Summer Travel Plans: Newfoundland, anyone?

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When Paul and I recently had the chance to talk to CTV news anchor Keri Adams about ToursByLocals, she asked us to recommend one great summer destination for 2012. I managed to sneak in two: the Netherlands and Slovenia, which are both hosting very special cultural events this year.

Immediately following the interview, I felt guilty that I hadn’t been able to talk about more of the amazing destinations where our guides live and work. Specifically, I realised I’d wanted to promote a bit of “backyard tourism” for our own country that just didn’t fit into the 4 minutes we’d been allotted. With the warmer spring weather and summertime rapidly approaching, travel in North America is heating up – there really is no better time to explore from Canada’s West Coast to the East than July to September.

Over the next couple months, we’ll use our blog to feature unique destinations that are a bit closer to home for those of us who aren’t going trans-Atlantic (or Pacific) this summer. And of course to encourage overseas visitors to come our way!

Today we’re starting on Canada’s East Coast: with a rough and tumble Canadian province that should register a lot louder on travelers’ radars: Newfoundland.

This rocky island off the East Coast of Canada is as unique a destination as you'll find without leaving North America. "The Rock" as the locals call it, is a wonder of natural beauty, endless hospitality and cultural uniqueness. It really is like nowhere else in the world.

Now of course, Newfoundland is not exactly in most Canadians’ backyards! This island province is the most Easterly landmass in North America and requires either an airplane trip or lengthy ferry ride from the Maritimes to get there. I’ve done both and can tell you it’s well worth the trip. Why? I’ll try to explain.

There’s something about living on a giant, inhospitable, isolated mass of rock in the stormy Atlantic Ocean that fosters an almost tangible sense of human spirit and fierce cultural pride. Newfoundlanders are the real deal. Life here revolves around the coast, with its dramatic bays, quiet coves, startling fjords and outport fishing villages.

June is the perfect time to spot icebergs making their slow and graceful progression through the waters off the Avalon Peninsula (and early reports say 2012 is shaping up to be an excellent 'berg spotting year). The summer months are also the best time for spotting whales, as the waters are full of humpback, minke, fin, and pilot whales congregating offshore after their long migration from the Caribbean. Even a complete novice can paddle a kayak through the water at Bay Bulls, spotting these ocean giants up close.

Colourful clapboard homes line the steep streets leading to St John’s harbour, and add punches of brilliance to the marine landscape. Did you know St John's is the oldest English-founded city in North America? John Cabot first sailed into this harbour in 1497. Cabot Tower, which sits atop Signal Hill (incidentally, the site of the first trans-Atlantic wireless signal), celebrates Cabot’s voyage, over 500 years ago. History abounds!

The warm and inviting Newfoundlanders themselves are the biggest draw. You might think they speak a different language at first, and indeed there is, by definition, a dialect known as “Newfoundland English”. A careful ear will soon detect a lilt from the southeast of Ireland, along with influences from the West Counties of England, and soon enough you might just be “Yes b'y”ing along with them. If a local invites you for a drink on George Street, accept without hesitation! With one of the densest concentrations of pubs anywhere, this stretch of town is the perfect place for a night of live East Coast music - and the chance to get "screeched in".

I’ve bitten off more than I can chew, trying to condense the glories of Newfoundland into a single blog post! I’ll stop here and leave it up to interested travelers to get in touch with Elizabeth, our guide in St John’s, to learn more about making this your dream trip.
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