Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Icebergs and Sun Pillars

On Monday evening a friend called to say that there were a couple of icebergs grounded just outside the "gut" at Quidi Vidi, a small village that's part of St. John's. Would I like to go take a look? I didn't have to be asked twice -- I love the icebergs that work their way south along the Labrador current in spring and early summer, and I wasn't about to pass up an opportunity to see and photograph one, especially in a setting as picturesque as Quidi Vidi. We drove to a point above the village, then walked to the Quidi Vidi Battery, not yet open for the season. The hill gave a commanding view of the bergs in the narrow opening to the small harbour; the two bergs were of completely different
shapes, one flat or tabular and the other pinnacled and looking a bit like a huge white walrus. There were thirty or so people gathered on the point, taking photos or just enjoying the view, but the light was fading fast. We decided to return the following morning to see the bergs in the early light. Serendipity provided the perfect weather conditions for a sun pillar as the day dawned, making for a spectacular scene that was well worth the early start. When an opportunity arose for yet another visit to the bergs that evening, of course I couldn't resist. After a walk to the end of the Barrows Road and a scramble across the rocks, another friend and I joined the watchers on the point and settled in to
enjoy the view and the changing light. We were delighted to see a couple of colourful kayaks head out for an evening paddle, past the bergs and along the coast. While they were gone, the tabular berg shifted on the tide and nearly closed off the opening to the harbour; fortunately there was enough room for them to get past, but the return trip was definitely a bit more challenging than the outbound one. Thanks to those two kayakers for adding extra interest to this beautiful evening!

There is a website that provides location data and background information on icebergs in Newfoundland and Labrador -- operates during iceberg season and gets its data from both satellite and local observer information.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Rambles of Spring

It was a great day for a spring ramble in Southwestern Nova Scotia -- it dawned clear and sunny, and the road called out for wandering. The perfect song for the occasion was running through my head: The Rambles of Spring, written by Tommy Makem and performed by Makem and Clancy: "The days are on the mend and I'm on the road again."

As for which way to travel, the options are fairly limited in this part of the country: up the road or down the road. Thanks to the long, narrow shape of Nova Scotia, its southwest/northeast orientation, and the fact
that Shag Harbour is near its southernmost tip, "up" the road is roughly north and "down" the road is roughly east. This quirky geography is also responsible for the fact that the same stretch of coastline is the South Shore on one side of Halifax and the Eastern Shore on the other, the North Shore roughly parallels the Eastern Shore, and Western Shore is a community on the South Shore. Honest. So "up" it was -- through part of Shelburne County, Yarmouth County and into Digby County. This region of Nova Scotia is largely Acadian in heritage, predominantly
French-speaking and with a unique and vibrant culture. The landscape in this part of Nova Scotia consists of rolling hills covered in dense forest, with a broad coastal plain that's often made up of wetlands and saltmarsh. The communities of the Clare District, as it's known, follow the main road through the region, so Nova Scotia's Route 1 is sometimes referred to as the country's longest Main Street. Each community along the road boasts its own distinctive Roman Catholic church, including North America's largest wooden church at Church Point and an impressive stone structure at St. Bernard.

A visit to this area wouldn't be complete without a stop at the Roadside Grill in Belliveau's Cove, a tiny, unassuming place that serves up heaping portions of succulent deep-fried clams gathered on the local flats, burgers, turkey dinners and a delicious Acadian dish called Rappie Pie or Rapure that's made from grated potatoes and chicken, beef or clams. There's no pastry crust involved; the potatoes crisp on the edges to form a crispy shell. There are two schools of thought on this
delicacy -- I'm one of those who consider it a plateful of pure bliss, but there are others who run screaming into the night at the very mention of its name. The service at the Roadside Grill is friendly and efficient, and there's a real sense of neighbourhood here; the waitresses know most of the customers by name and sometimes don't even bring menus since the customers know the offering here as well as the staffers do. Next to the restaurant there is a tidy little row of tourist cabins that are available for rental, in a perfect 50s flashback. After a great, hearty meal at the Grill it was time to head for home. The day definitely qualified as a great spring ramble!