Monday, 30 May 2011

Update from the Feather and Folk Nature Festival--May 27-June 5, 2011

By Keith and Heather Nicol
No sooner had we unpacked from the excellent Trails, Tales and Tunes Festival in Norris Point (if you haven't been be sure to take this event in next year) than we downloaded the schedule for the next spring festival in Western Newfoundland. This one is in the Southwest corner of the province (from Stephenville to the Port aux Basques area) and as the name suggests deals with birds and folk music. This area is a prime birding location and this time of year birds are either migrating through the area or arriving for the breeding season. We listened to the fine traditional music of the Benoit Family at the Holiday Inn in Stephenville and then the next day did a walk on the a section of the International Appalachian Trail which started at Noel's Pond. The music event was Saturday (May 28) evening and Emile's Pub (at the Stephenville Holiday Inn)  was jammed with people to hear the relatives of the famous fiddler Emile Benoit (for whom the pub is named) play their music. The small dance floor was hopping and the crowd made them play well past their normal finishing time. The last Saturday in the month is folk night at Emile's Pub so you don't have to wait until next year so hear traditional music from some of the fine musicians in this area. The Bay St. George Folk Arts Council has done a fine job promoting the development of traditional music and I plan to take in one of  their "learn to play sessions this week" (see the web site for details). We spent the night at the comfortable Wood'n Bed and Breakfast  (a very pleasant place to stay in the area) and then went hiking the next day. We joined 16 others for a hike starting at Noel's Pond. The weather was abit damp but we did see a some birds and the trail gives good views of the surrounding area from several viewpoints.  This a  fairly wet trail so if you plan to do this trail on your own it is wise to bring water proof hiking boots. My web site at: has more details of coordinates of the trail head and a video of the trail. For more information on the Feather and Folk Nature Festival see

Saturday, 28 May 2011

Trails, Tales and Tunes Festival , May 2011 - Part 2

After having so much fun earlier at the Trails, Tales and Tunes Festival in Norris Point (Gros Morne National Park), Newfoundland  we decided to head back up from Corner Brook to take in some other activities on May 26 and 27, 2011. On the way up we decided to hike into Southeast Falls (this is great short hike that many people just drive by). With the spring snow melt running off it was very impressive and the picture to the right doesn't capture the setting at all. First on our agenda was picking up some tips from Daniel Payne on the tin whistle. This guy seems to be able to play any instrument and it would be great to spend more than 1 hour picking up tips from him. Then we headed to Pittman's Singing Kitchen to hear the 4 members of the Bay St. George Folk Arts group and hear an usual instrument called an Alphorn. It is 3 m and 70 cm long and rests on the floor (see photo). Many people could try playing later on the deck of Pittman's Restaurant but I wasn't able to get it to play a sound! After supper we headed to the Town Hall to hear the Flummies from Labrador. Evidently "Flummy" is a kind of trapper's bread. This band played many songs of Labrador and they were joined at times by Bill Rompkey and Shirley Montegue.After that show there was a "jam" session at the Cat Stop which had sorts of musicians taking part. You could listen or if you could even play the 'spoons' you could join in. After spending a comfortable night at the Fisherman's Landing Inn ( we took part in the Burnt Hill hike which was capably led by Sheldon Stone. He had all sorts of interesting information to pass along including the time he was walking in this area when the wind was blowing at well over 120 km/hr and he said the " forest floor rolled like the ocean since the trees, roots and soil were being pulled up and down so violently from the wind". This hike is great for all ages and stages since it is short and takes less than an hour to do.The photo (below right) shows the fine view toward Neddies Harbour from one Lookout. After that hike we headed back to Corner Brook to get some information about the next festival-the Feather and Folk Nature Festival which is being held in Stephenville and the Codroy-Port aux Basques area from May 27-June 5, 2011. There is more information at this festival and the others to follow. Western Newfoundland is developing a fine package of festivals from mid May to late June and it is a good time to visit to see this area before summer arrives.

Wednesday, 25 May 2011

Sampling the Trails,Tales and Tunes Festival - May 14-28, 2011

By Keith and Heather Nicol
This is a big year for the festival since it is celebrating its 5th anniversary and “it seems to be getting larger and more popular” organizer Shirley Montague told us.  “In fact, this year we have made it several days longer than it was in the past”. The Trails, Tales and Tunes Festival is centred in Norris Point in Gros Morne National Park and is a great mix of music workshops, interpretative walks and hikes, fancy dinners, boat tours and of course lots and lots of music. At times it is hard to choose what to do since there is so much to take in.  We arrived about 2:00 pm on Saturday, May 21 and had no sooner parked the car on the Norris Point waterfront than we could hear music from the Cat Stop. We wandered through the door only to see “Ennis” singing one of our favourite songs. While we listened to  ” Out from St. Leonards”  we were handed an event schedule and realized that there were many other activities going on at the Bonne Bay Marine Station (BBMS) right next door as well as other locations along the Norris Point Waterfront. In the Bonne Bay Marine Station there was a touch tank for kids, square dancing for adults, and story telling for all ages and stages. There are also many scheduled workshops for anyone interested in the tin whistle, drumming,  accordion, fiddle or step dancing so if you want some lessons by the “masters”, this festival has many opportunities.
       As we checked in at the Ocean View Hotel we were told not to linger since if we wanted seat for supper and to hear the “Singing Kitchen” at Pittman’s Family Restaurant that you needed to be there by 5:00 pm.  We arrived at 5:02 pm and there were only 2 places left in the entire restaurant and they were with a group that was already seated. They graciously told us to join them and we had a fine home cooked meal of fresh cod while 16 year old Karissa Janes from Moncton, N. Brunswick entertained us with her fiddle playing. After dinner we headed for the Town Hall to hear an amazing lineup of performers that included Ennis, Gordon Cormier, Cherry Jam,  George Woodhouse and Craig Young. Host Snook, kept everyone laughing between sets and when it ended Shirley Montague said” I think you would have trouble matching this range and quality of music in most big cities in Canada”. Given the final applause the audience certainly agreed. The Town Hall Concert ended at 10:00 pm and then there were two more choices-either the blues or traditional Newfoundland music.
      The next day (Sunday, May 22) things were not so hectic since we opted for the hike to the Lookout Hills. But also on the schedule was brunch on the EmmCat Tour Boat, sea kayaking, a songwriter’s circle, a fiddle workshop, a Wine Master’s Feast, the Singing Kitchen, and in the evening the Town Hall Concert followed by two choices of late night music.  The festival runs until May 29, 2011 so if you like either music and/or hiking and host of other activities in one of the most scenic places in the world, you should definitely check this event out.

More info:
Places to stay:
Rocky Harbour- The Ocean View Hotel -
Norris Point- Big Garden Cottages -

Wednesday, 18 May 2011

Celebrating Vancouver's 125 th Anniversary- May 7-16, 2011

By Keith and Heather Nicol 
      Vancouver is celebrating its 125th anniversary this year.Hard to believe that it was 25 years ago that we attended Expo' 86-which celebrated Vancouver's 100th anniversary. One great deal for this summer is that when you book 2 nights at a participating hotel you get a $125 voucher good for dozens of attractions and activities around the city. We had just a few days in Vancouver and so what follows is a list of some activities that we fully recommend.  The Museum of Anthropology at UBC gives a real insight into the native people of B.C. and its displays are exceptionally well done. Be sure to see Bill Reid’s classic sculpture of the Raven and the First Men. We also enjoyed the Maritime Museum in Vanier Park and getting there was half the fun. We had been enjoying Granville Market (another must see location) and decided to take the False Creek ferries to the Maritime Museum. These oval shaped water craft crisscross False Creek and they make a fine way to go exploring. The Maritime Museum is known for housing the arctic ship St. Roch (which was the first ship to navigate the North west passage from west to east) and but has also has other displays on the history of the port of Vancouver and some fascinating photos of what Vancouver’s shoreline looked like not that long ago. It was also at one of the nearby ponds at the Planetarium that I took my favourite photo of the trip. A heron had landed on the pond and cooperated long enough for me to take some photos with the backdrop of parkland, highrises and the North Shore Mountains in the background. To me it was classic Vancouver – spectacular nature in the midst of Canada’s 3rd largest city.
        We also really enjoyed Vancouver Lookout (170 meters high) which gave us exquisite views of the city as dusk was approaching. I suggest bringing a tripod (which I forgot) but in a pinch you can rest your camera against the window framing to get good time lapse photos at night.  And don’t worry about rain since the windows are slanted such that weather is not much of a problem. Another bonus is that you can go up and down the elevators as many times as you like in the day so you can see the views in the morning and then come back at night to see Vancouver all lit up. We also enjoyed our tandem bike ride around Stanley Park on the seawall. We had a perfectly sunny day and it seemed that most of Vancouver must have been out running, cycling or roller blading along this stunning 10 km loop. In fact Vancouver has many kilometers of cycling and walking trails so the seawall is just one option. Another recommended stop is the Capilano Suspension Bridge and Treetop Adventure in North Vancouver. This is a great way to experience Vancouver’s rain forest vegetation and the “swinging” suspension bridge that is 70 meters above the fast flowing Capilano River.
      On our next visit we want to get to the top of Grouse Mountain via the famous Grouse Grind and take in many other attractions that we didn’t have time to see. In early May ,2011 there was too much snow so the “Grind” was closed and we have a long list of other places we didn’t get a chance to visit. Hopefully next time…..                       For More Information contact:

Thursday, 12 May 2011

One Version of the Whistler,B.C. Trifecta-Early May, 2011

By Keith and Heather Nicol
       We recently returned from Whistler, B.C. where too much snow can sometimes be a bad thing. We have been heading to Whistler for many springs now and the main reason for going is for its great late season skiing.  Often we get sunny skies where we have to ski by the clock—east facing slopes in the morning switching to west facing slopes in the afternoon as the sun gradually softens the snow on different aspects. This year was a banner snow year for Whistler which meant that the upper slopes still held a 3 meter snow pack in mid May when we were there but it also meant that golf in the valley was being delayed due to lingering snow patches. This year we had wanted to complete a classic Whistler Trifecta by skiing on one day and golfing and mountain biking on the next day. But the winter’s deep winter snowpack which made for great skiing meant that the “down mountain” bike trails were also still covered in snow. So with some assistance from the folks at Tourism Whistler we modified our plans for this year.
         “Why not try golfing in Pemberton at the Big Sky Golf and Country Club. This is a top notch course and it usually opens before the courses at Whistler. Also I suggest heading to the Scandinave Spa which has a nice mix of hot and cool pools with areas for relaxation. It is in a very scenic setting as well” Claire told us. So after a sunny Saturday on the slopes of Blackcomb we checked into the centrally located Blackcomb Lodge. That evening we got into “Canuck fever” but watched them lose against the Nashville Predators 4-3. The next morning we headed to the Big Sky Golf course. This course is a scenic 25 minute drive from Whistler and must have one of the more pictureque settings for golf in Canada. Mt. Currie dominates the view from many holes and at times we could hear avalanches roaring down its steep flanks. This course is also known for its service and we have never had people help take your clubs from the car, give you a practice bucket of balls for the driving range and clean your clubs afterwards. Kudos to Big Sky Golf and Country Club for its fine service. We were very impressed with the quality of the course at this early date in May and the fairways and greens were in good condition.
     After golf it was back down to Whistler to visit the Scandinave Spa. It was a perfect way to spend a sunny afternoon alternating between the hot and cool pools and relaxing in deck chairs facing the sun. We particularly liked the eucalyptus steam room and overall setting surrounded by tall trees is adds to the “tranquil spa” ambiance. One problem is that you get so relaxed that you don’t feel like getting into the car and heading back down to Vancouver. And that still leaves the downhill mountain biking portion of the “Trifecta” to do another year and it would be great to play some of Whistler's fine golf courses. 
For More Info: