The Scenic Route: Irish via Icebergs

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9:30 am, clear road and skies!

A bout of lovely springlike weather had us itching for travel. Ignoring the reality check that was 44 cm of snow last weekend we made road trip plans at the last minute on Friday for a Saturday adventure.

On the way home today I heard a song on the radio that said It Takes and Irish Man to Sing an Irish song. While not technically true, why would you listen to anyone else when you have a chance to hear not just one Fergus O’Byrne, but two?

Fergus O’Byrne and his son, Fergus Brown O’Byrne we playing at the Stone Jug in Carbonear and when we inquired about a place nearby to stay, The Stone Jug folks were gracious enough to recommend the Baccalieu Trail Bed and Breakfast.

A great weekend was shaping up but of course, we had to see if there was any chance to add an iceberg to the mix by taking the scenic route to Carbonear, via Bonavista…..

Early to bed on Friday night we were at The Gander Bread Box before 8 a.m. and on the road by 9.

I’ve been teasing my Facebook friend Eric Abbott for a while that I owe him a coffee for all the great pictures he shares on my Newfoundland Iceberg Reports facebook group. I posted a message on Friday night for him to pick a spot for coffee and didn’t hear back. Eventually, someone named Rosalind replied that she’d give him the message so I sent my cell phone number, just in case.

It was a beautiful sunny day….at 6 a.m. and sideways snow started as we were loading the car to go to breakfast. The squalls cleared and we headed out, agreeing that we might have to make a decision in Clarenville if the weather was not good. It turned out to be a typical spring day. Snow, sun, blowing snow, wind, sun, snow, sun and flurries with only a small amount of drifting. Glad I wore my seal skin boots!

We stopped in Port Union to try to get a picture of the iceberg that has been hanging out in the area for two months now. Of course, by then, the sun had disappeared and things we very hard to see.

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Port Union, iceberg, March 12,2016

 

These were taken through the dirty windshield from 9:37 to 10:21 a.m. as we continued our drive in all kinds of weather and road conditions.

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The cell phone finally rang a bit after 11 and I had my first conversation with Eric Abbott.

We’ve been Facebook friends for less than a year but have had many chats online. He gauged out hunger level and food preferences and recommended pizza at PK’s in Bonavista and even offered to order for us. I realized after I got off the phone that we were going to have a lot of driving time so a pre-order was a good idea and called him back and had him order his usual, once we confirmed that was pepperoni, bacon and pineapple.

Can’t ever have fresh mushrooms. They make Leo cranky.

We arrived at PK’s just before noon with perfect directions from Eric. Pizza was on the table at noon and he joined us a minute or two after.

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Eric Abbott, photographer and friend.
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Lovely dining room with nautical and iceberg décor at PK’s in Bonavista. This is the Eric Abbott special. Bacon, pepperoni and pineapple.

Such fun was had. I’m sure anyone listening would assume we’d know each other for years. With little to talk about except tourism, icebergs, photography, tourist encounters and the media attention he’s had recently from his photos, an hour and twenty minute later, our pizza was gone and so was all the juice in our battery because we’d left the lights on!

Eric to the rescue. Not one soul in the restaurant had booster cables and apparently mine are “in the other car”.

We made a run to Home Hardware and they offered us a pair of loaner cables but Eric did  better than that and got his friend, a local plasterer. to help us out with a booster thingamabobber. I’m not sure exactly what it is, a power pack gadget that certainly did the trick but I’m pretty sure Leo’s getting one for Father’s Day and it will stay in my car.

Neither man would accept anything for helping get us on the road and the Home Hardware guys were great too when we took back their cables. The glitch didn’t impact the great day at all. If you are ever in trouble or looking for an iceberg in Bonavista, follow this car…

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Once we got the car started, Eric lead us out through the pasture by The Dungeon in Bonavista to show us some of his favorite vantage points. By this point, we were back into the blowing snow conditions so visibility was greatly impacted and even my seven of ten photography classes couldn’t help me much. We did a couple of ‘we tried’ shots and Eric was gracious enough to offer to take our picture so here we are! Worldly travelers and bloggers with a faint hint of a massive iceberg on the horizon to the left.

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Spillar’s High (H-I-G-H) Rock,  Eric spells each time he says it because his accent slows down the tourists some days, in the background. Iceberg on the horizon to the left of Leo’s shoulder. March 12, 2016 by Eric Abbott

 

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Leo and Eric with snowflakes the size of feathers!

Before we left Bonavista I was already talking about my next trip and how I want to try to keep up with Eric for a day or so. Eric works around rheumatoid arthritis in both hands with a tripod and lots of time on his hand to get those amazing shots. He uses a point and shoot camera because he would not be able to change lenses due to limitations of use of his hands. What he posts is what he gets with no bells or whistle or modifications but lots of patience and knowing his subjects. Even the puffins come up and check him out sometimes.

By the time we hit the road we knew arriving in time for supper was going to be tricky if we had any other delays. Photos were shot through dirty windows and around 5 p.m. I phoned Baccalieu Trail B and B to see if route 70 or 75 was the shortcut from Junction 31. Number 75, Veteran’s Memorial Highway was recommended and we arrived around 5:30 with a 6:00 supper reservation. A good thing Eric helped a bit with the pizza at lunch time.

We were greeted by Craig, the host and his partner Chef Bruce. We had a quick and friendly visit and they showed us to our room, the Baccalieu Room. It doesn’t get much better than this!

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Baccalieu Trail Bed and Breakfast, the Baccalieu Room

We took a few pictures before we settled in and messed up the place. The attention to detail was amazing and the bed was so comfortable! We got ready and joined a few other diners in one of the three dining rooms on the main level.

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One of the three dining rooms. We ate in the front dining room through the door on the right. Baccalieu Trail Bed and Breakfast, Carbonear, NL

 

We had booked and pre-ordered from their menu on line. Both the food and service were generous. Other diners were from the peninsula and neighbouring communities. It was a first visit for all of us, I think.

 

With a choice of appetizers, entrees and home made desserts and a lovely wine and cocktail list, this is becoming the go to destination for fine dining in the area. The portions were huge and delicious and I was unable to finish the roasted potatoes and a half a serving of cheesecake and a half a bottle of Tommasi followed me home today.

As we were having coffee and dessert, Chef Bruce surprised us by serenading us and playing guitar. Craig chimed in some harmonies from the back of the dining room. These guys know how to welcome and charm their guests!

Not only was the lamb delicious but I suspect a secret ingredient. Perhaps Summer Thyme?

We were the only in-house guests but the intimate dining room led to exchanging information and comments as the courses came out. Our new friends the Sheppard’s were settling up their bill and I asked if they’d like to peek at our room. One table at a time, everyone came up to bounce on our bed. Once they took in the gorgeous room, I made sure they also checked out the bathroom. The bathroom got greater reactions than the beautiful room!

We then all got a chance to see one of the other rooms too.P1010621P1010654P1010656

 

We dragged ourselves out of this great room to walk down to the Stone Jug. I’d seen a number of pictures and articles about the Stone Jug and by following them on Facebook learned about the concert featuring Fergus O’Byrne and Fergus Brown-O’Byrne. We were immediately greeted by the owners who knew we’d accepted their recommendation of the B and B. We had a lovely chat and moved to the third floor, a beautifully crafted room ideal for hearing live music. Even the musicians commented repeatedly about how beautiful the venue was.

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Chandeliers on the third floor of the Stone Jug are worthy of their own blog! Beautiful details.
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Second floor of the Stone Jug.

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Fergus O’Byrne emigrated from Ireland in the mid 1960s and has spent much of the time since in Newfoundland when he is not touring as a musician. As I child, I knew his music with the group Ryan’s Fancy and in recent years, a 40th Anniversary album of their music has been released with great success. After Dennis Ryan was no longer singing with them, Fergus and Dermot O’Reilly played as a duet for many years and again, I was fortunate to have enjoyed seeing them live in St. John’s and other places.

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Fergus O’Byrne

Fergus is also a teacher and mentor and, with Newfoundland singer Jim Payne,  offers a series of workshops for teachers and workshops in schools for students. I managed to sneak into one of these workshops as a Gr. 4 French Immersion teacher. It was an excellent lesson in folklore and Newfoundland tradition. In addition to learning about Newfoundland dance they talked about how the lumber camps were a location where stories and songs from different regions were shared and swapped but that because fishermen were often from the same communities on many boats, the songs sung there were usually specific to their homes. Just like in class, songs were introduced and back grounds explained as Fergus continues the oral traditions of passing culture from one generation to the next.

Fergus Brown O’Byrne is an amazing musician in his own right.

In addition to gigs with his father, he is a member of the Freels. He hosts Irish sessions at O’Reilly’s Pub in  St. John’s on Sunday afternoons. A gifted player of the accordion and concertina, he plays traditional Irish reels, polkas and jigs.

We recently saw the Freels perform at The Plantation for a Christmas event.

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Fergus Brown O’Byrne

In this concert set up, the audience of about a hundred were generally engaged and there were many joining in to sing chorus or verses. I love this type of venue rather than being jostled around a crowded club and unable to hear the music and banter. I’ll be watching the Stone Jug’s list of events and plan to come again when we can also try the restaurant too.

 

Thanks to the Spring Ahead time change I came claim to have left the club after midnight and we has a lovely stroll back to the Baccalieu Trail. It was a beautiful, calm night and interesting to walk down what was once a thriving commercial area a hundred years ago and see the efforts to renew and revitalize the street. We need a summer visit to Carbonear to see the galleries and museums on Water Street.

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The garden lights gave a lovely effect as we arrived ‘home’. Although we’d been told not to worry about our boots, I couldn’t help but kick them off downstairs. Not at all neatly, we are the only ones home after all. Bruce would be back to cook breakfast for 9:00.

 

We had a lengthy visit with Bruce. He’s soft spoken and his love of Newfoundland is deep. I would love to come back in the summer when they add a Kitchen Party and Screech In to their list of  events. This is a very beautiful property and many comments in the guest book reference anniversaries and birthdays as it’s a special occasion place for many residents.

We drove home in much the same weather mixture we’d have all day on Saturday but were both rested and relaxed. This blog post, like the trip, should have  been two different events but we’ll know for next time.

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Faint ghost of a huge iceberg at Spillar’s High (H-I-G-H) Rock, Bonavista, NL March 12, 2016

 

 

 

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