7 days, 3+3 hours flight, 2 suitcases, 1 hiking backpack, 2 cameras, 1 child carrier, 1 stroller, 2 car seats, 1500 km drive, 1 b&b, 1 cottage, 2 adults, 2 kids, 1 wonderful Canadian province. It may sound the most stressful thing ever, but we did it and we actually enjoyed it (most of the times)! As planned in a previous post, our goal was to go on our very first family vacation and go back alive the four of us: yes, with two kids you really learn how to lower the bar.
Toronto to Deer Lake to Twillingate
We leave on a June Saturday morning with a 9:30 am flight from Toronto to Deer Lake, Newfoundland. 1yo daughter cries pretty much all of the flight and I think of those days when I used to be annoyed about babies crying on planes. The first thing we notice as soon as we get out of the plane is the air. We are pretty far from the water, but it’s windy and we smell the breeze from the ocean mixed with the resin of woods. It’s cold, but we are prepared for that: it’s just the beginning of the tourist season, and we knew we were going to risk a bit with the weather. We just hope it’s cold enough to see some icebergs in the North and warm enough to see some whales in the West. We rent our big red car that can contain the enormous amount of baggage we are carrying. I think of those days when I used to travel the world with just my backpack. Finally, the car seats are installed, the kids are buckled up, there’s 360 km to Twillingate, we’ve got a full tank of gas and we’re wearing sunglasses. I love this sensation of movement and freedom. “Mamma, are we already there? I am thirsty and I have to pee”. Ops…
Twillingate, the iceberg alley
The drive from Deer Lake to Twillingate goes smoothly. We stop at a Tim Horton’s and I can’t believe I flew for 3 hours and I’m still in the same country drinking the same coffee. We have to get used to Newfoundlander’s accent, we find it hard to order a donut and it feels like our first days in Canada. The more we get closer to Twillingate, the more the road gets narrower and bumpier. We follow the windy trail through woods, bridges and little bays. Hey! I think I saw a little iceberg! Or no, maybe not… who knows if we will see at least one… And then we turn a corner, and we found Twillingate harbor completely covered in icebergs. It’s late afternoon, the sky is getting ready for sunset, the light is golden and soft. We check in at our B&B and we sit for a late dinner watching the sunset. Even the kids are speechless: they look around wondering if we ended up in one of their bedtime stories.
Our first morning in Newfoundland, we enjoy a delicious breakfast made by Ruth, our guest at the Sleepy Noggin’ in Twillingate. Ruth and Eric make us feel welcome and basically part of the family. They take care of us, give us precious advice and are like adoptive grandparents with our children. Our first adventure is a small hike in the Northern part of Twillingate Island called French Beach. The weather is perfect, the hiking boots are tied and we’re ready for adventure. The little one falls asleep in the back carrier and the big one is so happy to explore this enchanted land that he walks without complaint. The landscape is amazing. There are so many icebergs we can jump on some of them directly from the beach. Maybe not the safest thing to do with a 4 years old, but I bet he’ll tell this story forever. We even enjoy some “freezy snacks”: icebergs taste like the purest water you’ll ever have. In fact, some icebergs formed up to 10.000 years ago when clearly there was no pollution. Thinking about it makes me feel small and fragile.
Since Twillingate, with its 2.269 residents and probably 58 tourists, is too crowded for us, we decide we want to go to Fogo Island. According to the Flat Earth Society of Canada, Fogo Island is one of the four corners of the flat Earth. And that is a geographical oddity that stimulates our touristic curiosity enough to devote an entire day to reach this place. Or at least that’s what we think we will be doing. There is a ferry boat at 11:30 am returning to the mainland at 4:30 pm, and in four hours we think our geographical curiosity will be satisfied. Unfortunately, the ferry is running 1 and a half hour late because of the incredible amount of ice dividing the mainland from Fogo Island. We decide to get on board anyways but while on the ferry we discover that the returning trip of this ferry may be the last of the day. I don’t have enough snacks for the kids and, most importantly, not enough diapers for 2 days. So we disembark in Fogo, u-turn and board on the same ferry again. Technically, we can still say we set foot on one of the four corners of the flat Earth. And anyway, the trip is one of the most amazing experiences we’ve ever done. Have you ever been on an icebreaker? Well, it’s pretty awesome.
And then it is time to say goodbye to our Twillingate grandparents and head West. My son is heartbroken and makes the wish to live here forever. We really loved it, but I don’t know if we’re ready for this yet. Every time I visit islands or remote communities, I always fantasize about being born and grew up there. How would my life be, what would I do, would I stay or would I leave, looking for something more? How would it be to live in Twillingate now, that I’m used to living in a huge city, often just a few kilometers from the main events happening in this country? Would I feel away from it all? Does Amazon Prime offer one-day delivery in Fogo?
Gros Morne National Park
Gros Morne National Park is on the West coast of Newfoundland. It’s a gorgeous mix of pure pine and birch woods and coastal ocean landscape with high cliffs and roaring waves. The National Park is perfectly kept and superbly organized. Every hike, trail, campsite or overlook is clearly indicated in the main road. Every point of interest has parking spots, guided tours, maps, and clean washrooms equipped with changing tables. Every parent-with-kids’s dream. We manage to hike more than we thought, as we discover our daughter loves her child carrier and our son is a pretty good hiker. We just have to keep him motivated (“Let’s go explore and see what’s behind that hill!”), tell him real-life stories (“When mamma was your age, she used to go hiking with nonno and nonna”) or classics (“When Mr. Bilbo Baggins of Bag End announced that he would shortly be celebrating his eleventy-first birthday with a party of special magnificence, there was much talk and excitement in Hobbiton”). My husband, who is re-reading The Lord of the Rings, does actually tell him a pretty detailed chronicle of Part One and Part Two during a 6 km hike to the Tablelands. We are so much into the tale that we expect an ogre or an elf to appear behind the rocks any minute. The Tablelands hike is my favorite: it is different from the rest of the park and it really takes you back to the time when the Earth was forming. We take a pretty expensive boat tour of the famous Western Brook Pond. The weather is gloomy but the tour is still very charming. We also take a boat tour of Bonne Bay hoping to see some whales but we only spot one. Apparently, Little Blue and his dad still didn’t make it to the summer feeding ground. And then lighthouses, more geological sites, breathtaking lookouts, panoramic drives and remote fishing villages making us feel in a novel by Gabriel García Márquez. That’s everything we hoped for.
Newfoundlanders are extremely nice and always helpful, we really feel welcomed everywhere. When we say we are Italian, they open their eyes wide and admit they don’t see many Italians here. After a few days, we are pretty famous in the little touristic community of Western Newfoundland, mainly made of retired Canadian couples. When we board the plane for our flight back home, a group of tourists recognize my son and call him by his name: “Is that Pietro? Pietro darling! How are you?”. He is the star of the flight.
We land back in a tropical Toronto, tired but definitely less stressed than when we left. The experiment was positive: it is possible to travel with 2 kids! We can still do that! Our eyes still full of Newfoundland’s magnificent landscape, our hearts still warm for the kindness of its inhabitants. So long Newfoundland, we will be back!