Category Archives: Vacations

Famous Last Fjords – Western Brook Boat Tour

There’s that famous photo of a hiker trekking Gros Morne National Park that has captivated audiences and brought tens of thousands of visitors to Western Brook Pond Fjord each season.

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Imagine hiking to this magical place and garnering this view and this image with you in the backdrop? It certainly is on my to do list, as this image came from www.newfoundlandlabrador.com.

This season was not my first to the fjord, but it was my first taking the 2-hour boat tour. It was something on my list for a long time and I was thoroughly impressed by the experience.

After taking the Coastal Hike of 6 KM return, I would park at the lot at Western Brook Pond, which was spilling out on the road way. BonTours, which offers the Boat Tour has been offering 5, sometime even 6 tours a day with an average of 300-400 people. The tour begins with a 2.65 KM walk into the pond, which takes about 40 minutes. There is a well developed boardwalk and trail network that is accessible.

I’ve always enjoyed the storyboards and views along the way. If you are lucky you may even get to see an animal grazing, enjoy the flora and fauna, see berries and watching the water flow.

The price tag of a tour ranges from $58-65.00/person and also requires a Park Pass of $9.80/person. I highly recommend a Discovery Pass with Parks Canada as it covers your trail portion.

“The Memories Are Worth It”…BonTours   Visit them at http://www.bontours.ca

I couldn’t agree more.

From moose, waterfalls, natural glacial carvings, faces in the cliffs, commentary and of course the spoons! I’m not musically inclined, but certainly enjoyed playing the spoons with my friend Carter.

BonTours is a tourism icon in the province, providing a unique experience in Gros Morne National Park for over 40 years!

We have some magical gems in Newfoundland and Labrador, and Bon Tours on the Great Northern Peninsula is one wonder you will truly want to experience.

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA St. Barbe-L’Anse Aux Meadows and Minister of Tourism for Newfoundland and Labrador

 

 

 

 

 

It’s Like Walking on Mars – Tablelands of Gros Morne

After two days of being in the concrete jungle of a major Canadian city, it was very refreshing to spend a week on holiday in our beautiful province of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Day 1: Tablelands

There is something magical about visiting the Tablelands, a World UNESCO Heritage Site in Gros Morne National Park. Each step you take, you feel as if you are on another planet. On the opposite roadside there is normal vegetation, but where the Earth’s mantle was pushed upwards and exposed, the pinkish brownish rock and masses are quite barren. This highly educational experience is also a photographers dream. Well, you know, it was a half billion years in the making!

I highly recommend the daily guided tour at 10 AM by Parks Canada staff. However, if you happen to miss it, there is an App where you get an interactive  tour along the way from a Parks Canada staff member. With my Discovery Pass good until June 2018, when visiting the Discovery Centre, I was given a tablet with the App pre-loaded that worked by GPS coordinates and proved very helpful on my trek.

Without the App, I would have missed intricate details about boulders being out of place, where the water comes from and many other features of glacial formation along the way.

It was nice to see the provincial flower, the Pitcher Plant on display along the trail. This is a carnivorous plant that is found at the end of every single tourism commercial we run.

Along the two hour return hike, I encountered a range of visitors from the enfant to senior, from California to Ontario to Germany. There must have been 100 people on site, as there was no room for parking in the lot. Its fascinating to see all those with an interest to walk someplace so geological unique where the Earth’s mantle lies naked. It is most likely the best place in the World to see such a wonder and a great place to begin your adventure in Gros Morne National Park.

Trout River

A few kilometres down the road is a quaint fishing village of Trout River. It boasts a beautiful beach and walking trail and a few years ago have a whale beached along this very coastline. There is a nice restaurant, accommodations and some small shops. There’s a photo to be taken around every corner.

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Woody Point

Given my stay in Gros Morne would be very short, I decided to reach Woody Point for a later than normal lunch at the Loft Restaurant, which was full of buzz. I was quite fortunate to get an outdoor table overlooking the beautiful Bonne Bay. While eating the EmmCat Boat Tour came by for a cruise and we waved to those aboard.

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I had the fish and a salad with a glass of house white wine, that was generously poured. The fish was perfectly prepared, very moist and flaking apart as you placed your fork into it. This restaurant comes highly recommended and is open until September 30th.

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Walking around the waterfront, the downtown of Woody Point, seeing the historic buildings it something that just makes this place a must visit location. The Merchant Warehouse is a lovely place for pub grub and usually evening entertainment. There is a classic diner on site and the Legion is next door. Studios, craft shops, coffee shops and general business seem to keep growing. Including Gros Morne Summer Music, Woody Point Writer’s Festival and the performances that take place as Woody Point Theatre. This Town has a lot going on day or night and likely was a reason there was no accommodations available. Be sure to book early if you wish to stay here and many places on the island of Newfoundland and Labrador. Tourism is growing in numbers!

Norris Point – Overnight

I love Norris Point, it is home to the Trails, Tales and Tunes Festival, which kicks off the season in early May. I was fortunate to get two nights at Neddie’s Harbour Inn. The view is just spectacular and it truly is the perfect getaway.

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The first two images below is that of Jenniex House, a heritage home and the view of Norris Point as you enter. It truly is breathtaking. I love the vibe here, including the Voice of Bonne Bay (VOBB) Community Radio. There are pubs, restaurants, coffee shops, boat tours, adventures, craft shops, Bonne Bay Marine Station and so much more.

The final 4 images are the view from Neddie’s Harbour Inn and some great eats at the Black Spruce Restaurant at the same location. It has a view of the Tablelands and the Appalachian Mountains of either site. The view, atmosphere and food is all of the highest quality. It’s no wonder they were a focus of Air Canada’s En Route Magazine.

I pack a lot in a one-day adventure in Gros Morne. If you have more time, you may want to space out your activities over several days. There are many great walking and hiking trails and places to visit that make for a unique experience.

I look forward to sharing more of my experiences on the Great Northern Peninsula and across the province of Newfoundland and Labrador with regular postings. Follow me on twitter @MitchelmoreMHA

Live Rural NL,

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA for St. Barbe-L’Anse aux Meadows and Minister of Tourism for Newfoundland and Labrador

Romanians go all out for Easter in Bucharest

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After leaving Istanbul, Turkey, I spent a couple of days in Bucharest, Romania over the Orthodox Easter. This city of just under two million residents has been coined as Little Paris in the era between the two World Wars for its elegant architecture and sophistication of its elite society.

Despite most of the shops being closed for the holiday, I had the most amazing time at the Intercontinental, which two nights cost me $130.00 CDN with an amazing view from the balcony. I was greeted with a surprise welcome package of a bottle of reserve pinot noir wine and a special cake in which a feast is had for the holiday. A truly welcoming and friendly staff showing their dedication, care and willingness to share local knowledge.

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After breakfast I would embark on what would be the first of a three hour walking tour. It was amazing to see such an interest in Easter and it’s celebration throughout this picturesque city from the parks to the waterways to the architecture.

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The Communist-era’s People’s Palace, which houses the Parliament today is the world’s largest building with an administrative function. It really is that big and you certainly have to stop many times in awe at its sheer size. The walk through the first park presented many Easter bunnies, eggs, decor and an outdoor market. It truly was fun to see how other countries go all out to celebrate the holiday.

I did two other three hour walking tours as well that day. My last three hour walking tour, I did take the subway to reduce the time spent walking by just over 1 hour. I enjoyed viewing the variety of homes in the open air museum, walking another park, seeing the museums, facades, monuments, parks, churches and viewing areas. There were ample activities to enjoy recreation, such as the mini-golf and a spider challenge obstacle rope course, similar to something you can experience at Marble Mountain just outside of Corner Brook.

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From fast cars, to coffee rest stops to book vending machines, it seemed like this savvy city had so much to offer. My time was not long enough in this magical place. I worked for two days trying to spend $70, it really is that affordable. I enjoyed an amazing traditional meal of lamb and rice, with a side of creamy potatoes, some red wine, espressos and this lovely pastry filled with powdered cream for dessert. I was surrounded by a band singing in the local language and people in the restaurant dancing. Truly I felt these couple of nights were well worth the trip.

I would get up and travel to Brussels in the morning, where I would visit for the second time. I made sure to tour the Parliament of the European Union and head to Luxembourg where the EU Highest Court of Justice is located. I’ll save this for another post, which rounds off my Easter travels.

If you haven’t been and want a high-value vacation without the high price tag, I truly recommend going to Romania – it really is a little Paradise!

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)

My Turkish Times – The Real Turkish Delight

During the Easter Holidays, I added Turkey to my travels to experience the real Turkish delight! After a few unforgettable days in the Georgian mountain town of Kazbegi, it would be Istanbul before making the trek to Romania.

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Istanbul with a population of more than 14 million, is a crowded city of Turkey that is located between Europe and Asia across the Bosphorus Strait. There are many unique architectural pieces and cultural influences that highlight the history of the Sultans, the Roman-era, Egyptian influences and also Christian mosaics.

One of the highlights was shopping at the Grand Bazaar, which is one of the largest and oldest covered markets in the world, which spans 61 streets and over 3,000 shops. I purchased some Jasmine and natural teas, items for my shisha and an ornament for my International Christmas tree. It was also nice to stop for Turkish tea and a traditional sandwich. During the afternoon or mid-day while I was there, most patrons closed up shop for one of their daily prayers. If my sister was with me on vacation, I’m sure she would still be there perusing all the shops and their wares.

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I spent the day touring the major attractions, such as Sultan Ahmet’s (Blue) Mosque, Aya Sophia, Topkapi Palace, Hippodrome, Istanbul Archaeology Museum and other surrounding sites.

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The Aya Sopha was the emperor’s statement to the world of the wealth and technical ability of his empire. Tradition maintained that the area surrounding the emperor’s throne within the church was the official centre of the world. The Aya Sofya has remained one of Istanbul’s most cherished landmarks.

Topkapi Palace has many highlights including the Harem, Palace Kitchens, Council Chambers, Sultan’s private rooms, safekeeping room and treasury. You’ll need at least a half-day just for this one spectacular site.

The Istanbul Archaeological Museum is just a short distance from the Palace. It has multiple complexes including the Museum of the Ancient Orient; the Archaeology Museum and the ceramic collection at the Tiled Pavilion of Mehmet the Conqueror.

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The Blue Mosque was Sultan Ahmet I’s grand architectural gift to his capital, built between 1609-1616.

I spent time walking the streets, enjoying the blue skies, flowers and vibes of Istanbul. There were many enjoyable moments of consuming culture, including the food and dining with the locals. It was truly a unique experience.

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My time in Turkey was short, but I was ambitious and covered much ground. Even the return to the airport was hurried as the taxi driver by-passed all traffic by primarily driving on the shoulder of the road. Despite all the efforts of locals, I did not return with a rug. I did buy lots of Turkish delights and brought back memories that will last a lifetime. I highly recommend Turkey to your travel list.

One of my favourite purchases was this t-shirt “Experience: On the Road Again – 1985”. Given my birth year being 1985, my love for travel and the experiences my time of the road has given me, it was only fitting! I’ll wear it proudly.

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Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)

Georgia Love! – Post 600

Live Rural NL Blog has now reached 600 posts and more than 795,000 views! I primarily write about the Great Northern Peninsula, but for this post I opted to share a recent travel experience of a rural Newfoundlander:

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During Easter holiday I travelled to Georgia, which is at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe and nestled just south of the Russian border. This was one of the most memorable trips taken, imagine to leave Canada on holiday to go to a mountain country that had lots of snow. I even stopped to visit the Town of SNO! IMG_20150407_094941

Georgia offered the perfect mix of natural beauty, historic charm with traditional food and culture to compliment their ever expanding tourism industry. However, you would just have to go there to truly experience it.

I flew in Tbilisi and toured the capital for a day, while waiting for clearance that the road would be open. Apparently, there was lots of snow on the mountain roads and crews were working hard to ensure it would be clear to allow travel, however, with the Easter holiday no one could give assurance that it would be open for travel. I would have been deeply disappointed if I had not gotten to Kazbegi, which borders south of Russia.

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Tbilisi has a cobblestoned old town which has markings of Persian and Russian rule. The architecture is quite diverse when taking the cable car to the top of the hill as you can see all the surroundings. One will pass Orthodox churches, art nouveau buildings with ornate balconies, a reconstructed 4th-century citadel and the iconic statue of Mother Georgia to name a few.

It was remarkable to visit the museums, galleries and visit the small shops as local entrepreneurs sold their wares – carpets, honey and local fruit and nut treats were commonplace. It was a treat to sample some of the homemade cheeses and talk with owners. Georgia was a peaceful place to travel, as no one tried to get you to buy their product or lure you into their shop. It was an extremely welcoming place to truly experience and enjoy. The city boasted some impressive architecture, only enhanced from aerial views which included the bridge of peace. Many of the churches were filled with local people as they celebrated their Easter holiday.

Since the roads had taken longer to open than expected, the option to visit neighbouring churches and monstaries were added to the vacation including the Mtskheta from Church of Jvari. One could see candles being lit, prayers sent and artwork on display. There were livestock, beautiful views and wares to be purchased in the adjacent town.

After dinner, clearance was given to travel to Kazbegi. This meant no mini-bus option and that a driver had to be hired but the cost of a 4 hour drive was not much more than a taxi from Toronto airport to a downtown hotel. Arriving to a moonlit view of the mountains was just too perfect! IMG_20150407_061103

After a nice breakfast, mountain hiking to the Gergeti Trinity Church, which sits below 16,500-foot Mt. Kazbek in the Caucasus Mountains of Kazbegi was in order. The 14th-century monastery, at 7,100 feet, was the goal. The 1,400-foot climb provided unforgettable experience as at the Church, it provided a true snapshot of rural Georgian life. Hours of hiking and a little sunburn was certainly worth it!

If you need a place of the ultimate rest and relaxation, than Kazbegi is that perfect rural town that offers horseback riding in the mountains, delicious foods and local authentic encounters.

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After a swim, reading and adoring the mountains, this special place offered an easy place to rest. An early morning would mean a visit to a partially frozen waterfall where I brought my Downhome Magazine, more monasteries, Sno village and of course road closures while the snow was cleared on the mountain roads. Delays were no bother, as this holiday was just perfect. Georgia well exceeded my travel expectations and I do hope to return in the future to this amazing place.

One of the best moments, was the stop at this viewing area, the art, the view and memories…it all came full circle.

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Georgia Love!

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA (The Straits-White Bay North)

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