Travel with Awe and Wonder: Stumble-Upons: First Observations in Newfoundland

by Christy Anselmi /
Christy Anselmi's picture
Oct 18, 2022 / 0 comments

This summer, my husband and I undertook a move. A relocation from Massachusetts to Arizona has been undertaken by others, no doubt. We decided to make things a little more interesting than a direct route. We headed north. Our circuitous route is winding us through Newfoundland, Portugal, and North Carolina. When one would think to take the southerly route from the Carolina’s to Arizona in the winter months, we will make Bugs Bunny’s famous right turn at Albuquerque to get to Bozeman, Montana. Then, we’ll drive to Arizona. Our 100 pound Golden Doodle, Kipper, was not consulted in the making of these plans, but we plied him with treats for the first three years of his life to the point he considers us his pack and blindly follows our direction. Our two sons weren’t consulted either. But, given that they abandoned us in their selfish quest to get a college education, we felt at liberty to leave a note on the front door explaining why other people now live in their house.

Travel with Awe and Wonder: Stumble-Upons: First Observations in Newfoundland

We arrived in Clarke's Beach, Newfoundland on the Avalon Peninsula! I would describe the town of Clarke's Beach as "a few things in between the Welcome to Clarke's Beach sign and the Thanks for Visiting Clarke's Beach sign."

One of the things between the signs is the Harbor View Market. The owner of our AirBnB wrote in her email to us, "The Harbor View Market has everything you need." Though doubtful of that being a fact, on our first day here we entered the market with optimism. 

While wandering the five short aisles, John and I silently wondered to ourselves what meal we could make out of ketchup, Brillo pads, and toothpaste. After exiting the store, John insightfully commented, "In fact, they DO have everything we need, because they have kindly set the parameters of WHAT we need." 

This is what you need because this is what we have. 

A quick trip into the town of St. John's (an hour away) brought us to an actual grocery store and more connected to what we now describe as "what Americans need."

Luckily, we did find a grocery store closer to us in the town of Bay Roberts (which John and I call The Dread Pirate Roberts from The Princess Bride), right across from the laundromat (also known as where John and Christy will be spending Sunday mornings). Not since our days living together in Atlanta have we spent part of our weekend at a laundromat. I guess we missed carrying around a baggie full of quarters, drying our towels for thirty minutes before realizing that particular dryer doesn't work anymore, folding our clothes on a table that just got our clean clothes filthy again, and cringing when we drop our underwear on the floor as we pull it out of the dryer (the one that doesn't work). 

I think there is ying and yang to everything, and our yang at the laundromat was meeting Lyle, who mentioned that we should probably be aware of a tricky system of the speed bumps in Newfoundland that emerge randomly at dusk on occasion, also known as moose. On second thought, maybe the laundromat and Lyle's information are both ying. The yang was being done with doing laundry for the next week.

Few people who come to Newfoundland describe it as glamorous. Those who do tend to come from the northeastern part of Siberia or central Gobi desert. Did I actually take up space in the car with mascara?! When Tevas clearly identify you as an glitzy outsider, you are fairly sure you can put away your Michael Kors Palm Lace Coral Minidress for the duration of your stay.

What Newfoundland lacks in glam, they make up for in fascinating stumble-upons. Certainly some planning went into our excursions, but often our outings started in one direction, then got diverted when I would unexpectedly yell from the passenger seat, “Go down there!” 

Take, for instance, the town of Cupids, population 473. To say you have to WANT to find Cupids would be like saying "you have to be OKAY being around people" when telling someone about New York City. Our first hike (Burnt Head Trail) is what led us through Cupids. The hike promised and delivered our first experience with beautifully marked trails that brought us to the jagged cliffs of Conception Bay. Stunning views of the bay, as seen over the edge of plummeting granite walls where only the most mentally and physically well-balanced hikers should traverse. No "Caution" signs here to warn of the obvious. But this being a story about Cupids, Newfoundland, I digress...

no caution signs in Cupids, Newfoundland. From Travel with Awe and Wonder: Stumble-Upons: First Observations in Newfoundland
No Caution signs

Returning to the car after the hike and only a short couple of tire rotations from the trailhead, the top of a strange wooden structure appeared over the pine trees. I asked John to stop so I could investigate. A quick walk across the street and around a conifer revealed a closed shed that looked to be the dwelling of someone's push lawn mower and a rake or two. 

Perchance Theatre, Cupids, Newfoundland. From Travel with Awe and Wonder: Stumble-Upons: First Observations in Newfoundland

Nailed to the outside of the shed was a piece of white copy paper with BOX OFFICE printed on it, and below that was a piece of copy paper with a schedule of performances for July and August. The strange wooden structure peeking over the pines was a tiny outdoor theater! I hustled back to the car and announced, "We are going to a play on Thursday night! That's a theater!" And so we did...

Perchance Theatre, Cupids, Newfoundland. From Travel with Awe and Wonder: Stumble-Upons: First Observations in Newfoundland
So glad we took a chance on the Perchance Theatre production!

The Perchance Theatre in Cupids, Newfoundland could seat approximately 50 people. On the night we went, there were approximately 20 people in attendance. After we took our unassigned seats on one of the theater's wooden benches under the cloth canopy, we read the Playbill to educate ourselves about the storyline of the play (Hay Fever) we were about to see. 

The play was unequivocally local, simple, and unrefined. The experience didn't have to be perfect to be wonderful! I was totally charmed by the whole evening. We committed to go to each of the three performances being offered this summer. I can't wait for Shakespeare's "The Tempest" this Sunday!

If you think I'm done with the miniscule town of Cupids, top off your wine and settle in. 

We took another hike originating in Cupids. The Spectacle Trail promised the same vast views of rocky crags, immeasurable water, and dots of houses lining the shore. 

Top of Spectacle Trail Head, Cupids, Newfoundland. From Travel with Awe and Wonder: Stumble-Upons: First Observations in Newfoundland
Top of Spectacle Head Trail overlooking the town of Cupids

However, while the obvious "spectacle" was the aforementioned stunningness of the water/landscape, what overwhelmed us were the blueberries! 

The trail was 1.5 miles and, without exaggeration, wild blueberries lined the trail for a solid mile of our hike. They were everywhere…and not a person or crow in sight. We gorged ourselves! 

wild blueberry haul in Newfoundland. From Travel with Awe and Wonder: Stumble-Upons: First Observations in Newfoundland

The wonderful thing about blueberries is they don't ask much of the forager. Blueberries don't ask you to have nimble fingers to get around painful thorns, as do pompous raspberries. They don't ask you to reach up high or get a ladder as oranges and grapefruit wryly mock your height. They don't ask you to wield a hammer to get into their deliciousness like stubborn and modest coconuts or walnuts. All that blueberries want is for you to 1) notice them, 2) pick them, 3) eat them, and 4) poop outside so they can make more of themselves for you to enjoy. John and I did three out of four of those blueberry tasks, and I went back alone with containers in which to collect those lovelies later that day. Still, no people and no crows.

blueberries, Newfoundland. From Travel with Awe and Wonder: Stumble-Upons: First Observations in Newfoundland
Miles and miles of blueberries!

When I left the trailhead after harvesting the sun-soaked blueberry sweeties that I purposely did not reveal in a write-up on the app AllTrails for fear people would show up, I turned left instead of right for "home" just to take a look around. 

Picking blueberries. From Travel with Awe and Wonder: Stumble-Upons: First Observations in Newfoundland

Savoring the harbor view of lapping water and colorful fishing boats, past the two fishermen cleaning their catch on an outdoor fish cleaning table, and a quick wave to a local woman sitting on her porch, I jauntily drove past a beautiful, large museum. 

fishing villages line the coast of Newfoundland. From Travel with Awe and Wonder: Stumble-Upons: First Observations in Newfoundland
Fishing villages line the coast

Screeching to a halt, I said to myself, "Was that ACTUALLY a beautiful, large museum?! In Cupids, Newfoundland?!" U-turn! Well, I'll be damned, it is!! Through the doors of The Cupids Legacy Centre was a modern, beautiful museum, where two 20-something year old men greeted me with knowledge of the history of Cupids fixed in their brain and time on their hands. I pushed off their informational advances by revealing that I have a husband...who I needed to pick up at our rental house because he just had to see this.

Cupids Legacy Centre, Newfoundland. From Travel with Awe and Wonder: Stumble-Upons: First Observations in Newfoundland
Fascinating museum in Cupids! 

John and I spent an hour reading the informative plaques, listening to the audio recordings, and engaging with the interactive displays all teaching about Cupids' claim to fame as the first English settlement in Newfoundland in 1610. This treasure of a museum was so well done and so well cared for we vowed to come back to spend time in the well-stocked bookshop. I am actually going back this week to take a theatrical tour through the museum with a guide who is in character as a first settler. I'm totally geeking out with excitement!

John and I are trying to take a hike every day. We might not meet that goal for our entire stay, but so far we have been successful. Every hike we have been on so far has eventally gotten us to an area where you look to your amazement and terror at crystal clear water crashing against jagged, rock, multi-story cliffs and expansive views of the ocean or a bay. 

We are at the south end of Conception Bay. If the name of the bay is to invoke a concept, let it be images of gorgeous, pristine, rugged, and treacherous landscape.

rugged and pristine coastline, Conception Bay, Newfoundland. From Travel with Awe and Wonder: Stumble-Upons: First Observations in Newfoundland
Rugged and pristine

A leisurely Sunday afternoon drive up the coast of Conception Bay took us to the town at the tip of the peninsula, Grates Cove. Grates Cove should change names with the actual town in Newfoundland called Blow Me Down. 

Grates Cove, Conception Bay, Newfoundland. From Travel with Awe and Wonder: Stumble-Upons: First Observations in Newfoundland

Completely exposed to the Atlantic Ocean at the convergence of two bays (Conception Bay and Trinity Bay), Grates Cove has steady winds that nearly made our dog Kipper into a kite at the end of his leash. I'm convinced that no one under 100 pounds could ever survive in this town. After a minute on the rocky ledge at Grates Cove with wind lashing mercilessly, your eyes cease to have any moisture…which helped John and I fix our gaze on a flag desperately clinging to a carabiner affixed to a flagpole. With the wind reducing the amount of saliva in our mouths to "lost in the desert" levels John managed to say, "How many flags do you think they go through in a year?"

Winds of Grates Cove, Newfoundland. From Travel with Awe and Wonder: Stumble-Upons: First Observations in Newfoundland

It is my belief that nearly everything in life presents pros and cons. The pro with regard to weather in Grates Cove is the money you save on exfoliating scrubs. As the wind whips up mists of ocean salt water and pelts it at you, you can take heart that your skin will glow with the smoothness of a baby’s butt. Buffed and shiny you can enjoy a drink on your front porch eyes gazing at the outstretched ocean, but make sure you don’t bring out anything glass or porcelain or ceramic or paper or food or a small table or chairs. Those things will surely be blown away. 

Weather aside…

Oh who am I kidding…in Newfoundland, weather is never an aside.  

 

More in this series: 
Travel with Awe and Wonder: A Change of Life Predeparture Checklist

Travel with Awe and Wonder: Getting to Newfoundland, Part I

Travel with Awe and Wonder: Getting to Newfoundland Part Two: Muddling Through

Travel with Awe and Wonder: Getting to Newfoundland Part Three: On Command

Christy Anselmi, the Travel with Awe and Wonder Editor for Wandering Educators, taught kindergarten and first grade for 13 years in public schools in Atlanta and Massachusetts. She took a two year diversion to teach and learn in a Montessori school in Bozeman, Montana and a 10 year sabbatical to raise her own children. Christy has an abiding interest in early childhood education and how to provide developmentally appropriate experiences to engage young people in connection and communication. Raised by parents who got Christy involved in travel at a young age, she developed a curiosity about what is around each corner. Married to a Wyoming man who developed his own wanderlust after years in the Army, the two (along with two sons) have lived in five states (Georgia, Montana, Utah, Kansas, Massachusetts, and soon to be Arizona) and one country (Germany). Christy is a life-long noticer of intriguing scenarios, phrases, and ironies in everyday life. Finally putting pen to paper, she has a growing passion for insightful travel-experience writing.