Jul 31 2011

Newfoundland, Cape Spear


Cape Spear is the most easterly point in North America.

Chicken did not want to miss this one!



Cape Spear welcome plaque photographed at sunrise


Because of that fact, it’s also is the site of the first sunrise in North America!  We woke up at 4:30 AM and drove to Cape Spear to be the first ones to see the sun rise that day (July 18, 2011).  We had a blast!

David and Bear arriving in Cape Spear to watch the sun rise. See the moon in the background? 🙂


A little past 5:18 AM, there it was... what we'd been waiting for.. the first sunrise! 🙂


The weather was  perfect that day, we just enjoyed the show.  The lighthouse was very pretty glowing in the morning’s first lights.  It is restored to its 1839 appearance and shows how  a lighthouse keeper and his family would have lived in mid-nineteenth century.



Oldest surviving lighthouse in Newfoundland and Labrador



During WWII, the Cape Spear battery was constructed by Canada for the defense of Newfoundland, even though at that time,  Newfoundland was still not a part of Canada. (It became a Canadian province in 1949).   Allied forces used the bunkers to protect against U-boat attack, a very real threat in the North Atlantic. A German U-boat did fire two torpedoes into St. John’s Harbour in 1942, but no serious damage resulted. Most of the military site was destroyed after the war, but the tunnels and gun emplacements have been stablized, plaques erected, and walkways constructed to help interpret the history of the site.  The huge gun barrels are all that remains of Cape Spear’s war time armament.  They were knowns as disappearing guns because they could be lowered behind the concrete parapet for loading and maintenance.  In 1896 they were installed in Fort Mott on the Delaware River.  In 1941 the American government transferred them to Cape Spear as part of the wartime arm supply agreement.  After WWII, the carriages were dismantled and taken away from the site.


Remains of the WWII cannons

Did you know that whales don’t wake up before sun rise?  That’s what we deduced that day, because not one of them showed up before the sun was up.  After sunrise though, they were ready for breakfast!

Humpback whale feeding around Cape Spear

I even captured a whale tale for you!!! 🙂

Waves crashing where a flock of birds were resting just a moment before 🙂


Jul 31 2011

Newfoundland’s Capital, St. John’s.


Finally! we’d made it to Newfoundland!  Our first stop was to be the Capital, St John’s.    We fell in love with this quaint little town (pop. 192,326 in 2010).  John Cabot sailed here in 1497, followed by the French, Spanish and Portuguese.  In 1583 it was claimed as an English colony by Elizabeth I.  It was attacked by the Dutch, then captured and destroyed by the French 3 times, before being retaken and fortified.  It remained fortified through the 18th and 19th century. St John’s is the oldest English settlement in North America to hold city status.  Year-round settlements began before 1620.

A few things struck me about St John’s.  It has an old-fashioned character, with very few modern buildings.  Most of the residential buildings are sided with “clapboard”, brick houses are rare and far between.


Clapboard houses in St John's

The two main churches (Anglican and Catholic) are strikingly beautiful.

The food is great, the people are even greater!  You get a sense of joy from the residents of St John’s.  They love their city and it shows.    While we were hiding from the rain under a canopy at the entrance of a museum, one of the worker came out, having finished her working shift, it was rainy and cold and she had no umbrella or coat, she looked at us smiling, and said… “Oh! Newfoundland, you don’t live here for the money or the weather, but the people are FABULOUS!”  That sums it up!

My only regret is that we  missed the organ concert and the afternoon tea served in the crypt at the Anglican church. By the time we learned about it, it was over.  On the other hand, we had a great time at the Yellowbelly brewery.  The beer was great, the seafood chowder even better.


Big pieces of seafood in the chowder!


Then we went to Signal Hill, where we had a great view of the Port of St. John’s and the capital city.

Port of St John's

The final battle of the Seven Years war was fought there in 1762.  This is the battle when the French  finally surrendered to the British under the command of Lt. Colonel William Amherst.


Chicken arriving at Signal hill

We had fun watching the St John’s Tattoo, where soldiers, wearing the military uniforms circa 1795, gave a military concert  by the fifes and drums and demonstrated the musket, drills and battle formations of the time.  They even fired some cannons!

St John's Tattoo performed on Signal Hill

Firing muskets!

Don't you know it! Chicken had to get in the middle of the Tattoo and make friends with two soldiers, who strangely look like.. girls?

We go North in the summer to escape the heat of Florida.  Escape the heat we did….


Cold bear watching the Tattoo!

Our gang, frozen, preparing to watch the show. It was 45F that day... in mid-July!

We warmed up at the  Duke of Duckworth with a hot and delicious “Fish’n Chips” and a good beer!

Entering the pub 🙂

And finally, we had tea at “The Rooms”, a fantastic museum where we saw collections of artifacts, pictures, sculptures and artwork from Newfoundland and Labrador. From the museum’s café, we had a different view of St John’s, in this picture you can see the Anglican Cathedral on the right.


View of St John's from "The Rooms"


A few facts:

1901:  Signal Hill was the site of the reception of the first transatlantic radio signal.  The Morse code signal originated in Cornwall UK.

1919:  St. John’s was the starting point for the first non-stop transatlantic aircraft flight, piloted by Alcock and Brown in a modified Vickers Vimy IV bomber.  They flew to Connemara Ireland.

Second world war:  The harbour supported the Royal Navy and Royal Canadian Navy ships engaged in anti-submarine warfare.  It was also the site of Fort Pepperell, an American Army Air Force base.


Better look up when you're in St. John's 😉


Jul 24 2011

Taking the ferry to Newfoundland


The day had finally come for us to take the ferry to Newfoundland.  We were all excited and little bit apprehensive.  From past experience, parking on a ferry is difficult.  Since the space is limited, they usually make you park almost on top of each other.

Although we were scheduled to leave at 22:45, we arrived at the ferry port early, at 15:30 in order to get in line.

Bear and our coach, in line to take the ferry


We mainly stayed in our coach, watching TV, knitting or reading a book while waiting for the ferry.  But!  our gang also met and talked for a while!


Ron, Curtis, Sandy, Evelyn, Bear, Gladys, Lana, unknown truck driver, and Terry

There were very few people there at that time, but as the day went by, more and more people arrived.  At one point, we were really wondering how they were going to put all these vehicles on one boat!

An hour later, there were already quite a few more vehicles in line...


There were some interesting vehicles in line:


Vintage police car, said to have been used in the Andy Griffith show

Then, around 19:30, our ferry arrived!

Our ferry arriving to port


Our friend David made a video:  Boarding the ferry from Sydney NS to Argentia NL while embarking on the ferry and parking his motorhome.  We can clearly see our coach and bear coming out of it.  It’s cool and better than words and pictures to give you an idea of how it feels to embark on a ferry.  Despite our apprehension, this ferry was very spacious and we had no problem at all parking.  I drove the car on, and I was parked on another garage level.

Our cabins were basic but comfortable, there was entertainment and reasonably good food.  The whole experience felt like a mini-cruise.  16 hours later, we arrived in Newfoundland!