Finally, the last weekend in March and spring is over a week old.
I have an uncle in Ontario who teased me once that in Newfoundland we have two seasons: winter and poor sledding.
Since there are still lots of snowmobiles on the go, it’s looking like winter is hanging on with both mitts.
Not to be outdone by Mother Nature, we took advantage of a sunny March 29 and decided to take a drive to Grand Falls-Windsor. I have friends living away who like to see a familiar picture now and then to remind them of home. Here’s a shot of the local Goose Restaurant, just outside of Gander. It’s been rebranded by Irving but will always be known as the Goose.
It’s about an hour drive to Grand Falls-Windsor from Gander on the TransCanada Highway, known as the TCH. Our prize for joining Confederation was a link from St. John’s to the rest of Canada. It’s been 65 years and another coat of pavement would be appreciated any time now. Traffic on the overpasses and bridges is slowed to 30 and 50 km for safety. Anyone who ignores the warnings will pay dearly in the garage because the potholes are disabling if hit at any normal speed.
After a night of slop snow (our version of April showers, too) the roads were wet but mostly clear. Snowmobilers were everywhere taking advantage of the fresh base and in some cases getting ready for next year by bringing out firewood.
We generally hit GFW as place to browse a couple of different stores and a chance to hit up Sobey’s Store or Grant Shoes on Windsor side. It’s a not an elaborate adventure, it’s a typical drive for us but there are places to go and things to do if you are around in the summer.
Grand Falls-Windsor has an art gallery and theature at the Gordon Pinsent Centre for the Arts. The Centre was named after the native son and famous Canadian actor in 2005 to celebrate his 75th birthday. We were fortunate enough to spend some time with Gordon last spring (2013) and he was telling us he writes every day and has a recurring role on Republic of Doyle as well as being in a recently released feature film called The Grand Seduction, filmed in Newfoundland.
Next to the Centre is the Mary March Provincial Museum. In addition to the history of Mary March and the Beothuk peoples of Newfoundland, many other aspects of local culture, history and wild life are explained.
Central Newfoundland has a number of excellent salmon rivers and the Salmonid Interpretation Centre sits on the Exploits River. This is a great place to visit and learn about the management of the salmon stocks and enjoy the view of the river.
The Salmon Festival in the summer is the major music concert event with head liners like Kiss, The Eagles, Bon Jovi and a variety of top acts in various musical genres to attract a large crowd to the area. There are also community events and of course, a salmon dinner.
Unlike most Newfoundland Towns, Grand Falls was a lumber and paper town. The history is often the source of materials for summer dinner theatres and events.
But today we shopped at the mall. Today wasn’t a touristy kind of day.
Got shirts, sheets and the munchies. We took a drive downtown to try the local restaurant rather than the usual chains. Such a good idea!
48 High is a restaurant located on High Street in Grand Falls. Even the bistro tables in the bar are 48 inches high! At least, I took their word for it when we were told.
We discovered this spot a few years ago on the way home from King’s Point. That time, and this, the restaurant was quiet and we were seated near the fireplace which immediately makes one feel special. On both visits we had excellent service and I’m really not sure why it’s been so long between visits. I’d love to make an excuse to spend a night locally to try their dinner. Maybe the dinner will be the excuse.
Lunch was great and although very tempted by memories of their homemade desserts we just had mains and then started back towards Gander.
The sun was very powerful and we ditched our coats to the back seat as we went to the mall and restaurants.
On the way home, we turned off at the Lewisporte Junction and stopped into the sporting goods store to check out their new inventory of seal skin products. I purchased my seal skin boots over a year ago form Natural Boutique in St. John’s. This is a local business that sells mostly Canadian made fur products but really specializes in the seal products made with locally harvested pelts.
There is a lot of misunderstanding of a lot of things in the world. The seal hunt protest has been used as a money generator by a number of animal rights organizations with very misinformed celebrity spokes people.
Based on the information they continue to propagate, everyone would oppose the hunt. They take pictures of baby white coat seals and tell people that that is the seal hunt. This is untrue. White coats haven’t been hunted for over 30 years and when they were, it was because the pelts were in demand and a way to put food on a table in a very harsh time of year.
How do I know? I know people who are seal hunters. I have a brother-in-law who told me once the $3000 he made in that fishery was his family income for one month. I have a sea captain friend who outfits her boat and crew because it’s a way to help provide an income to her family and theirs.
It’s an income at a time of year in Newfoundland when other species aren’t accessible due to ice. It’s also an income source at time of year when Employment benefits have run out for many people. It’s a food source and an income source and had potential for generating even more jobs if the EU sanctions were lifted.
It’s also a part of Newfoundland culture and heritage but please don’t think it’s done for traditional reasons although there are families who have done it for generations. This is an industry, a fishery, and is managed by federal fishery regulators and Department of Fishery scientific research. The only endangered species here is the working, earning Newfoundland fisherman.
You don’t have to agree. Before I moved here, I knew little of the economy and fishery. Just inform yourself before you write a cheque or take a stand. I did and that’s why I support the fisherman when I can. I’m not a fan of seal meat but I sure do like my new seal skin mitts.
Maybe spring really will come now that I have them.
Newfoundland had a rail system that was completely gone when I moved here 26 years ago. There were some train stations left and there are still a few but the Gander station was sadly torn down since the 1990s. In Lewisporte there are a few railroad cars as a park and souvenir of this mode of travel.
Lewisporte is the port for the ships that take supplies to Labrador. I’d like to do that trip someday. I need a bigger bucket for my bucket list.
Because the water was high on the Exploits and Gander Rivers, we took a drive into Glenwood and Appleton to look at the trestle bridge. It was cooler out on the trestle but a beautiful view. Snowmobilers were using the bridge to cross from one community to the other.
Appleton has a lovely playground and a peace park that was dedicated to the memory of the 911 experience in that community. Like Gander, nearby Glenwood and Appleton housed stranded travellers from all over the world when their planes were grounded after the attacks in the United States on September 11, 2001.
Our favorite event out here is when musician Fergus O’Byrne comes to do Young People in the Hall. He accepts musicians from the age of 6 to 16, groups them based on the instruments they show up with into bands. Fergus and mentors form bands on Friday night. They practice Friday and Saturday and perform a concert in the Town Hall on Sunday afternoon. We’ve attended a few of these concerts and it’s an amazing event. This Irish born musician takes the model to a number of communities each year.