Monday, 26 August 2013

Don’t miss Shaun Majumder’s “The Gathering” in Burlington

by Keith and Heather Nicol
    We just returned from comedian Shaun Majumder’s “The Gathering” in Burlington on the Baie Verte, Peninsula and we can’t say enough good things about the event. This was the second year of “The Gathering” which is designed to feature fire, food and music and to raise money to help build BSM Manor.  BSM takes its initials from the 3 towns in the region- Burlington, Smith’s Harbour and Middle Arm and is a non profit social enterprise.  It is Shaun Majumder’s dream to make this area a world class tourism destination and “The Gathering” is certainly making people aware of and appreciate this part of the Baie Verte Peninsula. We arrived in Burlington around noon on Saturday, August 24 and it was a buzz with people and activity. After getting our information package we decided to set up our tent in the camping area and get ready for our first event- a Chef’s Hike to Winterhouse Cove led by Shaun Majumder.  The idea of a Chef’s Hike is to explore the scenic country side of the area and then have a feast at the destination. In this case the hike was about 2 kilometers long but was rugged enough to feel that you have earned your food. In Winterhouse Cove,  Chef Mark McCrowe from St. John’s had prepared a buffet of mussels, crayfish, prawns, corn, potatoes and sausage. We have never eaten so well on a hike!! It was a magical experience to be sitting in the wilderness, looking out to the ocean eating great food and listening to live music. 
Starting off on Saturday's Chef Hike from the campground
       The Gathering Grounds in Burlington was where most of the activity for the rest of the day took place. Dinner was prepared by another well known St. John’s chef, Roary MacPherson from the Sheridan Hotel and the menu consisted of moose curry, peaches and cream cod, turkey blanquette and much more. While we ate dinner many musicians like Nolan Newbury, Mena Lodge, Adam Baxter, Carmen Townsend, and local star Rex Goudie performed. When Shaun Majumder introduced Rex (a finalist in the 2005 Canadian Idol contest) he said “There must be something in the water here since Burlington, with a population of 350 has produced 2 well known celebrities.” The amazing night of music continued with the Devin Cuddy band which was later joined by his brother Sam and his father, Jim Cuddy of Blue Rodeo fame. They had the crowd of over 1000 people up dancing and singing. “The Gathering” is unique in Newfoundland with its mix of well prepared food and great music. As Jim Cuddy told us the next morning at breakfast.  “I really admire what Shaun is trying to do with this event and I hope he succeeds with his plans for the BSM Manor”. That is one of the special aspects of “The Gathering” – it has a community feel where the “stars” mingle with the crowd all weekend.  
The Gathering Grounds located in a very scenic setting overlooking the harbour
Jim Cuddy and son Sam were just some of the main performers on the main stage
  On Sunday, August 25 we had breakfast at the community hall in Burlington and then went on to explore the communities of Middle Arm and Smith’s Harbour. For lunch we returned to the Gathering Grounds for another amazing spread which included a seafood grill, baked chicken and pork and various salads with greens from the local greenhouse. The Gathering Grounds looks out on scenic Burlington Harbour and was a perfect place to relax and enjoy everyone’s company. We then headed to Smith’s Harbour for the Gospel Concert before we had to head back to Corner Brook which meant unfortunately missing a another fine meal and the closing concert. This unique event has an exceptional community feel and should be on your bucket list for next summer. 
We had a gourmet lunch at the Gathering Grounds on Sunday 

Sunday, 11 August 2013

Try Paddle Boarding with the Newfoundland Adventure Company

by Keith and Heather Nicol
      Pasadena Beach is one of the most popular beaches in Western Newfoundland and we recently went there to try paddle boarding with Scott Ledrew who runs the brand new Newfoundland Adventure Company. Scott has started this company to allow visitors at the beach to try some different activities and he has sea kayaks and paddle boards to rent right on the beach.  He also sells bikes and has bikes for rent for anyone that wants to cruise around the beach front roads in Pasadena. He operates the bike rental out of A. Watton and Son Store where he also sells beach wear, art and some crafts. 

The store rents bikes and is close to the beach

       Paddle boarding has been around for a few years but Scott told us he knew of no other place in Newfoundland where you could rent paddle boards .  The sport is sort of a cross between canoeing and surfing. But instead of sitting you stand up and paddle using an extended canoe style blade. Our only experience with surfing was many years ago in Hawaii and at that time we didn’t have much success with it. As we recall, we may have managed to stand up for a nano secord before the next wave sent us into the water. Surfing is much harder than it looks. But the paddle board has lots of buoyancy and is much easier to stand on. One of the reasons it has become so popular in many places is that is easy to learn and is good exercise.  
Paddling boarding is easy to learn
     Scott started us out kneeling on the board to get a feel for it and then we stood up when we felt comfortable. It didn’t take long before we were standing up and paddling out into the lake. Keeping the board going straight ahead is abit of a challenge since you tend to take several strokes on one side. Just like in a canoe if you paddle only on one side the bow tends to turn. Scott told us to try a J stroke which we had some success with but we found we usually just changed sides to keep the board going straight. This gives both arms and shoulders a work out which is one of the goals of the sport. And if you want even more challenge try paddling with Tiloup, a dog that likely paddle boarding. If you are interested in trying this sport then contact Scott at: 632-6970 or check out his facebook page at:
Paddling with Tiloup
Heather paddling a sea kayak at Pasadena Beach

Tuesday, 6 August 2013

What’s new in Gros Morne National Park

 by Keith and Heather Nicol  

     On Thursday, August 1 we headed to Gros Morne National Park to check out some of their new offerings. First up was a “Yaffle of Chores” which takes place at Broom Point. This programme is part of  Experience Gros Morne which runs from June 28 to September 2 and covers a range of activities from guided hikes to nature interpretation. A “Yaffle of Chores” is a new programme that was started this year. Angie Payne, our leader for this activity started out by handing out aprons and described a bit about the Mudge families who once lived at Broom Point and what their day to day life might have been like. We were joined by a family from St. John’s and another family from London, England and the 10 of us followed Angie about doing everything from collecting firewood to using a scrub board to wash clothes to making toutons and doing some rug hooking. These would have been activities that the Mudge families would have all done by hand like we were doing. This is a good activity for anyone that would like to get a hands on experience and taste some food cooked over a wood stove as would have been done here 50 years ago. A “Yaffle of Chores” runs Thursdays and Saturdays and you need to pre-register at the Visitor Centre in Rocky Harbour. 
We learned how to rug hook at a "Yaffle of Chores"
We then headed to Java Jacks ( in Rocky Harbour for supper and were glad we reserved a window seat for 5:30 since the place filled up quickly.  We enjoyed mushroom soup as an appetizer and we had scallops with nicely cooked vegetables as our main course before splitting a large bread pudding for dessert. Java Jacks has a well deserved reputation for being one of the most popular places in Gros Morne Park to eat and they even get some of their fresh greens from their garden in front of the restaurant. 
Check out Java Jacks for good food in Rocky Harbour
     Then we headed to Shallow Bay to try out the new oTENTik which is a new way to camp that Parks Canada is developing. An oTENTik is basically a large tent that is already set up with a sleeping platform, table and chairs and a BBQ on the front deck. All you need to do is arrive with your food, sleeping bags and pillows. What could be easier! There are nearby showers and restrooms and you get a large bundle of wood with the oTENTik to burn in the outdoor fire pit. A real bonus that evening was the beautiful sunset at nearby Shallow Bay beach. There are 2 oTENTiks at Shallow Bay and 2 at Berry Hill campground and they would suit people who either don’t want the hassle of putting up their own tent or want much more room and more comfort than you would normally get tent camping. For more info on the oTENTik and the Experience Gros Morne programme see:
oTENTik's are new in Gros Morne this summer
        The next day dawned sunny and with light winds so we decided that this was a perfect day to be on the water. We phoned Sue Rendall at Gros Morne Adventures and booked ourselves for the 10:00 am kayak tour. We joined a couple from Gander and 3 people from Saskatchewan and spent the next 2 relaxing hours paddling past coves and cliffs. Our guides, Peter Broderick and Ben Murphy ably interpreted the human and geological history as well as pointing out an eagle perched in a tall tree.  With Gros Morne Mountain and the Tablelands as a backdrop you couldn’t ask for a more scenic place to paddle in the province. For more information see:
Try out a kayak tour with Gros Morne Adventures

Thursday, 1 August 2013

Stephenville Theatre Festival strikes gold with “Jewel” and “NL Songbook”

by Keith and Heather Nicol
     On Wednesday, July 31 we headed down to Stephenville to see two shows presented by  the Stephenville Theatre Festival (STF). First up was "Jewel" which is a one woman show performed by Maggie Blake. We had seen her last year at the STF in “Mary’s Wedding” and were bowled over by the show and her performance so wanted to see her again this year in “Jewel”.  We were once again impressed with her  performance in this powerful play about Marjorie coming to grips with the loss of her husband when the Ocean Ranger sank in 1982. Playwright Joan MacLeod has set this play in Alberta and Marjorie’s husband Harry has gone to work on the rig in Newfoundland to help them pay for their farm. Marjorie’s story begins with humourous recollections of past Valentine’s Days before segueing to the Ocean Ranger disaster which occurred on Valentine’s Day in 1982. Maggie Blake expresses very well the joys of first love, her first years of marriage and then the heartbreak of losing her husband. This show is a jewel and the STF should be applauded for its presentation of this play. On a side note, if you missed “Mary’s Wedding” last year it will be touring the province in October of this year.
    Next up we saw Newfoundland Songbook which featured a whole range of music and the very talented Danny Malena, Stephane Gaudet, Mallory Johnson, Emily Lukasik and Bill Simms do an energetic job of singing and dancing in close to 30 songs. This is double what we have seen in some musical revues and we particularly enjoyed “Salt Water Joys” and “Barrett’s Privateers”. The cast also does a spirited job of acting out songs like “Excursion around the Bay”, “The Old Black Rum” and “The Night Paddy Murphy died”. The set of numerous living room lamps and brightly coloured pieces of cloth added to the homey feel and the location in the bar of the Arts and Culture Centre allows the audience to feel part of the presentation. We fully recommend seeing this show before it closes. 

    There are several other shows being presented by the Stephenville Theatre Festival including Country Jubilee and the British Invasion- America Strikes Back as well as their popular caberet series and it runs until August 11. Their Gala on August 11 celebrates shows from the past 35 years since the festival’s founding by Maxin Mazumdar. For tickets phone 709-643-4553 and for scheduling see: