Here we are, catching up on my black hole of content from August of 2016 to April of 2017! I can’t wait to turn my detailed notes and journals into blog posts from Canada, the United Kingdom, Hawaii, Thailand and Bali! First up: Newfoundland.
Thanks for joining me on this trip down memory lane.
I have to admit: I did not want to go on this road trip.
By the time I arrived in Newfoundland I was at the end of a long summer of endless work travel and I was mentally at the end of my rope. I’d already had to cut the trip short (more on that in the roundup) and when Ian excitedly told me we’d be going on a surprise road trip, I all but flopped face first on the bed and asked why we couldn’t just stay in St. John’s. I did not want to go anywhere.
Why yes! It is a miracle that Ian still finds me occasionally charming, indeed. But that’s beside the point. The point is, from the moment the car turned into Trinity after the three and a half hour drive from St. John’s, I could not stop gushing about how foolish I’d been, how delighted I was by the trip that had been silently and lovingly planned for me, and how Ian was, by all measurable factors, the greatest man in at least our current hemisphere.
Can I just tell you, as someone who plans trips near-constantly both professionally and personally, what an absolute joy it is to have someone else plan one for you? I was absolutely tickled by our colorful and charming suite at Artisan Inn, and I didn’t have to comb through a single review or price check a single comparison site to get there.
This waterfront inn and its multiple building and properties appeared to take up half the town — and with a population of 169 residents according to the 2016 census, that might not be far off. After settling into our room and receiving an incredibly thorough introduction to the area from our lovely host, we were off to explore.
We enjoyed a quick lunch at the waterfront Dock Marina restaurant before setting off for the shops along Dock Row, my favorite stops being Aunt Sarah’s Chocolates — the butter crisp toffee crackle we bought was about as addictive as I presume actual crack to be — and Elizabeth Burry Studios, which had an impressive selection of gifts, local art, and artisanal teas.
Now, what happened next is kind of crazy, if you think about it. There I was, waffling over which tea infusion felt the most authentic Newfoundland, when I spotted a girl in the shop who looked familiar. Very familiar — it was Candace Walsh of Free Candi! Candace and I have been online friends for years but had somehow never actually met in person, and so it was pretty crazy running into her in a tiny outport town — even if she is the go-to girl for all things Newfoundland. Of course, like two terrible flustered blogger friends, we did not commemorate this moment with a single photo. Facepalm.
Just trust us. It definitely happened.
One of Trinity’s brightest stars is Rising Tide Theatre, an innovative organization dedicated to promoting the arts and sharing the culture of Newfoundland. Ian, the amazing trip planner that he is, had even secured us tickets to that evening’s performance, and we giddily picked our tickets up at the box office.
I’ll confess here: we hated the play. The theater is charming and perfect, the performers were talented, and we totally support the mission of Rising Tide. But the historical musical that was showing that night was so not our cup of tea that we frantically whispered back and forth about sneaking out during intermission — but in classic co-dependent us fashion, we were too concerned that we’d offend the cast or crew, who would surely note two missing from such an intimate audience. In retrospect… I should have feigned illness. Life’s too short to watch play you don’t love when you could be snuggling in an oversized hotel bed.
Disaster or not, it was another sweet treat that I was so touched Ian had planned (and actually hated more than I did, ha!)
After walking what I’m quite confident was every street in the tiny town, we meandered onto the path that twisted above and around it. The Gun Hill Trail is a .6 mile / 1km loop that leads to panoramic views of Trinity Bight. We lost the overgrown path a few times, but overall it was an easy, meandering walk with one tough push at the top.
From the top, I marveled at how the town brought me right back to the Snæfellsnes Peninsula in Iceland — when I texted my mom and sister and photo and asked them if it reminded them of anything, they both nailed the stop from our epic Iceland road trip on the first guess.
The return half of the loop trail brought us right back home to the Artisan Inn, where it was time to spiff up for an early dinner.
Ian had made us reservations at the Artisan Inn’s Twine Loft, the place to dine in Trinity. With only 20-25 seats per sitting, reservations are essential. Set menus tend to make me a bit nervous as a tragically picky eater (perhaps less tragic, these days) but this one didn’t disappoint in the slightest — Ian and I were entertained by how scandalized some of our dining neighbors were by my photographing the various dishes, though.
Guess not many food bloggers make it out to Trinity these days!
All too soon, the sun was setting on our one and only night in Trinity.
Normally I’m not a huge fan of one night stays anywhere, but it was actually quite a sufficient amount of time to get a feel for this teeny town. With more time we might have gone whale watching, joined a historical walking tour, tackled more hiking or visited the Port Rexton Brewery, but we knocked off a surprising amount of highlights for having woken up in St. John’s that morning.
The next morning, we were back on the road, but thankfully this time our first destination was a mere fifteen minutes away. The Skerwink Trail is a 3.3 mile / 5.3km route that takes in tall sea stacks, steep cliffs, sweeping beaches, and dramatic rock formations. It’s a must-do in the area, according to just about anyone we consulted.
While the morning was decidedly moody, we didn’t mind the cooler weather for tackling such a trail.
We kept our eyes peeled for the whales and icebergs commonly sighted offshore in the summer, but we were a tad late in the season for both. No matter — the views were gorgeous enough all on their own.
As soon as we got back in the car, the skies opened up for the rainy, forty minute drive to the Bonavista Social Club in Upper Amherst Cove. Ian was salivating before we even walked in the door at the pun of it all, and I admit I too was pretty pumped for pizza from the only commercial wood fired bread oven in all of Newfoundland and Labrador.
Fantastic breads, pizzas, soups, salads and sandwiches containing straight-from-the-garden ingrediants draw crowds even to this remote corner of the coast — despite it being the very final days of August, the place was packed and we had a wait for a table. It was well worth it, and we vowed to return someday when the rain wasn’t relentless and dine again, this time on the ocean-view deck.
Fueled for the final stretch of our adventure, we headed out for some sightseeing. Cape Bonavista Lighthouse was one of the most striking I’ve seen in my travels, and Dungeon Provincial Park’s collapsed sea cave was as dramatic as its name suggests. While we didn’t linger long at either due to the rapidly deteriorated weather, they were excellent stops nonetheless.
Note: while we personally did not see any puffins, whales, or icebergs, they are indeed common sightings in this corner of Newfoundland.
What happened next, however, was even more wild than those sightings would have been. When we saw a beautiful group of wild (or at least, fairly unsupervised) horses lingering on a desolate road we’d turned down, I asked Ian to let me out so I could snap a few photos.
I turned around from admiring one gorgeous creature when I saw another horse standing directly next to the car and peering intently at Ian through the driver’s side window.
At first Ian rolled the window down to say hi, but his expression quickly turned to horror as the horse appeared to be attempting to eat the car. Ian was in full panic mode and I was doubled over in laughter as the horse thoughtfully munched the rearview mirror, contemplating its flavor.
Once we’d convinced our horsey friend that cars are friends not food, we made our way to Bonavista proper, more specifically, to George Street. Here, I almost wept at the door when I saw we’d just missed the opening hours of East Coast Glow, a natural apothecary featuring local ingredients like iceberg water and drooled over the artisanal ice cream at Sweet Rock, the sister company to Aunt Sarah’s chocolates in Trinity.
Eventually, we made our way to The Boreal Diner, a small farm-to-table eatery started by one of the recent crop of St. John’s residents moving to Bonavista and starting up trendy small businesses. We loved everything about the small menu, the curated selection of Newfoundland gifts, and the upstairs outpost of Broken Books, a used bookstore in St. John’s.
If Trinity was all things quaint and charming, the peek I had of Bonavista was hip and youthful. I absolutely adored our time exploring them and would not have had the same experience in Newfoundland without it!
But what I loved best of all was going on an adventure in which, since someone else had planned it, every move was a surprise. Sometimes I think I over-research trips to my own detriment, and I couldn’t get over how much fun it was to simply wake up and be delighted by every thing we did. I might just ask Ian to take the reigns more often… if I can control myself from cracking open a guidebook (or three.)
This trip to Newfoundland flew by — but I hope it won’t be my last.
Have you been to Newfoundland? Do you like to take surprise trips?