Friday, July 16, 2010

Newfoundland: July 15-16, 2010

We take a cab to George St. and admire the sculpture on the corner: a bronze tribute to musicians - guitar, fiddle, singers; it's a glorious and joyful depiction. We're a little early and the street is quiet. We can't be screeched in at Trapper John's yet, so Mike, Rita, Vince and I walk up the sidewalk until we hear some music. Irish songs belted out by Fergus O'Byrne entice us in. We don't leave. Eventually, Wendy, Dennis, Carolyn and Jim find us and join in for the last part of the set. Fabulous Newfoundland ballads and sad Irish tales told in a rhythm that has us clapping and singing along. We're entertained through one of the songs by a step dancer, who clicks his heels to our encouragement. By now, O'Reilly's Pub is jammed with tourists and locals, everyone enjoying themselves immensely. When Fergus's set ends, we spill back out onto the street, where the crowds have gathered. Throngs of visitors are touring, led by drummers. Now the music waves all around us from open doors, pubs and restaurants are teeming, the place has an open beat that reminds me of Nashville. We head to Trapper John's and get screeched in! We're now honorary Newfoundlanders with the certificates to prove it. There's much laughter and hollering all round. We meet people from Barrie and Brampton. Later we go to the Yellowbelly Pub for dinner. Vince has trouble remembering a few things and I am laughing to see him, usually so sober, staggering and giggling.
July 16
It dawns a gorgeous day: breezy, fresh, sunny, a blue sky etched with white fluffy clouds. We have an amazing breakfast thanks to Chef Todd (the Chef of Chef's Inn), then off we go to Cape Spear. It's the most easterly point in North America - stand here with your back to the sea and the entire population of the continent is west of you. At the seashore, the wind is whipping us with a pleasant salty warmth. Cugina tells us we can open our presents now and inside, we each find a colourful kite. I unfurl the line and my kite bobs in the wind, blue and red against the sun. It's a flash of childhood, a moment of feeling completely joyous, watching the breezes catch the little diamond of cloth and whip it around next to the clouds. Cugina is a genius!
Up and up we climb the steps toward the lighthouse. Buttercups and purple irises line the pathway. Now we are above the beach and can look out from the other side of the harbour. Suddenly we see a familiar spout, a puff of water into the sky, and up come the whales, their backs glistening in the sun. The wind howls up here, but it's still warm. White waves crash against the shore on the other side. We stand for a very long time, just staring at the ocean, its fierce beauty laid out at our feet. Vince says he could sit here all day and I agree.
We go on a tour of the lighthouse. It was built in 1832 and has been restored, so we can see how the family lived. A very small home, but neat, with everything in its place and useful. The light is at the very top. The guides explain how they used sperm whale oil to light wicks in candles before electricity. Plus they had to keep the timer going every couple of hours. All day they'd have to clean the glass of the candles because of the soot. Sailors could tell which lighthouse they were approaching by the intervals of light and dark: this one had 17 s of light and 43 of dark. There are numerous flags stored here and when we ask what they were for, the guide tells us how the lighthouse keeper also signalled the townspeople when a ship was approaching the harbour. The different flags would tell them what ship it was and therefore what cargo was being transported to town, so the people could get ready for the trade.
We reluctantly come back down the hill, but now we are headed a little further south to Petty Harbour. It's very picturesque and has been used in a number of films. We visit Herbie's Olde Shoppe, a craft store, and the woman tell us all about the oil rig tragedy in the 1980's as well as the story of the mummers at Christmas. Hills ring the town, the trees are a chaotic collection of evergreen. Ships dot the harbour, but it's quiet today; maybe they're mostly out to sea. We walk around to an old church cemetery, where the graves date back to the 1800's. Lunch is fresh crab and cold beer at Chafe's Inn.
Later we get some supplies at Bigood's and return to St. John's, where we visit The Rooms Museum. It's a beautiful, open collection of glass spaces. It's fashioned after the idea of the fishing rooms or buildings where fish were processed and nets stored, which used to dot the shorelines. Each of the rooms tells us a story of Newfoundland, about its people, its history, its nature. We love it. There is one gallery display that is a photo essay about oil, our dependency on it and what damage it has wreaked on the earth. Despite the heartbreaking story, each picture is beautiful in its wickedness.
Back at the Chef's Inn, I lay down to read a bit and fall fast asleep for a lovely refreshing nap!
At 6:45 we set off for Bacalau, where they advertise nouvelle newfoundland cuisine. They are not wrong in their descriptions. The food is traditional, but cooked with flare and creativity. It's delicious and fun.
When we get back to the Inn, we are treated to a Kitchen Party. Bill and Wanda's friends, Jean and Tom, greet us with hugs. Then out come the guitars, the piano, the accordian, and the spoons. We sing of love, politics, religion and the land. We laugh and dance, joke and allow tears to slip now and then. It's an amazing time! Jean and Tom ask when we are coming back to Newfoundland and we say SOON. We learn a few more phrases such as "the arse has gone all out of 'er".
So here I am a four a.m., typing instead of sleeping. Damn that napping and the specialty coffee for dessert. Shoulda had the decaf!
Post a Comment