Sunday, October 28, 2007

George Street Mardis Gras

Although the name "Mardis Gras" may have been lost in translation, the George Street Mardis Gras was fun nonetheless! We went down to check out the party Saturday night. George Street was closed off and to get on the street means paying a $10 cover charge. Once on the street, all the bars are open with no cover, and people can roam the street, beer in hand, while taking in the festivities. There was an AC-DC tribute band which really got the crowd going. Hanging out from the windows and balconies of the bars that crowd George Street were people dressed in very creative costumes. It was a chilly Saturday night and so afterwards we went to Tim Hortons for some coffee.

We arrived at 9:00pm and although it was early, there was a good sized crowd. This is looking south along George Street with the stage to the left.

What's a party without an AC-DC tribute band? I think these guys were from Toronto.

Crowds are growing while looking north on George Street.

Me and Mr. Potato Head at the George Street Mardis Gras.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Toutons and MUNscapes

Today ended what was a very busy week. I had a full day of classes and this evening I wanted to get out and enjoy the very nice fall weather we have been having these past few days. Located not too far from MUN down on Elizabeth Street, the roommates and I decided to walk over to the Guv'nor Inn Pub for dinner.

I ordered the pea soup with dumpling for an appetizer, moose sausages as the entrée, and toutons for dessert. The soup was good and the duff was great. The moose sausages were tasty. This was my first time trying the Newfoundland dessert staple - toutons (fried dough covered in molasses). Although I have no baseline with which to compare, these were mighty fine! I'd certainly order them again.

Mmm... tasty pea soup and dumpling. I prefer this version of pea soup over the French Canadian "Habitant" kind.

Moose sausages... the only disappointing part about this meal was that there were only three sausages. Fries. What can I say? It's a pub!

After all that eating, I decided to take a walk and while doing so I snapped a few night shots around MUN. Later on this evening we made our way downtown to George Street to take in a bit of Mardi Gras - Newfoundland style!

One of the residence buildings of Paton College at MUN.

The heart of MUN - the Queen Elizabeth II library (left), the clocktower, and the university centre (right).

I love MUNdays is a week long event at MUN that carries a theme each day: diversity, ingenuitiy, excellence, kindness, and community. It's a week packed with various events. See: for more information.

A full moon on a clear and crisp October evening. Perfect Hallowe'en weather!

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

Making Friends With Sammy The Sea-Hawk

It has been a busy past couple of weeks with mid-terms and major reports all due at once. There hasn't been much time to post any recent events or to actually get out and do much of anything other than study and write papers. In the meantime, here is a picture of me, Sammy the Sea-Hawk, and one of my roommates, Matt. This picture was taken at the MUN fieldhouse during a basketball skills competition as part of the weeklong event - I Love MUNdays. Stay tuned. More to come...

Wednesday, October 10, 2007

Pineapple Crush And Newfoundland Kool-Aid

Happy (belated) Thanksgiving everyone!

I wanted to make mention about my latest findings while at the Dominion in Quidi Vidi. Thanks to Jim and Lisa, I now have tried pineapple and birch beer flavoured Crush pop. I've been told that the first of the two are a "must-do" Newfoundland experience.

While I am not a huge fan of Crush pop, the pineapple variety was quite enjoyable. Interestingly enough, this particular flavour has more sugar than the other Crush varieties. There was very little hint of any pineapple in the taste - but an experience none the less. The birch beer was found next to the pineapple and the root beer Crush. I have heard of root beer, but never birch beer Crush. So, I decided to give that one a whirl as well.

I did not enjoy the birch beer flavour as much as the pineapple flavour. One observation I made was that the birch beer pop was coloured pink instead of the traditional root beer brown. The flavour was similar to that of root beer and strawberry Crush combined. Very interesting.

So the verdict is: pineapple Crush tasty; birch beer Crush not so tasty. Unfortunately, neither of these flavours come in a diet alternative. Surprised? So for now, it's pineapple sugar rushes and birch beer burps. Nice!

Birch beer and pineapple flavoured Crush pop.

Further on down the isle I also found the famed "Newfie Kool-Aid", otherwise known as Purity brand flavoured syrup. I have yet to try it though as the Crush experience was enough fun for one night. The directions on the bottle say to add 50mL of syrup to 250mL of water (or your favourite mix). I picked up the raspberry flavour as it seemed to be most popular given how few there were left on the shelf. Stay tuned for updates.

Purity everything! They make salt fish in a can too. Who knew?

One more thing to add, I have also sampled the Purity brand jam-jam cookies. Very tasty! A sweet jam centre sandwiched between two moist cake-like biscuits. These are now on my list of favourite cookies. Thanks again Jim and Lisa.

Before I head out to walk off all of that sugar, I wanted to mention that the Rick Mercer Report did the funniest skit about the "Williams promises bucks for babies" incentive. Check out the Rick Mercer Report at: and then click on the "Jerry Dooley" video from season 5. If you know about "the over pass", you too will think this is hilarious! Enjoy!

Friday, October 5, 2007

Day Trip To Bell Island And Cape St. Francis

I decided to start the Thanksgiving weekend off with a day trip to Bell Island and then Cape St. Francis. Both destinations are within an hour drive from St. John's, but once there, certainly feel a world away. The day started early. I left Burtons Pond at 8:30am and made my way (past the overpass) out of the city. I wanted to leave early so that I could stop at Beachy Cove Restaurant in Portugal Cove for some breakfast. I have been wanting to sample toutons - fried bread dough topped with molasses. However, when I arrived, the restaurant was not open. Not wanting to miss the 9:20am ferry, I decided to skip breakfast and head directly to the Portugal Cove - Bell Island ferry terminal.

After being in line for less than 15 minutes, the ferry arrived and we soon boarded. The fare was only $6.25 return! There are typically two small ferries (approximately 25 car capacity) that service Bell Island from Portugal Cove. There are permanent residents on Bell Island in both the communities of Wabana and Lance Cove. Without knowing the exact numbers, I would estimate the island population at 3000. There are many people who live on Bell Island and commute to St. John's. I have heard that the provincial government would like people to move off Bell Island. I would guess the reason is in part due to the cost of maintaining the ferry link and keeping it ice free in the winter, not to mention the general inconvenience of having 3000 residents live 20 minutes away and accessible only by ferry (eg. emergency medical access).

As mentioned, the ferry crossing took 20 minutes. Although there were signs posted saying that it is forbidden to stay in your vehicle while at sea, everyone, including the crew, seemed indifferent. Feeling a little uneasy about the whole situation, I decided to go up on deck and snap a few pictures of Bell Island, otherwise known as the Belle of the Bay. Interesting to note, Bell Island measures only 9km long and 3.5km wide.

From the ferry, Bell Island in the distance.

Once we arrived at Bell Island, I made my way down to the car and was soon off exploring the island. I quickly discovered that the map I had downloaded and printed off from the Bell Island community association website was not detailed enough. I should have realized that this map would not be helpful given that the symbol for area beaches were represented by salt and pepper shakers! Don't ask why. I am still confused.

My first stop was at the Co-Op Bakery in Wabana. Having missed breakfast, I was hoping to find some coffee and a little snack before the day started. Although they did not have coffee at the bakery, they did have an assortment of baked goods made right there in-store. I picked up a bag of cherry crinkle cakes for only $2.99. Lucia would be excited to know that this bakery fit the "mold"of a good bakery. By that I mean it was not too clean, it was staffed by older and very kind ladies, and there were a couple of cars in the parking lot when I arrived. Did I mention that the bakery and local Liberal candidate occupied the same building? As for the proof, let's just say I was unable to resist helping myself to a second cherry crinkle cake before leaving the island at the end of the day. They were that good!

Co-Op Bakery, the home of tasty cherry crinkle cakes (and a hopeful Liberal candidate)!

Onwards, my next stop was Lance Cove. This is a historic site because it is the only community in North America to take a direct hit from a torpedo fired by a German U-boat during World War II. Four ships were sunk and 69 men lost their lives. While you can not see the sunken boats from shore, there are boats which take scuba divers out to the wrecks. Further along from Lance Cove, there were herds of sheep who clearly were enjoying their million dollar view of Conception Bay. If there is such a thing as reincarnation, I want to come back as one of those sheep!

Lance Cove and one of the many old cemeteries on the island.

Sheep - the other residents of Bell Island.

Typical views around Bell Island. Traffic congestion is not an issue here.

Heading north I stopped at Grebes Nest. A hideaway that offers secluded beaches surrounded by cliffs - and is one of the reasons why I decided to make the trip to Bell Island. To get to Grebes Nest involves scaling down a rock covered hill to the ocean. You are immediately greeted by a rock stack and the sound of powerful waves crashing against the shore. Once here, there is a mineshaft inspired tunnel that cuts through the mountain side and allows passage to Grebes Nest. If it were not for the tunnel, the only option would be to swim around the rock face as the cliffs surrounding the beach are impossible to climb. As soon as you exit the tunnel to Grebes Nest and step onto the beach, you are surrounded by towering cliffs on three sides and Conception Bay on the other. Between the cliffs and the ocean is about 100 meters of rocky beach. What was really neat was that the sound of the waves crashing onto the shore was made louder because it reverberated off the cliffs. The best part of this entire experience was that I was alone to take it all in! For me, this was a similar experience to sea kayaking and rock climbing around the cliffs of Railay in the south of Thailand.

Entering the tunnel, looking back at the rock stack and where the path leads down to the ocean.

Grebes Nest? This way...

The tunnel to Grebes Nest.

Yours truly at Grebes Nest.

I have posted two videos: the first video is of the beach just before taking the tunnel to Grebes Nest, and the second video is of Grebes Nest itself. Enjoy!

After spending nearly two hours at Grebes Nest, I made my way to the Bell Island lighthouse. This location offered views looking back towards Portugal Cove and the northern arm of the Avalon Peninsula. I spent another two hours hiking the trails that meander along the cliff tops near the lighthouse. From the trail I made my way back to the ferry terminal and returned to Portugal Cove at 3:00pm

The trail near the lighthouse looking across Conception Bay to the island of Newfoundland.

Dangerous cliffs. Watch your step!

Back in Portugal Cove, the Beachy Cove Restaurant was open and so I decided to stop in for lunch. Lucia and I had been here before and during that visit I had tried the pan fried cod. Wanting to try something new, I decided to have their cod tongue dinner. It was delicious! The best I've tried so far! The lunch included 9 cod tongues, three scoops of mashed potatoes, and generous helpings of peas and carrots, all for $15.

I love cod tongues!

After lunch I made my way north and checked out the communities of Flat Rock and Pouch Cove, and eventually Cape St. Francis. While passing through Flat Rock, I came across the site Pope John Paul II visited in 1984. From Pouch Cove to Cape St. Francis the road is not paved and is very rough. I was puzzled by the amount of traffic despite there being no houses. There were many cars parked alongside the road - I suspect that they were hiking the many trails in the area? After traveling at 10km/h for 20 minutes, I finally arrived at Cape St. Francis. From this point you can see Bay de Verde and Baccalieu Island to the north. To the south you can see the very rugged and heavily treed coastline that extends down towards St. John's. There is a lighthouse and helicopter pad located here.

The view south from Cape St. Francis.

I left Cape St. Francis with the sun setting. I returned to St. John's and wrapped up what turned out to be a very enjoyable day trip.

Wednesday, October 3, 2007

Corn On The Cob: Newfoundland Style

Fresh fruits and vegetables at reasonable prices are a rare find in St. John's. With the little bit of travelling we did prior to arriving in St. John's at the end of August, finding fresh produce is harder still in the smaller villages. Thankfully, MUN is not located in St. Anthony (the extreme north western tip of the island). I can only imagine how much the bananas must cost there!?!

Some things I have discovered while cruising the shelves at the local Dominion:

1.) Macintosh apples are the cheapest apples around at $1.49 per pound.
2.) Bananas are a steal at $0.85 per pound.
3.) Starfruit, guava, and pineapples are available but not on a student's budget.
4.) They have Niagara peaches. However, these are the peaches that we would point and laugh at while picking at the farms in Winona.
5.) The buckets of salted beef out number the lettuce heads 3 to 1. Seriously.
6.) Sweet and fresh corn on the cob is almost a foreign concept (read below).
7.) The discounted rack is where I now shop for produce because I can't bring myself to pay so much for a bunch of carrots or a couple of red peppers.
8.) If not already, the people who came up with the idea of canning and freezing fruits and vegetables should receive an award. Had it not been for Mott's or Knorr I would most likely be afflicted with scurvy by now.
9.) Beer is a food group, no? It's very convenient having beer and liquor stores attached to the grocery store. It truly is one stop shopping. However, if picking up a case of Quidi Vidi Honey Brown slips your mind while grocery shopping, fear not, because beer is essentially sold at every gas station!
10.) I am usually one of the few people who shop at the seafood counter, because everyone else is at the meat counter picking out cuts of beef. I guess everyone here has had their fill of scallops and cod. I wish I could say the same.
To put all of this into context, whenever there is a luncheon, working meeting, or snacks served while at a networking function with the university, I am the first at the fruit and veggie trays. I have also reconciled with myself that there is no shame in eating tray garnishes if they are leafy and green.
As for the sweet and fresh corn on the cob, I picked up a can of corn on the cob to try. This is such an odd concept to me. Instead of stripping the kernels off the cob and canning only the kernels, they can the entire cob of corn. There are 4 cobs, each with the tops and bottoms trimmed off so that they can be vacuumed packed and fit into the can. The instructions read: corn on the cob is delicious when it is warmed in boiling water. Delicious, eh? Costing only a $1.99, I was sold!

Can opener in hand, I opened up the can to find 4 cobs. They looked a little soft. Following the directions, I boiled the cobs in water for a few minutes and then sat down for dinner. Conclusion: while not terrible, the kernels are a little soft and there is not much in the way of juice or sweetness. Had I never tried local Ontario corn before, I would have thought that this corn was not that bad. Will I buy the canned corn on the cob again? Probably not - I know what Ontario corn tastes like. The canned kernels or creamed corn is more to my liking. That said, I am happy to have tried a Newfoundland delicacy - canned corn on the cob.

So what's next? Salt beef maybe? Unfortunately, the salt beef comes in large buckets or in large vats that you have to hook yourself, and I don't think I will be able to finish it all. I have no idea how to even eat it. Suggestions anyone?

Tuesday, October 2, 2007

I Am One Happy Egg!

Today FedEx delivered a care package from my lovely girlfriend. It was the first such package, but after only a month away, I was anxious to receive something to remind me of all things comfortable and familiar of home.

I would be lying if I said that I was not tracking the package from shipment to delivery. Within minutes of the package arriving at the MUN student services centre, I headed over to claim the box of goodness. The receptionist was surprised by the fact that I arrived within twenty minutes of the package being signed. Things move slowly here in Newfoundland, and so once a package arrives at the university, it is signed for by the receptionist, and then typically a card is placed in the student's mailbox to signal that a package has arrived and for the student to pick it up. This usually happens over the course of a two days and was clearly to slow for this Ontarian.

Nevertheless, I signed for the package and quickly returned to the apartment - walking very quickly, almost running with excitement. What happened next was documented by pictures so that you could see exactly what was in the care package and my reaction to each item.

The care package has arrived and I am very excited!

What the package looked like seconds before the packaging material is torn away.

Puzzled at first, but grateful upon second thought given how expensive orange juice is on the island. If that is 8 litres of orange juice, I'll take it!
Inside the box lay a treasure of Chinese goodness! It's like Chinese Christmas!

Rice paper to make Vietnamese wraps. Hopefully they have fresh mint at the Dominion. These will be for Thanksgiving dinner.

Hoisin sauce for the Vietnamese wraps. But wait a second, someone has used this hoisin sauce. The bottle is half full!?!

Kaya coconut spread for breakfast, lunch, and dinner! I can buy this downtown but it is triple the price in St. John's than in Ottawa.
Who does not like Hong Kong tea? You can never have too much, or enough varieties!
Among other things were mango jellies, curry pastes, and crackers. Maps of St. John's and a note completed the care package. Mh goi. Awl oy lei Lucia!