Saturday, August 4, 2012

The Walker on the Cape – in Newfoundland

Several of my posts have been about St Pierre and Miquelon, the French islands south of Newfoundland’s Burin Peninsula in Canada. My last post mentioning them was on January 19, 2012 in my post about selecting travel destinations, click here to see it. As I explained in that post, I had wished to visit these islands since childhood, the last remaining French territory in North America, and finally visited them in 2008. I had stamps from these islands in my collection and was intrigued by them – because as it says on the top stamp on the left below, it was France in North America.

The posts on St Pierre and Miquelon can be found by clicking on the index on my blog on the right under that name. On August 22, 2010 I wrote a Blog Intermission post entitled An Island – une île, with a poem and photos of various islands, click here to see it. I had included the photo of the Grand Bank lighthouse taken later on an afternoon and which is now at the top of this post. Below is the same lighthouse taken around noon the same day.

In May 2012 I received an email from a Mr. Mike Martin asking if he could use the photo of the Grand Bank lighthouse – the one at the top of this post – for the cover of his upcoming book, a mystery set in Grand Bank, Newfoundland. I answered him that he could and to send me a copy of his book when it was published. In early July Mike Martin sent me another email saying that his book had been published and would I like a copy. Yes, indeed I replied. Here is the book below "The Walker on the Cape" – and my photograph on the cover, with the special effect, looks a lot better than my original picture.

click on the collage to enlarge it then click on each picture to biggify it and read about it
The Walker on the Cape
I had also asked him to autograph the book for me, and he did. I have not read the book yet but am looking forward to it as I enjoy a good mystery and one set in Newfoundland will be a first for me.

Along the years I had looked at ways to go and visit St Pierre et Miquelon from Atlanta, but I had to go to Paris and visit my mother – St Pierre was not on the way and it was expensive to take a flight from Halifax or Montreal. When I retired though I tried again to see how we could visit the islands. We had enough frequent flyers miles to get a round-trip flight to St. John’s, Newfoundland.

From there it looked like if we rented a car and drove down the Burin Peninsula to Fortune in southern Newfoundland, we could take a ferry to St. Pierre. So this is what we did. Below is a vintage postcard of St Pierre and Miquelon islands. On the extreme right you can see Terre-Neuve (New Land, the French name for Newfoundland) and Fortune above it.

I frankly did not know much about Newfoundland. I read a bit about it and found out it is quite a large island. It has an area of 108,860 square kilometers or 42,031 square miles. It is a little less than the area contained in Denmark, Belgium and the Netherlands combined. You can see St Pierre et Miquelon in the bottom center of the map with Grand Bank across on the right.

We arrived late in the evening in St. John’s, the capital of Newfoundland, and stayed the night. The next morning we drove toward the Burin Peninsula. I was very surprised by the landscape. I frankly had never seen anything like it. There was one road, called the Trans-Canada Highway, with hardly any cars on it. It is one of the longest highways in the world as it goes from Newfoundland, across Canada, and ends in Victoria, Vancouver Island in British Columbia. I’d love to drive on this “Route Transcanadienne” all 8,030 kms or 4,990 miles of it. Everything looked so green – no trees, just shrubs and many little lakes or ponds were on both sides of the highway. We drove carefully as we had been told that numerous moose were on the roadsides and could cross unexpectedly. You can see the road on the top left of the photo below.

The distance between St John’s and Fortune is 363 kms – 226 miles or 5 hours, but we had a Bed and Breakfast reservation in a town on the way, called Marystown. We stopped for lunch at a gas station restaurant – actually the first one we had seen (and the last one until Marystown.) I still remember that I had cod with cod’s tongue and cod’s cheeks. It was very tasty. I was not taking many photos at the time as I had just purchased my new digital camera. I loved the scenery of rolling heaths and bogs.

Newfoundlanders call their island “The Rock” because it is a giant rock. There is little topsoil so the trees are very short and stunted by their exposure to the strong elements and winds. Here we are below taking a break from driving.

Vikings came here in the 11th century – Viking Leif Eriksson called the land “Vinland” then John Cabot called it “new found isle” in 1497. Portuguese and French called it Terra Nova or Terre Neuve and Newfoundland.

Newfoundland was British until 1949 and then became the 10th province of the Canadian Confederation. Since 2001 the province is officially called Newfoundland and Labrador, but most people call is Newfoundland only.

This island has been inhabited for thousands of years and traces of people go back to 9,000 years ago. In 1960, Norwegian explorers discovered the only authenticated Norse settlement in North America dating to about the year 999.

Norse settlement at L’Anse aux Meadows (courtesy Toronto Sun)

Native Americans from this island were the Beothuk (now extinct) and the Mi’kmaq. One interesting note about the Mi’kmaqs – when I was a child in Paris and played “Indians and cowboys” with my little friends I called myself a “Micmac” Indian. I don’t know where in 1945 I could have ever heard the name if at all. My friend’s brother told me I invented the name, that there were no such Indians in the USA. I said that maybe they were in Texas. He said I should be a Sioux or Apache because these were true Indians. We had fights about it and I always wanted to stay a Micmac. So, when I read about Newfoundland and found out that the Mi’kmaqs were indeed a First Nation from Newfoundland, I was thrilled – who knew

Queen Elizabeth is greeted by Mi'kmaq First Nations Grand Chief Ben Sylliboy and his daughter Christina Sylliboy, in 2010 (Courtesy Reuters)

On our second day in Newfoundland we drove to Fortune and bought our ticket for a round-trip passage to St. Pierre. We looked around but it is not a large town – they had some interesting fire hydrants though.

It was early so we drove back to Grand Bank - 7 kms or 4.3 miles away. The French used Grand Bank as a fishing station as early as 1650. Fishing was the major industry for centuries until the death of the cod fishing industry in the 1990s (because of over fishing.) Fishing was done in the inshore and near offshore of the Grand Banks, which are shallow plateaus.

Grand Banks Fishermen by Barbara Furhovde, Canadian, contemporary

We parked the car and walked around. This was in August but we did not see hardly any tourist. I just realized that I am standing near the painting of the man, left on the wall on the photo taken near the parking area, top center of collage below.

Historic Grand Bank has some lovely houses painted vivid colors. I would have liked to stay at the Bed and Breakfast facing the harbor (below, behind my husband – top left) a Queen Anne revival style home built in 1917 by Captain John Thornhill, a famous fisherman.

But it was getting close to lunch and the "Sharon’s Nook Tea Room" looked inviting. We ate a delicious lunch there and a great dessert. There even was a book signing of Mike Martin’s Walker on the Cape at this tea room today.

After lunch we walked around some more and stopped in front of a colorfully painted building.

Then we walked back toward the Thornhill house in front of the port and lighthouse and our car. It was a short drive back to Fortune – we were still early and sat with the other few tourists to wait for our ferry to St Pierre. Then our Atlantic Jet ferry arrived (carrying foot passengers only.)

There have been about 500,000 tourists visiting Newfoundland last year, which is a large increase but still not a large number when you consider that 81.4 million tourists visited France last year as well. I heard that you either love or hate Newfoundland. I loved it and hope to return there someday. I can’t describe the feeling I had when visiting Newfoundland – it is like being in an unblemished land, unsullied by humanity – a different atmosphere, miles from malls, traffic and people – a mystical quality in the air – a primeval purity if you will.


Vicki Lane said...

Newfoundland is a place I'd love to visit -- as are the two French islands. Thank you for the fine post, Vagabonde!

Cloudia said...

A wonderful post that should be an online resource for many years!

Have a Sweet Weekend -
Aloha from Waikiki
Comfort Spiral

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Mary said...

........I love anywhere that has"a mystical quality in the air'. I'm beginning to love visiting places where there are fewer tourists, where nature is at the forefront and provides the music with birds and animals, and scenery with very little manmade structures to encroach on all the natural beauty.

I know about the French islands from the haunting movie 'The Widow of Saint-Pierre' with beautiful Juliette Binoche' and have always thought it would be great to go there. Now you've shared how to get there - thank so much, I'll put it in my wish list!

Great post as always dear - thanks for sharing another great spot in our world.

Mary X

Pondside said...

That was lovely, Vagabonde. I have never visited the islands, but my grandfather, who was a pharmacist apparently did business supplying the pharmacy there in the 1930's and traveled there often. I remember when he died, finding ticket stubs and the odds and ends of trips he'd made to the French Islands.
I think I'd be thrilled to have a book with one of my photos as the cover! Well done!

Kay said...

I've only been to PEI, but now you're making me think I need to go back and see Newfoundland too. Your photos are so beautiful.

GaynorB said...

A fascinating post. An excellent advertisement for the islands.
Thank you.

✿France✿ said...

Je viens te dire bonjour et j'espère que tu vas bien ainsi que ta famille
Je t'embrasse

Steffi said...

I would love to visit Newfoundland!What a nice place!Your post is really interesting!

Diane said...

As always an interesting post. That is great having your photo on the cover of a book. I just love those fire hydrants, so much more interesting that the plain red we have here. Bonne journée. Diane

Jenny Woolf said...

As always your text is enhanced by wonderful pictures. I've always wanted to go there in the snow. I had a friend who used to visit relatives there in winter and she used to rave about it so much I wanted to see for myself.

Sam Hoffer / My Carolina Kitchen said...

How exciting about your photograph of the lighthouse on the cover. Congratulations.

You do an incredible job with your posts and they could be a book themselves.

Newfoundland looks like a lovely place to visit. Even the Queen has a smile on her face.

Perpetua said...

Another wonderful post, Vagabonde. You have the enviable ability to capture the essence of a place in words and images and make us want to go there too. Your photos remind me of parts of North-East Scotland and the Orkneys - wide, open landscapes of moorland and water.

Jeanne said...

You have really "captured" this spot , and love all of your photographs! Have been missing your posts for some reason, but really enjoyed this. Love those stamps!

chlost said...

We had a trip all planned out to visit the island, but had to change it at the last minute. I think we will have to try again. I have always been fascinated by them, as well. I love your photos. And, I do remember hearing about the "Micmac" Indians as a child. But I had forgotten about that until I read your post. How fun to see your photo on a book cover! Does it list you on the photo credit?

OldLady Of The Hills said...

What a wonderful post! What a wonderful trip...You and your dear husband cover a lot of ground when you travel...And that is just so amazing. Sharing this all with us is a great gift! Thank You, my dear.

How wonderful that a photo of yours has been used on the cover of a book! Very Exciting!

I love the last things you said about Newfoundland--that it is, in essence, untouched by so many of the mundane awful things of our world. Like Malls, etc., etc., etc.

Emm in London said...

What a fascinating post! I had no idea about this piece of Newfoundland or Canadian history from the Vikings to the French to the British. I find it intriguing about the lack of top soil preventing trees from growing! Lovely pictures and a lovely post.

Fennie said...

I have visited Newfoundland on - literally - a flying visit. Cubana airlines touched down in St Johns for an hour or so and I exchanged some French francs for dollars. For some reason I was rather surprised that it was so easy. The sun was shining and the place seemed relaxed and friendly. The Shipping News is a filn set in Newfoundland, isn't it? And of course there are the dogs of which I have owned two. Lovely sagacious creatures, but quite impractical if you have any notions of a tidy house.

Frances said...

Vagabonde, as always, you have given us a lovely, informative post, with your unique take on a special place. You've granted us all a very good invitation to visit Newfoundland.

Thank you very much also for all those close up views of the beautiful stamps. I remember as a child sort of inheriting an abandoned stamp album and collection of stamps from an older relative. Those colors and images and languages and differing currencies encouraged me to think beyond the boundaries of my own county and state.

Perhaps they still do. I am also a fan of various practitioners of "stamp art" such as the late Donald Evans. How wonderful to dream up stamps issued by fictitious countries, commemorating events or personages that you also create.


Thank you, dear Vagabonde. xo

Ginnie said...

I know I would LOVE visiting Newfoundland, Vagabonde. My kind of place. And I love that you called yourself a “Micmac” Indian long before you really knew. It was your destiny! :)

Dee said...

Dear Vagabonde, had we met and you asked me where I could go to stand on French soil, I would of course said I'd need to fly to France. I never, ever, realized that France still had land here in North America.

Thank you for sharing that info and for showing us those beautiful stamps. Now I have a new place--Newfoundland and the two French Islands--to think about as travel destinations. Peace.

soubriquet said...

Okay, now I'm waiting for the next episode. I also have been fascinated by StPierre et Miquelon.
There's something about islands I love, I've lived on a few.
I had not realised just how big Newfoundland is, it doesn't seem so big on the map....

Anyway, I'm waiting to see these two mystery islands, I've flown over them, but a bit too far up to take notice. And usually with cloud in between.

schmidleysscribblins, said...

Your photos and the paintings are beautiful. I discovered the islands of St Pierre and Miquelon years ago doing some geneology research on my family. One ancestor migrated from an island near the coast of France in 1650. Later I worked with statistical information about the islands for a Census Bureau project. Thanks for writing about them. Dianne

rhymeswithplague said...

What a fascinating post, Vagabonde! I especially like the photographs, the postcards, the stamps, your narrative...what's not to like? All of it is excellent.

Thank you for visiting my blog today. I think I visited yours a couple of years ago but from now on I intend to make it a regular stop on my blog itinerary.

I love the word "biggify" -- did you make it up? Enlarge is what I would have said, but biggify is so much better.

I also love the fire hydrants in Fortune.

If you ever find yourself at the other end of the Trans-Canadian Highway in Victoria, British Columbia, I can personally recommend the James Bay Tea Room.

This is Belgium said...

what a great and detailed story !
my very favorite part is Mr Mike Martin asking for your photograph for the cover ! great !!
I love the way the book looks (the cover + autograph) and hope it will be a good read !

joared said...

Enjoyed your commentary and Newfoundland photos. I became intrigued with the country when I read "Shipping News," later I made a point of seeing the movie based on that book. What a delight to have your lighthouse photo chosen to be the cover for a book, that you were able to meet the author, and could finally visit the country. Sounds like the mystery would be an interesting read.

Treasure these travels you're making with your husband. Our later years my husband and I expected to take driving trips but his health precluded our doing so. Companions who enjoy such activities seem rare.

The transCanada highway is most appealing. The Canadian train that travels coast to coast was a trip we thought would be attractive, but never took.

Trust all went well with your recent hospital experience. Noting that your birth language was French though you are fluent in English is a bit of information worth sharing whether or not circumstances increase its significance.

Friko said...

a most interesting place, you do it justice.

If ever you want to drive that Trans-Canadian Highway on your own, call me and I'll join you.

Kittie Howard said...

Thank you for this fantastic post. I've visited Newfoundland once, but not long enough to capture the spirit of the island and would love to return. I know little about St. Pierre and am off to read your previous posts. You have the most amazing travels!

Elaine said...

I enjoyed reading about Newfoundland, and how exciting to have one of your photos on the cover of a book! Looks like a good read.

Rosemary said...

How wonderful that one of your photos was used on the cover of the book. That would never have happened pre:blogging, one of the many advantages of making contact with so many different people from around the world.
I have visited Nova Scotia so I imagine that the terrain is very similar. I have written two posts about the trip but have yet to publish them.
A good and interesting read - thank you

Sheila said...

As always an interesting post Vagabonde. You always visit the most fascinating places. I have lived in Canada for 46 years and have seen more of the USA than of this country. I'm beginning to think it is time to change that.

Jeanie said...

How exciting to have your photo on the cover of a book! That's wonderful.

Newfoundland looks most beautiful. It's a spot I'd like to visit someday. And I do love those postage stamps!

Reader Wil said...

Thank you for this post! I think I would also like Newfoundland. I love the Norwegian connection!
Thanks for your visit and comment. Yes, religion can be very bad if people are forced to convert to another religion. It happens in all religions.

claude said...

Quel post intéressant, Vagabonde !
Je n'irai pas vivre à Saint Pierre ni à Miquelon à cause du climat mais que ce doit être intéressant à visiter.
Bien ta photo sur la couverture d'un livre qu'on t'offre avec en prime la dédicace de l'auteur.

ruma said...

Hello, Vagabonde.

  Awe inspiring your works...

  Thank you for visiting my blog.
  I am honored to your visit.

  The prayer for all peace.

Have a good weekend. From Japan, ruma❃

Rosaria Williams said...

You capture just the right details to allow us to experience this journey with you, Vagabonde. Thank you!

Jenn Jilks said...

I love the east coast, and the west.
Cheers from Cottage Country!

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