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Impressions of Newfoundland
by Margaret Deefholts
for Travel Writers’ Tales

Photo 1. Smooching a dead cod

A warm glow suffuses me as I pucker up to kiss him. He stares back at me, cold and glassy-eyed. Despite the indifferent response, I am a-tingle! After all its not every day that one earns honorary Newfoundlander status by swallowing a shot of neat Screech (rum), and smooching a dead codfish.

The traditional Royal Order of Newfoundland Screechers’ dinner ceremony for visitors who have “come from away” is the perfect conclusion to my stay in Canada’s most delightfully idiosyncratic Province—one that has been on my bucket list for several years.

Screech-in dinner aside, however, there are other unique culinary delights that Newfoundlanders offer their guests, at least one of which is a tongue-in-cheek treat—a cod’s tongue-and-cheek, that is. And then there’s a Jiggs dinner. Jiggs was a character in the old comic strip, “Bringing Up Father” but how this relates to a meal consisting of sliced salt meat, cabbage, turnip, carrots, potatoes and a thick glob of peas pudding, is beyond me.

Photo 4. Jiggs’ Dinner

Photo 4a. Battered cod’s tongue

But to go back to the beginning: my two week trip is in the company of a group of active and adventurous seniors drawn from across Canada, and we get acquainted over a welcome meal organized by Senior Discovery Tours and our guide and supremely efficient tour manager, Sandra.

Photo 6. Lobster traps

Photo 11. Fishermen’s Dock

Photo 20. Village of Quidi Vidi

Photo 20a. Quidi Vidi Fishing Village

Newfoundland is a land of seafarers, where the Atlantic heaves and broods, or roars along rocky shores below its many tall lighthouses. Gros Morne park is dominated by its plateau-like mountain, and our route takes us along a road, that winds through undulating countryside. We drive by inlets, their waters lapping gently against pebbled shores, and fishing villages with lobster traps stacked against wharfs and boat docks.

Photo 5. Iconic Newfoundland lighthouse, Twillingate

Photo 21 En route to Cape Spear

For all the Province’s small rural settlements, with their pretty cottages and gardens, life hasn’t been easy for Newfoundlanders. The fishing industry has declined and although other employment avenues have now opened up—the tourism industry for one—the average family continues to live frugally. Nonetheless life is enjoyed to the hilt with festivals and celebrations throughout the year, and hospitality that knows no bounds.

Photo 21a Cape Spear: Easternmost point of Canada

Photo 22. Country Lane

There’s no better example of the Islanders rollicking sense of fun than the party aboard the ‘MV Em-Cat’. As we cruise Bonne Bay in Gros Morne park, our Captain shares droll yarns about our rugged surroundings and then he and the crew grab guitars and a squeezebox and belt out toe-tapping Newfoundland ditties. The popular “I’se the B’y” has us clapping and kicking up our heels!

Photo 23. Anchor’s Aweigh singing “I’se the B’y” on the Bonne Bay Cruise.

The lingo is charming. “Where’s y’longs to?” (where are you from?) asks a friendly cashier at a corner grocery store. “I was shitbaked” (terrified) says one of our local guides, as he recounts encountering a rambunctious moose at close quarters. At a restaurant I am told, “Sorry, the place is blocked.” Blocked? Seeing my blank look, the hostess hastily adds ‘Y’know...full. But don’t go away sweetheart— a table will clear soon.”

Photo 2. Auk Island Winery ceiling

Photo 2a. Auk Island Winery

Photo 2b. Auk Island Winery words of wisdom

Photo 3. Auk Island Winery specialty ice-creams

Equally beguiling are the names of small hamlets. We drive by “Cow Head”, “Blow Me Down”, and even a village called “No Name”. And, where else but in Newfoundland would you find such romantic monikers as “Heart’s Delight”, “Heart’s Content” and “Heart’s Desire” all of which aren’t too far off from “Cupids”, “Dildo” and “Conception Bay”. Shouldn’t there be a “Makin’ Whoopee” too?

Photo 19. Entering Labrador

Photo 10. Church in Labrador

The notoriously capricious weather is typical: much of the time we have what one local guide describes as “mauzy” (muggy, sometimes foggy) July weather. There are sunny days where lazy clouds throw drifting shadows across fields, and when the rain comes, it is just a misty drizzle that softens landscapes into dreamy inlets and pale hills. Lovely in a fragile sort of way.

Grassy indentations on a sunlit knoll, mark the ‘footprints’ of houses and workshops of a 1000-year-old Norse settlement at L'Anse aux Meadows and the re-constructed sod-and-timber Viking village at nearby museum, brings the ghosts of the past to life.

Photo 7. L’Anse-aux-Meadows Viking settlemetn

Photo 8. Viking model home interior

The small town of Trinity has winding lanes flanked by cottages and banks of riotous purple fireweed and scarlet paintbrush.

Photo 12. Trinity lane

Photo 13. Pretty garden, Trinity

Photo 14. Trinity

A cliff teeming with tiny Puffin birds, and in the waters, a tribe of humpback whales cavort for our cameras at Witless Bay Reserve.

Photo 9. Coastal scene, St. John’s

Photo 15. Colourful houses in St. John’s

Photo 17. Government House, St. Johns

Photo 18. Cabot Tower, Signal Hill, St. John’s

“The Rooms” a four-floor Museum in St. John’s showcases a riveting exhibition of the Province’s culture, traditions, history and art– and across the street, in the convent of the Presentation Sisters, is an astounding sculpture: the marble Veiled Virgin who gazes at visitors through what appears to be a fine gauze-like veil draped over her face.

16. Veiled Virgin, St. John’s

I can’t wait to return.



Information: Seniors’ Discovery Tours:
“The Rooms” Museum, St. John’s:
L'Anse aux Meadows:
Anchors Aweigh Band:

PHOTOS by Margaret Deefholts

1. Smooching a dead cod to qualify as an honorary Newfoundlander
2. Auk Island Winery ceiling
2a. Auk Island Winery
2b. Auk Island Winery words of wisdom
3. Auk Island Winery specialty ice-creams
4. Jiggs’ Dinner
4a. Battered cod’s tongue
5. Iconic Newfoundland lighthouse, Twillingate
6. Lobster traps
7. L’Anse-aux-Meadows Viking settlement
8. Viking model home interior
9. Coastal scene, St. John’s
10. Church in Labrador
11. Fishermen’s Dock
12. Trinity lane
13. Pretty garden, Trinity
14. Trinity
15. Colourful houses in St. John’s
16. Veiled Virgin, St. John’s
17. Government House, St. Johns
18. Cabot Tower, Signal Hill, St. John’s
19. Entering Labrador
20. Village of Quidi Vidi
20a. Quidi Vidi Fishing Village
21 En route to Cape Spear
21a Cape Spear: Easternmost point of Canada
22. Country Lane
23. Anchor’s Aweigh singing “I’se the B’y” on the Bonne Bay Cruise.

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