cliffs, imparting tremendous sea views.

The Battery is a small neighbourhood that sits on the entrance to the harbour located on the slopes of Signal Hill. It is sometimes described as an outport within the city. The area is noted for its steep slopes, colourful houses, and its importance as a battery for the defense of St. John’s Harbour in both World Wars.

The Battery is home to Chain Rock, a land outcropping to which a large chain and anti-submarine boom were attached connecting to Fort Amherst in order to prevent the entry of German U-boats into the harbour during World War II. Chain Rock is one of two rocks located on opposite sides of the Narrows, Chain Rock on the battery side and Pancake Rock on the opposite. The space between the two rocks is 174 metres. Chain Rock and Pancake Rock were used as early as 1770 where a defensive chain was stretched between both rocks at nightfall to prevent illegal entry of enemy ships. During World War I the chain was replaced with anti-submarine nets.

After returning to the ship for lunch, we wandered out again to explore some of the colourful sites of the city.  One of the main attractions is the Basillica of St. John the Baptist.  It’s located on Military Road, with a fine view over the Narrows and is claimed to be Newfoundland’s architecturally most important    building built between 1842-92. It is built in the form of a Latin cross and graced by slender twin towers 46 meters high and is noted for some fine statues and its beautiful ornate gold leaf ceiling.

The thing that stuck me as being beautiful throughout the city is the lively, colourful way the houses are painted.  Every street is like a painter’s palette of colour.  Not sure how they decide on the colours or how they are mandated to have to paint the houses but it is certainly unique and beautiful

That’s it from St John’s.  Hope you saw how beautiful this city is.  I appreciate you reading along.  Next stop is St Pierre et Miquelon!

Colleen’s Newfoundland Dream – Final Blog

We have come to Gros Morne to do some hiking and they have a lot of trails.  They have a listing of over 20 hikes from beginner to difficult.  The trails here are very well marked and we have no trouble finding any of the hikes we want to take.  One of the best hikes we took was the Coastal Trail that was 6 km return.  It takes you through forest, along the ocean and through some great wild strawberry fields.  Like most days it rains but it is nice to walk when it is a bit cooler.  This hike is a little more flat and would be good for anyone.  So we spend our days hiking or visiting some of the other areas around Rocky Harbour.  We go into a few very quaint towns, Norris Point, Woody Point and to the Tablelands.  I would recommend that you stay in Rocky Harbour as it is central for everything you would want to do.  There are some great restaurants in Rocky Harbour and we do our best to try them all.  The great thing about these restaurants is that the food is all home made.  When we were at one restaurant we asked how they did their pork chops and were told “Like my Mom used to make them” and that just about sums it up.  The food may take a little longer to get but it is great.

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Rocky Harbour Coastal Trail

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Rocky Harbour Coastal Trail

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Norris Point – Cat Stop Pub

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Trout River

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Trout River

 

We head out today for St. Anthony which is on the northern most tip of Newfoundland.  We are going to see L’Anse aux Meadows which is a UNESCO heritage site and it the home of the first inhabitants of NFLD, the Vikings.  It takes us about 4.5 hours to get there from Rocky Harbour and we head right to the site.  We walk around the exhibits and take in the short film before we head down to the site.  It is about a 10 minute walk to the site.  It is in two parts.  They have actually rebuilt three halls and five smaller buildings where the Vikings lived and worked.  The also have Viking re-enactors at the site.  Visit with merchant-adventurer Bjorn and his wife Thora, the blacksmith Ragnar and other members of the crew.  It is great fun as they tell you about life in their village and answer any of your questions.  They also have reproduction artifacts that you can try.  There was also the opportunity to dress up as a Viking.  We didn’t do this but many other did.  There are also still the traces of homes that would have been there.  Once we have been through the site we decide to do the Birchy Nuddick Trail that takes you along the coast and then back to the main building.  It has been a great experience and we are so glad that we made the trip.

We head back to St. Anthony’s to check in to our hotel the Grenfell Heritage Hotel.  This is an older hotel but in great shape.  We get a room with one bed and full kitchen.  This hotel sits on the ocean so depending what room you get, you would have an ocean view.  When we check in at the counter we are told that the last iceberg of the season is here so we decide to take a tour to see it.  We are directed to across the street to the Northland Discovery Boat Tour.  This is probably the best boat tour we have taken to date.  The young guy who works on the boat starts talking the minute we leave the dock and talks about NFLD and what we can expect to see.  We are out on the water probably 5 minutes when the captain puts the boat in reverse so we don’t run over a whale that is right out front to the boat.  We see humpback whales and a group of about 16 dolphins following the whales.  Not sure what to look at so decide to watch the dolphins are they look so graceful when they travel together.  It takes about 20 mins to get to the iceberg and it is massive.  About 4 stories high and we are told that it is melting quickly.  We stay there about 20 minutes as they drive around the iceberg and talk about where it came from and how long it is expected to last.  They usually don’t get icebergs this late in the season so we are lucky to see one.  There are pieces of iceberg floating around and our guide put in his net and brings a bergie bit on the boat for us all to try.  It’s hard to believe that this ice is thousands of years old and that we have the opportunity to try it.  We head back in and are surprised by more whales.  It has been a great tour and I will probably not see another iceberg in my life time.  Quite the experience.

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St Anthony Iceberg Bergie Bit

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St Anthony Grenfell Hotel Lobby

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St Anthony Viking Village

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St Anthony Viking Village

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St Anthony Viking Village

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St Anthony Iceberg

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St Anthony Iceberg

 

 

We are headed home today but I can say that this is one of the Top 10 trips that we have taken and we will definitely return to Newfoundland.  We have gone from coast to coast and to the top of Newfoundland.  I would just like to leave you with a few tips.

  • Make a reservation. We saw so many people who couldn’t find a hotel room.
  • Make your car rental reservations early. It is a small island and not many cars.
  • Take a rain jacket. We used our jackets a lot.  The weather does not get very warm so it’s nice to have a jacket.  Use the layer method.
  • Get Screeched In and become an honorary Newfoundlander!
  • Stay for the music. Music is everywhere in Newfoundland.

If you are thinking that Europe may not be for you this year then consider Newfoundland.  All prices are in Canadian dollars and you can use your debit card.  It is a beautiful island and the people are its strongest selling feature.  We will be back.

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Colleen’s Newfoundland Dream – Blog 6

We wanted to come to Gros Morne to do some hiking and to go up to L’Anse Meadow later in the week.

We start the day with a tour to Western Brook Pond.  There is about a 30 minute walk to get to the dock but the hike is worth it.  It goes through some beautiful country and it is our first experience with bogs.  You sure wouldn’t want to step in there.  We arrive at the dock to find a large building that houses a ticket office, shop and restaurant.  We are the first tour so we get right on.  Western Brook Pond is a freshwater lake that goes through some fjords.  The scenery here is beautiful and the tour takes about 2 hours.  We arrive back to hotdogs on the BBQ.  We head back home for a rest before the Anchors Aweigh show at the Ocean View Hotel.  This hotel is right on the main strip and if you get a room out front, you have an ocean view.  We are told to get to the hotel about 6:00pm as the show is very popular and people come early to get the best seats.  We had booked the show from home and were glad we did as the show is sold out.  When we get there at 6:00pm there is not much seating left and we are glad to get a table for all 6 of us.  This show is not to be missed.  They are 5 guys from Rocky Harbour that can sure play a good East Coast tune.  They sing, tell stories about NFLD and jokes.  We were thoroughly entertained.

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Rocky Harbour Western Brook Pond

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Rocky Harbour Western Brook Pond

COLLEEN’S NEWFOUNDLAND DREAM – Blog 5

We have done George Street in St. Johns and the whale tour so now it is time to continue our journey in Newfoundland.  In order to truly appreciate Newfoundland, you have to head out of St. Johns.  We are on our way to Rocky Harbour in Gros Morne National Park and make an overnight in Twillingate.   Please keep in mind driving times as once you are off the main highway, the other roads are windy and you can only go 80Kms per hour so it takes a while to get anywhere.    We stay at the Anchor Inn hotel in a 2 bedroom suite with kitchen.  It is a great town with lots of small shops for your NFLD souvenirs and some great restaurants.  We decide to do the whale watching tour in the morning but only see a couple of minke whales.  After the tour we head off to the AUK Island winery where all their wines are made with the local berries.  They have over 10 different kinds of wines and they are not too bad.  I would recommend a stop here is you are interested in wines.

We are off to Deer Lake to pick up my sister who is coming for the second week.  With road construction we are a bit late and arrive in Rocky Harbour around 7:00pm.  What can I say; Rocky Harbour is like one of the small towns you see in the movies.  It is on the ocean and in a really pretty area.  We are staying at the Spruce Grove Cottages in a 3 bedroom suite.  The owner Nellie has everything prepared and we move right into the cabin.  I can say that I was a little worried as I was thinking of some cabins that I have stayed in the past but happy to say that it had 3 large rooms with a large bathroom and no carpets!

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Twillingate Lighthouse

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Anchor Inn – Twillingate

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Rocky Harbour Sunset

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Rocky Harbour Spruce Grove Cottages

 

COLLEEN’S NEWFOUNDLAND DREAM

Today Jorgen and I decided to take the Iceberg Quest Ocean Tour to see if we can see the whales a little closer up. We take the 9:30 tour but it is cold and rainy so we think we will just stay inside the cabin.  I always like to take a boat tour when we are in new cities as you see the city from a much different perspective from the water.  We go past the Battery and on the way I see the Signal Hill trail and it is pretty much straight up so it may be something to rethink.

We are soon off the coast and run into a pod of whales feeding.  The captain turns off the engines and the whales come very close to the boat. We now have to leave the cabin and get out on deck so we get wet pretty quickly but it is worth it. It’s great to see the whales up close but with the engines off the boat is riding in the waves so I have one hand on the railing and one hand on my phone but miss all the best pictures as I don’t have an extra hand to take the pictures.

I finally get a few shots off and the whales head off out to sea and we head back to the harbor.  The tour was about 2 hours and worth the $65.00 it cost to do the tour.  If St. Johns is your only stop then I would recommend you take this tour.

This afternoon we are off to Quidi Vidi which is a small town just out of St. Johns to take a tour at the brewery.  The brewery opened up in 1996 and produces beer for NFLD.  We sign up for the beer tasting and head outside to wait for our tour to start.  There is not much in Quidi Vidi but the brewery, a local artisans market and Mallards Cottage which is a very popular restaurant where reservations are a must.  It is Monday so the market and the restaurant are closed so we have a quick look around and head back to the brewery.  The brewery is located in a very scenic spot on an inlet.  We pay our $10.00 for the tasting and head up to the room at the top of the brewery for our tasting.  Our taster was Sue from St. Johns who not only told us about the different beers but a lot of history of St. Johns.  In the end we tasted 7 different beers and spent about $100.00 on beer and beer glasses.  If you like beer you will love this tour.

 

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Colleen’s Newfoundland Dream – Blog 3

We arrive back at Signal Hill with just enough time to see the Military Tattoo but it is Sunday and everyone is out so parking is at a premium.  There are 2 parking lots, one by the Visitors Center and the another on top of Signal Hill.  Try to park by the Visitors Center as the tattoo takes place on the field beside the center.  The cost is $10.00 and they have a drum and flute core and then they go through the different wars with full historic dress.  Just a reminder that the tattoo is not every day so check the times when you are there.  When the tattoo was done, we went up to the top parking lot on Signal Hill and the view from up here is gorgeous.  You can see all the way to Downtown and out to sea.  It’s here that we see the Signal Hill walk and decide to do that on another day.  The walk up Signal Hill begins in the Battery and you walk up to side of the mountain to the top of Signal Hill.  We head back home to have a BBQ for supper on our deck.

 

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Colleen’s Newfoundland Dream – Blog 2

The first thing on our list is the Ferryland Picnic.  It is listed as one of the top 10 things to do in Newfoundland.  We drove from St. John’s to Ferryland which took 1.5 hours.  The drive reminds me of driving in BC with the narrow winding roads and trees on each side.  Once in a while we get a look at the ocean.  We arrive in Ferryland and follow the signs for the picnic.  We park and begin the ½ hour hike up to the lighthouse.  This is not wheelchair accessible as the path up there is just rocks.  The walk can be a bit strenuous but take your time as it is worth it.

We arrive at the lighthouse go in and order our lunch.  There are 4 to choose from and each comes with salad, sandwich, dessert and freshly squeezed lemonade in a mason jar.  Prices are around $27.00 for the picnic.  You are given a blanket and flag and we make our way outside to find our perfect picnic spot.  They find you by your flag and bring out your lunch in a wicker basket.  The food is so good.  Everything is made fresh and the desserts are to die for.  Each comes with real whipping cream.  We are told we picked a great day as the sun is shining and there is a small breeze.

No sooner do we sit down the whales start to perform for us.  They are slapping their trails and waving at us with their fins.  There is even a small group of dolphins following them around.   This is our first whale sighting and we are definitely entertained.   Just a reminder that a reservation is required as they quickly sell out and they are not open every day.   We are going to the Military Tattoo at Signal Hill at 3:00pm so reluctantly we leave to head back to the city.

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