Helpful ReplyHot!Newfoundland - Eating the Rock

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Double Chili Cheeseburger
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2018/08/26 11:24:26 (permalink)

Newfoundland - Eating the Rock

A quick set-up: Cathy and I had been planning this trip for quite a while.
Traveling to Canada has been a key part of our relationship since we started going out.
During our trips north, we had heard through our hockey contacts and other Canadians that Newfoundland was a national gem that anyone who enjoyed exploring the country as much as we do had to see.
This was a bucket-list check-off for another reason: It was one of only three provinces we had not set foot in, with Saskatchewan and Manitoba being the others.
I will warn any potential readers: This is a region that has not been explored by many on this board, and it’s also a sparsely-populated province. Our purpose of going also wasn’t solely food, so for anyone expecting a purely Roadfood thread, you’ll be disappointed.
I’m talking to you, Dale.
This will also take several days to post, as we have a ton of cool photos and I'm making an extra effort to make my prose readable.
That said, from a culinary standpoint we still planned extensively and couldn’t wait to attack Atlantic Canada with a knife and fork.
We were supposed to fly from Cincinnati to Toronto around 10 a.m., then after customs and a short layover there, it was off to the west side of Newfoundland and a tiny airport in the tinier town of Deer Lake.
From there the plan was to spend two nights in Rocky Harbour, a little over an hour west of the airport. We would drive across the island to Bonavista for nights three and four, and the final four nights would be spent in St. John’s, the capital and only decent-sized city in Newfoundland.
Newfoundland is actually the 16th largest island in the world and takes about 12 hours to drive from northwest to southeast. Our itinerary would cover a large chunk of the place they call The Rock.
As luck would have it, I’ve had a recurring arthritis issue that affects my feet, and my final day of work – less than a day before takeoff – I had a flare-up.
It scared the B-Jesus and entire A-through-Z Jesus spectrum out of me as well, because at its worst these bouts have rendered me an in-home prisoner for a week or more, unable to walk more than a few feet because of the pain.
I feel like I know how to manage it better and haven’t had anything in that realm for five-plus years, but now I get more moderate attacks about twice a year, and what are the odds this would happen the day before our biggest trip in years?
I also did a trip to Owen Sound, Ontario, in 2014 with a mild bout and it made for a rough week, although when I told the locals I was having foot pain, they didn’t understand. When I told them I was having meter pain, they got it.
But fortunately (spoiler alert), this one was short lived and didn’t affect the trip that much.
Do flights ever go smoothly anymore?
We go in expecting the worst, especially with international flights. Stressful, pointed interrogations, long lines and waits, security agents playing rock-paper-scissors with nether regions during cavity searches.
The carnage began as soon as we entered Cincinnati’s airport. It only has one Air Canada gate, and the lone customer in line spent 20 minutes there as the lone staffer made multiple phone calls to clear up whatever issue he had.
This guy helped us wait for the international flight:

We arrived in Toronto and had to wait 20 minutes on the plane before they could get someone to escort us off the stairs and outside, where we had about a mile walk to get inside the actual airport and into customs.
Then our connecting flight to Newfoundland was moved back a half hour. Then 45 minutes. We finally landed over an hour late. Luggage: Wait. Car rental: Wait.
But the scenery from the plane gave us a good idea of what we were in for on this trip.

Factor in a time change -- Newfoundland is 90 minutes ahead of Eastern, and no, that's not a typo -- and it was nearly dark when we decided, because it was open and nearby, on Mary Brown’s Fried Chicken.
Mary Brown’s is a small Newfoundland-based chain that has started spreading to western Canada, and my people have told my people it’s worth checking out. So we did.
When we arrived, they said 15 minutes for fried chicken. We shrugged and said okay. That ended up being 35. Again, wait.
The sun set in the meantime:

It finally arrived, we dug in. We split a four piece (I get white meat, Mrs. Bonk dark) with fries and ordered a five-piece maple chili wings on the side.
The wings were amazing. They use a pressure cooking system a lot of places in Chicago use (someone from there might know what that’s called), and they turned out amazingly juicy but still crisp on the outside. We devoured these and wished we’d ordered more.
The chicken tasted like it was from the south. It turns out Mary Brown was originally from Virginia. A little bit of kick, flaky, crisp skin and very juicy on the inside. Good stuff.
It came with fries, which were solid but nothing special and a cole slaw that Mrs. Bonk didn’t care for.
Apologies here: We were out of practice, very hungry and tired, so we got through most of the chicken before remembering to break out the camera.
The four-piece fried chicken:

 The wings:

Both together:
 Off to the hotel.
Now it was pitch dark, and we had to drive 67 km from Deer Lake to our cabin in Rocky Harbour in one of the world’s most moose-laden regions through Appalachian Mountains on a windy road I’d never seen before.
We finally made it to the cabin we were staying at in Rocky Harbour, and with all stress completely gone, I sat down determined to put a major dent in the 12 pack of Black Horse, a well-reputed local brew I bought while waiting for the chicken.
I barely made it though the second bottle before plummeting face-first into bed.
Much more to come...
post edited by Bonk - 2018/08/26 15:30:05
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/26 12:59:27 (permalink)
Sounds like a great trip...waiting for more!
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/26 13:50:20 (permalink)
This guy helped us wait for the international flight:

I can't believe they let him into the terminal without a ticket.  TSA is slipping.  At least they made him take off his shoes.
The wings were amazing. They use a pressure cooking system a lot of places in Chicago use (someone from there might know what that’s called), and they turned out amazingly juicy but still crisp on the outside.

You might be referring to a system developed by The Broaster Company, actually based out of Beloit, WI.  They claim to be the largest chain in the world, but are largely unknown because they build their network through sales of their equipment and supplies which is not necessarily made public by all their clients.  Some places clearly state on their menu that they're serving Broaster Chicken, others do not.  As long as you keep buying their products, they don't care.
Nice start.  I'm looking forward to the rest.  I hope you and Cathy had a chance to check out the local music scene while you toured the province.  We've enjoyed many Newfie performers over the years at Milwaukee's Irish Fest.  They've got a rich cultural heritage up that way and I hope we get to experience it firsthand someday.
Double Chili Cheeseburger
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/26 14:19:47 (permalink)
Jeff - That may be right on the wing cooking method. Yes, we did get to check out some music, and I really enjoyed it.
Double Chili Cheeseburger
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/26 14:24:41 (permalink)
Executive decision: I was going to wait a couple of days for us to edit the better-quality photos but I'm going to push through with the report and just use phone photos for now.
Cathy has a processing software for her camera and it will take her several more days at least to clean them up, and I'd hate to start forgetting events or have them blur because I waited too long to get them onto the word processor.
So after she completes them we'll add the high-tech photos. In the meantime we have plenty of awesome phone shots -- including all of those all-important food ones -- to enhance the report.
Double Chili Cheeseburger
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/26 14:49:31 (permalink)
Before we stopped at Mary Brown’s we visited the local grocery store a couple of miles from the airport.
We picked up breakfast for the next day: A few cheese bagels, a store brand block of cheesecake brownies and some mini butter tarts. I guess butter tarts are a Canadian thing, because I’ve never seen them in the U.S.
They’re bite sized and some kind of sugary paste that’s delightful. The cheesecake brownies were OK – they looked better than they were. Of course, store bagels are always passable, and thank God for Canada, which offers cheese as an option atop practically everything.
This photo in the office that runs all of the cabins cracked me up.

The forecast called for about a tenth of an inch of rain, which I interpreted as drizzle or a light shower. As we were about to learn firsthand, weather predictions are next to useless in this part of the world.
The plan for today was pretty ambitious. We had two boat trips planned: One near Trout River and the other was in Gros Morne National Park.
Trout River was a 90-minute drive to the southwest, although it’s probably only 20 miles from Rocky Harbour as the crow flies. The other was about 20 minutes north of our cabin.
We drove a large part of the stretch back to Deer Lake to get to the turnoff for Trout Lake, and I now that I could see it I was stunned to see how dangerous it was. Large cliffs dropped off hundreds of feet in every direction.
It was even a little sunny when ventured out.

More cloudy, and a moose warning sign. You can see the changing face of the rocks as we get closer to our destination. And I asked, and yes, that is snow on the far left side of the below photo. Apparently a major snowfall came through in late June and still hadn't melted.

It looked like rain but that held off until our 8 a.m. boat ride. It started drizzling when we reached the boat dock, and by the time we boarded and took off it was a steady downpour.
Of course.
I was prepared to do this in shorts and a polo, but fortunately I listened to Cathy and took a poncho she had brought.
It was just us, another older Canadian couple, our guide Rebecca and Alex, the captain. At maximum speed, the rain drops stung when they hit the skin and the temperature dropped into the 50s.
But while I was holding down the poncho and frantically trying to preserve as many dry patches of body as possible, our four Canadian companions seemed totally unaffected.
And it rained the entire time out, a 16 km drive. And it rained the entire time back. I had kept my hind quarters dry for the first half but ultimately had to move and was forced to sit back down in a wet spot. Actually, the whole boat was a giant wet spot, including the six of us.
It was miserable. I was miserable. Photo-taking was impossible. And it’s a shame, because our guide and captain were outstanding. Rebecca is practically an encyclopedia of provincial ecology.
The short version is that we could actually see the exposed mantle of the planet, which sounded pretty cool.
The provincial site says it way better than I ever could:
"By the Early Devonian (410 million years ago), Laurentia and Gondwana had collided, forming a huge, new continent. Across the middle of the continent, where the Iapetus Ocean had once been, there was a mountain range, and halfway along this lay what is now Newfoundland. Over time, these mountains were gradually eroded by wind and rain. By the Carboniferous (360 million years ago), Newfoundland was once again fairly low-lying and swampy valleys and lakes on the west coast were filling with sand, mud, and plant debris. These are now preserved as sandstone, shale and coal, respectively. At the same time, parts of the sea were drying up, leaving evaporite rocks (salt and gypsum) behind."
They call this island The Rock because that’s pretty much what it is. Not much grows here so there were very few farms, just a lot of unspoiled, unpopulated countryside that makes for excellent sightseeing and relaxing driving.
Well, a least when it's not raining.
Anyway, we sloshed back to the car and jacked the heat up to 80 degrees for the 80-minute ride back to Rocky Harbour. When we got our nearly-hypothermic selves back inside the cabin, we couldn’t strip away our soaked clothes quickly enough.
Fortunately for everyone here there are no photos of that either. As of this post, Cathy’s socks still haven’t dried.
It was now noon, and we had a second boat ride scheduled for 3 p.m. I was obviously leaning toward nixing it, especially since it was still raining. We decided to do lunch and reassess.
I had two more highly-reputed options in mind, but we decided on Sunset Restaurant in town. In Newfoundland, a lot of diners are attached to gift shops, and this one had the souvenir store downstairs and the restaurant in the top floor.
It was a small place with about 10 tables, a very pleasant server and a cook. The menu was sandwich-centric, so I ordered the special: A ham, cheese and spinach panini with lobster bisque. Cathy got a chicken and bacon wrap with ranch.
Our lunches.
We also decided to split an appetizer of Thai chicken bites. Laugh if you will, a lot of places I’ve been to in Canada do the Thai chili sauce thing well. And they were the highlight of the meal. Crunchy little bites of heaven on a bed of Chinese noodles and vegetables.
My panini was solid. Canada typically does ham right, and the bread had the perfect baguette firmness. Cathy’s sandwich was also quality. My bisque was OK. A little fishy tasting and the flavors didn’t flow that well.
Overall a pretty good meal though.
That yellow cup on my plate is a curry-mayo-balsamic sauce. I really enjoyed that, as it was perfect for dipping fries, and I vowed to make that once we got home.
The rain had slowed, and we decided to at least make the 20-minute trek north to the boat trip location.
The good news was that this boat would be covered, so we wouldn’t suffer if it started pouring again. The bad? It was a 3 km walk to get to the dock.
By the time we reached the park, the drizzle had stopped, so we decided to venture in just five hours after getting a kick in the head from Mother Nature.
The road there consisted of jagged rocks. The people on the first tour were all in agreement that it was a travesty the road wasn’t natural.
It was obvious even to me that the next step was going to be paving said road.
I can kind of see both sides. Yes, a natural road would be optimal but an easier commute would probably bring in more tourists and generate more revenue that can be reinvested in the area.
It sort of reminded me of the discussion we had with the young man those of us who went to the big cat sanctuary in Kansas had. They likely would’ve profited from letting their tigers procreate but chose not to.
It’s a tough call, but in this case some clearly weren’t happy with this road.
Unlike the U.S. where one can typically drive up to within five feet of awesome scenery on paved roads, Canada’s parks tend to make you earn the money shots, typically with long and/or arduous walks. And really that anticipation is a good thing and makes you appreciate the end result more.
We saw an older gentleman, probably in his last 50s, sitting on a bench about halfway there. He said that he had wanted to see this site since he was a boy, but that his wife of two months took one look at the 3 km road and said no way.
I joked that I hoped his marriage lasted for at least three months. He did finish the walk but did not board the boat. Smart man.
When we finally arrived they were not selling tickets yet because the other boat was out and they wanted to get a report from its captain about water conditions.
About 10 minutes later an employee said they were selling tickets but it was foggy and visibility would be limited.
Now to this point, I didn’t know the specifics of this particular boat trip and was just trusting Cathy’s judgment.
She was clearly bummed, as she obviously couldn’t take any pictures from the first ride and now was facing major disappointment again.
We talked for a couple of minutes and decided to go anyway.
Good call.
This was the fjord trip, straight through a pair of huge rocks and into a miles-long corridor of amazing scenery. The fog was nowhere near as bad as advertised and only obstructed the peaks of many of the rocks on either side.
The weather alternated between no rain, drizzle, modest rain, peak of sunlight on literally a second-by-second basis, which seems to be the norm on this island.
The rain didn’t even bother me. I could’ve ridden for hours. The pictures tell a better story than I ever could, and even they don’t do this region justice.


Waterfalls abound here.



The sun peaks through in the distance.


We came back to the cabin and decided to head out for dinner. My top choice was out because it closed at 8 p.m. and it was already after 7 p.m. We went to Fisherman’s Landing in downtown Rocky Harbour instead.
There were four families ahead of us on the list, so we checked out the attached liquor store-slash-gift shop next door.
Cathy went for a regionally inappropriate pineapple and ham sub and we split an order of cheese sticks. I got the fish and brewis (pronounced “brews”), which is salted cod mixed with scrunchions – fried pork fat – and boiled bread in the form of tiny, cooked dough balls.
It didn’t taste like anything I’d ever had, so the flavor is very hard to describe, but I liked it. It doesn’t sound like it would work from a texture perspective but it did.
I also ordered the appetizer version of bacon and scallops, which were pretty good. Cathy said they smelled fishy and didn't indulge.
Dinner shots:

The fish and brewis:


Mmmm...iceberg beer from local Quidi Vidi Brewing.
Check out those prices!
A look at the harbo(u)r.

We went back and I decided to head out to the one bar that was open until 11. It was about a half mile walk into town, straight downhill.
My foot discomfort, which was about a two all day on a scale of one to 10, suddenly shot up to a four on the way there. My intestines also started telling me this may not have been such a good idea. Already halfway down the hill, I carried on anyway.
I finally arrive at the pub and there’s a lady sitting at a table by the front door asking if I had a ticket. I said I didn’t and she said sorry, the show was sold out. What show exactly I’ll never know, but it was 8 p.m. on a Wednesday, so I thought that was odd.
That was strike three, so instead I bought a six pack, put on my crampons and ascended the hill for home. Turns out I only got through one beer before losing consciousness, begging the question: Why in the holy hell did I put myself through all that?
post edited by Bonk - 2018/08/26 17:55:46
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/26 15:53:38 (permalink)
Beautiful scenery, and some great looking food. Perfect together!
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/26 16:47:48 (permalink)
We woke up to find the power was out. This made for adventurous showering, bathroom-using and dressing. I guess we got all of those things right though as we left clean and fully clothed.
Our next stop was Bonavista, all the way across the island on the eastern tip.
To get there we had to drive back to Deer Lake and catch the Trans-Canada Highway. What we didn’t expect was the effect the previous day would have on the mountainous terrain we had to traverse that first hour.
It must’ve rained pretty heavily or the soil here was unequipped to handle significant amounts of precipitation because everywhere we looked, water was shooting down the mountains.
The rocky nature of this terrain means significant rainfalls don’t soak into the ground, thus it tumbles off peaks.
Areas of barren hillside had turned into raging rapids at several spots. It was just amazing to see the rainfall’s impact in this region.
Cathy has some incredible photos of this event on her camera. I'll post later when she downloads them.
We reached Deer Lake and stopped for gas before heading east. There were multiple gas stations in this town, but for some reason this one was packed with people.
I pumped my gas then went in to pay – yes, that’s still a thing here – and it was unclear where the end of the line was. So I asked a 65-or-so-year-old gentlemen if he was in line, and he said no, he was with a tour bus and was waiting for it to head out.
I asked where they were going, and he said Gander…he thought. He didn’t seem particularly concerned. I was envious and thought to myself that I hope that’s me someday, with unlimited free time to travel wherever a bus would take me.
Gander was actually the town we planned on stopping at for lunch, about three hours to the east. It was an uneventful and unspectacular drive from a scenery perspective, relative to what we had seen the past two days.
It actually did stop raining, eventually, and I found myself with a free hand since I didn’t have to constantly change the cadence of the windshield wipers.
We arrived in Gander and headed to Rosie’s Restaurant, which earned very high praise on Tripadvisor.
This was our first true Roadfood stop in Newfoundland.
I liked Rosie’s immediately, as it had that country restaurant feel, with the dessert refrigerator and chalkboard with the day’s specials.
And the first one had been on my bucket list since we’d started planning this trip: Jigg’s Dinner. It’s salt beef, potatoes, squash, carrots, peas pudding, cabbage and turnips.
Salt beef is like corned beef, except it’s brined for a very long time and left on the bone – it’s actually served that way. So it’s a saltier version of corned beef with the fat caps still attached.
The effect is flavor overload. Everything was served separate on the plate, and as I figured out, the consumer is supposed to mix everything together. I had just gone straight for the meat and was eating it with the cabbage.
The vegetables on their own were a little bland, so it made sense to combine them with the super-flavorful beef.
And was it ever flavorful. The fatty caps melted in my mouth, and the beef was extremely tender.
The vegetables tasted like they’d been picked that day.
Cathy ordered the burger, which came with fries covered with gravy. It was a quality burger, juicy but crispy on the outside. I ended up finishing my meal and her burger as well as downing some of her fries.
It was a homemade roast beef gravy that complemented the fries well.
I hadn’t eaten a ton since coming to Newfoundland but was very full after this meal.

Between the turnip and plastic container of pickles below was peas pudding, which was had an unusual but somehow neutral flavor that was somewhere in the potato range. It was OK.
 Rosie's Restaurant
Back to the highway, the wet stuff subsided until we got to our turnoff, which was an hour-plus from Bonavista, at which point we hit a modest rain that would last the remainder of the night.
Again, windy, unfamiliar country roads and rain don’t mix well, so it was a chore to get into town.
Cathy had arranged for us to stay at a Bed and Breakfast, something neither of us had actually done before. There were two other older couples staying in the house, and they couldn’t have been nicer.
One of the ladies lived on a different part of the island and was heading home the next day, and she actually offered up her number and address should we needed to stop for a break later in our trip.
After chilling at the house for a while, we decided to check out the lighthouse at the northern tip of town. With the persistent rain and daylight fading, there wasn’t a whole lot to see.
On the way back we stopped at Shannon’s, an Irish pub that had a solo act performing. As we would find out, the music scene was pretty good everywhere. The music was similar: A unique cross between Irish, country and folk.
I was surprised to find that many songs were written by Newfoundlanders, as they referenced the island in a patriotic manner and the balance between the struggle that is life here and the beauty of their surroundings.
Everyone seemed to know the words and often sang along. In a social setting for the first time since landing, this was really the first time I felt like I was in a completely foreign culture.
But that didn’t last long.
We had the buy-one-pound-get-one-pound-free wings deal (Salt and Pepper and Dry Rubbed), and I got the breaded calamari.
The wings were fantastic. Both types were crispy on the outside, juicy inside and quite flavorful. My calamari came out looking like miniature onion rings. Cathy tried one but said they had a seafood taste, which is a major turn-off for her. I thought they were excellent, with a light, flaky breading.
Cathy was tired, so she drove us back, but it was just a four-minute walk away so I ultimately went back.
It was slow when I first returned, so I started talking to Barry, the bartender. His family had lived on the island for at least two-and-a-half centuries, a fact he was certain of because he had recently traced his ancestry online.
He knew that his great-grandfather had been killed very young in an accident involving a horse, and he recounted other struggles that members of his lineage had overcome.
I suspected this was true, but he was the only person I flat-out asked: People are proud to be from here and of the difficulties they and their families struggle through to survive in this harsh environment.
And while they’re proud to be Canadians, they’re also proud of their Newfoundland identity. That came across in everyone I talked to on this trip, but especially those in rural areas.
Another man sat next to me a little later, also named Barry. He was about 60 and a retired government employee, and we ended up talking about everything from the topics just mentioned to politics.
While I agreed and disagreed with a lot of things I talked to others about in this realm, it was nice to be able to have a discussion with people. Americans are presently so polarized politically that rational discourse is a rarity.
Anyway, the beer was going down quite smoothly, and somehow this Barry tipped off the former mayor of the town about my non-local status, and they actually held a ceremony to reign me in as an honorary Newfoundlander.
They dressed me up in fisherman gear and made me try a local shot and a couple of other delicacies. At the end they took photos of me and handed me a certificate. 
The shot was a rum known as screech, so this ritual is known as Screeching In an outsider.
This was indeed a welcoming place.
I had to try the local pickles, which had kind of the sweet and sour thing going on with a hint of mustard flavo(u)r.



It was all going great until I got home. I had two keys to the house: One for the front door and one for the room. Well, the one for the front didn’t work.
Crap. Now what? Breaking and entering sounded expensive and illegal, and I opted against banging on the door and waking the entire household up.
I had my phone on airplane mode so I wouldn’t rack up international charges, but I turned it on and called Cathy. No answer. I texted Cathy. No response.
She had earplugs in to sleep and never heard anything. I had the key to the car, so I decided to crash in the passenger seat until morning.
With the temperature in the low 50s, any buzz I had coming home was now gone. Oh, and it was still raining.
post edited by Bonk - 2018/12/12 02:12:54
ann peeples
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/27 07:09:39 (permalink)
I am so enjoying your report. The scenery is fantastic, and you are an excellent writer.
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/27 09:40:26 (permalink)
Tough ending to your great day.What happened?
Double Chili Cheeseburger
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/27 17:43:56 (permalink)
ann peeples
I am so enjoying your report. The scenery is fantastic, and you are an excellent writer.

Thanks a lot, and we're just getting started with the scenery shots.
Double Chili Cheeseburger
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/27 17:44:32 (permalink)
Tough ending to your great day.What happened?

Spoiler alert: I lived. 
Double Chili Cheeseburger
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/27 18:30:59 (permalink)
At 6 a.m. I woke up, cold and contorted, and tried calling Cathy again. This time she answered and I let out a string of expletives, which I immediately felt bad about.
It obviously wasn't her fault, and to my credit my vulgarities were never directed at her. She let me in and I slept until 10 a.m.
The day started on a bad note but within an hour had done a complete U-turn.
The B&B is actually owned by the proprietor of Mifflin’s Tea Room, so that was the breakfast part: You walk across the street, you order what you want and there’s no charge.
I had to order the Toutons (pronounced “TOUT-ins” as in “pout”). These were fried dough balls that looked like English muffins but were much denser. They came with fried bologna and a huge bowl of baked beans. Yes, beans for breakfast.
I ordered an extra side of a sausage patty.
Cathy got the oatmeal with a fruit compote topped with sugar brule, which came with two slices of toast, a side of bologna. She said it was exceptional -- it was gone before I could try it.
Those toutons were flat-out awesome. Kind of a cross between a dense doughnut and an English muffin.
The bologna was excellent, and I liked the sausage but it was a notch below the toutons and bologna.



Apparently, the rain sometimes stops for hours on end here, and thank goodness it did on this day. It was overcast with occasional glimmers of hazy sunlight, so we headed back to the lighthouse on the edge of the world at 11 a.m.
As amazing as that was, I was even more in awe of the journey just minutes to the east, where the landscape looked more stunning that how I had envisioned Scotland.
What blew me away was how the links land appeared so European, yet those northern Canada staples – pine trees – dominated just a few hundred yards away from the coast.
Two km from the lighthouse was the Dungeon, a square opening in the rocks where one could peer down and see splashing waves.
From there we journeyed a few more miles away to Elliston and more of that breathtaking links-and-coast scenery.
This is what I flew halfway across the continent for.
At some point, Cathy did something funky to her knee and was unable to bend it. Unfortunately, that meant she could not walk through the cumbersome terrain to see an island of puffins. This is one of the few places in the world where they can be viewed.
Catching up on scenery:









You can see some puffins on the island but Cathy's camera shots will do them much more justice.

The dungeon.


After several lookouts and several million photos, we decided to drive up the coast to a town called Keels. And when I say town, what I really mean is collection of trailers and small houses comprising a tiny community at the absolute end of civilization.
Four straight hours without rain here is pretty much a drought, so of course it started drizzling on the way. I had also heard about a food truck and starting seeing signs for one. A little something to eat was sounding great.
We pulled into “town” and were greeted by the most bizarre landscape I’ve ever seen. Beautiful ocean on one side, huge, uninhabitable rocks over here, huge trademark Canadian pine trees over there. It was absolutely stunning in an otherworldly way.
Someone was blaring local folk-country-Irish music from a trailer, which just added to the narrative that we were on another planet.
Unfortunately there was no money shot spot, but I did this short panoramic from what I thought was a decent central location.
Clayton’s Chip Truck was a trailer in the back of a house. Unfortunately he didn’t have fish on the menu and I was wondering if anything here would be even remotely fresh. But I was a little hungry and a chicken sandwich with cheese sounded good, and he said he had pepperoni rolls today, so Cathy ordered one of those.
Clayton was delightful, and he asked what I thought of the area. I told him, and he said “we take it for granted”. We walked around for a couple of minutes to the beat of that music from the nearby trailer.
I could hear a deep fryer going, which was a good sign. Clayton told me our food was ready, so I grabbed our order and gave Cathy hers.
We then parted for a couple more minutes so we could explore, and Clayton said he wanted to show me something. I was staring at the huge rocks, so he walked me over to one. Did I see that spot toward the top? Yep. Now look to the right. There’s a nose. See the eyes? I nodded even though I didn’t.
It was amusing and went on for a couple of minutes. I did see one of the faces he was talking about but came up empty on the other two.
I was pleasantly surprised to find my chicken sandwich was definitely not frozen and had to be breaded by hand. He melted a slice of American cheese on it and topped it with mayo. It was quite good.
Cathy’s pepperoni roll was originally frozen but was still tasty.  
Downtown Keels.

NOTE: I have a short panoramic video from this town that I will post here. 
With that, we headed back toward town. Back at the B&B, Cathy had undone whatever she had done to her knee and was back at 100 percent. Any foot issues I had were now completely gone.
Moersch's Cupcakes was our late-afternoon snack choice. Most were gone by the time got there but the ones we had were still delightful. We devoured these quickly and I can't remember if there is photographic evidence.
I know Cathy got a chocolate orange cupcake and I got a triple chocolate one. This was a really underrated stop.
At the store, it cracked me up that the liquor store at Foodland had 3x5 cards attached to their shelves with cocktail recipes.

There was a Foodland grocery store in town, so we decided to check it out. 
We returned to the lighthouse later hoping for good sunset shots but Mother Nature didn’t cooperate. The black fox that others said had been turning up right before dark never materialized either.
It was still beautiful and an excellent way to end our final hour of daylight here. This was arguably my favorite day of the trip despite the start.
Twilight shots by the Bonavista lighthouse.
Lots of puffins on this island.




We decided on PK’s Diner for dinner. I was going strictly off of website reviews for this one, as there was no online menu.
Cathy and I arrived at 8:30 p.m. and it closed at 9, so we hoped we would get in and out relatively quickly. Not the case. It took about 40 minutes to get our meals, but as usual for this region, the staff couldn’t have been nicer.
The interior was pretty non-descript, and they had the only local FM radio station playing in the background, which unfortunately was today’s hits, which I thought was an oxymoron.
I went with the fried cod and Cathy ordered the fried chicken special, which was two pieces of dark meat and fries for $8.
I really enjoyed the cod. It was crispy on the outside, flaky on the outside and very fresh. The fried chicken had a lighter batter, but the same description applied.
So the food was good but PK’s didn’t earn brownie points anywhere else.
My dinner.

Cathy's dinner:

Cathy headed to bed and I cautiously returned to Shannon’s for a nightcap. I was pleasantly surprised to see a band setting up.
I ended up staying for a couple of hours because they were quite good and because the beer was going down smoothly.

Bar shot:

I was really starting to enjoy the local music. That Irishy-folky-country-y sound works there.
Fortunately I was able to get back into the B&B and sleep in a bed afterward.
post edited by Bonk - 2018/08/28 21:00:56
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/27 18:32:39 (permalink)
Bonk, loving this report!  So sorry that yours and Cathy's travels had such adversity.  Hoping that the rest of it was much smoother.  Don't see many reports here on Roadfood from that region so looking forward to the rest.  I'm really digging your references to "The Rock" and to Gander as my girlfriend and I recently saw the Broadway musical "Come From Away" which is set in Gander and the cast sings about "The Rock" throughout the show.  Great pics of the scenery, especially the cliffs and waterfalls.
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/27 20:50:39 (permalink)
This was a travel day, as it was about four hours to St. John’s. The first quarter of the journey would be a scenic two-lane artery through the countryside, and the remaining majority was the less spectacular Trans-Canada.
We started the day at Mifflin’s and I got those Toutons again, which were every bit as good as the day before.
Cathy ordered the breakfast sandwich, which was a sandwich prepared during breakfast hours. Egg, ham and cheese on a delightful homemade bread that was firm on the edges but soft in the middle. 

Some final shots of Bonavista before we headed for St. John's:

A couple more of the dungeon:


We drove through the country, making a couple of stops along the coast before heading toward the city.
The small towns along the way were just gorgeous, and I could’ve spent several days at any one of them. Especially Fort Rexton, which has its own brewery.
Trinity was an especially photogenic little town. It was hosting a festival and we were flagged down for a donation to the local firefighters’ association at the only road leading into or out of town.
Just before the turnoff for the Trans-Canada, there was this yellow, rectangular-shaped object hanging above an intersection. It had three lights: Green, yellow and red. Red was facing me, so I stopped.
That’s when it occurred to me that we hadn’t seen a traffic light in three days. Bonavista, a town of over 3,000, did not have a single one despite having a pretty complex road grid.
I accessed my memory banks and determined I probably hadn’t gone three straight days in my entire life without seeing a traffic light.
Gander had two that we drove through, but nowhere to that point had any.
The Trans-Canada is certainly pretty enough but we blew through the first hundred-plus kilometers without stopping. After refueling, we made a prearranged stop for lunch in a small town about an hour from St. John’s, as we enter the PG-13 portion of the trip report.

Immediately after we stopped to take a picture of the town sign, another couple did the same thing.

Apparently, dildo is a nautical term, and there had recently been a vote on the town name and the residents elected to remain a Dildo town.

The Dildo Dory Restaurant was a cool little spot on the water’s edge with indoor and outdoor seating. We had to get pictures of Captain Dildo just outside the front door.
And no, that wasn’t a term Cathy had chosen to call me.
I ordered the cod bites and Cathy got chicken wings for what seemed like the 90th time on this trip.
My bites were deep fried and melt-in-your-mouth delicious. The super-pleasant waitress bragged about the fish coming directly from the water, and it made quite a difference.
Someone had mentioned to us that despite this being an island obviously surrounded by water, not everyone was serving fresh-off-the-boat seafood. Unfortunately this was true to some degree, but certainly not here.
Cathy’s chicken wings looked like chicken tenders with the thick breading, and they were fantastic. There certainly was a lot to bite through to get to meat, but it wasn’t overkill and it certainly wasn’t overly salty like I’d feared.
We dug in before remembering to photograph our food.

This place was ranked highly online but we were going in fairly blind, and it really impressed. The prices were very reasonable and of course staff couldn’t have been nicer.
We were asked about dessert, and I was leaning against it but Cathy talked me into the one item that made fun of the town name: The Dildo Sticky Pudding.

Cake with vanilla ice cream topped with rum sauce isn’t my thing at all, but I was amazed at the flavor. The cake was steaming in the middle, and the sauce was an A-plus complement to it.
We destroyed it within two minutes. This was the big winner among desserts on the island for us.
We checked out Dildo Brewing for a couple of souvenirs, somewhat out of curiosity, and found this was a happening place. There was live music and wall-to-wall people sucking up beer at the newly-opened establishment.
It was a two-floor, all-wood building with a museum in the basement.
They were selling tee-shirts, hats and glasses mostly, none of which featured double entendre with the town name, and to my disappointment, no one was drinking out of a phallus-shaped glass.
I was driving so I couldn’t indulge, but the locals seem quite happy with the beer.
Oh yeah, and the couple we saw taking photos by the town name sign ended up at the brewery checking out souvenirs.
This requires photos:

 The Dildo museum:



The food looked good here, and there was a live act on the ground floor. The bar area was upstairs.
Finally, it was off to St. John’s. Back down Route 80 and onto the Trans-Canada for the final hour.
That last leg was more scenic than the rest of the island’s interior, with picturesque rocks and endless forests dotted with small, crystal-blue lakes.
From the north, St. John’s just kind of appears, sunken into the Harbour. I was unable to retain more since I was driving, and after four days on the edge of nowhere, St. John’s might as well have been New York or Toronto.
We checked into the hotel that would be our home for the next four days, and it was stunning in every way.
The room had stone walls and wooden beams. Again, photos > descriptions.



Also, nap > exploration.
A great thing about St. John’s is that there are tons of restaurants and bars that are very close. A stretch of George Street has the most bars than any other in Canada, according to a local, and I couldn’t remember a city this size with such a thriving pub scene.
It was also Saturday night.
We walked less than two blocks to Yellowbelly Brewery, which had been featured on the Food Network. Without reservations, we ended up downstairs at a part of the bar humorously named the Underbelly.
This was indeed a cool place, carved out of rock and lit almost exclusively by candles. The bartender said while the building itself did not survive the great fire of 1892, this foundation did. It was erected in 1725.
The brewery’s beers were pretty good, and the environment they were served made for a relaxing, blissful experience after a long day of driving.
I ordered the seafood chowder, and we split the sausage and provolone arancini balls. Cathy went with the marinated chicken lettuce wraps.
The chowder was one of those regionally delightful reasons for traveling. Not even a hint of fishiness, and it was thick and hearty with plenty of seafood.
The balls had excellent texture – crunchy exterior, moist, cheesy interior exploding with flavor. Cathy’s lettuce wraps were very solid, and they certainly did not hold back on the meat.
The lettuce wraps:



Five beers later, we headed back to the hotel. Rejuvenated from the nap, I still had a little left in the tank so I did a little bar hopping.
One place I’d been eyeing was a disappointment, but there were so many places to choose from it was hard not to have a good time.
Another cool thing about St. John’s is its music scene. Most of the bars had live, local music and most of the acts were quite good. And it varied: Some classic rock, some Irish, some country – something for almost anyone’s taste.
It was sort of like a mini Nashville, except without the over-the-top neon and endless crowds. The only difference was most did have small cover charges – typically $5 – and I found out most or all went to the talent, which I have no problem with.
I chipped in additional dollars to some of the acts I especially liked. 
There was one four-piece in particular that I enjoyed, but the bartenders were more interested in their phones than serving customers, so I moved on.
To no one's surprise, I saw the same place closed well before last call on the other two occasions I ventured out while in St. John's while most other pubs were thriving after midnight.
Having had enough indigenous beverages, I headed back to the hotel.
But not before some street meat. Delicious.

post edited by Bonk - 2018/12/14 21:52:12
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/27 20:53:45 (permalink)
And the first one had been on my bucket list since we’d started planning this trip: Jigg’s Dinner. It’s salt beef, potatoes, squash, carrots, peas pudding, cabbage and turnips.
Salt beef is like corned beef, except it’s brined for a very long time and left on the bone – it’s actually served that way. So it’s a saltier version of corned beef with the fat caps still attached.

Beats me why you went to the trouble of typing all that other verbiage...
I ended up staying for a couple of hours because they were quite good and because the beer was going down smoothly.

As evidenced by your sudden disassociation from right angles.  Or maybe 1969 suddenly took over.
post edited by ScreamingChicken - 2018/08/27 20:59:23
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/27 21:07:38 (permalink)
They were talking a week on the brine process. I've always heard a day or two on corned beef. 
And I've never had it served on the bone and/or with large portions of fat. 
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/28 08:18:33 (permalink)
Great stuff....Love the photos and your descriptions!  
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/28 18:53:10 (permalink)
This is a fabulous post and a delighful read Bonk. Thanks to you and Cathy for taking the time to share with us.
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/28 19:47:13 (permalink)
Let me echo the words above. Great report. Beautiful scenery......and food!
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/28 21:07:33 (permalink)
Thanks guys. Plenty of good stuff left.
Plus Cathy just completed editing of her camera photos and they're pretty awesome. I'll wrap this report up soon so I can get to those shots. 
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/28 23:11:46 (permalink)
Bonk, wow!!  This report just keeps getting better and better.  I really want to go to Newfoundland!  If I can just convince my girlfriend who is decidedly "indoorsy"...
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/29 00:40:21 (permalink)
<Switch to present mode>
Hi Roadfooders, it’s Sunday, Aug. 19, and with the lousy weather today I’m taking the opportunity to catch up on this report, as I had fallen behind by a couple of days.
Really enjoying St. John’s though it’s quite an adjustment to return to a decent-sized town after spending several days in a place that the middle of nowhere has never heard about.
We look forward to three more great days here.
Didn’t want to re-write our history and insert my present thoughts into previous days’ pages, so I’ll add a couple of things about this place that haven’t yet made it into prose.
-- I haven’t mentioned the temperatures, but the daily highs have typically been in the 60s.  It was actually humid and in the low 70s when arrived in Deer Lake, and on the rainy days it struggles to reach 60. Overnight temps haven’t dropped much – it’s typically in the upper 50s after dark.
-- One more person I thought was cool enough to mention here was a man named Wayne, who through his gregariousness forced me to stay at a small bar with no atmosphere that I was initially itching to leave.
On our second and final night in Bonavista, I tried another bar before heading to Shannon’s, possibly because of the Screeching In the night before and possibility because of the chance I would see someone from the previous night.
I walked in and realized this was not the type of establishment I wanted to spend quality drinking time in. Keno machines, no evidence of taps and only a few already-occupied barstools all raised red flags for me.
I walked up and ordered a bottle of Black Horse, since I knew I liked that beer.
One of the seated gentlemen who was probably in his early 60s but looked closer to 80 started talking to me as soon as I reached that I-want-a-beer threshold of the bar area. Where are you from? That sort of thing.
But within minutes I felt like we’d been lifelong friends. He was a lifelong Newfoundlander who was proud as hell of that status but concerned there weren’t jobs to entice young people to remain in the region.
He seemed sincerely interesting in where I was from and why I traveled all the way here. By the way, Barry the bartender had said including me he counted only 12 American tourists this season.
Wayne’s you’re-one-of-us attitude exemplified the warmth shown to us by so many here, that alone will drive me to return to The Rock someday.
A local lady also went out of her way to make me feel welcome, and she asked me if I had sampled all of the Newfoundland beers. I ended up downing three bottles of local brew I may not have otherwise known about and enjoyed each thoroughly.
For the record, Blackhorse and Quidi Vidi (Iceberg) stood above the rest, and Blue Star and Dominion were also excellent in bottles.
-- There are 500,000 people living on this island, and they have a combined 500,000 different accents. Most are easy to understand, some rougher, and a larger-than-expected percentage have genuinely asked if we are from Newfoundland.
-- And it’s either NEW-fin-land or new-fin-LAND, not NEW-fin-lind as I’d always referred to it. Everyone pronounces the last syllable as “land”.
-- As always, Cathy is the perfect travel partner. With the amount of planning we do for trips, our similar interests and dealing with the arduous nature of international flights, I wouldn't want to do a trip of this nature without her.
It's 2 p.m. and the we're headed out to lunch. Hopefully the weather will break and we can create havoc somewhere.
post edited by Bonk - 2018/08/29 00:54:30
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/29 01:42:09 (permalink)
We both slept off Saturday and did a little housekeeping, and Cathy caught up on photos and I wrote up the events of the first few days of the trip for this report.
It was raining, and the forecast didn’t look great. We ate the hotel’s spread for breakfast and finally decided to break camp around 2:30 p.m.
We wanted to pick up a couple of things at the store and there was a wing joint about 15 minutes away that sounded great.
We stopped at Wing N It, another small Newfoundland chain that really wanted to be a major sports bar chain. The menu had really sucked me in, and I really enjoy some of the sauces Canadians put on their wings.
Nothing against anyone in St. John’s, but the people in the country here were the nicest I’d ever encountered. You walk into a pub and are immediately welcomed by patrons and staff.
The people here were more normal Canadians: Certainly friendly and polite but not to that extent. The bar was set impossibly high the previous four days.
If I hadn’t mentioned, eating out here is more of an occasion than a timed event, so servers aren’t nearly as eager to push you out the door here as they are in the states, and I’ve found that’s the case throughout Canada.
This wait was especially long, as we were here well over an hour for water, an appetizer and wings.
We tried the ham and cheese balls, and they were well worth the wait. Oozing cheese and overwhelmingly flavorful, they shot up the leaderboard of my favorite apps on the trip.
We ordered a family size (24) of wings, and we were allowed four types. We tried two with rubs, one that a more traditional and another that was parmesan Caesar.
The Caesar was actually my favorite, and I’m usually a fan of the hot sauce-based sauces. It was a super-creamy sauce that complemented the juicy wings very well. The hot sauce one was ranked a ‘3’ on a 1-to-5 heat scale, and it would’ve been a 1.5 in the U.S. Tasty, yes, spicy, no.
Cathy liked the rubbed ones the best, and I liked them the least, but they were not far behind the sauced ones. This was definitely a good call.


All four of the wing types we ordered
One area we had no definite plans to explore was the northwest tip of the peninsula we were on, and with the rain slowing and the radar showing the moisture tracking to the northeast, I suggested we take a drive.
This was a designated day of rest, and I was rested and eager to investigate this new region of the island.
As it turned out, the rain actually stopped entirely as we approached the coast. We drove up and down it for a couple of hours, with each coastal town featuring that links-land, European-style beauty we’d enjoyed so much in Bonavista.


The view outside a Catholic church sitting on a hill.

Fog appeared to be rolling in at this coastal town but we still managed some quality shots.


One lookout was supposed to be especially serene, but like many of Canada’s wonders, we would have to work for it. The road to the coast was gravel and signs warned that it was not maintained and four-wheel drive was highly recommended.
We decided to take a look, and while it was littered with potholes, it was passable. We kept going and found a couple of rough patches, and then we began our descent to the coast. That worried me, because a couple of problem areas were on the way down, and of course that was also the only road out.
Finally the ocean appeared after about 8 km, and it was all worth it.
Amazing stuff.

Our expectations for scenery was very low this day but it still turned out well.
And that’s how it tends to go for us in Canada – making the decision to explore has always seemed to pay off.
It did on the fjord boat trip, as that type of tour is hard to come by outside Scandinavia. It did with Keels, as we saw a place that looked like another planet but was as welcoming as anywhere I’d ever visited.
We nearly decided to write this day up as a washout but impromptu exploration led us to some amazing treasures we wouldn’t have otherwise experienced.
I also remember a trip in 2008 when we visited the James Bay region, and we decided to walk an extra kilometer on a trail despite not knowing exactly where it would end and being treated to a glorious shot of the famed Rupert River rapids from feet away.
Another time we bought an all-day pass to a polar bear preserve in Cochrane, Ont., and decided to stop back one more time after lunch to see if the bears were active. We were treated to an amazing swim with a very engaging female polar bear who matched our every move along the plexiglass.
Canada makes you earn the perfect view either by driving a perilous road or walking a long distance, but it’s usually worth it, and the time spent on its pursuit just builds the anticipation and makes the payoff more rewarding.
</drama mode>
With the sky nearly clear, we tried to figure out a spot to get photos where we’d get a clear shot to the northwest, and we picked Portugal Cove, which we'd visited a couple hours prior. There was a large island in the distance but this was still a decent location.

For dinner, it was St. John’s Fish Exchange, which was less than a block from the hotel. This is one of the highest-rated restaurants in Newfoundland, and we soon found out why.
I ordered the lobster mac and cheese and Cathy got the steak sandwich with chimichurri. Not surprisingly, this was one of the best meals of the trip, and Cathy discovered a new favorite drink, a jam jam martini.
Jam jam is a type of indigenous cookie, and they served one with the drink. Originally planning to have one, she polished off three, and that was after a frozen daiquiri. I had a couple of Black Horses, and she even enjoyed sipping those.
Actually, I think she would’ve liked straight 151 at that point.
Our dinners:
We had another big day and an early start scheduled for Monday, so we went back to the hotel and zonked out.
post edited by Bonk - 2018/08/29 01:48:39
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/29 07:01:22 (permalink)
Beautiful...beautiful....that last shot of the Mac and Cheese was mouth watering!
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/29 11:58:41 (permalink)
Great report. Thanks.
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/30 20:42:03 (permalink)
Looks like a great trip Bonk.  I thought there would be more seafood?
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/30 22:28:46 (permalink)
Yeah, a little more coming, but like I said a post or two ago, despite this being an island, the seafood isn't always right-off-the-boat fresh.
Plus Cathy's not going to be ordering it which means we don't always go to places where seafood is king.
BTW, haven't forgotten about this report -- we'll get this wrapped up in the next few days. This is time consuming and free time has been at a premium the past few days.
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/31 11:33:01 (permalink)
I enjoyed your trip right along with you.  It seems that you have explored Newfoundland totally.  Thank you for the time and energy you spent with your report.
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Re: Newfoundland - Eating the Rock 2018/08/31 12:24:50 (permalink)
Great trip report folks. Wonderful write up and fantastic pictures.
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