Tuesday, 31 July 2012

Gros Morne Summer Music creates Sherlock Holmes “radio” drama

by Keith and Heather Nicol
       Gros Morne Summer Music has just started its summer season and has a full schedule of performances that will run until August 26, 2012. On Mondays (and Saturdays in Woody Point) you can catch the show “Sherlock Holmes and the German of Bonne Bay” which is styled after radio drama which was popular in the 1930’s and 40’s.  On stage you see an announcer, a sound effects specialist and 2 musicians which provide the superb background music and even advertisements for such things as kidney pills! The story brings Sherlock Holmes to Woody Point in W.W. II to uncover how to reduce the damage being done to convoys of ships heading to Europe from Canada by German submarines. The clever script and lyrics by David Maggs, varied voices by the narrator Bernard Kane, sound effects created by Ryan Butt and the live music by Louis McDonald and Diederick van Dijk make for a night of engaging theatre and music you won’t find anywhere else in the province. We enjoyed watching Ryan Butt swoosh his hand in an aquarium to simulate waves washing on the shore (and it was realistic) while Bernard Kane did the voices of Sherlock Holmes, Dr. Watson, Harper Stephens and the other characters. This show runs Mondays at the Corner Brook Arts and Culture Centre until August 20 and Saturdays in Woody Point until August 18 and you can get more information at: www.gmsm.ca.

Diederick van Dijk (left) and Ryan Butt performing in "Sherlock Holmes"
 Corner Brook has lots of places to explore on foot and its community trail system is the envy of many communities.  Over the past number of years, the Corner Brook Stream Trail system has been expanded to encompass many kilometers of trail stretching throughout the city. Some of the most popular are along Corner Brook stream and the Glynmill Inn Pond acts as a focal point for this trail. There are benches overlooking the pond and you can often see ducks and swans in the water. We also really like the Three Bear Mountain trail which gives good views of the city and Humber Arm. There is also an interpretative photo plaque at the end of the trail. Another extension of the trail system highlights the Corner Brook Stream gorge and a large waterfall. Who would guess Corner Brook has a major waterfall virtually within city limits? This trail is rougher beyond the gorge lookout platform but is still easy to follow and there are several hiking options in this area so have a look at the trail map before you start.  For more information on the trail system check out: http://www.cbstream.com/
The Corner Brook Stream trail system is popular for walkers of all ages

Monday, 30 July 2012

Check out this traditional Newfoundland dory fishing tour

by Keith and Heather Nicol
       If you want to go cod fishing from a traditional Newfoundland dory then you need to contact Darren Park. Darren is a top notch guide and operates 2 Newfoundland dories for tours of the Goose and Penguin Arm and is based in Cox’s Cove at the end of the North Shore highway (highway 440) near Corner Brook. His dory fishing trips are unique in the province and are very popular during the recreational cod fishery which runs from July 21-August 12, 2012. When we phoned to book our trip he told us that all of his groups have caught their limit so far this year and that the largest fish caught was a 15 lb cod. “Perfect” we said “mark us down for the evening of Sunday, July 29.” When we arrived Darren said he was having his best year ever and that he only had a few spots left in the summer cod fishery season. “I even have several bookings for the fall fishery from September 22 to 30 and most of these are with repeat costumers” he grinned. 
Bring your camera for the spectacular coastal scenery in this area

       We set off from the beach in bright sun at 5:00 pm and there was a strong breeze blowing from the west. The wind kept blowing us off Darren’s most recent fishing “hot” spots and the wind didn’t show its usual sign of diminishing as the sun dropped lower in the sky. Heather said “I hope we don’t break your perfect fishing record this summer but to be honest I think it is just great being out here on the water with the great scenery.” Of course, Darren doesn’t give up and if the fish aren’t biting in one place he is off to his next spot in no time. “Lets get out of this wind and head into the bay” Darren said as we motored for a couple of kilometers toward Penguin Head. Once in position he told us to drop our lines and in no time we began reeling in fish. Heather caught the first one, a nice 6 pound cod and then we all began to catch fish. In 20 minutes we had our limit! Another big bonus is that Darren fillets the fish for you when you get back to the beach so you can take your catch home all ready to cook. Darren runs boat tours through the summer and they include a mussel boil up at his seaside cabin and then fishing or sightseeing in season. So far this season he has seen eagles, dolphins, whales, caribou and moose on his sightseeing tours. He can be reached at 709- 688-2125 or crazyaboutguiding@gmail.com
Heather caught the first of many cod on our trip

Sunday, 29 July 2012

The Stephenville Theatre Festival shines with Mary’s Wedding

by Keith and Heather Nicol
       Mary’s Wedding is a powerful story of blossoming love and war set on the Canadian Praires. The story unfolds as a dream and using flashbacks the story weaves between the evolving young love of Mary (Maggie Blake) and Charlie (Michael Cox) only to have Charlie drawn into the horrors of the trenches in World War 1. Although there are only 2 actors on stage, Maggie Blake also plays Charlie’s commanding officer and moves effortlessly between her 2 characters. The simple set is very effective and lighting and sound realistically simulate lightning and thunder early on in the play which is replaced by the sound of machine gun fire and the shells exploding in the war scenes. The intimate setting makes the audience feel that they are part of the action and the director Keith Pike is to be commended on creating a very moving evening of theatre.  You won’t want to miss this acclaimed play. Mary’s Wedding was sold out on Saturday, July 28 and there are only a few shows left of this superb play so book your tickets soon by phoning 709-643-4553. For more information on the Stephenville Theatre Festival  schedule for this season see:  www.stf.nf.ca. Their season runs from July 13-August 12, 2012. 
 Charlie  (Michael Cox) and Mary (Maggie Blake) in a scene from Mary's Wedding
      While visiting the Stephenville Theatre Festival  you can check out some the scenic shoreline of the Port au Port Peninsula as part of your stay. You can do a great driving loop by following highways 460 and 463 or you can check out specific areas depending on your interest. If you head to Stephenville on a sunny day the sandy beach at Piccadilly is well worth the trip. You can go for a swim or have a picnic and there are even some short hiking trails to check out.  Another popular place to visit is the “Alpacas of Newfoundland” farm (http://www.alpacasofnfld.ca/). It is located at Felix Cove and they have a gift shop and interpretation centre on site. The farm was started in 1998 and you can’t miss the bright red roof on the barn as you are driving by. They are open daily through the summer months. Further along at Sheaves Cove there is an amazing “hidden” waterfall. Watch for signs to the waterfall as you drive through the community.  
Piccadilly Beach is popular on a sunny summer day

Saturday, 28 July 2012

TNL’s “Sinking of the S.S. Ethie” mixes dinner and drama in Cow Head, Newfoundland

by Keith and Heather Nicol
A scene from "Sinking of the S.S. Ethie"
    “My goal is to create memorable performances about this place –Cow Head and Newfoundland in general -that will appeal to both local residents and visitors alike” Theatre Newfoundland Labrador’s artistic director Jeff Pitcher told us recently.  And the dinner theatre performance of “Sinking of the S.S. Ethie” fits this philosophy to a tee. This is the show that started it all for Theatre Newfoundland Labrador in Cow Head and it has been running to full houses since 1996. The play deals with the plight of the “S.S. Ethie” which runs into a particularly savage storm in December, 1919 while traveling off the coast near Cow Head. The dinner theatre venue at the Shallow Bay Motel was completely full on the night we attended  in late July, 2012 and we enjoyed a very good fresh cod dinner during the performance. Be sure to save your placemat since it features interesting newspaper articles of the day about the sinking of the “S.S. Ethie”. This performance gives the backstory to the reasons why the Ethie sailed that night as well as what life was like along this coast over 90 years.  We also learned that it was with a great deal of luck and through the Captain’s skill in running the “S.S. Ethie” into one of the only places where they could possibly make it ashore,  that none of the 60 passengers and 32 crew were lost despite the very stormy conditions.  A baby was even rescued by being transferred to shore in a mail bag! For more information on TNL’s Gros Morne Theatre Festival schedule or to book tickets to a show see- www.theatrenewfoundland.com or call 1-877-243-2899. 
Parks Canada Interpreter, Luke Payne, shows how to get a cod fish ready for drying
         Either before or after you see the show “Sinking of the S.S. Ethie” be sure to visit the actual site of what remains of the “S.S. Ethie”. The marked turnoff is located just north of Sally’s Cove and just south of the Western Brook Pond parking.  You can see the rusted remains of the “S.S. Ethie” along the beach and Martin’s Point which figures prominently in the play can be easily seen to the south of the wreckage. To learn more about this coast we also suggest a visit to Broom Point (just south of Cow Head) and we recommend attending  the Parks Canada presentation about the Mudge family that used to fish these waters from 1941-1975. Interpreter Luke Payne did a good job of describing how labour intensive the fishery was (drying the cod and canning the salmon) before the coming of the road in 1959 when the product could be shipped out fresh. The video below shows a variety of other activities to check out in the Cow Head area while you are attending a Theatre Newfoundland Labrador show in the evening. 

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

The Stephenville Theatre Festival succeeds with “Canada Rocks”

by Keith and Heather Nicol
     “Canada Rocks” is the Stephenville Theatre Festival ‘s big main stage production this summer and the show is a tribute to a variety of popular Canadian folk, country and of course rock music. The musical voyage starts in Atlantic Canada and moves west as the show progresses. We never knew that Canadians had produced so much great music and there were some songs we didn’t know were Canadian. For instance, who knew that the popular 1977 song “From New York to L.A.” was written and performed by Patsy Gallant from New Brunswick?  The young cast does a fine job with the songs and in many cases there is choreographed dancing which adds to energy of the show.  This show was originally presented at the  Charlottetown Festival in P.E.I. and director Keith Pike told us before the show that they have pretty much kept to that selection of songs with a couple of exceptions. Music from over 75 artists is presented including Shania Twain, K.D. Lane, The Guess Who, Gordon Lightfoot, the Rankins and many others. Another bonus were the skits that went with some songs like Stompin’ Tom Conners “Good old hockey game ”.  One of our favouite performances of the evening had to be Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”.  If you like Canadian music then you can’t go wrong with this performance. For more information on their schedule for this season and to book tickets phone 709-643-4553 or www.stf.nf.ca. The season runs from July 13-August 12, 2012. 
A scene from "Canada Rocks"
         If you are visiting the Stephenville area to see one of the shows then why not check out some of the walking trails nearby. One trail that really showcases this area's geology is the “Gravels” near Stephenville. This trail is well marked and can be found at the end of the gravelly spit that connects the Port aux Port Peninsula to the mainland just west of Stephenville. Here there is a large parking lot and interpretative signs have been posted describing the area. This trail winds along the shore and the sloping limestone bedrock has been carved by frost, wind and waves into intricate shapes in many places.  The route traverses past several scenic bays and in the distance you can see the Lewis Hills, which is Newfoundland’s highest point.  You can take side trails to the rocky headlands where you see various types of fossils.  There are numerous benches which make ideal resting points. The trail is 3.5 km one way and you can also take a side trail to Aguathuna, to visit the impressive large wooden church which was finished in 1925.  This is an ideal trail for walkers of all ages since the hard packed gravel trail is mostly level. For a video of this trail and more information on hiking options in Western Newfoundland see the following web page: http://www2.swgc.mun.ca/~knicol/.  
Along the rocky shores of the "Gravels"