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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)

Embroidered Bread & Conche Caplin

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The creative community of Conche is where I purchased this tapestry of embroidered bread and caplin. It sits in the public gallery at the Straits-White Bay North Constituency Office at 279 West Street, St. Anthony along with other art for anyone wish to view them.

Local artist and the local arts community is still budding on the tip of the Great Northern Peninsula. I get inspired each and every time I see new product, visit people’s homes and see them rug hooking, crafting, painting or making something by hand. The residents of the Great Northern Peninsula have been making things by hand since the beginning of their existence – it was essential for those Maritime Archaic Indians, Paleo-Eskimo, Groswater Eskimo and recent Indians to make clothing, tools for hunting and history shows their use of chert and red ochre for face painting and design. This dates us back 5,000 years ago, as the Great Northern Peninsula is the authentic place where the World Came Full Circle. It happened more than 1,000 years ago when the first Europeans to re-discover North America were the Vikings. L’Anse aux Meadows World UNESCO Site, still have the remnants of the sod huts that would have been made by hand. They found many artifacts that are replicated today, including a whorl (or spindle). This is evidence that people on the Great Northern Peninsula have been making things by hand more thousands of years.

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The Basque, French & English settlers would come and reap the wealth of our natural fish, whale, seal and timber resources. During their stays they would leave some of their culture behind, such as the clothing, the French ovens and the way they prepared for their daily lives, from the boat making to the fish flakes.

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It likely wasn’t until Dr. Grenfell came that all the localized art making was formally commercialized with the industrial department as part of the Grenfell Mission (International Grenfell Association). People are familiar with Grenfell Handicrafts and the rug designs of Lady Grenfell. Under the leadership of Jessie Luther, the rug hooking and handicraft business had retail outlets in the United States and a network of local artist. This process flourished up until Dr. Grenfell’s death in 1940. Approaching 75 years later, the Grenfell rugs are still being made on a much smaller scale by a group of local woman and for sale at the Heritage Shoppe at the Grenfell Interpretation Centre, St. Anthony, NL.

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Local art is so important to our region, our culture and our heritage. Let’s embrace our legacies and also capitalize on new opportunities. Art is all around us and we should be quite proud of all the art forms that are part of landscapes, community or something that hangs on a wall.

Whether the Embroidered Bread & Conche caplin is hanging on your wall or at your dining table it surely makes for a wonderful memory – knowing a local person worked hard to present you with a piece of art by hand.

Experience the Great Northern Peninsula & Live Rural NL –

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

A Little Piece of Heaven Exists on Change Islands, NL

As the sun sets on the horizon, one has a feeling that a little piece of heaven exists on Change Islands, NL,

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On Saturday, May 2nd I found that little piece of heaven as I took the afternoon ferry, the MV Earl W. Windsor from Farewell to Change Islands. The return fare with a vehicle is $7.15. No doubt this 30 minute direct run, which was slowed by heavy pack ice is heavily subsidized by the Province. If you have not yet been, you are missing out on one of rural Newfoundland & Labrador’s best kept secrets.

The 12 kilomentre jaunt into Town, with a population of 160 has incredible views. The southern part of the island is uninhabited, with trees, bogs and marsh dominating the landscape. Before reaching the second island, I pulled over to take photos of clothes hanging on the line. It made me think of Deborah Gordon and her clothesline calendars. I took several dozen photos before I even reached the bridge and was forced to pull over as the views at both sides of the Tickle would not let me go further.

I stood by the boats took some snaps, after looking around, I just couldn’t contain myself and jumped up and down with joy. This place was real, this place was what is rural Newfoundland & Labrador, as the fishery dominated the landscape – the boats, the wharves, nets and the fishing sheds. I knew at that moment, I was really going to like this place.

The Burgundy Squid and Craft Shop is currently closed, as it is still early for the season. The “For Sale” sign in the window presents a unique business opportunity for the right individual. Behind this dwelling is a Knitting Economuseum and views that will take you breath away.

After passing the Seven Oakes, I made my way to the North end of the island where I would take some photos of the lovely vernacular architecture, view the 120 year old St. Margaret’s Church, pass the “Pink” house, see the shed from Harry Hibbs’ squidjiggin’ ground* and make a trek up on Squidjiggers Trail.

*Editors Note: I’ve been informed Arthur Scammell had written the squid jigging grounds and was born on Change Islands. The school is named A.R. Scammell, so it may be named after him? I could only re-call Harry Hibbs version of what is Scammell’s song. Thank you “Proud to call it home” for your comment.

Squidjigger’s Trail was not possible for me to fully navigate, given rubber boots would have been better footwear than my mesh sneakers, but I did get to the top of the hill. It was quite the look out. You could see where the birds would drop sea urchins or crabs to expose the meat. The ice views and dwellings, while the wind gently blew was nothing but awe inspiring.

Change Islands does not only the mind good, but the body as well. The food that is served is nothing but the best of Newfoundland dishes. My supper included fish n’ brewis, with a helping of scrunchions (fried pork fat). To top it all off was homemade lemon meringue pie. One could not ask for a better tasting dish or better hospitality.

Dinner table conversation led to more adventure. Another walk around the island, but as the sun was about to set. Serenity, tranquility are words that come to mind. As that last ferry sailed away for the day, you know you were just that little bit removed from the rest of the world for the night.

I was only on Change Islands for a few hours, but there was a real sense of contentment here – that I felt at home!

Who wouldn’t want to wake up to views like this?

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On Sunday morning, I had a meeting at 11:30 AM, so I made sure to get up early to trek the roads and places I had not been the day before.

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Despite the morning rain it was quite a fruitful experience, from the homes in the NL Tourism Ads, Newfoundland Ponies, trails, wood piles, root cellars, encounters with locals and more postcard perfect views around every single corner – I certainly made the most of my time.

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I met at the Town Hall with the Manolis L. Citizen’s Committee as they continue to raise concerns about the 600,000 litres of oil that must be removed from the 30 year old sunken vessel. Chronic leaks have been detrimental to bird and sea life. Further action must be taken, to prevent a catastrophic spill that would put at risk the environment and economy of the entire Notre Dame Bay Region.

I am very thankful to the hospitality exhibited from the residents of Change Islands. I feel now, I have friends on these islands that I look forward to continuing to have conversations and learn more about the storied past and the ever changing future of this dynamic island economy.

Time had passed very quickly, as I waited for the MV Earl W. Windsor to depart the harbour. The heavy pack ice was ever more present that day, requiring ice breaking assistance of the Canadian Coast Guard. It was smooth sailing as I made my way back to the busy city life. Reality was setting pretty quick – it would be another week before I would get back to the authenticity and beauty that is home.

The photos are wonderful, but the views and experiences are even more brilliant in person. Thank you all for making Change Islands the destination that is worthy of being known as a little piece of heaven here on earth. You too, can experience this magical place too!

Live Rural NL –

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

Another French Shore and Moments in Monaco

The Great Northern Peninsula is home to the French Shore in Newfoundland & Labrador. It has a strong connection to the French from the past and some names are very present today. The Town of Flower’s Cove was formerly named “French Island Harbour”, where names like Croque, Grandois, Conche, St. Lunaire-Griquet, Quirpon, L’anse aux Meadows, Port au Choix and others scatter the coastline. There are still French ovens along the shores and many yet to be discovered stories remain untold. There is so much more we could do, to make “Petit Nord” or the Great Northern Peninsula gain a tourism boost from our French histories from Quebec, NB, St. Pierre-Miquelon and France to name a few. I encourage you to visit www.frenchshore.com.

On a recent vacation, I’ve visited a part of France in which I’ve always wanted, which included Nice, Cannes, Antibes and also the micro country of Monaco. I still have to get to Marseilles, given I’ve likely watched the movie, The Count of Monte Cristo more than any other.

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A long-weekend spent in Southern France with my European friends certainly recanted many good memories since we first met in the Czech Republic in 2007. It is amazing how quickly time has passed since our university days. One thing that hasn’t changed is our desire to continue our reunions, we’ve travelled again to Czech Republic, Canada (Edmonton, BC, Ontario, Newfoundland & Labrador), Switzerland, Cuba, Ireland, Denmark, Mediterranean sailing (Sardinia & Corsica) and France.

So from Milano to Nice we had driven by car, taking in all the sights of the countryside from waterfronts, to mountains to the many road tunnels. Our flat was very centrally located but like many older buildings in France it was without an elevator. It was a task taking all the luggage up 5 flights of stairs. I could only imagine what bringing groceries or getting furniture to that floor must be like.

There was a great vibe in Nice, given their “Carnivale” was taking place just in the main square. I truly enjoyed visiting the markets, eating the handcrafted chocolate cake, visiting the pubs, hearing the music and of course enjoying the amazing French cuisine.

I loved the morning brunches. The food was much better than the weather, as the rain foiled many of our daily plans and ended up cancelling the carnival parade. Our spirits were not dampened and we enjoyed all the outdoor views we could gain and may our way to Monaco. There was incredible vernacular architecture around the city that caught my photo lenses attention – from churches, hillside row houses, the Rothschild villa, marinas, casinos and more. There were old classic cars and many high-end Maserati, Ferrari, Porsche and Lamborghini that would drop your lower jaw as they whizzed by as we drank a Monaco beer at the cafe outside Monte Carlo casino.

I tried to convince my friends to go skating on the outdoor ice surface. Since that was an epic fail, we opted to visit the casino in our suits and ties, have a martini like Bond in his movie “Casino Royale” and try our luck at “roulette”. After watching the game for a bit, it was evident we were out of our league as those around the table were placing hundreds of dollars on the table at a time. After things quieted down we placed a couple of small bets, I bet on red a couple of times and it returned me a few dollars more than I started so my friends and I opted to get out while we were ahead given the odds.

A return to nice landed us at Ma Nolan’s Irish Pub for a meal of fish n’ chips. This brought us back to our Irish escapades in 2010. The music was a lot of fun and the beer a good variety. I did not steer away from my lovely pint of Guinness.

The following day we would visit Cannes, where the International Film Festival is hosted. It is a very picturesque city from the waterfront, the tower, the little winding streets and the murals on buildings. My lunch in Cannes was superb at this little cafe – I’d go back just for the chocolate crepes.

My friends and I spend much of the spare time playing this card game called “Bang”. Despite, all the rules written in German it provides a level playing field for even the non-German speakers with an opportunity to win. The game involves outlaws, a sheriff and a bounty hunter. Just like the old wild west, the rules are simple – the outlaws win if the sherriff is dead, the bounty hunter wins if all are dead but the outlaws must go first and the sheriff wins if all are dead. With additional players there are multiple characters, including the addition of a deputy sheriff and it creates more fun and excitement. Each character has certain powers and every game is completely different. We have likely played a hundred games in the last few years. It is like my love for Rook at home!

A visit to another French Shore and Moments in Monaco were amazing times with my best friends! Until our next reunion, I’ll be living rural!

Live Rural NL –

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

A Mountain of Relaxation in San Marino

After leaving Malta, I took a low-cost flight with Ryanair to Bologna for $75, a bus to the Central Train Station for a couple of Euro, a train to Rimini for $20 and then a bus for $7.50 to find myself in what is known as the “Most Serene Republic of San Marino”. San Marino is a micro-country of just 61 square kilometres with a population of just 32,000 people nestled in the northeastern peninsula of Italy near the city of Rimini. This country is noted as the oldest surviving sovereign state and constitutional republic in the world. I spent three nights and two full days in this European country before moving on to my next destination. I would advise that this is sufficient time to enjoy the sights and surroundings.

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I enjoy all the public transportation options that exists in Europe, even in the smallest of countries. This leg of the journey involved planes, trains, buses and automobiles. It was lovely to see the snow-covered Italian mountains from the plane, but a little chilly in Bologna with snow covering the ground. I was very happy that I only have a couple of minutes to catch my train versus waiting in the chilled air of the Central Station. If I had known more Italian, I could have had a great conversation with an older woman who was travelling home after a nice visit with her granddaughter. You can purchase your return bus tickets to San Marino at the Tourist Information Centre for 10 Euro. I basically had a private ride on the bus to my hotel that night, saving the 50 Euro taxi ride. The hotel shuttle unfortunately was not the Lamborghini shown below. It was at the airport and I had to snap a picture. A ride in it would simply be amazing!

The Grand Hotel San Marino was simply perfect – an amazing view from the balcony of the mountains, delicious food at the restaurant and an extremely help staff. Upon arrival after being awed by the bright lights I decided to check out the restaurant. I ordered the Menu of Tradition which consisted of bread to start, Italian salami with mousse of cheese, potato gnocchi with porchini mushrooms and gratinated green lasagne, the second course claimed a small mix of grilled meat from the territory and seasonal vegetables. Dessert was homemade cake with mascarpone and coffee cream. It was a little overwhelming all the first plates I would eat that night, but I ate like the locals and feasted for quite some time. When I requested my typical espresso, I also received some powdered biscuits. It was unbelievable for 25 euro. Needless to say, I was unable to have breakfast the next morning. On my last evening in San Marino, I decided to return to the hotel restaurant and it was recommended I try to the fish tasting plates, which consisted of Scottish salmon with brioche bread and curls of butter, tar-tare of sea bass marinated in soy and lime, swordfish carpaccio with pink pepper as an appetizer, noodles drawn in bronze with local sepia, clams, mussels and calamari as a first plate, the second catch was an assortment of grilled local sea fish and dessert was a lemon sorbet with a caramelized piece of fruit and a coconut cookie. The food was simply amazing, high-value and very well-priced. I would only imagine as tourism season begins the menus are adjusted.

The morning or evening views were so enjoyable. I just would sit and read and sometimes just stare off into the distance, reflecting upon the Maltese experience, the wonder of San Marino and the next steps of my journey. I would also get lost in local author and Newfoundland and Labrador’s favourite storyteller, Earle B. Pilgrim as I turned the pages of the Day of Varrick Frissell. It was intriguing to read about the tragic event on the sealing ship the Viking of the Great Northern Peninsula that should have brought so much more promise and attention with a film crew getting the last images needed for a film “White Thunder” that would be produced and distributed by Paramount Pictures.  IMG_20150211_145336

I enjoy reading on vacation and this time I decided to take a little piece of home with me. Exploring San Marino was easy by foot, but one has to be prepared to walk up and down multiple stairs or inclines given the terrain of this fortress city.

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There are three towers that are a must when visiting, getting panoramic views, seeing the gardens or visiting the museums. such as the armory in tower two. There is a nature park that allows you to circle around the city and give you a tranquil feeling of being in the great outdoors. I toured the palace and House of Parliament, cathedrals, museums, galleries and shops. I enjoyed a couple of local brews and a nicely prepared diavola pizza. There are more than 20 sites and attractions listed on their map and I was able to see most of them, enjoying the walk down to the Museum of Natural History but taking the cable car back up to the main city.

The San Marino guide was a great publication outlining the area attractions, local business and events. There is still value in print and publication to promote a region to travellers. No question, there were times when I felt I was the only tourist in San Marino, but there were others enjoying the peacefulness of the countryside. Tourism is peak during the summer, but in San Marino they too treat it as a year-round business. It lives up to its slogan of serenity and for me – a mountain of relaxation. If you want a couple of amazing days to rejuvenate, add San Marino to your list.

The next leg of my travels took me to Expo 2015 in Milan, Italy!

Live Rural NL –

Christopher Mitchelmore, MHA

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