"If you get cranky without your silk hankie you better steer clear of the squid jigging grounds." If you know the song then you know where I am. When I was young and my mom [who wasn't a Newfoundlander] sang this I always wondered what a squidgigon ground was and felt one must require tall rubber boots to go wandering in it cause it sounded messy.
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My journey began May 29 early with a ferry to the mainland, then bus- skytrain - flight to TO - then Halifax arriving close to 0200 and then an early flight to St. Johns. Weather took a nose dive in Halifax but bucked up slightly on the Rock.
I'm here in Clarenville tonight and, typically, it isn't where I expected to be. I had 'planned' to stop in St. Johns after dealing with two full days of sleepless travel. The kind lady at the airport's tourist kiosk phoned around for me and after six or so fully booked hotels I thanked her kindly and hit the road [TCH # 1 West]. I'm bound for Twillingate which I knew was a town too far and besides my booked four days don't start until tomorrow. Driving in strange lands with the ocean on the wrong side guarantees I will predictably head off in the wrong direction. This loss of compass skills became apparent during my trip to Nova Scotia & New Brunswick in 2007 so I didn't travel too many miles before turning around and besides took in some scenery I'd have missed which is nothing like I expected.
The Rock's music brings quaint to mind but Newfoundland ain't. It's not dismal by any stretch and even on a dreary day the colourful two story houses remind me that there's magic afoot. It's not like Ireland because there's too many scrubby trees grimly hanging on to meagre bits of earth skimming the rocky landscape. Listening to CBC had me prepared for moose leaping about on the blacktop but nobody has advised the locals or perhaps they believe moving fast is how to knock moose off their pins. Granted, I'm out of my element but holy Dinah it's unnerving to have semis passing with pizzazz. It was a good thing because I lacked two days sleep so having such excitement kept me on auto-alert. When the traffic died down an hour out of St. Johns I caught myself having those no memory moments. Trying to explain that is similar to describing motion sickness to lucky people like me.
Looking for places to stay on TCH 1 is bewildering because the signs posted are a blur and there's no road branching off close by. I learned a long time ago not to go off the road looking for motels because, no matter which province, they are miles away, hard to find, closed for the season/forever or dilapidated. I choose instead to pick towns which boast more than a bulge in the road and Clarenville looked promising. About 2 hours later or maybe longer I arrived and took the first exit thinking I'd be catapulted into the main street with motels and hotels sprinkled amongst the cheery shops. Wrong! I had seen the Clarenville Inn along the highway but scooted past it with another place in mind. Clarenville's main drag may exist but I'm not sure if it was the road where Sobey's [grocery store] was. I'm like a lot of guys and prefer being adrift to asking for directions which would be hopeless because the ocean's on the wrong side so east is west to me. I tried several avenues and gave up when I ended up back on the Hway and wondered if Gander might be a better fit. Then I saw a marker for Bonavista which brought to mind a song about maggoty fish. I veered off the highway and was shocked to discover it was a long haul drive. Knowing Gander was too far too I turned my rental around and travelled back to the Clarenville Inn with chagrin. Wonder of wonders there was another hotel along the stretch I'd bypassed cruising through town. It was on the right side but it was painted blue and it sort of turned me off. Besides, I was now committed to the Clarenville Inn and I wasn't going to spurn it twice.
I arrive and it's around noon so I'd been travelling for a good three hours missing two sleeps. I'm adept at this sort of hardship but not like I used to be. Plus, I'm less stupid and realise I've got nothing left to prove. At the front desk Jennifer treats me like a treasured guest who comes by twice a month and gets me settled in immediately with a 2nd story sea view despite the check in time being 1500. I quietly protest that I don't really need a king sized bed but she's taken command. After going back for my baggage and circling the parking lot once I realise the 2nd floor rooms are on the same level as the lobby where the access is. I sigh at my dopey doseydoe and drag my bag across the parking lot instead of doing the double park in front of the lobby twice. I do the duel with doors twice and find my room. WOW! Have you ever travelled and found a bed better than your own? Me either until today! It's BIG - it's plush - pillows to die for and my travel pains melt away as I flop on top and surrender to sleep.
Later, around seven, and after changing out of my two day duds I saunter down to the dining room. A young fellow invites me to choose my own space despite the sign and promptly brings me a menu. I order dark rum and coke for starters and be damned if it's not the treacly Captain Morgan's which is my fave. The seafood linguine is thick with shellfish and the rich dill sauce is steeped in their yummy juices. The waiter - Andrew tells me the desserts are home made which tempts me into choosing bread pudding with no ice cream which looks and tastes better than I expected. Around this time I ask Andrew if he's from away and he mentions a town on the rock but shares with me that he's worked on the oil rigs in the west like many of the young men in these parts. He doesn't sound like it's his sod so I ask and he tells me he prefers to be free of the lilt which tags Newfoundlanders big time. Personally, I like the accent because it reminds me of Ireland even though there's characteristic differences. Their personalities are in tune with Ireland too because they have a gregarious open faced nature which is genuinely engaging. I've never met an Irish person who'd rebuff a sincere approach and it's pretty much the same here but it's early days yet.
Info on Newfoundland for those who need/want it.
"Tigers bloom where there's oodles of room." Zodiac Zoo