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Going underground – Miner Chris visits Bell Island

Last week I returned to the beautiful “Bell Island” on a short ferry run across the tickle leaving Portugal Cove. A year had passed since I explored Lance Cove, Wabana, the craggy coastlines, Dicks’ Fish & Chips, the lighthouse and more with my German and Swiss friend.

On this occasion, I decided to be a tourist and visit a major tourist attraction, the #2 Mine. In fact, my 81-year old grandmother recently took the tour. It is quite an experience. Bell Island was a boom town with an iron ore mine spanning over seven decades of active operations. However, in the 1960’s the mine closed. It would only be re-opened 17 years ago, not to mine ore but tourist :).

Ed, our very talented and knowledgeable tour guide provided exceptional context. His personal connection to the mine was very strong, with his father and grandfather as former employees. I highly recommend him as your tour guide.

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The hard hat is quite the change from sitting behind a desk at Confederation Building. It was not my first time underground or in a vacated mine. In 2007, I toured a salt mine in Poland. I like being an experiential tourist. From the highlights of the tour, I certainly could not imagine the working conditions and poor lighting miners  faced in the early 1900’s.

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I am quite proud of the efforts of those involved in the re-development of a vacant mine into a tourist attraction. It is so important that we tell our stories. On this particular tour we were the only two Newfoundlanders & Labradorians of twelve on the tour. There are likely other assets and unique aspects of rural life that could be developed into burgeoning tourism attractions in our own regions that expand our current product offering.

The tour is 45 mins to an hour. There is also a museum and incredible photography highlighting the island life in the mid-1900’s. The museum has a gift shop and cafe.

Well, it looks like Miner Chris is calling it a day :) Be sure to visit Bell Island on your next visit to the Avalon Peninsula. Be sure to get your Dicks’ Fish & Chips too!

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Live Rural NL -

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA
The Straits-White Bay North
 
 

Find Yourself on Bell Island, NL – Part 2

Even if you get lost on Bell Island, Newfoundland & Labrador, it is quite the experience. I know there were times that I circulated up and down the roads of Wabana trying to find myself. I do recommend you take a GPS or try to find a Map if you are not up for the more adventurous means to find the sights and attractions of the beautiful island. I did not see Maps available on the Ferry, it may be something I missed.

Fortunately for me I had a GPS to outline the numerous roadways – but really had no idea the incredible beauty I was about to capture:

One of the first stops was the Bell Island Lighthouse (above).

Sea caves and unique landscapes near the Bell Island Lighthouse

After leaving the lighthouse area we went to another part of the island where we found three chairs waiting just for us:

It was evident that others have come before us to marvel at the beauty of the landscape; to hear; to watch – the crashing waves.

This is truly one of the four corners of the world.

One will get lost in thought – in the beauty of what is Bell Island.  Get lost and find yourself again as you experience Rural Newfoundland & Labrador.

Live Rural NL -

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA
The Straits – White Bay North

The Great Northern Peninsula Transportation Forum

Article taken from “The Western Shorefast Fall 2010″ Newsletter:

A forum on transportation in the Great Northern Peninsula was held at the Straits Arena, St. Barbe on September 8th, 2010. The forum was planned to discuss the findings contained in a report on the possible business opportunities resulting from the completion of the Trans-Labrador Highway. You can review the entire study on the Nordic Board website at www.nedc.nf.ca.

The two regional economic development boards (Economic Zone 6 and 7) on the Great Northern Peninsula, along with other partner organizations such as CBDC-Nortip, Innovation, Trade & Rural Development (INTRD), the Rural Secretariat NL, ACOA, and municipalities in the region organized this forum “for all stakeholders wishing to learn and/or have input on these emerging transportation business opportunities. The primary focus will report on the recent completion of the Trans Labrador Highway and its overall impacts on the Great Northern Peninsula as related to the road, marine and air transportation routes.”

Additionally, the forum wanted to “seek input towards developing both short and long-term strategic directions for the entire Great Northern Peninsula with respect to business development linked to transportation. Recommendations from the Forum along with the recommendations outlined in the Trans Labrador Highway Study will help shape an overall Transportation Business Development Strategy for the Great Northern Peninsula moving forward in 2010 and beyond.” The organizers sent the attendees a discussion document that spoke of opportunities to discuss: the transportation study; business opportunities and gaps; highway development, signage and webcams; high-speed Internet; emergency services and response; language services; and ferry-related topics, such as schedules, wharf improvements.

All of the presenters identified the following as major issues that will need addressing in the near future:

Impact of heavy trucking and increased traffic on existing roads

  • High Speed Internet Access
  • Inadequate Human Resources for service industry and tourism operations
  • Highway upgrading and development
  • Improved ferry service to and from Labrador, especially in winter

 

Several presenters spoke of the eventual need for a fixed link between Labrador and the Island, outlining proposed routes and possible costs.

The meeting concluded with an invitation from Chris Mitchelmore to prospective and existing entrepreneurs to avail of the business planning services offered through the development boards and the Community Business Development Corporation (Nortip). He encouraged entrepreneurs to work with existing networks, such as The Viking Trail Tourism Association and the Northern Peninsula Business Network.

terre de France: Fortune leads to French Islands (Part 1)

St. Pierre

St. Pierre

 

 It was nearly a decade ago, during a high school French trip in May 2001, since my feet touched the soil of St. Pierre. I reflect on fond memories with my former classmates to enjoy the unique characteristics of this place – the cuisine, language, architecture and the Franc as the mainstay currency.  

Heritage Run, the route on the Burin Peninsula of Newfoundland & Labrador leads to the St. Pierre Ferry which leaves port from Fortune. As you drive this route you will be captivated by the landscape with your imagination leading you to believe dinosaurs, dragons or some other creature will appear.  On August 16, 2010 myself and a friend of a friend from Vienna, Austria had visited beautiful Burin. We had stopped by historic homes in Grand Bank and attempted to stay at Grannie’s Motor Inn, but it was filled. Although, the owner was quite helpful in securing a place at one of his other accommodations in Fortune. We stayed at Fortune Inn B&B for a short rest as we caught the 7:30 AM ferry.  

La Poste

 

 The Ferry Arethusa only takes passengers and is $107.00 return for the 1 hour 30 minute run. You have the option of sitting on deck or below. We started on deck, but after a mist of salt spray, I decided I was better off heading down under. Upon arrival I moved my watch 30 minutes ahead to match the timezone. We dropped by the tourist office to get information and decided to walk the streets to familiarize ourselves with the local boutiques, restaurants, bakeries and bars. After several photos of the architecture and a sweet patisserie, we were greeted by our host Gilles.  

After lunch we opted to take a van tour, which lasted for 1 hour and 15 minutes for 12.50 Euro (~$16.50). Our guide, Jean-Claude provided us with his take on the island’s economy, history, geography and culture. He started with the post office, which is still in operation, the salt sheds (no longer used for salt due to the moratorium on cod), the old fish plant, views of Ile aux Marins, the news station. Saint-Pierre Cathedral, the cemetery (17th century holding more than 1,000 graves, monuments and vaults), the Fronton (many traditional Basque games are played on site), Point aux Canons and its lighthouse, horses, former fishing rooms, a seabird on the rocks, freshwater swimming holes and saltwater sandy beaches and more. It was certainly worth the price paid.  

The Pointe aux Canons and its Lighthouse

 

 At 4:15 we boarded the ferryboat that would take us to Ile aux Marins, which is just 10 minutes from St. Pierre by boat (1 KM). There is a low and narrow strip of land laying across the harbour to the East, which once was populated by some 700 fisherfolk and family. Now, the former fishing village is a museum island with no year round residents. Despite the few inhabitants, the island does not lack charm and appeal. There are many homes that are well maintained, others more rustic. Many of the buildings have been restored to their original state including the Archipelitude museum (former school), Mason Jezequel, Notre Dame des Marins (church), city hall, other buildings, cemetery and shipwreck are all for viewing. One can definitely understand the hardship of living on such an island without electricity, running water, indoor plumbing and exposed to the environmental elements more than a century ago.  

Ile aux Marins

We arrived just prior to 7:00 PM and decided it was time to get some French cuisine. I certainly recommend a reservation, since the good places fill up, even on a Tuesday evening. We were turned away from Ile de France. La Feu de Braise was the second choice and I was delighted to have a half-liter of Bordeaux with lamb, rice and vegetables and for dessert, my always favourite, Creme Brulé. After dinner, it was off to the bar for a couple of beers before returning to our host. I chatted with him for several hours over wine while he played a traditional instrument before I retired for the night.  

Certainly my first day on the island was off to a great start! The following day, I took a zodiac, saw seals and explored Langlade and Miquelon. Check out Part II as it should be posted tomorrow. If you are interested in viewing more photos of these French Islands join the Facebook Group “Live Rural NL”.  

Live Rural NL (from a distance) –  

CCM  

Vernacular Architecture: Rural NL Saltbox Home

A friend, travelling from Quebec City to the island of Newfoundland for the first time had scheduled a visit. Prior to waiting for the Ferry Service to dock at port in St. Barbe, I decided to take a “Look Back in Time”. 

Traditional Saltbox Home

Black Duck Cove Seashore Day Park was my first visit. This rest point’s highlight is a collection of miniatures that represent the architecture-styles of rural communities of the past. There are two saltbox homes, slightly modified; a church, schoolhouse, wharf, fishing rooms and lodge. There are beautiful & well-marked walking trails, captivating views of waterways and binoculars to view sights of Labrador. There is a small playground and picnic area for you to stay for a while. However, many travellers would not easily find this place, at it is not well-marked in terms of signage or on any main highway route. If you can, take the time to ask for directions. I’d recommend a fresh coat of paint to the replicas and some minor repairs, unless the organization responsible is going for a more rustic look of the past. Just moments away, you can see neatly stacked lobster traps, two adjacent graveyards and piles of unpacked wood for winter stoves. 

Stacked Lobster Traps

These replicas made me realize that the vernacular architecture styles are fading from local communities in the Strait of Belle Isle region. Vernacular architecture is a term that categorizes methods of construction which use locally available resources and traditions to address local needs and circumstances, as defined by Wikipedia

 I decided to drive the area in search  of the traditional folk house type, found commonly all over Newfoundland & Labrador, which is the Salt Box style. It is named for its shape, which resembled the boxes used for shipping salt to Newfoundland & Labrador and was one of the earliest forms of house construction. The Salt Box traditionally had a shorter steep roof line in front and a longer steep slope in back. This gave the impression that the house was much larger than it actual size. 

An Abandoned Home

Talking to residents and elders, they noted that logs were sawed into lumber using a “pit saw”. The simple design of a two-story “salt-box” used simplicity of design and maximized space and limited the amount of resources required. This saltbox home depicts a more modern-style where the rooftop peak is central to the home for even distribution. 

Today, Live Rural NL sees a more modern home, split-level, bungalow, two-story, pre-fab home, mobile with an array of designs and styles. I’ve suppose we have gone modern, with very few residents living in this traditional home design with bright vibrant colours. Vernacular architecture tends to evolve over time to reflect changes of culture and society. I certainly hope that these homes do not disappear forever entirely in the region.           

Tilting with Time

There is much charm in an older traditional home. I had to stop for a moment as the structure to my left continues to tilt to its demise as it lacks an apparent caretaker. The field is quite large as the water it in the background. For this place, we can only stop and “Look Back in Time” at the memories that were made by the people who lived here before us. 

A Rural Reflection – 

CCM

The Lure of Labrador

Pinware River, Labrador

I live just 14 miles NW of L’Anse au Loup, Labrador giving me the opportunity to wake up each morning and view the empowering rocks of the “Big Land”. As well, each night see the illuminating lights twinkling before I close my shade and say goodnight to the world. Yes, there is something magical and luring about the pristine landscape of Labrador. I understand why Hubbard was interested and optimistic about his expedition into the unknown.

In 2008, during Labour Day weekend I had the privilege of travelling the south coast and onward to Port Hope Simpson to collect some fishing nets. During the night we visited with a local, named Ben. He invited us into his home and gave us a room for the night and would not hear of us staying at the local hotel. Talk about hospitality! For a youthful man in his eighties, he sure could whip up a great batch of pies, give us a tour of his massive greenhouse and tell us stories from his trapping and fishing years. I think the secret of staying youthful is to keep a good attitude, maintain your sense of humour and of course, stay active!

Pristine Beauty, Labrador

We had travelled to Charlottetown and another coastal community with Ben, stopping to visit the fishers on the wharf to discuss their daily catches and other news of the sort that gets collected at such a “social commons” and is transferred throughout the communities. It is amazing how fast news can travel this old-fashion and more personalized way in rural regions.

Our next morning would take us to Mary’s Harbour, where we would catch the ferry-boat at the former Grenfell Mission Shed to take us to “Battle Harbour” (known historically as the Capital of Labrador), an island just 17 kms away. The wind was not strong that day, which provided for good steaming and the opportunity to capture some fantastic scenery along the way.

Former Fishing Room

I snapped images of  former fishing rooms, dwellings and coastlines as we came into port. Battle Harbour is full of history. In the 1770’s a mercantile salt fish premises was established, spurring economic and social activity. It posed to be a significant stopover for those who became involved in the Labrador offshore bank fishery in the early 19th and into the 20th century. I recall my grandfather speaking of stopping there on some of his longer journeys. Hundreds of fisherman flocked to the area, the Grenfell Mission provided medical services.

Battle Harbour, in its current form presents an opportunity to visit historical buildings, walkways and work areas, while receiving an interpretative tour. Upon arrival you also get a meal.  Additionally, it has a distinction of being the only historic site in Canada where you can overnight in the historical buildings http://www.battleharbour.com/home/. I didn’t take advantage of this opportunity, but next time I certainly will, as Battle Harbour is the perfect get-a-way from it all retreat.

Salt Storage Facility

We are blessed to have many Rural Retreats in Newfoundland and Labrador. Around every corner if we stop, take a look and breathe it all in, we will see that we have a great quality of life that many can only dream. I have visited many large centres and rural villages on my travels, but there is no retreat comparable!

 
Be thankful if you too can experience or Live Rural NL -
 
CCM
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