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L’Anse aux Meadows - echos of Vikings and ancient ones.

July 2022

I had wanted for years to visit this site where evidence of Viking occupation had been found. We headed north and our first night was at Pistolet Provincial Park. This was not particularly notable other thanbeing a pretty green but buggy site but in our quest to find an afternoon’s adventure we ended up in Ship Cove, one of our favorite places we found in Newfoundland. We went first to Raleigh where a fishing village nestles against the Burnt Cove Ecological Reserve. We stopped in at the little cultural museum where a lovely local woman showed us the tools for hooking rugs and some older examples as well as tell us a little about the area. Then we bumbled around roads until we ended up on a bluff by a Cemetery. We hiked down a trail into Ship Cove where a sign indicated that although the next part was private property we were welcome to hike if we picked up our trash etc. Jim saw some local people and went to check and they told him it was fine and that there were whales breaching offshore and sure enough there were!

The trail had led down through a colorful meadow and I was desperate to paint so I went back and got my supplies and Jim and the dogs hiked to the top of the next bluff and watched the whales. I could see them also far off but you could actually hear the slap as they hit the water.

The next day we moved over to Viking RV Park. We ended up marveling at a caravan of class a motor homes on tour that filled the other spots in a parking ballet coordinated by the tour guides. The road in front led to a town called Quirpon where we discovered a fantastic trail being improved by several towns folk who had no problem with the dogs being off leash. The trail led out across bluffs and along the coast. We went there several times, one of them I painted from the car while Jim hiked.

When we had first got over there we were still too early to check in so we drove the RV over to the Viking site and I went in and checked out the gift shop. The sky looked like an NC Wyeth painting to illustrate some fabulous summer dream of Vikings. The ranger noted it was expected to be that nice the next day as well. I should have taken more photos because on that following day when we visited L’Anse aux Meadows it was a more usual drizzly gray day.

The site includes the actual excavated footprints of buildings. These are currently covered over with sod for protection until the next dig but you get a feel for it and the Ranger was a local resident who had tales of playing on the mounds then watching the excavations. In the visitor center there are artifacts they found, not many, and interesting information on the ancient Eskimo and Indigenous peoples who had lived there at various times as well as where the Vikings came from and what was recorded in their records. There is also a recreation of a building with several outbuildings. Seeing this grass rooftop from across the meadow and towards the sea in a simple landscape gave plenty of scope for imagination. We were able to wander through the buildings as well. There were a few costumed reenactors, including the one in the title photo.

The town’s commercial tourist enterprise, Norstead, had more of that, as shown in the photos below:

This is a recreated Viking village designed based on villages in Scandinavia. . The national site was set up to reflect the temporary post it was while Norstead was built as if they settled in a bit. There is a recreated Viking ship there that had been sailed from Iceland across, much in the manner of Kon-Tiki to solve ancient puzzles of old seafaring. The costumed denizens are all local people it seems so it felt good to support the tourist industry in such an isolated place. I greatly enjoyed talking to the women knitting in the Viking way and spinning yarn. Close by there is a statue of Leif Erickson that is fairly well done.

For the right Viking gift for my brother, who is very much a fan, I went to the Viking shop in St Lunaire where I found an Odin rune keychain fob. There were whalebone carvings and the carver was the older man behind the counter. He told us about the differences in bone and I bought a small humpback whale made from sperm whale bone. Jim noticed he had labradorite jewelry and asked if he had any unpolished. The man gave him a sideways grin and said “Them’s fighting words” but he brought one out and they discussed rocks. Apparently his son, a ranger at the Viking site, suggested he open a shop for all things Viking as the official gift store doesn’t delve into the more touristy yet fun aspect.

We also ate lunch at the Daily Catch in St Lunaire. It’s outside is strictly bland strip mall type yet walk in and you are in a bright fresh space with big windows on the view to Nymph Island in the little harbor. We had Carrot Ginger soup and fries with gravy. I had a cloudberry (bake apple) martini and we bought some fresh bread and pickled rhubarb. Another day we also stopped at the store called Dark Tickle. ( a tickle in Newfoundland English is “ a narrow salt water strait, as in an entrance to a harbor, often difficult to navigate, or a settlement near it). They have jams and gifts and do zodiac expeditions and ecological tours of the berry picking areas….but all we got was some of their ice cream! Cloudberry for me and partridgeberry for Jim.

We had found a trail off the highway that lead out into one of those berry areas. Just ripening cloudberries were all around. Jim was more interested in the veins of marble running through the rock. The landscape was quite lovely….but I thoroughly soaked my boots as much of it was more boggy than it looked.

Another trail we hiked was the Cape Raven Trail to what is considered to be a site Captain Cook looked out from while surveying Newfoundland. (I had been familiar with Cook in Hawaii, I had no idea how bound up with Newfoundland he was). I was hiking in my clogs as my boots were still drying so I’m amazed I made it to the top, although Jim went further along the coast than I did.

We did go all the way to St Anthony one day and checked out the Whalewatching trail. No whales were seen but it was still lovely. We had a beer at Ragnarok Brewery in town there as well as little bread puffs with two jam sauces. All in all I was very glad to see the Viking site. But my favorite memories are probably of Ship Cove and Quirpon, off the beaten path.

Below: another little hike we found at the end of a dirt road near Raleigh….

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