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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)

Tantalizing Traditions Served at Burnt Cape Cafe – Raleigh, NL

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The Burnt Cape Cafe is a wonderful place to dine on traditional seafood dishes, moose meals and berry desserts. Situated in historic Raleigh this business offers an appealing space, with beautiful waterfront views, while listening to the music by local Quirpon native Wayne Bartlett.

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This season moose has made the menu, including soup, burgers and cheese steak sandwiches. I ordered the moose soup to start and it surely was a welcome treat, as I’ve not had my grandmother’s version in such a long time. It was a hearty bowl, with chunky vegetables and filled with savouring flavour. A great way to start any meal.

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As a main, I had pan fried cod, steamed broccoli. and Parmesan mashed potatoes with coleslaw. The meal was cooked with care, as the vegetables were perfect, the potatoes are out of this world dreamy and the cod just incredibly fresh as it fell gently with each fork full.

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No meal could be complete without dessert, so I opted for the bakeapple sundae. This was truly a tantalizing treat! Local wildberries add to the gourmet flavouring of what the dining experience at Burnt Cape Cafe offers to its patrons.

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The business, which includes cabins, vacation home, convenience store, gift shop and gas station has a rating of 9.1 from Booking.com which highlights the care and attention to visitors. The owners have put together a nice package to offer an experience to their guests. This may include the walk to the wharf to pick your own lobster for dinner and getting your photo taken for social media to capture the moment.

A Little Free Library has popped up outside their business, where residents and visitors can take a book or leave a book any time of the day. This is a great community economic development concept and initiative that I’d love to see more Little Free Libraries on the Great Northern Peninsula and across Newfoundland & Labrador.

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I enjoy conversations with Ted and Marina, the owners of this small business as they are striving to find new ways to create opportunities in their small Town.

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Keep up your entrepreneurial spirit Ted and Marina! Rural Newfoundland and Labrador certainly needs more small business to thrive!

It’s not too late to make a booking or drop by this gem on the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula. Visit www.burntcape.com/

Live Rural NL –

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

Icebergs anchor in St. Anthony Bight, St. Carol’s and Great Brehat!

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Icebergs are a common sight on the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula – it is the iceberg alley after all! The best viewings of icebergs surround L’anse aux Meadows, St. Anthony, Conche, Englee and surrounding communities.

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On a visit to St. Anthony in June, I detoured to St. Anthony Bight, St. Carol’s and Great Brehat. I was only to be impressed by the vernacular architecture, fishing boats and stages, wood piles and of course squid drying and icebergs nestled in the Bight – rural living at its finest!

St. Anthony-Bight has a 100 year old house owned by Mr. John Pilgrim. The St. Anthony-Bight Loop Trail is located about 2 km outside the community and is well-maintained. St. Anthony-Bight is also known as the “Iceberg Graveyard”, as icebergs come to rest in the coves and melt. Many people are sure to get their hands on the beloved bergy bits and use the iceberg ice to add iceberg ice to a beverage.

Just a few kilometres away is the community of St. Carol’s, which has a hiking trail that leads to John Patey’s Cove where there is a great view of icebergs and whales. A population of less than 60 residents today, still boasts a strong fishing community. I had the pleasure of seeing squid left to dry on the flake on this particular day.

A little further down another road is Great Brehat (pronounced Braha). This community like the others, where heavily influenced by the French in the 17 and 1800’s as fishing stations. Great Brehat has a walking trail behind the local cemetery known as Flat Point Lookout and there is also another trail leading to Little Brehat (which one of our many NL re-settled or ghost communities).

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The presence of the fishery still remains a big part of this community, although some of the smaller stages and wharves are being lost to the perils of harsh weather.

These three communities are on the outskirts of the Town of St. Anthony, recently became connected to the digital world via broadband Internet and they are between L’anse aux Meadows World UNESCO Site. On your visit to the Great Northern Peninsula these may be communities you will want to visit to see rural living and icebergs, or you may just want to stay awhile longer.

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)

Cod, Caplin & Quilts not the only art found in Raleigh – Taylor’s Crafts a Must Visit!

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On Thursday, I spent time visiting Residents of the historic Town of Raleigh on the Great Northern Peninsula. It is a picturesque community that highlights the rich fishing heritage with stages, fishing rooms and wharves. A focus the Raleigh Historical Society has been trying to highlight with a replica fishing village. There are still fishers actively earning and living, small business owners catering to the tourism industry (www.burntcape.com), hiking trails, icebergs, whales and the Burnt Cape Ecological Reserve with dozens of rare plants and is likely the province’s most significant botanical site. This waterfront community provides and authentic experience of what living rural is all about. I only had to walk from door to door to see gardens being tended, fish and homemade quilts drying in the open air.

However, there is much more art to be admired than the images you see of every day life surrounding Raleigh.

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A visit to Taylor’s Crafts is a must, with 4 generations of carves in their family. Master Carver Abiel Taylor, a third generation carver learned the art of carving from his grandfather during the 1950’s. At Taylor’s studio, you can meet the artist, learn more about the process and view a wide selection of carvings made from soapstone, serpentine, whalebone, and moose and caribou antler. These are lifetime pieces, that are uniquely one of a kind. You can reach him at (709) 452-3386 / 2131 if you see something of interest.

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Abiel’s work can be even found on the lawn of Government House, home of the Lief-tenant Government in St. John’s, NL as former LG John Crosbie was fascinated by a totem pole this master carver produced. His craft shop has incredible amounts of product and depicts of rich history of living from the land and sea. He has images of his grandfather presenting a replica he made of the Victory, which was Lord Nelson’s vessel to medical icon Dr. Charles Curtis (who the current hospital in St. Anthony is named). You will be inspired, intrigued and immersed in culture by taking the time to visit, an opportunity to experience the artist’s efforts and creative nature and maybe you too can own a little piece of rural Newfoundland & Labrador.

Experience the Great Northern Peninsula –

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

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