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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

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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)

Because it’s Budapest

I spent 6 days in Budapest in August 2014 and was compelled to return to this cultural capital just a couple of weeks ago for another couple of days. It is always a good indication when you enjoy an experience, that you choose to return on a future vacation. I often hear from operators on the Great Northern Peninsula that before the season begins they have bookings from past guests that are coming back to experience more of this special place, we get to call “home”.

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My first evening in Budapest, I walked by the breathtaking Parliament building and viewed the Palace and Fisherman’s Bastion on the Buda side of the river since I opted to stay on the Pest side of the city. Since I did not have a reservation, I was given the option of a 45 minutes time slot to enjoy a meal at a highly ranked traditional restaurant near where I was staying. Although, it was highly ranked by TripAdvisor, I opted to go to another restaurant. I feel sometimes these review sites can be a real curse at times, as they tend to create over capacity as tourists flock to those highly ranked spaces. There is certainly value in being reviewed and ranked by such sites.

I walked to a place called “Dracula” which was decorated with bats and themed to reflect cuisine from Transylvania. I ordered up the famed goulash soup, a traditional dish and an espresso, skipping dessert. The service was exceptional and the food extremely well prepared. The soup reminded me just how my grandmother use to make it.

One piece of decor captured my attention. It was the red sign that instantly made me smile – Praha or Prague. More than 7 years ago, living, studying and experiencing this city forever changed my life. It is where I met my European friends in which we have our annual reunions, it open my eyes to so many different cultures and where I fell in love only to return many many times and hope to have many more returns. Prague will always have a special place in my heart.

My morning included a nice breakfast of meats, cheese and pastry before I would walked many kilometers to do some shopping near the chain bridge, stopping to view the bronze shoes on the Danube (a memorial to the Jews killed in Budapest in World War II). In the afternoon I would finally tour the Parliament building (after-all this was my third trek and well lets say I have an interest in politics). The structure was as impressive inside as it was outside. The interpretative tour was of exceptional quality and well worth the entry fee (Note: EU citizens pay 1/4 of those outside the economic region pay).

That evening I would attend a jazz concert and listen to the up and coming stars. There were many concerts at this cultural facility, built only a decade ago. I really feel the nightly entertainment offering in Europe, whether large or small venues creates high-value for the tourist visiting. After the concert, I would return to my favourite restaurant in Budapest – “The Spoon”. It is a riverboat that has exquisite views to the Royal Palace and food to match. It is always nice to end a vacation on a high note – Budapest certainly would not disappoint.

From the starry nights to the early morning walks, I was in good company. Until the next visit, I’m sure the Spoon will be there waiting too!

Live Rural NL –

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

That evening I would attend a jazz concert and listen to the up and coming stars.

Reconnecting in Geneva, Switzerland

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I love the country of Switzerland – there is something of their fine quality chocolates, wines, cheeses, watches and well just about everything, not to mention having a best friend live there. My first trek to Switzerland was in 2007, which I spent a lot of time on trains to places like Bern, Zurich, Lucerne, Lausanne, Geneva, Interlaken and other countryside views. I would return in 2009, 2010, 2014 and 2015.

I flew from Nice to Geneva in the early morning and arrived at my hotel at 9 AM. The hospitality was incredible and I was able to check in right away. This is not a common occurrence for most accommodators. I was pleasantly surprised to have a nice bath. It actually brought back memories of how from Northern Ireland I flew into Geneva to connect back to Prague and the plane had mechanical problems, so the airline put us up in 4 Star Swiss Hotels despite the flight only cost $40 CAD. The room then had a big bath, after spending most of the year in Europe at apartments and hostels with only showers, the R&R was really welcomed.

Geneva has the famous jet d’eau and is home to so many world agencies like the Red Cross, UN Palace is home to 200 agencies and the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR). On previous visits, I have toured these facilities and opted to tour a new section of the city, visit the museums, park and just escape the chill of the air.

At the train station, Rivella (a trademark soft drink that is made from milk whey) was launching a new product and giving away their green light flavoured beverage. It was quite refreshing!

One thing about exploring a city, is you never really know what you will find or where the experience will lead you if you say yes and just dig in. I got a little lost along the way and glad I did because I ended up finding large checker and chess boards placed near the park. What really caught my attention was the little bit of ice placed outside where mostly children and a few adults were skating. I thought about the missed opportunity in Monaco, and could not pass up another so I purchased by skate rental for 2 Swiss Francs and off I went.

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I had so much fun skating, I wish I did it more. There is something energizing about having the blades to the ice, picking up speed and not falling flat. It was a wonderful way to spend time in the afternoon.

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Geneva, although a short part of my vacation, it was one of the highlights. That evening will be forever be remembered from the traditional Swiss restaurant, lovely risotto, perfect port and the ability to get lost in conversation. The starry sky and the chilly air kept for a close connection. Geneva brings beautiful memories and the morning would take me back to Budapest!

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)

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