Gros Morne

August 20 to September 5, 2005

Portland Creek

8pm, August 29, Portland Creek, Entente Cordiale B&B

Briliant idea of the day: Air Canada should establish a tickle trunk at the Deer Lake Airport for people - apparently numerous - whose luggage is lost or delayed.

We met a couple at the B&B in Cow Head who'd lost all their luggage. But, like ours, it arrived a day after they did.

Last night we had dinner at the Shallow Bay Inn in Cow Head. It was, shall we say, underwhelming. Our host at the B&B - who seems to be Cow Head's most ardent advocate - says it was a famous restaurant, "line ups most nights." What he neglected to mention was that the source of its fame was the number of bus tour denizen who've been through in part because it's the only place for miles in any direction big enough to accomodate a whole bus.

And the line-ups are because when a bus pulls up, it does fill the place, and because of the tour's schedule, all tour members must be seated and fed at once and at the same time.

From what I can tell, the restaurant's fame can't possibly be related to its food. (Standard caveat: I'm a vegetarian in remote/small town Newfoundland. I know my food's going to be crap. My assessment of what food at least has the potential to be good is second hand.)

Irene asked about the fish and whether or not any of the specials (cod, scallop or shrimp) was fresh. And the waiter said - with a straight face - that it was fresh frozen.

"Well, it's not in season," our B&B host explained later. In season, he said, was "when the so-called federal government tells us we can fish, which for cod begins in September."

However at pretty much every other place we went, there was fresh fish. I reckon the Shallow Bay Inn needs to have the quantities on hand to handle bus tours and that's just not do-able unless you use "fresh frozen" fish.

Most of this part of Newfoundland lives out of massive chest freezers, it seems. In all the tiny grocery stores we've been in, there are walls lined with narrow, not very full shelves, and at the back there is a battery of carefully labelled chest freezers.

Maybe it's just not possible to get enough fresh fish to handle a bus tour on short notice.

Everything else about the Inn was good. The staff were friendly and efficient, even though we could hear some guests being quite rude to them. The restaurant has a lovely view of the bay.

This morning at breakfast we sat around a table with all the other guests and chatted - about gardens with a retired couple from Corner Brook, about golf courses with a woman from Pasedena, and about unions and politics with a couple from Brampton.

The latter own some form of airconditioning parts and maintenance company, and they're proudly non-union. However our conversation was surprisingly calm and reasonable. It was actually a good discussion, I thought, though Irene notes that we drove the other guests from the room eventually. I contend that was because they'd finished their breakfasts by then.

However the late start was actually good for them because by the time we'd grown bored with agreeing to disagree, their luggage had arrived.

Eventually we got on the road in search of a kayak to rent. We couldn't get the outfitter (Long Range Adventures) on the phone, so we decided to just go to their office. No one home. And the outfitter is a one-person plus girlfriend operation that has a small shed set up outside their home.

We drove back toward Cow Head, trying to figure out a next move. It turned out to be lunch at a fish and chips wagon, which, apparently, could get fresh fish delivered daily.

Irene tells me it was much tastier than the fish served at the "fancy" restaurant in Cow Head. The lesson is that appearances can be deceiving.

Lesson two, chapter two. The outfitter. We drove towards the park, thinking we'd find a trail to hike but spotted a car with Long Range's logo emblazoned on the side parked out front of the outfitter's.

They are two people, boyfriend and girlfriend with a handful of kayaks - doubles only. But to look at their website you'd figure they were an institution. Their season is drawing to a close so they were quite relaxed about when we'd show up, how long, when we'd pay, etc etc.

After sorting the kayaks, we went to hike the Baker's Brook Falls trail. It's a 10km return trip through (boardwalked) bog, tuckamore forest and eventually ending up on a hill overlooking a falls. After Western Brook Pond and Gros Morne Mountain, it was... er... something of a letdown. But there were lots of raspberries. And the forest and bog are quite different from what we're used to in Ontario. But they make better rivers in Ontario.

We were back from the hike around 4pm and decided to head up to our stop for the next two nights, the Entente Cordiale. This place is a real find.

It's an old-ish looking, two story homestead-like woodframe house. It's positively manor-like, like a grand old cottage that you might find on a lake in Haliburton or Muskoka. It overlooks a sandy (sandy - really truly) beach that follows a crescent shaped-bay. It's surrounded by a clover lawn and a driftwood and wire fence. The rooms are done up in antique furniture except for the bathrooms which have real showers and toilets.

If you want to stay at a B&B, stay here. It's a bit out of the way, but it's about the same price, it's lovely and they'll make you great dinners too, if you ask them in advance.

We had dinner here and Irene says her scallops were very good. They made me pasta with tomato sauce which was fine. Better than most non-camping meals I've experienced.

We're here again tomorrow night, an act of tremendous foresight on Irene's part. One of many reasons why I love her.

Tuesday, August 30th, 6pm, Entente Cordiale

At least we saw a seal. Today was to be our kayak day. But when we got up, it was raining heavily and the clouds coated the sky. So we postponed until noon and decidedto hang around the B&B reading.

We read for a bit and, as the rain had ended and it almost sort of looked like the cloud was lifting, we decided to go for a walk on the beach. After, we drove down to St. Pauls to meet the outfitter and go paddling on St. Paul's inlet.

I was optimistic about the weather clearing. It had stopped raining. But by the time we got to St. Pauls, it was spitting. Just after we launched, it started to pour. And the wind came up.

We were booked for four hours. We lasted one and a half. In retrospect, we should have stayed at the B&B. Ah well - a cautionary tale, for sure.

We've switched to a nicer, bigger room with a view of the ocean. It's quite nice. We can read up here in comfort while avoiding the TV prattle downstairs.

The folks at Entente Cordiale were nice enough to let us use their laundry too, so I have clean clothes.

River: Baker’s Brook Falls. "But we have these at home..."

River: Baker’s Brook Falls. "But we have these at home..."

Occurence:  The Arches, near Portland Creek. Waves do freaky things.

Occurence: The Arches, near Portland Creek. Waves do freaky things.

Idyllic: The beach, Portland Creek with the fabulous Entente Cordiale in the background

Idyllic: The beach, Portland Creek with the fabulous Entente Cordiale in the background