It is always good to talk with the locals that you meet on a trip. They give you an insight into their culture as well as some local tips on where to go and where to eat. Today we were lucky to meet a few that gave us that and more.
A drive out to the Cape St. Francis lighthouse was on the agenda for today, so we headed north to get to the end of the peninsula called Cape St. Francis. We drove over a road for about 5km that was more potholes than dirt, only to find that the lighthouse is barricaded shut. And it did not look like a historic one either, just a functional one. We were enjoying the views when suddenly we heard voices. From above. Hmmmmm…maybe just some kids up on the cliff playing around. Suddenly we hear a “Hello!” and we look up to see an older couple climbing around.
“How did you get up there?” I asked.
“Right here”, the lady walking around says and points to a narrow opening in the rocks. “If we can go up so can you!”
They proceeded to climb down, chatted a bit, and off they went. We looked at the crack in the rock and decided if they could do it, we could too. Up we scrambled and what a view. There is a hiking trail that runs across the top and we followed it for a bit. There was an iceberg across the bay but we could not see it too clearly as it was pretty far away. Lots of flowers and colors with the rocks showing some beautiful rusty tones. Now, to get down!
We passed a cute little house on the way to the lighthouse and so we stopped to check it out on the way back.
It seemed to be a rental. Not sure if you would want to rent it, but the views were great.
There was also an old pier jutting out into the water and we think this was probably a place where fairly large fishing boats came. The pier does not look like it can be used anymore and there was a lot of cool seaweed moving about like ladies’ hair in the water as a result.
We also saw a red house here that appears to be occupied in the summer months. They had their priorities straight by tying down the outhouse! Makes you wonder what kind of weather they get in this area.
As we drive back over the long bumpy road, we head towards an unusual and unique house in Portugal Cove. My sister’s sister-in-law married a guy whose family bought a house in St. Philips, Newfoundland, for $500 in the 1940s. It also included 1 ½ acres and was set high on a hill overlooking the water. They were able to trace this house back to the 1730s and claim that it is the oldest house in Newfoundland. No one has disproved it so maybe it is true.
We contacted the neighbor, Luke, who let us in and gave us the rundown on the history of the building, which I found to be quite interesting.
For years it was used by the family for high tea. They were driven to the house but never stayed there. The house was in a different location and moved to its current location but no one knows where it moved from or why. The house has been restored and has three rooms: the main room, kitchen (a room with a shelf and a small sink) and a small room that would be the bedroom. There was an original slate fireplace but it was taken down as it was pulling down the house! Now there is a nice wood stove in there that makes it all nice and cozy but the house stays boarded up until someone stays there. The outhouse is outside but is very swanky and the water comes from a well complete with an original hand pump. It is a cute little house and when the owner comes up to hunt, he stays there. His wife stays in a hotel.
Luke and his adorable 2-year-old invited us up to his house for a beer, which we were happy to do and there we met Tony, and between the two of them, we learned a lot about the area.
Many people in the area had jobs working on the oil rig that was just off the Newfoundland coast. When they decided to close down the rig, many men lost their jobs and it greatly affected the economy in the area. I asked what happened to the oil rig and Luke said that it was towed and sold to a company in India. Long way to tow a rig!
There are many families on the island that have been here for generations. Many towns are now diminishing in size and will be gone as younger people move off the island to find work. Some towns only have a few houses occupied since the empty ones cannot be sold as no one can make a living in the area. Newfoundland is also closing 54 libraries, which is over half of the libraries that are on the island. It is sad to see such a once vibrant area slowly move into decline.
Hunting moose is a big deal in Newfoundland and you can get a license for any moose-male, female, or calf. They have some restrictions but they ask that you hunt in a very remote area so that may be why you can hunt any moose. They call it license day when they come in and it is just as important as other events such as birthdays. A big deal indeed.
We also learned that men have sheds. And they are not all small sheds but can be barns. They house everything a man could want from gas grills to tractors to TV’s. It is the Newfoundland version of a man cave. And I guess you can never have too many tractors!
The view from the house gives a small look at Bell Island and even though I am not a big WWII fanatic, I learned a few things I did not know about Canada, Newfoundland, Bell Island, and the war. Bell Island is one of the few locations in all of North America that German forces attacked during the Second World War. U-boats (submarines) invaded the island in 1942, sinking four large carriers and killing over 60 men in Conception Bay. The submarine came into the bay twice and even blew up a pier. It was generally believed that a spy was helping the Germans, giving them info as to when to come into the bay. Interesting read if you want more info: Sinking boats