There are grand gestures in life. And grand landscapes and meals and people too. But, it’s often the small details that creep up on us and take all that grandness and bring it down to a scale that sticks in our minds and hearts. This theory is especially true when it comes to places.
Case in point, my recent travel in Newfoundland and Labrador. This is a place of grand size but it’s all its small details that have stuck in my mind and heart in the weeks since my visit. Whether it was a bit of homespun goodness like a cozy crazy quilt on your bed at night or the vivid colours in homes and landscapes, the fresh tastes of place, the turn of a phrase or the dramatic geography – I was completely charmed. I hope you’ll read on to see what I mean.
Jelly bean bright colours on homes that pop through the fog. Clotheslines with laundry hung out and blowing in the breeze on a sunny day. The creaking of centuries as you climb up old stairs in a lighthouse. White-washed boards on walls and ceilings. Crazy patch quilts and rainbows of yarn in crocheted cushions and braided wool rugs. Faded wallpaper and mismatched china. All these things speak to the Newfoundland and Labradorean culture’s ways of making do and getting by.
Colours pop in Newfoundland and Labrador.
Fogo Island green, puffin orange, lighthouse red and ripe bake apple berry. Vivid doesn’t do them justice. Such colours are inexplicable until you’ve seen them with your own eyes.
Tastes of Place
Yes, if you are lucky, every other thing you eat here might be cod, simply known as fish (every other fish is named). We also enjoyed local crab, shrimp and lobster, foraged berries and mushrooms. Bread, butter and molasses, home baked biscuits and pies were made with straight up ingredients. The simple dishes of this place have brought great comfort for centuries.
Then there’s the language.
“Loves it” is self-explanatory. “Sweet Jay-zus” is usually said in awe. “The fish” refers to cod alone. “B’ye” is a boy. “Scrunchions” are pork fat bits deep fried extra crispy. “Brewis” is dried bread softened overnight and cooked up with fish and caramelized onions. “Cam” is calm and usually refers to water that’s mirror-like in its stillness. “Bergy bits” are small icebergs in the bay. “Mauzy” is warm, foggy weather. “Shorefast” is the line and mooring used to attach a traditional cod trap to the shore.
There’s a VERY large Newfoundland to English dictionary. As a place that evolved on its own for 400 or 500 years, it’s easy to see why the people would have a distinct expression of the English language.
Exploring the particular places
Fogo Island is a small island off another island but the 11 tiny communities and the people in them that leave a grand and lasting impression. Bonavista is an 85-kilometer-long peninsula made up of town, bights, sounds, coves, arms, inlets, harbours and a cape and each has their own personality and relationship with the sea and land surrounding them. St. John’s is the largest city but it’s ego is kept in check as the rest of the people in the province, bay people, simply refer to it as “town.”
I only toured a portion on the East and North part of the island of Newfoundland and did not touch on Labrador at all on this trip. I can see myself being drawn back to the Irish loop near St. John’s and South to the French islands of St. Pierre and Michelon. I would like to fly into Deer Lake on the west coast and hike Gros Morne National Park and tootle up the Viking Trail to eat at The Norseman. It’d be wondrous to be in Twillingate – and Fogo Island again – to see icebergs some May.
My eight days in Newfoundland and Labrador just touched the tip of my wanderlust iceberg. I’ve already posted a bit about Fogo Island and Zita Cobb. Over the next few posts I’ll share some of my other travel highlights. Perhaps in sharing you’ll like to plan your own time there. If you go…
It’s okay to come from away.
Newfoundlanders have proven their brand of extraordinary hospitality in spades. All you need to do is look after the big detail of booking the trip. They’ll bring all the small details that turn mere travel it into an unforgettable experience.
Note This post is not sponsored. My travel was independent. All photos and words are my own.