Sunday, August 14, 2011

What did we do?

Well, let's see, on Saturday morning we left and drove south and east to Witless Bay.  Doesn't Newfoundland have some colourful place names?

We thought to go to an ecological reserve there, but weren't able to find it.  Newfoundland has great advertising for tourism, but not great signs to help tourists find their attractions.  It's possible that this reserve is only a maritime reserve.  The map shows a dotted circle out in the Atlantic that might be the reserve.

As we were driving down the peninsula toward Ferryland the sun came out for the first time since we arrived in Newfoundland and we enjoyed a beautiful summer day.

Ferryland was named by the Spanish who came fishing here in the 1500's, and the name (in its original Spanish spelling)meant something like "high cliff."

In 1621 Lord Baltimore sent a contingent of settlers to this site under the leadership of a governor, William (?), with a mandate to establish a permanent English colony.  Many of these folk were from the middle and upper class in England.  When the colony was successfully functioning and a "mansion" prepared, Lord and Lady Baltimore came with their family.  They stayed for only one Newfoundland winter.  I think it was 1628 -29.  They found it too harsh and went back to England.  Lord Baltimore than applied for land farther south and was granted the territory which later became the state of Maryland.  It was his son, the second Lord Baltimore, who established that colony.

The Avalon Colony was unusually well built, and the archeologists working there have made many interesting finds.  The colony faced a very protected harbour with only one entrance and an extremely well protected anchorage called "The Pond."  The other three sides of the colony were protected by a palisade and dry moat that encompassed a 4 acre site, situated on land sloping down toward the water.

The builders made use of the plentiful beach stones to construct a 14 foot wide, cobblestoned Main Street.  (I have a picture of that, but the pictures don't want to upload tonight, so I'll post it later, on a little separate post for tonight.)  Cobblestones were also used to create the floors of most dwellings, except for the "Mansion" which had a wood floor.  These were so well laid that, uncovered now by the archaeological dig, they are perfectly serviceable.  They included drains that led all the waste water and rain water down to the waterfront.

One of the most ingenious devices was the "town privy" which was down near the waterfront and connected to the bay, so that the tides cleaned out the wastes twice a day.  It didn't function perfectly, however, and many useful clues were left there for the archaeologists to discover in our time: a used shoe, bits of cloth, remains that showed the colonists suffered from scurvy and intestinal parasites.

They had a withy-fenced communal garden with raised growing beds, surrounded by black stone which helped heat the beds.  They had sheep and cattle.  But they never succeeded in growing wheat as the season is too short, and they had to import their flour from England, as well as many other supplies.

This was a prosperous, well-planned, well-built community that flourished until the French invaded and destroyed it.  I've lost that date now, but it was in the later part of the 1600's.  Later on it was re-colonized.

There was a reconstructed kitchen from a slightly later date where a friendly young woman demonstrated how bread was baked in a "Dutch oven" on the hearth.  We were all given a small slice to enjoy.

We had hoped to do the whole "Irish Loop"--the drive around this arm of the Avalon, and then visit the Salmonier Nature Park.  We looked at the map and decided to retrace our steps to Hwy 1, drive a bit west and south to the Nature Park, skipping the long drive around the peninsula.  Elaine had said that it was really just "more of the same" so we let it go.

There is an extended boardwalk, close to 3 km through the wooded park, and scattered alongside it are very large fenced areas that contain animals and birds in the process of being rehabilitated.  Several of them were either hiding in the shade, or not in their pens at all.  Most of them, except for the caribou, we've seen either in the wild on our travels, or even on our own property.  But it was good to go for a walk after all the driving we've been doing.

Back home we watched the first half of "Mrs. Doubtfire."  I saw it in a theater years ago, but I don't think Jim has ever seen it.  By 10 p.m. we turned it off to go to bed, but Jim was betting that Danny and Miranda get back together.  I've forgotten how it turned out.

Sunday--today, we left St. John's after thanking Fraser and Elaine for all they did to make our holiday here enjoyable.  If you get to Conception Bay South, that is the place to stay!

We spent the whole day driving, and arrived in Deer Lake around 4 p.m. where we stopped and had a roast beef dinner.  We drove on to Rocky Harbour in Gros Morne Park and were lucky to find a room at the Candlelight B and B. Tomorrow we hope to drive to the northern tip of this arm of Newfoundland and visit L'Anse Aux Meadows. 

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