When I went to do laundry the other day, I walked in on Sherri waiting for her load to finish in the dryer. She was in the middle of a conversation with a lady who was from a different part of the province, but who had been ‘touring’ the western portion of Newfoundland with her family. They had actually just come from the northern peninsula (which is where our family was headed next). She talked about a dinner they had gone to called “The Great Viking Feast”. It included a buffet of local foods, and a “show”. Intrigued, we called ahead and made reservations for the next night.
With reservations for a boat tour at 4:00pm, we got up early the next morning to make the 400 km drive north. The highway we travelled is called “The Viking Trail”, and it pretty much follows the western coast of Newfoundland. For the first hour, or so, we had the rocky coastline to our left and the green, sloping mountains to our right. Absolutely breathtaking! At one point, as we got nearer to our destination, we started to see mountains across the water too.
I checked the map to see if there were islands out there, only to realize it was actually Labrador that we were seeing. I had no idea it was that close (around 30 miles, I believe someone later mentioned……but don’t quote me on that!)
We made it to our 4:00 tour, with time to spare. The company taking us out was Northland Discovery Tours, and the boat was actually fairly empty (I’d say we made up nearly half the group – go team Yanke!) It was really great to have space to move around, and see from different angles.
It didn’t take long, after leaving the harbour in St. Anthony, to come across humpback whales. We could see birds (Gammits) circling above the water and dive bombing into it – a sure sign that there were fish in the area. Sure enough, there were also 3 humpbacks there having “dinner”. As we pulled a bit closer our guide pointed out the dolphins that were swimming amongst everything else. My kids kept referring to it as a “feeding frenzy”, they weren’t wrong!
After watching these birds and mammals for a good while, we headed farther out to sea where we could see a few small icebergs floating. I was super excited to see them there when we had driven into St. Anthony earlier, as I wasn’t sure if there would still be any around this late in the season! There was one, in particular, that our guide deemed close enough to get to. (Too far out and we wouldn’t have had time to stop and watch the whales too).Another surprise, as we approached the iceberg, was a small group of seals swimming along (something else I hadn’t realized was an “option” on this tour). The icebergs that show up along the shores of Newfoundland apparently take about 2 years to get there from the coast of Greenland, at which point they only last for a couple of months before breaking apart/melting. That’s quite the journey! After circling the iceberg a few times, we started our journey back to the dock. At one point the captain pulled up alongside some smaller chunks of iceberg that our guide was able to fish out of the water. He broke it up farther, and everyone was able to get a taste of what is, supposedly, some of the purest/cleanest water on earth. It WAS pretty tasty, in that it tasted like absolutely nothing at all. (This was no chlorinated tap water, or pollution infused rain water/snow!)
Our tour lasted about 2 hours and was well worth it, in our opinion. After that we were off to our Viking Feast at the Lighthouse Restaurant. Rather than eating in the main restaurant, we were directed to an underground “sod house” just behind it. The limited tables surrounded an open space, which held a throne for the Viking King. The staff was all in character as Vikings as well. An appetizer of battered Cod tongues, and smoked Capelin was waiting on each table. Dale and I each tried the cod, but only he tried the capelin. I couldn’t quite bring myself to take a bite of the 5 inch full (dried) fish laying across the plate. After some poetry/songs by the staff, we filed into the buffet line. I made absolute sure to try some of the local cuisine: a creamy baked cod dish, and a hearty moose meat stew. I really enjoyed both!
After dinner, the Viking king told us we were going to hold a Viking All-Thing (essentially, a court/trials). Anyone could raise a grievance to the king, and us (as his council) would get to vote on the results. One lady came forward and accused her husband of only ever doing things by half. He built half a fence to keep the goats in, he would empty half the dishwasher, put half the dirty dishes in the sink, etc. She called her sister in law as witness, her husband got to defend himself, and we all got to vote on his innocence/guilt. He threatened that after this he was only going to drive her half way home! It was all quite entertaining, and in good fun. Once the trials all came to a close, the children in the room were given twine necklaces with 4 glass beads as a gift/treasure from the Vikings, along with a certificate naming them honorary Vikings. Our kids thought that was pretty cool!
We spent the night at a nearby RV park, and in the morning headed out to the National Historic Site of L’anse Aux Meadows – the earliest confirmed Viking/European settlement in North America, dating back about 1000 years.
Our tour guide (an older gentleman) was so knowledgeable about the Viking settlement, the more recent history of the area, and the area as it is now. He actually lives and grew up right there. Our 11 year old was interested in all the facts and information (he had studied about the L’anse Aux Meadows settlement in history this past year), but the rest of the kids quickly became disinterested/distracted. I ended up going ahead with them and pretty much just looking at whatever they wanted to see.
We then returned to our trailer, packed up, and drove south back to Gros Morne park for the night. From here it would only be a 4 hour drive to the ferry terminal the next day, and we could take our time getting up and heading out. We even had time to do a little “beachcombing”. The kids had fun looking for crabs and sea shells in amongst the rocks and seaweed. Okay, okay – I actually really enjoyed it too! It was a super relaxing way to spend the morning. I loved the easy pace of it, and the sound of the waves crashing the rocky shores beside me, with the mountains towering above. I sure am going to miss Newfoundland!