Newfoundland: West coast

In August I spent ten days vacationing in Newfoundland. It was a wonderful trip and I would have stayed longer if I could have. I traveled with my brother, so it was also a great chance to hang out with him since we don’t live near each other. I’m sharing photos and impressions here, broken into two parts. Today’s post is about the west coast of Newfoundland, an area rich with UNESCO World Heritage sites.

I couldn’t find a direct flight from NYC so I had a layover in Halifax, Nova Scotia. I met up with my brother at the Deer Lake Motel in Deer Lake, Newfoundland. Deer Lake Airport is the closest airport to Gros Morne National Park, and the town of Deer Lake is mostly an airport service town. The motel is nothing fancy, but it’s clean and the staff are very helpful. It has a restaurant which is just OK but very busy as it’s the only restaurant around there. There’s a tiny hotel lounge where I had a deliciously clear and refreshing Iceberg beer, brewed in Newfoundland with iceberg water. Beer aficionados seem to find it too light-tasting but I loved it for exactly that reason.


The next day was Friday. We drove to Gros Morne National Park for a boat tour of Western Brook Pond. Western Brook Pond is 19-mile-long freshwater fjord created by glacial retreat. We hiked about a mile to the boat dock through striking boglands and windblasted woods.

img_2254 img_2234 img_2235 img_2247

The boat ride on the pond was all about the stunning cliffs and fog. The fog was so dramatic at one point that it reminded me of the curses rolling into town on the fairy tale TV show Once Upon A Time. I said so and a woman sitting in front of us said, “I was just thinking that!”

img_2151 img_2209 img_2213

After the tour, we ate burgers at the boat dock and then hiked back to the rental car. I was in no shape even for the relatively easy hike so I was kind of wobbly afterwards, but also exhilarated from the natural beauty and the bracing air. Also maybe endorphins.

We drove north up the coast to Port aux Choix, where I had a delicious cod dinner at the sprightly Anchor Cafe and spent the night at the clean and affordable Sea Echo Motel.

Port aux Choix
Anchor Cafe
Anchor Cafe

Saturday was hard rain, the worst weather of our trip. This was unfortunate as it was also our big Viking day, but the original Vikings didn’t let a little rain stop them, right? We drove further north to L’Anse aux Meadows, the UNESCO World Heritage site where Vikings established a settlement in North America. It was raining too hard for me to take my iphone out but here is a photo from Wikimedia.

Photo of L'Anse aux Meadows on a sunny day in 2010. Photo: Remains of Norse settlement building, 2010 (building A) by Clinton Pierce is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0
L’Anse aux Meadows on a sunny day in 2010. Photo: Remains of Norse settlement building, 2010 (building A) by Clinton Pierce is licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0

Here is a gorgeous video ad from Newfoundland’s tourism bureau:

The exposed, windswept coastal site is beautiful in itself. The archaelogical remains are mostly just pits in the ground where the various longhouses were. I was impressed by the park interpreter who led the guided tour, shouting over the wind about the various archaelogical discoveries, the rain plastering her hair to her head. She also showed us how the varying colors of the stunted pines indicated the trees were secreting a substance to insulate themselves from the cold. It was freezing cold, even in August. At one point there was a little hail. We were glad to get to the reconstructed longhouse where there were costumed interpreters to talk to us about Viking beliefs and customs and, more importantly, to invite us to sit around the warm fire.

We went back to the Valhalla Lodge B&B (in Gunners Cove, Saint Lunaire-Griquet) to dry off and change, and then we went back to L’Anse aux Meadows for an amazing dinner at The Norseman restaurant. I had mussels and maple salmon, and watched black-backed gulls out the window with the provided binoculars. After dinner, we went back to the B&B and played cribbage. We were a little surprised when an elderly man came in and introduced himself as a neighbor. He hung out and chatted with us for awhile. He told us that he wished he had moved away from Newfoundland when he was young so he could have had a happier life. We never did figure out whether he was just a lonely neighbor who saw the lights and came in for the company or whether he was checking for the proprietors that the guests weren’t wrecking the joint. (There was no actual host on the premises; it was all self-check-in. The same people own the Norseman and the Valhalla; both are terrific.)

View from The Norseman; table by the window.
View from The Norseman; table by the window.
View from the porch of the Valhalla B&B
View from the porch of the Valhalla B&B

Sunday was a very long day but at least it started with delicious pancakes at the B&B. (A cook came up from the restaurant.) We left as early as possible and headed back in the bright sunshine for the long drive to Deer Lake to fly to the east coast on Monday. We saw moose by the side of the road. We stopped to stretch our legs in Flowers Cove to see the thrombolites, which look like rocks but are actually rare fossils of ancient bacterial colonies.
img_2263 img_2267

We went back to the Anchor Cafe for mooseburgers. (Good but need relish.) We had been making good time so we decided to deviate slightly from our planned route and drive further south into Gros Morne park to see the Tablelands, because they are another UNESCO world heritage site. This turned into something of a race against time as the park closes at sunset and we didn’t really know the way. The Tablelands are a place where the earth’s mantle was forced up to the surface during a tectonic plate collision. The resulting soil is high in minerals and low in nutrients, actually somewhat toxic, creating a kind of desert-like environment in wet, green Newfoundland. We got there in time for a quick walk on the shortest trail, and I’m glad we did because it was worth it to see the barren landscape amidst all the lush park scenery.

img_2279 img_2282 img_2296

On Monday we flew to St. John’s on the east coast. I wish we had been able to spend more time on the west coast because there was so much more to see. I would love to spend more time in beautiful Gros Morne itself. Port aux Choix has an archaelogical site that we didn’t get to see. I would have gone to St. Anthony. I might even have taken the ferry to Labrador. There were lots of RVs on the road and there was an RV rental place near the airport, so maybe that would be a plan for another time. I would absolutely visit again.

A weekend away

I spent a weekend in the Berkshires enjoying the scenery and visiting with family. A literary highlight was a tour of Edith Wharton’s restored home in Lenox, Massachusetts. The furniture is all reproductions based on contemporary photographs, which means the house is more touchable and less fussy than most historic house tours.

House viewed from the garden
dining room

The library does have many of Wharton’s original books, and it’s possible to schedule a private tour focused on the books and their inscriptions and notes. Something for my “someday when I have money to burn” list.

In neighboring Pittsfield, we visited Hancock Shaker Village, which has an amazing cafe. (Say yes to the berry pie.) We saw a demonstration of Shaker music and dance that was the most informative presentation on Shakers that I have ever seen. With gentle humor, the presenter wrangled two dozen tourists into gendered lines and led us through a couple of dances and songs. She showed us how the room and the floor were “tuned” to amplify the stomping, clapping, and group singing. She really showed how musical practices reflect cultural/religious beliefs. They have shared a short demonstration video of professional museum staff singing and dancing. Our terrific presenter was the woman with the glasses, but I didn’t write down her name and so have forgotten it.


My Goodreads review of the new MLA Handbook

MLA HandbookMLA Handbook by The Modern Language Association of America

My rating: 3 of 5 stars

I liked the older edition better when it had more about the research process. This focuses strictly on sourcing and citation, though it does a good job handling that especially for thinking through online and digital sources. Nicely demystifying but not as deep. Docked a star for making me learn a new system when I had the old system memorized. Also, I think the last edition was mailed out free to MLA members but I had to pay for this one. Will likely assign it to classes anyway, though I’m keeping my expectations low.

Wow, this is really a kind of a “get off my lawn kids!” review.

View all my reviews

Theatre Day: Fun Home and Eclipsed

Last weekend, one of my Boston cousins came to visit and we had a Theatre Day. We saw the matinee of Fun Home, which was as amazing and touching as everyone said.


The songs and the singing were great and I’m disappointed that the soundtrack isn’t on Apple Music. Rebecca Luker (Helen) was in especially fine voice and Gabriella Pizzolo is an amazingly bright and vivid Small Alison.

We ate too much BBQ at Virgil’s and then saw the evening performance of Eclipsed. I had been hesitant about this because it sounded depressing: Liberian women held captive by rebel warlords. It was actually devastating but so good. Beautifully written by Danai Gurira, the play completely involves you in its survival strategy dilemmas. The terrific cast includes Oscar winner Lupita Nyong’o, who was excellent, but everyone was excellent. I find myself still thinking about the play days later. I would see it again.


We got excellent seats for both shows through TDF so the theatre gods were definitely smiling on us. I feel like this one day justified my $30 yearly membership.

Images in this post were stolen from reviews on the internet. Contact me if you are an outraged photo copyright holder and I will remove it. 

George B. Costigan, Sr.

From the 1983 New York Times obituary:

George B. Costigan Sr., who represented Long Beach, L.I., on the Nassau County Board of Supervisors for 14 years, died Saturday in West Palm Beach, Fla., where he had lived in retirement for several years.

He was 74 years old.

Mr. Costigan was a charter member of the board of trustees of Nassau Community College at Mitchel Field, where the Costigan Physical Education Complex is named for him.

This year’s bizarre genealogy discovery (so far): George B. Costigan (1908-1983) was a charter member of the Nassau Community College Board of Trustees. They named the gym after him. He is also my 2nd cousin once removed (his great-grandfather is my great-great-grandfather). I am not sure how to feel about being even more connected to NCC. I guess with such a distant relationship I can continue to ignore it.

Yes, I’ve worked someplace almost twenty years before realizing one of the buildings is named for a relative. I admit I don’t spend much time at the gym.

Here’s a picture of the gym:


Award-worthy cartoons at BAM

Yesterday I saw the program of Oscar-nominated animated shorts, playing through Thursday at BAM. An absolute delight.. My favorite was Bear Story, a poignant allegory about human rights abuses in Chile as experienced by mechanical circus animals. The cages/prisons and keepers/killers were horrifying.

A very close second favorite was a cheerful Russian meditation on connection and grief, We Can’t Live without Cosmos.

I also liked Sanjay’s Super Team, about the spirituality of superheroes, but of course that was great because it was Pixar.

There were a couple of French shorts wherein the fur of the animated animals was so lifelike that it was actually a bit creepy, well into the uncanny valley.

Apart from the animated shorts, I’ve only seen two of the Oscar-nominated films this year. I thought Spotlight, while solid, was a little boring; newspaper procedurals are mostly interesting by contrast to how much less real reporting happens nowadays. I thought they did a good job capturing Boston of that era.  The Force Awakens was a great Star Wars movie, but it’s only nominated for effects/design-type awards, not for the biggies.


On the other mobile hand . . .

When I was using MacFamilyTree, I also used their iOS app MobileFamilyTree.

Now it is clear to me that the MobileFamilyTree app works ON ITS OWN without needing a Mac program. Reunion has a mobile app too, but it’s mostly just a viewer for the full Reunion Mac program.

I am writing this on my Macbook Air now, and writing it with a certain amount of resentment because I prefer to use my iPad but its battery needs recharging. I wish that I could just use my iPad for everything all the time. So perhaps I need to continue on with MacFamilyTree long enough to see if their Mobile FamilyTree app can become the iPad only tree.

This leaves me wondering how well other sites besides Ancestry will interact on an iPad. This should be an experiment for the summer.

Other potential iPad-only deal-breakers: I can’t upload files from my iPad to the Blackboard LMS, and I need Blackboard to teach my online classes. So perhaps my entire dream of iPad-only life will have to wait until I retire, or until Blackboard joins the modern world. (Because given the economy, I will hope to be lucky enough to get some online adjuncting work in retirement.) (Which is still years away.) I need to write another post about Blackboard and iPads but that will wait for another time.



Caterwauls of grief


Shockingly upset over Bowie’s untimely death.

This fanwork image was one of my user icons online for awhile. I love this album so much. Just so sad.