Maritimes trip travel blog

Terrain near Cape St. Mary's Seabird Ecological Park

Little boy bull.....

Walking to the seabird nesting site

Rock covered in nesting gannets




Cliff covered with seabirds

Lichen-covered boulders


Out on a ledge


Hello darling I'm home..... or Battle of the beaks


Little violets. Flag Irises will bloom in late July / August

Rocky path through the meadow

Coffee and Toulon break at Placentia

View from Cape Spear

Rain and fog bank in the distanc

Pam venturing into the danger zone

Old lighthouse


View of cliffs

Basilica of St. John the Baptists


Altar sculpture

Basilica ceiling

Newfounland's finest wine

The Fish Exchange, our dining place

Murray's Premises

Ships moored in the harbour

Celtic Hearth, last night's dining place

June 18

A drizzly start to the day, but we headed out towards Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve. This is where 70 000 seabirds nest in the spring. There are gannets, murres, kittiwakes, guillemots, razorbills and cormorants. As we neared the cape, the trees became smaller and eventually disappeared. What was left was rocky barrens covered in small plants that hugged the earth, probably to avoid the constant wind. We passed a small herd of grazing cows behind a fence - later, we were told sheep used to be free to graze the whole cape, but the last one was taken by a fox a year ago.

We reached the centre, a small building with an adjacent lighthouse. There were maybe seven cars in the parking lot, not very crowded. We were given a brochure with pictures of the different species of birds and a map. The directions were to stay behind the red pegs that mark the trail and not get too close to the cliff. The guide’s comment was, “You’re only sixty feet from the birds and three hundred from the water.” As we left the centre, we saw that rain capes and pants were available for rent. Fortunately, it was dry and we were dressed warmly enough except for our bare hands.

We walked along the cliff with seabirds wheeling above our heads. The cliff face ahead of us looked white with snow, but the “snow” was actually thousands of birds nesting on the rock. The trail ended at a cliff edge and across a gap was the top of a stone pillar covered with gannets. On the side cliffs were more gannets and below them, kittiwakes huddled on the lower ledges. There was a constant noise of bird cries, and the smell of droppings and fish, although the smell was not too strong. Probably it would be worse in the heat of the summer. We were the closest we will ever be to a seabird colony, so we watched the birds for a while. We then returned to the centre and toured a display about the different birds and the establishment of the reserve.

About 2:30, we left for St. John’s, following the east side of the peninsula, so we essentially made a loop down one side and up the other. We hadn’t had lunch, so of course we were very interested in dinner by the time we got back to the city around 4:30. We parked on Duckworth Street and walked to George Street. It was a pleasant, sunny evening, just right for a stroll. We knew the Celtic Hearth, recommended by Cliff, was near the Yellowbelly Brewery pub. We could see the Yellowbelly, but as we stood discussing which way to go, up popped a fellow who had been a sidewalk sculptor in that spot a few days ago. He was lounging by the sidewalk in an easy chair behind some tables, and I hadn’t noticed him. He very kindly directed us to The Celtic Hearth. It is an Irish pub-themed restaurant, but their menu is not limited to pub food. Pam had a seafood feast, but I opted for a change, ribs.

When we were done, we headed home. There was some desultory talk about whooping it up on George Street, but a quiet evening with feet up on the bed won out.

June 19

An overcast sky, but eventually the sun won out and it was around twenty-four degrees by the afternoon. We set out for Cape Spear, the most easterly point in Canada. A twenty-minute drive took us to the parking lot. Looking over the water from there we could see a band of rain and fog further out, but sunshine on the harbour entrance to St. John’s, which was in the distance but easy to spot because of the tower on Signal Hill. We climbed up to the lighthouses. One is a modern light station (I read on an information board that “lighthouse” is an outmoded term. Everything is now automated) and the other is the lighthouse build in 1836. During W. W. II, gun batteries were place on the Cape to protect the St. John’s harbour and can still be seen below the lighthouse. The old lighthouse is open for tours usually, but not today, unfortunately. We admired the view from then walked a bit further along the cliff.

Leaving the Cape, we decided to seek out a restaurant, recommended by a friend, called By The Beach. Our GPS refused to find it for us, so after wandering the general area of Portugal Cove for a while, Pam asked directions, which we followed to a dead end at a small cove. We turned back and as we sat at the intersection debating what to do, we noticed the building at the side, which we had passed by before, was the restaurant. There are none so blind as they who will not see. We were the first customers, so the friendly owner had a chat with us as we waited for our fish and chips, the dish our friend had especially recommended. The owner said he had seen whales in the bay that morning, but we didn’t spot any.

Upon finishing our meal, we headed for the hotel to check to see if West Jet had emailed us our check-in information (no) and arrange to bring the car in later tomorrow morning because our flight time had been changed to early afternoon (had to leave a message with Hertz). Off we went again to see the Basilica of St. John the Baptist, a Catholic Church started in 1839 and finished in 1855. At that time it was the largest church building in North America. It survived St. John’s Great Fires of 1846 and 1892. When Pam inquired about lighting a candle in her mother’s memory, she was told that fire safety rules forbade it - I guess they don’t want a Great Fire in the 21st century. The stained glass windows, the altar and the ceiling were especially impressive.

Upon leaving the basilica, we went looking for a liquor store. The GSP lead us first to the former location of a liquor store, but a friendly storekeeper steered us to another liquor store. We bought a small bottle of Newfoundland partridge berry and strawberry wine. Not the best of wines, so we were glad our little bottle did not amount to even two full glasses.

Around dinner time, we left the hotel to find the Fish Exchange. It was so busy that we ended up sitting at the bar, but the food tasted just as good. We were both quite full from lunch, so we enjoyed salads, although Pam’s had lobster tail and scallops on top, a fitting “last supper” of seafood to end our Maritimes adventure. Afterwards we walked around the streets because it was a lovely evening for a stroll. Many people were sporting summer dresses, shorts and short-sleeved tops, which seemed a little optimistic to me because there was a cooler breeze, but I can understand wanting to feel summer had come. Pam got into the summer spirit by getting an ice cream cone at a specialty chocolate shop. Almost six dollars for the one scoop and some of the chocolates were two dollars each, but high prices didn’t seem to be discouraging business. We went home to repack our suitcases and get ready for tomorrow’s departure.

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