This is the final instalment of my Newfoundland travelogue.
I realize now that I never said anything about our B&B so I'd like to give it a puff now. It was a great fit for us, because we're DIY sorts rather than wanting to be catered to. It was Foley's, in Tilting, and has four guest rooms and a self-serve set-up for food. We and the other guests had the run of the kitchen and some people even cooked fish (from the kwop) for their supper. A continental breakfast was supplied, which we augmented from our own supplies, stored in the communal fridge. We met interesting people over breakfast at the big dining room table, and I spent quite a while curled up in the sitting room with fascinating books about Tilting and Fogo which were lying around on the coffee table. The proprietors, Gerard and Darlene Foley, live across the road, and Gerard is a fount of information about Fogo and a great help for arranging outings. The B&B is a converted traditional Fogo house, so mind your head if you're tall, and the rooms are small but comfortable. There's even a tiny patio at the back of the house, mere steps from the ocean (or mud if the tide is out), where we enjoyed sitting mornings and evenings. Foley's made a great home base for us for the week we were on Fogo.
Here are a few things I wanted to show you from Fogo. We were not expecting Newfoundland to be notable for wildflowers, but on Fogo they were all over the place, most of them species we hadn't seen before. I wish I'd spent a little more time with the book on Newfoundland wildflowers that seemed to be everywhere (or at least in my aunt's home, her friend's family home, and our B&B), but that will have to wait until our next visit. I don't know what this pretty pink flower was: this was a patch near Tilting.
And I was hoping for this, a glimpse of the pitcher plant, the provincial flower of Newfoundland, deep burgundy, tall and waxy, with its cup of toxic water under the cap of petals (it's carnivorous!). We saw these beside the boardwalk to The Tower at Shoal Bay, and then every day we saw more and more as they came into bloom.
And wild irises are everywhere! We didn't notice them particularly at first, because only the leaves were showing and they are quite a bit smaller than the cultivated varieties, but as the days rolled on and the heat continued, more and more of them came into bloom. It seemed surreal to walk out to a rocky headland and suddenly find oneself in a patch of glorious blue irises. These ones were at Island Harbour, on a day when we went touring around the island by car.
And this was the same day, at Deep Bay. My dh's attention was caught by the colourful row of saws hanging on the wall and the caribou racks, but I loved the way one could see right through this fishing stage to the ocean beyond.
Behind it, below, you can see the tundra and rock on the north side of the harbour. It's not a hospitable landscape, and I can't imagine what it's like in the winter, but it's impressive.
And this was Deep Bay, too. I couldn't resist taking a snap of this quilt, one of many that we saw hanging out on clotheslines during our Fogo stay. In one sense, quilts are a big deal on Fogo, in evidence all over the place and a feature of island culture that the Fogo Island Inn, for instance, takes seriously. But in another sense, they aren't a big deal at all: they are used! These are not show quilts, to be coddled and stored in acid-free paper, but practical, warm bed coverings that are made from scraps and clothes. Some of my favourites I saw at Herring Cove Gallery, where Linda Osmond makes and sells quilts alongside her husband Winston Osmond, a local painter. She uses a lot of muslin for backgrounds and what she calls crimplene (and I know as polyester double-knit Fortrel) for appliqué. Some of her quilts are at the Fogo Island Inn, and the patterns she uses are often the ones seen at the Inn. I did like one of her own designs, which resembles a cod flake. I wish I'd had the chance to talk to her, but she wasn't around when we visited and I didn't want to impose on her by asking to see her specially.
And here are a few last Fogo images.
The house across the road from the B&B presented a fine colour hit on our last evening.
The sea is an overwhelming presence here, and the main reason we love Fogo so much. Here is a tidal pool on Oliver's Cove Head.
And surf there too.
As we were leaving the island, however, my aunt remarked that it was too bad that we hadn't seen any surf while we were there. My dear husband and I were a bit puzzled at that, since we saw lots of wave action on Fogo and spent quite a lot of time perched on rocks or turf gazing out at waves crashing on the rocks. Once we got back to the mainland, however, we had the chance to see what she meant. On our second to last day in Newfoundland, we asked my aunt to come with us on a tour of the South Shore, which meant that we drove a big loop around the Avalon peninsula, from St. John's down the east coast to Portugal Cove South, and then back up through Salmonier to St. John's again. As it happened, we caught the tail end of the surf produced by Hurricane Arthur, which had battered New Brunswick a few days earlier. And this, THIS was surf! It's perhaps hard to realize just how powerfully this water was moving, since I have nothing in the photos to give you a sense of scale, but trust me, these were big waves.
It was unbelievably exhilarating to stand on the shingle, braced against the wind, hearing the boom and roar of the crashing waves followed by the thunderous rattling of the shingle being dragged down the beach by the retreating waves. These photos were taken at St. Vincent's and at Peter's River (I apologize, I can't remember which were which, but they're just down the road from one another so perhaps it doesn't matter). We marvelled at the glorious colour of the sea between the breaking waves and the deeper water. My dear aunt was as gleeful as we were: she was so pleased that we'd seen from real surf at last. And of course we were both thinking of my Mum, the surf lover, and how she would have enjoyed this.
Just to back up a bit from this highlight of the day, the first stop we made was at Tor's Cove, a beautiful little place, with five islands offshore, running steeply down the hill from the highway to the sea. On the highway we saw a little road sign for a gallery and turned around to take a look. We'd stumbled upon a gem: a gallery (Five Islands Art Gallery) in an old schoolhouse, full of light from tall windows, and full also of art, much of it excellent. Dh had a great chat with Bill Coultas, who introduced us to the work of Jean-Claude Roy, about whom he's made a documentary. He pressed a DVD of the documentary into our hands, and we're so glad he did: we watched it last week and were astounded at what a marvellous painter he is. And I had a nice chat with Bill's wife, Sheila, who was busy hooking a rug, a triptych commemorating the sacrifice made by the Newfoundlanders at Beaumont Hammel during the First World War. We had never heard of this event, but since it's celebrated on July 1, we of course were in Newfoundland on the day this year, and the papers and the radio were full of material about it. I won't go into the details, but it's a compelling story, and I'm sure you'll find lots if you want to. And this rug, wow, it was stunning. Each of the three panels included the caribou that are the emblem of this regiment, but in shifting ways. I can't explain it adequately. But the colours and the painterliness and the skill of the work were memorable. She was working upside down (in order not to have to reach across the depth of the rug), with little more than a broad outline marked on the canvas to guide her, and she was blending colours and creating detail in a masterful way. She told me about a fibre arts conference coming up in the fall of 2015 in Gros Morne National Park, right the other side of Newfoundland, and it sounds intriguing. If you're interested have a look at the Newfoundland and Labrador Crafts Council website.
A hundred feet or so down the road from this gallery was another terrific enterprise: Running the Goat Press. This is a tiny, one-woman press (her name, I've since discovered, is Marnie Parsons), but such fun to visit. The owner was more than happy to show us her vintage presses (I think she has five or six) and to explain how the presses work.
I couldn't resist taking a snap of these engraved plates of illustrations. So beautiful, just as they are.
There were still other highlights of the day. One was a stop at Ferryland for lunch at the Tetley Tea House, mainly because of our waitress: sixteen years old, in her second week on the job, and immensely eager to do her best and make sure we enjoyed ourselves. Another was the visitors' centre at Portugal Cove South, the closest community to a rich deposit of rare fossils at Mistaken Point that has scientists wildly excited. We had seen some of the same displays at the Geo Centre in St. John's, but here there were other displays, mainly about shipwrecks, that also caught our eyes. One in particular featured an enlarged, striking engraving of a man being lowered on a rope over an immensely tall cliff below which wreckage and passengers of a ship were being dashed against the rocks. Dh had gotten into conversation with one of the guides, very young, who turned out to be an avid fisherman (they must have talked fishing for twenty minutes or more). As their conversation ended, this young man (who'd introduced himself as Nicholas Coombs) came over to where my aunt and I were standing and told us that the man in the engraving was his great-uncle and he was depicted retrieving bodies from the wreck. Nicholas said this with enormous and justifiable pride, and we were struck again by the depth of ties to family and to history that we encountered all over Newfoundland.
Another highlight was of a sort of emptiness. Once we got near the southern tip of the peninsula, the landscape changed into something we'd never encountered before: a vast, utterly empty expanse of turf and sky. This goes on for miles and miles, and is apparently noteworthy as habitat for caribou, of which we saw none. Mainly what it was full of was wind, blowing hard enough that it took some doing to get car doors open. The displays at the visitors' centre at Portugal Cove South told us that technically this ecosystem is known as "hyper oceanic tundra."
It was remarkable.
And thus we come to our last day, which we elected to spend back in downtown St. John's. We started out at Fort Amherst, purely on a whim, and discovered, when we'd walked all the way out to the lighthouse, that people staying in the guesthouses that once housed the lighthouse keeper and his assistant had been watching a lone humpback for a while. And sure enough, there it was, the closest whale we saw during our trip, lazily rising and diving, perhaps feeding on capelin. We watched for half an hour or so and were just about to leave when these people also told us that a tall ship was expected to leave the harbour any minute. So we waited, and sure enough, it turned up too. It was apparently a US Coast Guard training ship, and an impressive sight even though its sails were furled as it left the harbour.
Because the harbour mouth is so narrow, we had a brilliant view of the ship and we behaved like total tourists, waving to people onboard, who gamely waved back.
We decided not to paint here, but took some reference photos of the Battery on the opposite shore, hoping that dh will be able to do something with them in a painting when we got home. The pilot boat in the foreground is returning to harbour after escorting the tall ship through the narrows.
We went back downtown, and had yet another happy time at the Rocket Cafe (my third or fourth batch of their excellent fish cakes), then separated to paint. Dh set up right on the harbour, while I found a tall, cold iced tea and a convenient seat and counter right opposite one of the ships tied up at the pier. He painted, I painted, we met up and forgot to top up the meter, we shopped for souvenirs and gifts, we returned to find a ticket on the windshield of my aunt's car, and that was our day. Our very last day. (We've paid the ticket, by the way.)
We were struck by the friendliness of almost everyone we encountered and by the astounding beauty of the landscape. We were introduced to the work of artists we admire and will read more about, particularly Gerald Squires, Therese Frere, and Jean-Claude Roy. We loved St. John's, which is small enough to be easy to navigate, is full of terrific viewscapes, and boasts more interesting nooks and crannies than we had time to investigate. In fact, that is perhaps our biggest impression: we didn't have enough time to do and see everything we wanted to. I wasn't feeling well the day we visited The Rooms, an impressive structure that overlooks the city, combining the provincial archives, a museum, and an art gallery. I'd like to go back and give it the time it deserves. We didn't paint or draw the many-coloured row houses downtown, or walk through the Battery, or go on a whale-watching/iceberg-viewing/puffin encounter expedition. We missed galleries we wanted to see, we didn't hear any live music, we drove right past all kinds of inviting backroads we didn't have time to explore. We've pored over maps since we got home and are aware that we want to visit whole swathes of Newfoundland that we didn't get anywhere close to this trip. Thank heavens we have family to visit. And as wonderful as our vacation was, it was important mainly because of the time I spent with my dear aunt and her friends. We built lots of new memories together.
So, final thoughts. Newfoundland is astounding. Go there. I've used up all my superlatives. You'll have to take my word for it.