I’m experimenting with a new way of writing down my memories. I’d love to know what you think. Do you like this type of writing, or do you prefer a simple “this is what we did” account?
Tuesday, September 18th, 2018
The mountains make an impressive view against the blue Newfoundland sky, and our love for this province grows with each day. From the friendliness and ample hospitality shown by its residents, to the amazing scenery, Newfoundland beckons you to stay a while. There are many places to park an RV free of charge, one of which is the parking lot at Limestone Barrens in Flower’s Cove. Behind the parking space, what looks like a barren wasteland at first actually holds rare species of plants and flowers. And if you stay a while, you’ll discover a beautiful bog on a lovely easy walk over a boardwalk. Trees, small in stature, sometimes provide a cozy arch for a thoughtful moment (or a lovely picture).
Children, who are full of joy at the simplicity of jumping from rock to rock will be entertained for hours here, as they are careful to jump without falling in the cracks of the limestone, where beautiful, rare plants grow. Interpretative panels at the trailhead explain the rarity of this landscape, and a large sign honours a Newfoundland military hero. The interesting changes in landscape in different parts of Newfoundland continues to amaze us and encourage us to explore more.
After leaving the Limestone Barrens (which aren’t barren at all), we stopped at another beautiful natural phenomenon: the Arches Provincial Park, where beautiful, jagged rocks make it difficult to resist the urge to climb.
I dare say we have some mountain climbers in the making in our hands. Were we alone, perhaps Dan and I would have hiked to the top of the arch rocks, like the brave visitors above. As it is, we’d prefer not to give the children any ideas—at least not without the use of harnesses, in a more controlled environment. They climbed the smaller rocks instead.
Wednesday, September 19th, 2018
Gros Morne National Park isn’t a place to be rushed through. The vast expanse of this beautiful park needs a good many days to be appreciated, and even though we spent three days here, we still feel we could have spent several more.
As we drive into the park, the beautiful mountains, plentiful trees, and the gorgeous water tell you that coming here was an excellent choice. At Gros Morne, you can learn about history, geology, biology, and more, without ever setting foot into a classroom.
The world is your classroom here, and simply by being in nature and closely observing its features, a great deal can be learned. But for those who prefer more structured learning, there are excellent children’s programs that encourage learning through exploration.
The Xplorers program in Canada’s National Parks and Historic Sites encourages children to learn about the world around them by exploring the parks, the nature that’s on display in them, and by completing activities that help them truly appreciate their surroundings.
At Lobster Cove Head, history meets technology: the light keeper’s house is the original, but nods to our modern times can be found sprinkled throughout: from the “wooden stove” with electrical burners, to the interactive panels where you can watch and listen to Newfoundland music being played (and dance to it, if you wish).
But the nod to the times of old are even more enthusiastic: typical wooden boats that generations past enjoyed can be borrowed for a fun time at the beach, and this simple activity put a smile on all the children’s faces. After a long and somewhat difficult hike down to the beach, we had a lovely playtime with the boats, and found the remains of many shellfish, sea urchins, and even a small crab. But our fun certainly didn’t end at the lightkeeper’s home.
Continuing our visit to Gros Morne, we visited the Tablelands Discovery Centre, where impressive crafts are on display: from the pitcher plant model made by a talented quilter, to the hooked rug map of the park, to the beautiful painting on the wall, science meets the arts in this beautifully appointed centre.
We only wish we had arrived a little earlier to enjoy it even more thoroughly. In addition to the beautiful art on the walls, the informative displays about plate tectonics, ancient rocks, fossils, and the geology of Gros Morne are as fascinating as they are beautiful. Did you know that Gros Morne is where the theory of plate tectonics made its biggest breakthrough? The Tablelands are an interesting sight after the green luscious mountains we saw elsewhere in the park.
The orange-like colour of the Tablelands mountain is striking against the green plants growing below. And in addition to observing the rock cycle first hand, the children were also able to learn about the carnivorous pitcher plants by examining the insects they trap.
We even saw live larvae from inside these plants, after borrowing a “stomach pump” from the Discovery Centre. The hands-on science opportunities at Gros Morne are endless; whether you follow the Xplorer books or simply observe on your own, there is a great deal to be learned from this beautiful landscape.
After spending three days in this enormous park and still feeling like we could spend many more, it’s hard to believe this is not the largest national park in Canada (Wood Buffalo National Park is—and it’s also the largest in the world).
Thursday, September 20th, 2018
After another night in the small Deer Lake RV Park (Gateway to the North), East Coast hospitality greeted us again. At first, to ensure we knew things were closing down tonight, since frost has already happened here. But secondly, to invite us to pick some apples at an orchard on our way out of town. We thoroughly enjoyed ourselves (and the kids their apples).
East Coast hospitality greeted us once again after we arrived in Lewisporte. Sometimes, we drift apart from our families or friends, or life circumstances prevent us from frequent physical contact. It was ten years ago that I last saw my cousin and his family.
This cousin of mine is not a cousin by blood, but by choice. Our parents met at a very young age, and have shared many meaningful moments. From experiencing the joy and difficulties of raising children, to welcoming us in their home when we immigrated to Canada, the experiences shared between our families means we are family, not just long-time friends. Just as with the rest of my family, living far apart means seeing each other infrequently, but it doesn’t matter. 10 years later, it still feels like we’re right at home as our cousin’s family welcomes us into theirs.
We were greeted with a delicious meal and were offered a space to stretch out and have a rest from the RV at the Seaside Inn, a beautiful airbnb located right next to my cousin’s home, with a view of the Atlantic in front.
With 5 beautiful, spacious bedrooms, a dining room with a large table, a gorgeous kitchen, laundry facility, and 3 gathering spaces (living room downstairs, TV room upstairs, and porch), the Seaside Inn is a perfect home for families wishing to spread out and have a relaxing time. The home is well-appointed, clean, and the hosts caring and attentive. Our royal treatment didn’t end with our lovely stay at the Seaside Inn—we also ate a delicious meal at Café by the Bay, my cousin’s cozy and lovely restaurant in Campbellton, a short drive from Lewisporte.
I highly recommend the Atlantic salmon, chippers, and the falafel appetizers, though everything we ate was absolutely delicious. The children also enjoyed their meal, and had a good time sitting at the counter to drink an herbal tea and eat a lovely dessert after dinner.
After our meal, my cousin’s oldest son enthusiastically showed us the pulp mill ruins behind the restaurant. As with everything we’ve encountered so far in Newfoundland, this place offers both an excellent chance to explore, as well as encouragement to study the history of the area. And let’s not forget the wonderful photo opportunities as well.
Saturday, September 22nd, 2018
As wonderful as exploring is, a quiet day of rest and relaxation was welcome after long days of driving. We enjoyed our space at the Seaside Inn on Saturday, and my cousin’s youngest boy entertained the children with games of Lego, hide and seek, trampoline jumping, and fort exploring.
Our children were excited to have a playmate and to enjoy a day of simple playtime. Meeting up with my family in Lewisporte again, 10 years after we had first been here, was an interesting part of our trip: we all have grown older, and it was hard to believe that the last time we were here, these boys sat on my lap to hear a bedtime story. They have grown into smart, kind, and loving boys, and it was a delight to see how happily they received our family. Of course, a meeting like this cannot be concluded without a photo-op.
Sunday, September 23rd, 2018
A trip to St. John’s to see the other side of the island was in our original plans. But with the weather turning very cold and windy, and one of the ferries being shut down for the year, we’ve decided to turn around sooner. We thus left Lewisporte early on Sunday to drive to Stephenville, attend mass, and spend the night in the St. Stephen’s parking lot. A slight miscommunication meant that we arrived at the church just in time for the 6:00 p.m. mass… if we had arrived the day before. On Sundays, only a morning mass is offered.
We thus stayed in our RV for a quiet night, and played the Bible Adventure Game together. I would offer a link to this, but I suppose it’s a bit too old to have online reviews; I can’t find any. I found it for a whopping $2.50 at Missions Thrift Stores behind our house in Kingston, a few months before we left. It’s a lovely board game involving the scriptures, and we enjoy playing it together.
Monday, September 24th, 2018
Schooling on the road, for us, means a little seat work and a lot of exploring and learning through real-world experiences. Each family has its own way of homeschooling, from classical education to unschooling, and everything in between. We believe each family should choose the style that suits them best and that helps the children learn at their own pace.
We aren’t particularly fond of labels, but if a name must be put to our homeschooling style, I would call us both eclectic and flexible homeschoolers. We take what works from many different perspectives, and are flexible when things we had planned don’t work out.
This morning, as cars came and went into the St. Stephens’ school parking lot (which is next to the church lot where we spent the night), it was an interesting juxtaposition to our schooling inside the RV. After finishing our school for the morning, we did some learning about alpacas.
We heard about the differences between llamas and alpacas and got a chance to feed the latter, at the Alpacas of Newfoundland farm. This is the last season that this farm will be in operation, as the owners are retiring and the farm is up for sale. The Alpacas have already been sold to a place in central Newfoundland.
We will be catching the ferry from Port-Aux-Basques to North Sydney, Nova Scotia Tuesday morning. We have so enjoyed our time in Newfoundland, and highly encourage you to come see this province if you have never had a chance to do so. The people are friendly, the scenery beautiful, and the weather… well, concentrate on the scenery and the people. And make sure to bundle up.
We found a lovely library in Stephenville, where the kids have been having fun playing and reading. We also picked up some books at the used book sale at this library, and we look forward to reading them in the RV.
We went to mass in the evening at St. Stephen’s Church, and the priests and community were very welcoming, and all promised to pray for our safe travels.
Have you ever been to Newfoundland? What is your favourite thing about the province?