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Savannah Innkeeper Vacation in Newfoundland’s Bonavista

The continuing tale of innkeepers, Teresa and Jake of Azalea Inn and Gardens of Savannah, Georgia, as they take you on vacation with them!

As we headed to Bonavista Peninsula, we had our second moose sighting – a cow and two calves along the TransCanada Highway about 20 minutes outside Gander. It was quite apparent there was something to be seen as cars were pulling over on both sides of the roads and folks were pulling out cameras. We joined the tourist frenzy and at the moment we stopped the car they bolted into the tree line and the only evidence of their passing was the swaying of the surrounding vegetation. Continuing on our way, we arrived in Trinity late afternoon, swinging south to Dunfield. A relatively narrow road led the way along the steep edges of the bay dipping down into a small village of no more than 20 homes, and our final destination, Rolling Hills B&B, the beautifully restored family home of Ed and Maggie. Ed grew up in this quaint town and once retired was anxious to return to the peaceful ways of his hometown, where family, fishing and hunting were still a way of life and no doors were locked against your neighbors.Maggie was in the midst of baking muffins for tomorrow’s breakfast and warmly welcomed us to her home offering us a cup of tea as she excused herself to pull the muffins from the oven. We were told to choose a room upstairs – and to close the door to indicate we had taken it. She used to give out keys, but found that not only were they unnecessary in this part of the world, but she kept forgetting to get them back from her guests! She filled us in on some local happenings – a fund raiser at Rocky’s Bar for a local fellow with cancer, dinner choices about town, and when breakfast was served. On my previous trip I had eaten at the Dockside and my family and I had taken an evening sail about the harbour with the owner and his crew, complete with a “Screech in” (a Newfie tradition made up just for mainlanders – a drink of Newfie Screech and kissing the codfish). No I did not get screeched in, being part Newfoundlander I knew better, but enjoyed watching a few folks indulge in a bit of fun. Dinner was as fresh as you could imagine – we had chosen fresh mussels for appetizer, followed by a tossed salad with a light curry dressing, and then shared a nearly 2-pound lobster. Our young waitress had explained it would be a bit – they had to get the feller out of the trap! Lusciously satiated, we left the restaurant in time to catch our waitress and another girl pulling a lobster cage up on the wharf – she hadn’t been kidding.

Back at the inn we chatted with Ed and Maggie about our trip to their island, and after stating my ancestral names, Ed knew exactly where our roots were born – Holyrood and Fox Harbour! Soon more guests arrived and helped along with Ed’s homebrew and homemade wine, we learned a bit about each other and the places visited. We awoke the next day to a simple yet delicious breakfast and left the home well fortified for the drive northward on the peninsula and a hike to the Bonavista Lighthouse, Dungeon’s Provincial Park, and Elliston – the root cellar capital of the world. The landscape of my mother’s homeland is heart achingly rugged, majestically inspiring, and quietly peaceful. It is no wonder that even in heaven, Newfoundlanders ask, “When can I go home?”

We had a late lunch/early dinner at Nana’s Root Cellar Kitchen in Ellison. The restaurant is housed in an old Orange Lodge located hillside near the entry to the cove-side town. I had a Jigg’s dinner (Corned beef, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, and rutabagas – a childhood memory) with a new taste “Pease” pudding tasting, not surprisingly, like very thick pea soup – an odd but still pleasant addition to the meal. Jake chose a hot turkey and dressing sandwich with a side of fries, and as you guessed, draped in gravy. For dessert we had, drum-roll please, a blueberry-partridgeberry cream tart topped with freshly whipped cream.

Upon return to the inn, we chose to sit on the back patio amid the ocean breezes and play catch-up on our emails and Facebook (sorry, addicted). At 4 pm we had to get ready for the show “Shenanigans” at the Trinity Bight Playhouse – a conglomeration of Newfie songs, jokes and tales. Though I found it mediocre Jake convinced me to stay till the end, and so I was witness to a Mummer asking Jake to dance… repeatedly! Back at the inn, we returned to the back patio and shortly we were joined by two other guests, a couple from Toronto. Jake and our faux-Canadian shared a cigar (faux I say as he was born in New York and despite 30 years in Toronto, still sounds like a New Yorker). Maggie came by and inquired if anyone would be interested in going to a “kitchen party” in nearby English Harbour – a gathering of local folks at someone’s home to play music, sing and dance. We declined but truthfully we should have taken her up on her generous offer and enjoyed real “Shenanigans.”

At the morning’s breakfast gathering, several of our fellow travelers mentioned the Skerwink Trail, a 5.6 km hike along the edges of Robin Hood Bay and Trinity Harbour and considered by many to be one of the most beautiful hiking trails in the world! The enthusiastic conversation persuaded us to spend a bit more time on the Bonavista Peninsula before our departure to the Conception Bay area. The morning was particularly foggy and held true to nearly the end of our hike. The paths and vistas were not diminished with this early morning eerie companion and we were happy to have added another great climb to our list of adventures.

Jake and I have wound down to our last three days in this beautiful province. Our plans are to spend two days on the eastern side of Trinity Bay and the final night in St. John’s where I hope to meet up with Peggy, my best friend/cousin of childhood memories in Newfoundland, before heading to Boston for my brother, Kevin’s wedding. We have reservations at the George House Heritage House Bed and Breakfast in Dildo, NL. Yes, you read it correctly, Dildo. No, I did not choose it because of the provocative name but rather because Dale (one of the owners) and I had corresponded a bit back on a program we were considering for the inn which he and Todd, the other owner, had successfully implemented the year before. After reviewing their website I knew I wanted to stay with them during this trip to mom’s homeland, and I hoped to pick Dale’s brain a bit as well. I am also not one to shy away from puns and innuendos – how could you resist the opportunity to tell your friends and family, “We stayed in Dildo. Thoroughly enjoyed the show at the Dildo Playhouse. And we arrived in time for the Dildo Days celebration.” The truth of the matter is this is a great base for touring the Avalon Peninsula and the surrounding area.

The George House Heritage Bed and Breakfast is one of the inns that Dale and Todd own and manage, with the other being Inn by the Bay, and both are among the most highly rated B&Bs in Newfoundland. Todd grew up in Dildo and returned home more than 14 years ago to open Inn by the Bay – Dale joined him over six years ago when they decided to purchase the house at the top of their hill and turn it into a B&B as well. As if two B&B’s aren’t enough to keep these fine young men busy, they also own the Dildo Trading Post and buy real estate around the bay to “flip” or add to their kingdom as the opportunities present themselves. Dale and Todd serve a pris fixe dinner at the Inn by the Bay during season but unfortunately for Jake and I this is the first year they have taken the summer off from that duty! Ah well, Jake and I have decided to return to Newfoundland in the near future and enjoy her in smaller bites, especially as we did not see much of the Avalon Peninsula area. Between you and me, it’s Jake’s fault – we had to do laundry. He challenged me to pack only carry-on for a two week vacation that included a wedding – and I won the challenge, and even packed a bit too much! I am so pround of me!

The first morning in Dildo we arose early to drive to Bay Bulls for a tour with O’Brien’s Whale and Bird Tours to the largest colony of Atlantic Puffins on the eastern shore, and hopefully to spot some whales and other sea life, and perhaps even a bald eagle! We arrived about 40 minutes early in a slight drizzle and a heavy fog. The staff at the dock assured us we would be going out and would only turn around if the sea was too rough. We struck up a conversation with a woman from Colorado and her three children while waiting and we all sat together on the upper deck once we loaded up. To keep the story somewhat short – the mouth of the bay revealed the seas to be a bit rougher than the boat could handle – 4 meter rolling swells. As the captain assured us all would be well once we turned inland again, I had vision of the boat capsizing as it tried to turn in the trough of a swell and my children being notified the next day that they were rich! As slowly as we were plowing through the waves, I just couldn’t envision a quick turn in a short span of time, but quick indeed was the turn the captain executed once we came down the inside of the trough and soon we were headed back to the dock.

With a dreary day ahead of us, we made the decision to do the laundry. We found a wi-fi hot spot and a Google search led us to the town of Bay Roberts and the Laundromat.

While we waited for load to finish, I wrote the blog about our Trinity Bight travels. Finally fluffed and folded, next on our agenda was lunch and after asking about a bit we decided on the Madrock Café and Crafts. The directions were priceless – we were to go over the bridge and turn to the right and keep going, and just when we think we should have gone far enough, go a bit further! It would be on the left, and so it was. We ordered a simple meal suggested by our waitress, Karen: Baked Beans with homemade Fish Cakes. I noticed they had a childhood favorite on the menu, toutons, the one food I had yet to introduce to Jake. The Fish Cakes were delectably tasty and upon asking, Karen explained they are made with potatoes and cod and a bit of Newfie Savory, then pan-fried till done. The beans were darkly rich with a molasses flavor that I love. Toutons, however, were the dessert I craved. My aunt Isabel has always made the best toutons I tasted and all my attempts to recreate them as an adult have not come close – though that has not stopped from eating the results! So what is this Newfoundland treasure: Traditionally, toutons were made with leftover dough that wasn’t needed to fill the bread pans. In the old days, in Newfoundland, there weren’t any fast-food take-outs and toutons filled the roll of a tasty, fried treat and with a topping of sweet molasses or syrup; they were the answer to many cravings. Besides being a tasty treat, toutons can be served with beans, sausages, ham or bologna – a warm and satisfying meal on a cold day. I ate my touton with butter and molasses and licked the plate clean – to Jake’s embarrassment. Oh Well.
If you decide to go to MadRock Café it is located at the Juggler’s Cove entrance to Bay Roberts Eastern Shoreline Heritage Walk, near Madrock. Open year-round and seven days a week from 9 to 9, the café features home-cooked Newfoundland food and a selection of locally made crafts and souvenirs.

Our last morning in Dildo, we spent time with the innkeepers, Dale and Todd, sharing innkeeping tales, then off to St. Johns where the first order of the day was lunch at local Micro-Brewery, Yellow Belly Pub. Bellying up to the bar we ordered the St. John’s Stout and the Fighting Irish Red Ale, and found both to be well worth the side trip. St. John’s downtown is very lively and the evenings are known for the bar scene. However, being of a certain age, and no longer needing to drink our weight in booze, we went to meet my cousin, Peg. The years slipped away as I glimpsed her across the hotel lobby. We had only an hour or so but the details of our lives quickly slipped into place and I felt like 40 plus years had never passed.

The next morning we flew to Boston for my brother’s wedding, and for the first time since mom’s death, all her children were together for a much happier occasion. On Sunday, August 1 we flew back to Savannah, and happily back to our lives.

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