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Rose Blanche Lighthouse and rambles in the rocky wild…..

July 2022

The day after The French Ancestors trip I convinced Jim to do our other longer day trip and it turned out to be a favorite. Rose Blanche is down on the southwest coast about as far as you can go by car. After that you will need to take a boat to small communities or go back up to the middle of the province and down to Burgeo. It’s not easy getting around Newfoundland! We drove back down past the ferry and through small towns and open land dotted with freshwater lakes where yellow lilies floated and rock outcropping with low bushes, spongy wild grasses and a large variety of flowers. We stopped at a dirt pullout that had a trail down into the open land. I found an interesting vantage point on what looked like granite run through with marble. All around was heath, I believe, described in a later Newfoundland field guide as knee high growth of things such as bog laurel, leather leaf, rhodora and blueberry.

Behind me was a patch of pitcher plants, the provincial flower. I set up my easel and got started on a painting looking out to the sea while Jim and the dogs continued on. It turns out the path led down to a little community that looked to Jim to be the only way to it. He took some photos from where on of the many resting spots had seating overlooking the view. He also found a couple of great rock specimens on his hike, one with garnets throughout it.

Later we continued on to Rose Blanche. (It’s actually a corrupted spelling of the French “roche blanche” as in white rock, for the blindingly white cliff that gave Diamond Cove it’s name and which functioned as a landmark for the early European fisherman 400 years ago.) The town itself, like much of Newfoundland, is impossibly scenic. The protected harbor, the rocky islands, bright houses and bobbing boats in the sunshine led to many photos being taken.

The lighthouse was the first place we’d been that was “touristy” yet it wasn’t off putting. They’ve done a great job with a long winding path that provided many phot opps as well as the ever present colorful Adirondack chairs for those inclined to soak in the view. Someone had also made little signs along the way telling what the various plants and flowers were. I snapped photos to create my own reference manual. Along the way was a small circular pool that tempted the kid in me to swim but I resisted.

The lighthouse building itself had fallen into disrepair after being decommissioned many years ago. Photos show just the tower left, apparently held together by it’s circular staircase. A fantastic job has been done in the restoration and inside is furnished with items handmade by someone in town in a fashion that reflects how they would have been when in use. There are photos and clippings on the wall about the keepers and it’s history and some more of Newfoundland’s cheerful younger generation to answer questions.

There is also a small museum there featuring fishing information and boat models which we did not go in and a stage with painted mural and wooden dory set that played Newfoundland ballads on a loop - I’m guessing that comes into play for photo opps and shows for tour bus groups. Jim and I got a ‘Newfie Fries’ (French fries covered in a hamburger and onion mix) to share that hit the spot.

On the way back we went into Isle aux Morts for the Harvey Trail. The town is named after a nearby island whose name means Isle of the Dead and the frequency of shipwrecks back in the day might have had something to do with that. Nowadays their claim to tourism fame is the Harvey family. Ann, only 17, her younger brother and her father as well as their Newfoundland dog Hairyman were responsible for saving 163 people off the rock they clung to when their ship the Despatch out of Derry Ireland foundered in a storm in 1828. The ship had been bound for Quebec City with 200 immigrants and 11 crew members. Amazingly in 1838 when the Rankin went aground in the same area Ann helped save another 25 people. Her family received a medal and 100 pounds from Loyd’s of London for the first rescue, including feeding the survivors their entire stock of food, and Ann herself and the dog became quite famous. the trail is a lovely path looping through the shoreline vegetation and the town has placed several storyboards about the family.

After we stopped at the Hairyman Cafe (in essentially a large town hall and mostly populated with friendly local ladies who worked there) and had lunch including cloudberry cheesecake for me and Partridgeberry bread pudding for Jim. On the way back we stopped in Port Aux Basques to stock up on groceries. Even the Foodland is a bit short on variety and fresh items and meat. I suppose being at the end of a long supply chain on an island where there’s not a huge variety beyond fish, potatoes and berries can affect that. There are some interesting differences in products it might have been interesting to browse. I picked up a candy that said “Smarties” and showed round hard shell pieces. I expected the sharp tang of smarties in the states but it was more of a malted light M&M flavor.

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