Tuesday 16 July - Toronto to Corner Brook

We tried a new parking scheme at the airport, where we drive to the parking place, but then someone takes us to the airport in our own car. That will be reversed when we get home. Seems pretty slick.
It's an easy 2 hour, 20 minute flight from Pearson to Deer Lake Nfld -- an airport that reminds us of Castlegar. We picked up our Ford Fusion hybrid, got a late lunch along the highway and drove to Corner Brook.

Thank goodness we have GPS! Couldn't have found our hotel without it! We checked into the Glynmill Inn and put our feet up for a bit. It felt like a full day's work getting that far. Eventually we headed out in search of a liquor store. The address on the website was a well-hidden, nearly dead plaza, where there's a thriving Dollarama, a Boston Pizza, and about an acre of empty stores. Apparently the liquor store closed some time ago but no one told the head office. Sigh. Back at our hotel, we went to the dining room for a late (8pm) dinner, where 50 or so members of a seniors' bus tour were already eating. Then early to bed.

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Wednesday 17 July - Corner Brook to Port au Choix

We slept late, enjoyed a good breakfast in the Glynmill Inn dining room, then drove around Corner Brook. There are some spectacular views from a high coastal road. As we drove around, we spotted a Dominion store and remembered that the Dollarama clerk had mentioned there was a liquor store "in Dominion" -- sure enough! So we stocked up on wine and beer. Deciding to equip ourselves for picnics, we stopped at Walmart for a cooler, plates, cutlery and glasses, as well as some food, then hit the Trans Canada. Back at Deer Lake we turned north and eventually onto the Viking Trail. We were sometimes on the coast, sometimes in scrubby forest, on sometimes flat, sometimes hilly highway. We left the highway to visit Rocky Harbour, where we enjoyed lunch at a cafe/gift shop and chatted with the owner, who had lived in Ottawa for a time. Apparently, though there is a building boom all along this coast, the permanent population is about 1/3 lower than than it was some years ago. Lots of seasonal residents and guests. Traffic was sparse and the only crowd we saw was where we ate lunch. The large parking lot for one of the hiking trails was packed, though, so I guess that's where everyone was. Signs along the highway frequently reminded us to be "Moose Alert". One even mentioned that there've been 3 moose-related accidents in 2019, compared to 11 in all of 2018. Late afternoon we reached Port au Choix, where we had a room reserved at the Sea Echo motel. The desk clerk was the first person I've encountered here with a thick Newfoundland accent. She gave us a map of the town and mentioned there'd been a caribou sighting earlier today. We walked over to the harbour,
then back to the shore behind the motel. No sign of caribou. After a bright, warm day, clouds have moved in and it's very windy. In Port au Choix, as all along this coast, the homes are often brightly coloured. They're no longer painted, however, but covered with vinyl or aluminium siding.

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Thursday 18 July - Port au Choix to L'Anse au Claire

What a great day! Not a wonderful start though -- it was wet (to the point of hydro-planing) and very foggy when we left Port au Choix for the long drive to the ferry. We had planned to allow 2 hours, but the hotel receptionist assured us that it was a 45 minute drive, so we cut that to 90 minutes. Breakfast at the Sea Echo began far too late for us, and they didn't offer any alternative. We brewed a cup of coffee in our room and hoped for a restaurant and time to eat breakfast at St. Barbe. Off we went, on high moose alert. Luckily. The moose appeared suddenly in front of us. Larry was able to stop. It stopped too, looked disdainfully down its nose at us, and sauntered away.
We got to the ferry with only 15 minutes to spare, so grabbed bagels and coffee to go, and were waved into the bottom level of the boat. We found window seats facing forward in the lounge and made ourselves comfortable.
About halfway across the Strait of Belle-Isle, I realized I was looking at an iceberg. It stayed in sight for about a half hour and we saw it from several angles. Sadly, we saw no whales or other sea creatures.

Off the ferry, we headed north-east on the Labrador Coast Highway, enjoying one after another spectacular views. It's not a wonderful road, and right now there's lots of construction, but so worth it! We drove to Red Bay where we enjoyed fresh cod fish and chips at the Whalers Restaurant, then toured the National Historic Site interpretive centre.

We took a boat to Saddle Island and spent an hour or so wandering there. I had the chance to see up close many of the wildflowers we've admired along the roadsides.
Don't know what they are, but got lots of pictures. This was a Basque whaling site 5 or 6 hundred years ago and many local shipwrecks have yielded numerous artifacts.
On our way back toward the Northern Lights Inn, we stopped at L'Anse Amour -- down a long dirt road. There's a 7500 year old burial site of the Maritime Archaic people, and a 150+ year old lighthouse. Both very interesting.
By the time we got to L'Anse-au-Clair we were ready to put our feet up and open the cooler. Great day. Glad we can picnic in our room.

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Friday 19 July - L'Anse au Clair to St. Anthony

This ferry-crossing business is rather stressful. Once again, we were booked for an 8 am crossing, so had to check in by 7am. This time, though, our motel was just 10 minutes down the road and the weather was clear. However, we found a scene of chaos at the terminal. Most of the  milling crowd seemed to be locals or regular truck drivers. They knew a bit about how it worked, but generally were as confused as we were. The ferry apparently was still in St. Barbe and our departure delayed by 1 - 2 hours. After parking more or less randomly, and lining up at the office for about 30 minutes we got our pass and were sent to park properly in a designated lane. Good thing we had books and puzzles handy. Eventually the ferry arrived, the long unloading and loading process was completed and we were on our way around 9:30. Today, where we saw the iceberg yesterday, we saw two. Yesterday's seemed like it had shrunk; the other one was lower and less-interesting.
Once off the ferry, we headed directly to L'Anse aux Meadows, the Viking site. It's at the northern tip of the western peninsula, so quite a drive. Much of it is along the coast, and we got another look at "our" two icebergs from a closer and different perspective. Once at our destination, we enjoyed a tailgate picnic and joined a guided walk around the site.
The history of this site and its discovery is fascinating. Parks Canada has done itself proud here. Our guide grew up in the neighbourhood and had lots of good yarns about the excavation process. We were reminded of some of the sites we visited 2 years ago on our Iceland cruise. There's a theme here of "closing the circle": As humans migrated north out of Africa, some groups moved westward and populated Europe, while others moved eastward and populated first, Asia, then crossed the land bridge to the Americas. When the Vikings and the aboriginal North Americans came in contact, humans had encircled the globe, in a record-breaking 90-100,000 years.

We checked into the Haven Inn in St. Anthony, had cocktails in our room and a very nice dinner in the dining room. It was a long, chilly, cloudy day with lots of walking at L'Anse aux Meadows, so we're ready for an early night.
[ Sorry pictures have taken so long.  One thing in NL is that hotel/motel wifi is abysmal. Worse that a cruise ship.  To get these up I have resorted to using my cell as an internet access point. LH ]

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Saturday 20 July - St. Anthony to Cow Head

After breakfast we made our way to the dock for the Northland Discovery Boat Tour. We checked in with Leslie, a local resident who is a business student in St. John's. She told us about local life and student life. Lovely young woman. The tour was amazing! Great views of the coastline, light house, bird nesting areas, and fabulous sightings of humpback whales!

  We cruised along with two of them for quite awhile and saw another one in the distance. They stay in the area all summer, coming back every year, so are known to the crew and comfortable around the boat. Watching them was worth this whole trip all in itself. Our guide was  very knowledgeable and entertaining. We learned about the gardens, the stacks of logs and the lobster pots we saw along the highway. And of course lots about the marine and bird life of the area.

The St. Anthony Hospital is right across the road from the dock, so we stopped in there to see the famous murals in the rotunda. Well worth the stop.

It was a 3 1/2 hour drive to Cow Head and we wanted to stop for lunch. We saw no restaurants for the first 90 minutes, but finally found the L&E Restaurant and enjoyed a good meal.
We were back on the route we'd come north on, so saw "our" icebergs one last time. They must be the last of the season, since we saw none farther north. So our timing was good -- the whales were late arriving this year and have been around only a short while and the icebergs are nearly finished but we saw both! Yaaaaay!
At Cow Head in Gros Morne National Park, we checked into our B&B, then secured tickets for tomorrow evening for a traditional Newfoundland music show. Nice to be somewhere for 2 nights. Feet up! Wine poured! AAAAAAAH!

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Sunday 21 July - Gros Morne National Park

We enjoyed a view of the ocean from our breakfast table, then were on our way through the park to Norris Point for a 2-hour boat tour of the two fiords of Bonne Bay.
We spotted several bald eagles and there was a large flock of gannets. There was a minke whale in the area, and a few people, including Larry, caught a glimpse of it. But the real attraction was the incredible landscape. High mountains, deep, cold water, tablelands that are a "chemical desert" and vertical geological layers. The very entertaining guides explained it all and told stories about the small villages along the shore -- some of which may even have been true.

As we returned to the harbour we were treated to live folk music. Just up the road we found The Old House Cafe, where we enjoyed lunch. It's run by a young woman who knows her stuff - good food, cute surroundings, local delicacies, home baking.

We rounded off the afternoon with a walk on the Western Brook Pond Trail. Many beautiful wildflowers and lots of flies. After picnicking in our room, we ended the day at a performance of Neddy Norris Night, right across the street at the Gros Morne Theatre Festival. It's a collection of traditional Newfoundland and Labrador songs and story-telling, served up by 5 very talented performers, who kept the audience clapping, laughing and toe-tapping for 90 fun minutes.

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Monday 22 July -- Cow Head to Gander

Before breakfast we took a short jaunt to the Shallow Bay Beach, one of very few sandy beaches in Newfoundland. The whole park area was deserted, so we enjoyed the tranquility as we watched a mama duck lead her offspring on a swim. They're getting big! After breakfast we were back out on the Viking Trail, driving south through Gros Morne Park and on to Deer Lake. It was wet and foggy -- apparently moose-worthy conditions. This time the moose ran out in front of the car ahead of us. There was lots of fast braking and skidding but no damage. I do hope these things don't come in threes! Not sure the  heart could take another encounter. The weather varied constantly, from bright sun to pouring rain and back. Traffic was heavier than we've seen all week. Scenery not so exciting. We stopped in Grand Falls for lunch and couldn't find any interesting restaurants that were open, so the choices came down to Chinese and all the usual fast foods. We opted for Tim's.
Near Gander we visited the North Atlantic Aviation Museum. It depicts the history of the Gander Airport from its origins in the 1930s to the very moving story of Gander's 9-11 response. Four aircraft are displayed on the lawn, one of which is

the Beechcraft Expediter, on which Larry worked when he was in the Air Force Auxiliary. We checked into Sinbad's Hotel for the night, happy to be off the road.

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Tuesday 23 July -- Gander to Twillingate to Clarenville

We shared the breakfast room with a bus tour group this morning, but just as we sat down, they all disappeared as if by magic! We know how that works. Very much enjoying setting our own pace.
We drove straight north to Twillingate, and started at the Long Point Lighthouse. We admired the scenery and toured the Titanic exhibit. We were each given a ticket with the name of a real passenger and at the end found out whether or not we survived. I did; Larry didn't.

We started back and stopped at the Prime Berth museum. What a trip down memory lane for both of us! It's a private collection of buildings and artifacts from the area, dating back to the time of our parents and grandparents. We both remember similar things from time spent in Gaspe and the Bruce Peninsula.

Putting this together was a labour of love and well worth the visit. We decided to take the long way to Clarenville, by the coast road. Lovely vistas of forest and shoreline, small towns with colourful houses. And a  picnic spot with tables and lots of flies.

We had a quick lunch, talked to the young people staffing the nearby Carmanville Wetland Interpretation Centre, and were on our way. The Quality Hotel at Clarenville turned out to be a real treat. It's been recently renovated from top to bottom and they did a terrific job. Our room is spacious, comfortable and very attractive. We had dinner at the in-house restaurant, Emma's, and it was delicious and very reasonably priced. Nice 2-night stop.

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[LH: ...and finally wonderful internet again and the photo processing is a breeze]


Wednesday 24 July -- Trinity and Bonavista

Our circuit of the Bonavista Peninsula was awesome! Certainly a highlight of this vacation. Our first stop was the town of Trinity, where we parked and strolled around the streets. I was interested to watch builders painting and installing real clapboard siding on a new building.
As I looked around, I realized that this historic town does not have the vinyl siding we've seen so much of elsewhere. I love the traditional, colourful buildings and the beautiful gardens. We spent some time in the very interesting

Trinity Museum. I am always attracted to hand-made items like embroidered samplers and hooked rugs. Larry is intrigued by the technology, whether it's the bits and pieces of ships' equipment or the first transatlantic telegraph cable (that worked well for 25 days, then quit for good).

The Anglican Church (3rd on the site) is huge and lovely, with lots of wood and stained glass. In its cemetery we found headstones with dates in the 1770s and earlier.

Leaving Trinity, we drove to the end of the Peninsula, to the light house. Again we heard the very personal story of a family of light keepers, and saw their home restored to the 1890s. We climbed to the light and saw its mechanism.

But the biggest thrill was the whales! As we drove up, I could see them on both sides of the end of the peninsula. After the lighthouse tour we watched them for a half hour or so. There were very many of them feeding along the shore and farther out. Sometimes we could see 6 or 8 at the same time. When we were walking to the cliffside, one excited little girl on her way back regaled us with an account of what we would see -- "They breech, they dive! There are SO many of them! It's so wonderful! You'll love it!". She was 100% correct.

Leaving the whales, we returned to the town of Bonavista for a late cod and chips lunch at the brand-new Ragged Rocks Gastropub, followed by cupcakes across the street at Morely Cupcakes. All delicious.

The drive back to the hotel took us through several small communities in amazingly scenic coves.

No moose sightings today but we saw a fox beside the road.   Time to put our feet up.

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Thursday 25 July -- Clarenville to St. John's

We made a leisurely departure from the hotel for the drive to St. John's. It was very foggy and a bit drizzly, and there was far more traffic than we've seen since this trip started. When we got to the Delta St. John's, we were delighted to discover that our room was ready for us, so we picnicked in the room before heading out.
At Signal Hill we didn't have much of a view because of the fog or low clouds, but still enjoyed looking around. Larry chatted with the Ham Radio operator in the tower, and we read up on Marconi's feats.

There were young people in a variety of military uniforms of different eras, just dispersing from a display of some kind near the lower parking lot.
We drove around Quidi Vidi, but didn't find a parking place, so just took in the colour and atmosphere from the car.
We enjoyed a lobster dinner at the hotel, topped off by figgy duff, a traditional Newfoundland dessert. I really liked it. Larry was less enthusiastic. A nice quiet day and very comfortable hotel.

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Friday 26 July -- Birds, Whales &The Irish Loop

The Delta started us (and a large number of young US military personnel -- don't know why they're here) off with a nice buffet breakfast,
then we set out for Bay Bulls for puffin and whale watching. While we were waiting for our boat tour, we chatted with another couple who've followed the identical itinerary to ours. Funny we haven't met up before. They've seen more moose, but not from as close as we have, and they spotted the same fox on the Bonavista circuit. Onboard the Gatherall Gaffer V, we were treated to some live Newfoundland music while we cruised to Gull Island.
There we saw several kinds of birds, whose names I've all forgotten except the puffins. They burrow into the cliffside to nest and hatch their young. There were thousands of birds and we were quite close, so it was noisy and smelly.

Then we moved out into open water where we quickly spotted two Humpback Whales. They stayed close for quite awhile, but were in resting mode, so lots of good views but no tails or dramatic leaps. We saw a few others in the distance, then as we returned to the dock, we were entertained by dolphins cavorting around the boat.
We decided to drive the complete Irish Loop of the southeastern part of the Avalon Peninsula.

We'd heard you could whale-watch from the beach at St. Vincent's, but when we got there low-hanging clouds obscured the view, though we could see birds diving into the waves. The scenery was lovely, marred only by the scene of a terrible head-on collision. We'd met two ambulances racing toward town, so were not too surprised when we reached the scene. It looked very bad, so we hope everyone involved will be OK. Our only other stop was for lunch at the poetically-named Celtic Knot restaurant. I tried the traditional Newfoundland Pea Soup (yum!) followed by a traditional dessert that I think was called Snack and a Half (just looked it up; it's Snack na Half). Larry had scallops and fries followed by blueberry pie. Loved it!
We've just one more day here, and of course always look forward to home, but this has been a great vacation.

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Saturday 27 July Cape Spear, St. John's, Home

Of course, on this last morning, we awoke to bright sunshine.  And it was lovely and warm too.  Our first mission for the day was to donate our picnic equipment, so we found a Salivation Army Thrift Shop and did that, then headed back to Signal Hill.
We were just in time to see the Tattoo -- a representation of Newfoundland's military history from the 16th century through world War One.  Most of the participants are high school or university students.  We also watched the excellent video of the history of Signal Hill and particularly the people who have lived there.  There was no parking available at the top of the hill, so we saw what we could in 2 circuits of the parking area,

and went on our way to Cape Spear.  It's not only the most easterly point in North America, but also the oldest lighthouse in Newfoundland.  We climbed to it and toured it, then took in the view of the Atlantic, including several distant whales.

We found another outlook a little down the road and finished off our food supplies while we enjoyed the ocean serenity with time to spare before our flight,

we drove to Tor Bay for more views of ocean, cliffs and birds to say nothing of several hikers on the cliff hiking paths.  Then back to the airport, dinner and on our way home.  This was a wonderful vacation.  We love Newfoundland and its people.  It was a lot of driving - 3000+ km in 12 days, but worth it to have the freedom.  I think we're hooked on self-drive vacations, and we would certainly recommend Atlantic Tours for anyone wanting to do one in this part of the world.

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