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The Irish Loop – Part 4 of a travel series on Newfoundland by Gerry Feehan

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This is the last in a four part Newfoundland series.

Scroll down to find Part 1, Gros Morne,  part 2 North America’s Oldest European Settlement, and part 3 A World Famous Newfoundland Tradition.

Quidi Vidi Harbour in St. John’s

When I told a Red Deer friend (born and raised in Newfoundland) that we intended to explore only the west side of the Island during our two-week visit she looked at me as if I were daft. “If you haven’t walked down Water Street in St. John’s, you haven’t been to Newfoundland.” And so we divided our 14-day fall camping trip on The Rock equally between both sides of the Island, with the last week dedicated to St. John’s and the east coast.

Water Street was indeed a lot of frolic and fun. But frankly, narrow steep cobblestone roads and a motor home don’t play well together. So, after a few days of fine seafood, great live music, an exploration of the fascinating Rooms Museum and a bumpy visit to Signal Hill, it was time to move on from the capital. We were bound for the Irish Loop, south of St John’s, on the Avalon Peninsula. On our way out of town we stopped at Cape Spear Lighthouse, the most easterly point in Canada—and North America for that matter. The fair-haired interpreter seemed certain to have Gaelic roots (and thus knowledge of the Irish Loop) so I asked him if there were any special places we should visit. “Scottish actually,” he said, stroking his sandy beard and disavowing any Irish ancestry. “The Avalon is beautiful, you can’t go wrong. Just poke along.”

And poke we did. After exploring scenic Petty Harbour, we poked our toes into aptly named Witless Bay, where we determined that the North Atlantic Ocean is brain-
freeze cold. We camped that night in a quiet spot overlooking Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, where in early summer tens of thousands of tourists flock to see “iceberg
alley” and the vast colony of Atlantic puffins that nest annually on Great Island.

“It’s the end of the season, dearie,” said the tired camp host. “The water gets shut off tomorrow.” She looked out to sea and added, with quiet poetry, “the icebergs have
melted, the puffins have flown—now we’ve just a few stray tourists to drown.” But with a wink added, “present company excluded.” I took no offence—and swear it was by sheer inadvertence that I left the hot water running in the Witless bathhouse the next morning. For us it was an uncharacteristically early start. There must be
wisdom in that “early bird gets the worm” thing because by 8 a.m. we had encountered three different groups of hunters quartering moose by the roadside.

Hunting season had opened that day. Newfoundlanders take their moose quarrying very seriously. They are also very proud Canadians. Many yards sport a high-flying
maple leaf. But invariably the flag of Newfoundland also flaps nearby. And on the Irish Loop you’ll also see a lot of green, white and pink, the pre-1949 Dominion of
Newfoundland Tricolour.

We hadn’t planned on muzzling into other people’s moose-business but, when we encountered a newly deceased bull being roped across the highway near Ferryland,
we had little choice but to stop and make inquiries. One quickly learns as a visitor to Newfoundland that there’s no need to do more than simply open the conversation.
After that, listening will suffice. And so a roadside discourse began:

“This is how you paunch the carcass,” the senior member of the group explained while his grandson sharpened a knife and began the on-site butchering process.

“And this here’s the tenderest part,” the grandfather continued, pointing loinward. I remarked on his particularly thick maritime accent. “Ha,” one of his sons interjected, “Dad just returned from Ireland. They didn’t even ask him where he was from, although one feller did ask if he’d spent a couple of years in America.“ He and
another brother were hoisting the 400 kg animal onto a makeshift wooden frame for further dissection. Dripping sweat, he continued, “Where are you two headed?”
“Toward Trepassey,” I answered, “around the bottom of the loop and then back up toward the Trans Canada. We have an invite for Jiggs dinner on Sunday at a campground in Terra Nova.”

“Trepassey?” remarked the patriarch, cutting a strip of hide from the recently departed moose’s hindquarters. “Did you know Trepassey is in the Guinness Book of World Records as the foggiest place on earth? Last year a woman gave birth, but it was three months before they could tell if it was a boy or a girl.” The younger two
generations nodded in amused agreement.

Paunching the moose

It was certainly foggy when we rolled into town. I almost drove through the restaurant doors before spotting the bright blinking light notifying us that the village’s only eatery was closed. Apparently, the cook was out—hunting no doubt.

Someone had recommended that we stop for eats at the Squid Jigger back up the road in Calvert but that had been hours earlier. We had poked in there to see what was on the menu but decided it was too early in the day for a plate of salt-fish, potatoes and scrunchions.

The Irish Loop is a foggy place!

It was well past lunchtime when we meandered into Peter’s River. Cars were jammed outside the local hall. Perhaps a public pot luck dinner? No such luck. The entire community was gathered at the legion for “Chase the Ace,” Newfoundland’s favourite communal gambling pastime. We were getting rather peckish. With deep
regret I recalled the Squid Jigger’s daily special: cod au gratin with a side of slaw and fries.

Finally, near Point La Haye we found a corner store with doors ajar. Scurrying in, we headed directly for the deli and ordered up a couple of prime ‘Newfoundland
Steaks’: fhresh sTle iced bologna. On the recommendation of the proprietress, we chose them ‘tick’ rather than ‘tin’. At the checkout, the store phone rang. The owner
dashed off to answer. She came back, handed the cordless to the man behind us in line and said, “It’s for you John. The missus says not to forget the toilet paper.”

We parked for our picnic on a hill overlooking St. Mary’s Harbour. As the fat bologna fried on the camp stove next to a couple of happy eggs, rain began and tick fog descended. It was the tastiest meal ever.

A colourful St John’s streetGerry Feehan is an award-winning travel writer and photographer. He lives in Kimberley, BC.

Gerry Feehan is an award-winning travel writer and photographer. He and his wife Florence live in Kimberley, BC!

Thanks to Kennedy Wealth Management for sponsoring this series.  Click on the ads and learn more about this long-term local business.

 

 

 

 

 

Exploring Gros Morne Newfoundland with Gerry Feehan

 

Gerry Feehan takes us to North America’s Oldest European Settlement

 

Gerry Feehan Receives the Legendary Invitation, A World Famous Newfoundland Tradition

After 15 years as a TV reporter with Global and CBC and as news director of RDTV in Red Deer, Duane set out on his own 2008 as a visual storyteller. During this period, he became fascinated with a burgeoning online world and how it could better serve local communities. This fascination led to Todayville, launched in 2016.

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Alberta

How this Calgary Seniors Community is Transforming the Experience of Getting Older

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When people reach their retirement years, they often look for ways to enjoy life without the difficulties of looking after the family home, and once they’ve made the transition to an older adult community, they don’t want to move again should they need extra health care. They want to simplify their lives while continuing to enjoy a positive, active lifestyle that encourages health, creativity and lifelong learning.

United Active Living is a senior living and retirement community in Calgary with two locations – Garrison Green and Fish Creek – that champion creativity and lifelong learning by integrating them into their daily offerings. To ensure the
programming is relevant and interesting to residents, many of the programs come from resident suggestions.

Both communities provide residents with the opportunity for emotional, creative and intellectual expression with a full calendar of interesting and informative programming and events every week.

The depth and breadth of opportunity available to each resident encourages active minds, bodies and imaginations, and is a big part of what makes United Active Living unique.

Residents have access to fully equipped art studios that are staffed seven days a week with professional artists who can provide guidance.

“I like to draw, but I’ve never had an art lesson in my life,” says Olive, a United Active Living resident. “When I came here, the creative facilitators introduced me to the art studio, and it turned out I had a natural talent for it!”

Libby, another United Active Living resident, says she has learned so many new things in her community. “The programming is basically over the top,” she says. “I couldn’t ask for more.”

Older adults are looking for a community that values their contributions, that provides a stimulating environment and supports their ongoing health needs. It’s a discussion that should happen when you are still in good health. In other words, make the decision when you want to, not because you have to.

One resident who moved recently into United’s Fish Creek community said, “I was so familiar with my community all my life so moving here was an adjustment, but I can’t say enough about the employees. They’re the most caring, efficient, pleasant, and helpful people.”

United’s large luxurious suites are appointed with everything residents need, and United offers a wide range of lifestyles, from independent living, to assisted living to memory care. A unique aspect is that those living with dementia aren’t separated from the rest of the community. They have the opportunity to take part in everything the communities offer.

That’s because United Active Living approaches aging from a social perspective rather than a medical one. Residents are in control of the programs and their activities. While the medical side is important, the emphasis is on the arts,
socialization and community, which research has shown can go a long way towards improving a person’s health and well-being.

As well, United Active Living believes that living in an older adult community should extend beyond the four walls to include partnerships with arts, cultural and educational institutions such as Mount Royal University, St. Mary’s University, the Calgary Philharmonic and more.

The whole idea of positive aging is to be able to give residents the opportunity to continue to grow and to learn, as well as to be part of a community that’s sees them as valuable contributors.

United Active Living can answer your questions about their unique approach to aging.

Tours can be booked through their website.

 

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Feature

Traditional ways: Dogsled race covers 500 kilometres in the High Arctic

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By Emma Tranter in Iqaluit

Somewhere in the Canadian Arctic dozens of dogs run over ice and snow under Nunavut’s high April sun as they pull sleds with racers in tow.

Fourteen teams took off from Arctic Bay six days ago and are expected to arrive in Igloolik on Monday, a trek of 500 kilometres.

The Nunavut Quest is an annual dogsled race that has taken place in the High Arctic for more than 20 years, although it doesn’t always cover the same ground. In 2014, for example, mushers raced the 400 kilometres between Igloolik and Pond Inlet.

Because of cancellations during the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s been two years since the Quest has been run.

“It’s so good to have it back,” Crystal Natanine, one of the organizers, told The Canadian Press over the phone from her home in Arctic Bay.

“People are really excited.”

There are seven camps where racers can stop between Arctic Bay and Igloolik. They were set up before the race with food and support for the participants and their dogs.

Natanine said it took a lot of work to prepare, especially to organize dog food, usually in the form of seal meat.

“There’s not a lot of seal around here this year for some reason and we don’t know why,” she said.

The organizers had to supplement some of the seal with dry dog food bought from a grocery store.

For generations, Inuit and qimmiit, or sled dogs, lived together in Nunavut. The dogs were fundamental for transportation and hunting.

Between 1950 and 1975, the federal government forcibly relocated Inuit, separated families and slaughtered thousands of their dogs.

The colonial practices are documented in a report from the Qikiqtani Truth Commission and through its interviews with 350 Inuit between 2007 and 2010.

In 2019, the federal government apologized to Qikiqtani Inuit for the dog slaughter and forced relocations, and gave $20 million to the Qikiqtani Inuit Association to develop healing programs and cultural projects.

Following the apology, the association started a revitalization project, which supports Inuit to put together and maintain dog teams.

Hagar Idlout-Sudlovenick, director of social policy, said the funding allows the association to support racers in the Quest rather than them having to do much of their own fundraising and financing, as has been the case in the past.

“It’s a very happy story,” she said.

“At one point, dog teams were almost wiped out. It has slowly been coming back.”

Idlout-Sudlovenick said she was surprised by the age of the participants at an annual dog team gathering earlier this year.

“Now, the majority of dog team owners are younger,” she said.

That’s reflected in the 14 racers taking part in the Nunavut Quest this year. They are all under 50 and the youngest is 22 years old, Natanine.

“These young generations are excited to learn traditional ways. Teenagers are very much interested in learning,” she said.

“I hope we can at least have a little something from our traditional ways. This helps with that.”

The Quest’s first-place prize is $20,000. The racer who comes in second will take home $10,000.

This report by The Canadian Press was first published April 22, 2022.

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This story was produced with the financial assistance of the Meta and Canadian Press News Fellowship

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