Canada’s Atlantic province of Newfoundland and Labrador is littered with lines. There are fishing lines, clotheslines, ancestral lines, beelines, code lines, lines laden with knitted woolens and yarns of a humorous kind, but what you won’t find are long waiting lines. The longest streak I experienced on my recentto get off the Atlantic Marine Ferry in Port aux Basques after a six-hour journey from North Sydney, Nova Scotia.
During the crossing, I met a trucker who regaled me with classic Newfie saying, “Stay where you’re too ‘till I come where you’re at.” Their singular way with words is legendary. Even the names of their villages and towns can’t escape — Black Tickle, Come by Chance, Cow Head, Heart’s Desire, Dildo, and Nameless Cove. How can you not be enchanted before you even reach the Rock, as it is so fondly referred to? Newfoundland Labrador was the first province of Canada to see the sunrise and the last to join the Confederation in 1947. For one week this summer, I drove 400 miles north along the western coastline highway with the ocean on the left and spruce forests and mountain ranges on the right — the Appalachian mountain chain, born in Alabama, ends its journey here.
Before I arrived in Newfoundland, I was told to watch out for moose, as there are 120,000 of them. Newfoundlanders keep their “moose eyes” open if one or more of them decides to leap out in front of your car. I was wide-eyed, both fearful and excited, searching the sides of the road. What I did see were lighthouses. In Rose Blanche, just south of Port aux Basques, I visited one of the last granite lighthouses on the Atlantic seaboard, perched high above one of its most dramatically beautiful coasts. A few miles away, in Isle aux Morts (Isle of the Dead), the memory of the lighthouse keeper’s family’s heroic deed in 1828 is kept alive in annual celebrations. The Harvey family, including their Newfoundland dog, Hairy Man, rescued 163 sailors whose ships sank off their coast.
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Newfoundlanders are nothing if not defiant and resilient. Fishing was their way of life and code their lifesaver. The word “fish” itself usually refers to code. You can have a cold tongue (apparently a delicacy, which I politely declined), cod au gratin (with lots of cheese on top), cod fish cakes (my favorite), fried cod, grilled cod, or cod any way you want it. Whatever fish is caught that day, you can be sure it will reach your plate.
Insects come next. Not to be eaten, for sure, but to be dazzled by the Newfoundland Insectarium, thanks to one of the best storytellers and educators I have ever had the pleasure to meet. Lloyd Hollett, the dual owner with his wife, Sandy, exudes such passion for them that I even became fond of a living Asian black giant scorpion. That afternoon, I drove to Gros Morne National Park, one of two UNESCO World Heritage Sites in Western Newfoundland. It is 1,120 square miles of mountains, bays, fjords, forests, and all the outdoor activities anyone could wish for.
And to top all that, one of the few places on the planet where you can walk on the earth’s mantle is the Tablelands.