Difference between revisions of "Newfoundland and Labrador"
Revision as of 21:45, 20 June 2009
Newfoundland and Labrador  is one of the Atlantic Provinces of Canada. Newfoundland is an island that was independent until 1949 when it joined confederation with Canada. Labrador is an adjoining mainland coastal region which abuts Quebec.
from northwest to southeast
Towns and Cities
>> NOTE: Populations are from the 2006 Census
There are many extraordinary things about Newfoundland: the rugged natural beauty of the place, the extraordinary friendliness and humour of the local people, the traditional culture, and the unique dialect.
The beauty of Newfoundland can be found on the rocky coasts of the island and the relatively new, and stunningly beautiful East Coast Trail, but this is a truly coast-to-coast kind of place. There's much to see in the Tundra of Labrador (often called "the Big Land"), the "mini-Rockies" of the West Coast's Long Range Mountains and Lewis Hills, the historic Avalon Peninsula, home to the capital of St. John's. Also don't underestimate the power of the largely uninhabited Newfoundland interior. There is a raw, untouched quality to the entire place, especially where water meets rocks. Adventure racer Mats Andersson has described it as a mix of "Patagonia, Sweden, New Zealand and other countries from all around the world."
As for the people, everyone talks to everyone; indeed, everyone helps everyone, and everyone knows everyone (people often can tell what part of the island someone is from by their last name). The uptight paranoia found in many American cities cannot be found in Newfoundland. It has a totally different approach to life. One Newfoundlander has suggested that people 'exist' in New York, but they 'live' in Newfoundland.
Newfoundlanders are known for their distinctive manner of speech. Believe it or not, they speak a dialect (that's right, not an accent). Its roots (while still North American English) are mainly Irish, English and French, and the language has evolved and developed in semi-isolation for about 500 years. The Dictionary of Newfoundland English is about the size of a standard English dictionary. It is immediately noticeable to most visitors, or "Come-From-Aways" as they are occasionally called, that the syntax and grammar varies slightly. As for the accent, it varies from district to district in the province. As Canadian author Douglas Coupland puts it in Souvenir of Canada, Newfoundlanders "speak in a dialect that can rival Navajo for indecipherability-that is, when they really ham it up..." (74).
Newfoundlanders pronounce Newfoundland to rhyme with 'understand,' placing emphasis on -LAND, not New or found-. It sounds something like "newfin-LAND." Canadians outside of the Atlantic provinces (therefore, discluding Prince Edward Island, New Brunswick and Nova Scotia as well as Newfoundland) and tourists are noted for their pronunciation of Newfoundland as "new-FOUND-lind", "NEW-fin-lind" or "NEW-found-lind."
Two "traditions" persist with a visit to Newfoundland—kissing the cod and the "screech-in." (Both were actually enacted by Ben Mulroney in the Canadian Idol television show while he visited Newfoundland, demonstrating how widespread these activities are thought to be). These "traditions" are little more than tourist activities originally invented by locals for a laugh. The tourists found them enjoyable, and now they are becoming extremely common. Commercial tours will often include these activities, concluding them with a certificate proclaiming the participant an honorary Newfoundlander.
Genuine traditions practiced in Newfoundland include celebrations of: "Bonfire Night", with roots in the English "Guy Fawkes Night"; and "Old Christmas Day" which is the twelfth night of the Christmas season. The latter of these is also associated with the tradition of "Mummering" or "Janneying" which is still practiced in several other parts of the world as well.
And finally, the "Newfie" (also "Newf") stereotype: in Canada, this figure is similar to the Hillbilly stereotype or the rural Hick stereotype. As with both of those cases, it is rooted in discrimination. While some Newfoundlanders may call themselves "Newfies", it may be wise to refrain from calling the province's residents as such yourself, as many see this as a slur or putdown when it comes from a non-native. Not unlike "Canuck", originally a slur against Canadians, the word "Newfie" is acceptable to some, but err on the side of caution and use Newfoundlander instead.
In the summer season, there are reputed to be daily flights between St. John's and London Heathrow on Air Canada, probably the shortest Trans-Atlantic regular flight available.
The only roads that get you to Newfoundland without using a ferry are from Quebec into Labrador. If the island is your destination, you must take the ferry.
From Port aux Basques to Corner Brook, it's just over 200 km of driving, while the drive to St. John's is a trek of over 900 km. In the summer, a drive from Argentia to St. John's will take you through about 130 km of the province.
For a more adventurous route to the island portion of the province, you can travel through Quebec into Labrador as far as Happy Valley-Goose Bay. From there, there is a 42-hour ferry to Lewisporte in central Newfoundland. Be advised that the route from Labrador City to Goose-Bay is approximately 10 hours of gravel highway with the only town in between being Churchill Falls.
Caution: As the province is home to a moose population of over 100,000, do drive slowly and cautiously, especially when driving at night. Moose are attracted to the roads due to the fresh young tree growth along the sides and the open stretches allow them to take a "fog bath". During calf season, moose can be especially aggressive, standing their ground and even challenging people and vehicles, but the most common risk is collision. Remember that hitting a moose is not like hitting a deer-most of its bulk is above the height of the average car's front hood. Your car will hit its legs, knocking the brunt of its 1100 lb+ weight into the windshield and you. This is the last thing you want to have happen to you, and it may well be the last thing that will happen to you! It is for this reason that moose are considered one of the most dangerous animals in North America. 
Moose of any size are often aggressive on the roads and frequently attack the headlights of passing cars. Drivers who survive collisions have been killed by the legs of an injured moose wedged in the windshield opening of the wreckage. Animals who have moved out of a vehicle's path may suddenly reappear on the road and exhibit suicidal behaviour.
Once you've made it to the island, DRL Coachlines Ltd. offers daily scheduled passenger coach services between St. John's & Port Aux Basques on the island. DRL's head office is in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, but they can be reached toll-free at 1-888-738-8091. If you wish to reach their office in St. John's, call .
For Group Transportation (Bus Charters) you may call Viking Express in Corner Brook at tel.709-688-2112. www.vikingexpressbus.com
If Labrador is your destination, train is one option. Quebec, North Shore and Labrador Railways offer services between these areas.
Within the island itself, train is no longer an option. The "Newfie Bullet", named for its incredibly slow speed, ended its long career in 1988, with the rails all pulled up and the railbed converted into the T'Railway Provincial Park, part of the TransCanada Trail.
Marine Atlantic ferry service  runs from North Sydney to Port aux Basques (on the west coast of the island) throughout the year, and to Argentia (about 90km from St. John's) during the summer. The duration of the ride depends on the weather and water conditions, so patience is of the essence. It is advisable to call Marine Atlantic ahead of time to make a reservation (call 1-800-341-7981). If you are bringing a U-haul or something other than a passenger vehicle, you will likely be considered a Commercial Vehicle. Commercial Vehicles can only make reservations by doubling the usual fare. It is cheaper to simply take your number, wait in line and hope for the best.
In general, Marine Atlantic Ferries cater to your every whim, carrying food, alcohol, gift shops, cinemas and sleeping accommodations. There will be lots for you to do. 
The following is a list of all other ferry services available in Newfoundland and Labrador:
For Travel from Corner Brook and Deer Lake along the Great Northern Peninsula to St. Anthony, there is a regular scheduled Bus Service with Viking Express Bus. 
If you have access to a car, rental or otherwise, this is often the best way to travel the province. Public transportation options are usually limited, especially away from the larger centres, and having a personal vehicle will allow you to reach the nooks and crannies that really make the Newfoundland & Labrador experience an amazing one. Except for the Trans Canada Highway (Port Aux Basques–St. John's), roads in Newfoundland & Labrador are among the worst in Canada, so watch out for potholes and heaved pavement.
If Labrador is your destination, you will want to ensure that you bring gas cans (filled with gas), survival kits and food, as well as any other necessary supplies in case you find yourself in a bad situation. The Trans-Labrador Highway is the most challenging stretch of road in the province, and you will need to rely on your own ingenuity in order to have a good experience. Ensure that your vehicle is in tip-top shape and keep in mind that cellphones will often be completely useless as they often do not work in big sections of Labrador.
Also, keep in mind that, with the exception of the northern territories, gas is the most expensive in Canada.
As previously mentioned, DRL Coachlines Ltd. offers daily scheduled passenger coach services between St. John's & Port Aux Basques on the island. DRL's head office is in Dartmouth, Nova Scotia, but they can be reached toll-free at 1-888-738-8091. If you wish to reach their office in St. John's, call 1-709-738-8088.
If you wish to visit a part of France, you may consider Air St-Pierre  which connects St John's to the nearby islands of St-Pierre and Miquelon. Canadian citizens may enter with photo ID and proof of citizenship. US and EU citizens will require passports. Americans require their passports to enter France and Europeans require theirs to pass through Canada.
Rural Newfoundland is known for its seafood and its working-class roots. Rural restaurants offer an over-abundance of "golden foods" (deep fried) and classically simple fare. Vegetarians will be hard pressed to find anything without meat in it, and vegans might want to pack a lunch. But if you're a fish and chips lover, you'll "fill your boots". Mainly you will see battered cod, "chips dressing and gravy", dressing being a savory-laced stuffing mixture, fish-and-brewis (pronounced "fish and brews", salt cod mashed up with a boiled rock-hard sailor's bread, pork scrunchions, and traditionally drizzled with blackstrap molassas), jigg's dinner (also known as corned beef and cabbage, a traditional one pot meal consisting of salt beef,root vegetables such as carrot, turnip, parsnip and potato,and cabbage. Also thrown in the pot is a muslin bag of yellow split peas, known as pease pudding), burgers and fries, and seafood chowder.
But if you're nice, and lucky, someone might invite you in to their home for a homemade moose stew, rabbit pie, seal flipper, caribou sausage, partridgeberry pie or a cuppa tea with home-baked bread and homemade bakeapple jam. All of these are very interesting and delicious. A big traditional meal is often referred to as "a scoff", and as Newfoundlanders also love to dance and party, an expression for a dance and a feed is a "scoff and scuff", which might be accompanied by accordion, guitar, fiddle, a singalong, and a kitchen party. Kitchen socials are so much a part of Newfoundland culture that even today, many houses are better equipped to receive visitors through the back door (leading to the kitchen) than through the front.
Fish has always been at the heart of Newfoundland culture and even with the collapse of the commercial fisheries, you will find seafood dishes almost everywhere. Cod, halibut, flounder, crab, lobster, squid, mussels, and capelin (a small fish not unlike smelt or grunion) are all well represented. So too are other animals supported by the ocean system - seal, turr (murre) and the like.
A lot of Newfoundlanders habitually drink tea with Evaporated or "canned" milk (a popular brand being Nestle Carnation milk). If you prefer "regular" milk, you usually ask for "tea with fresh milk" and this is, in fact, a good way to spot a Newfie (or at least an Atlantic Province native) in other parts of the country. An easy excuse to have a friendly chat is to invite someone in for a "cuppa tea".
In "town" i.e. St. John's (and the other city centres of Newfoundland) there are many good restaurants for the picking, and several vegetarian and vegan friendly spots.
While in Newfoundland, particularly St. John's, do try to sample some of the candy and sweets from Purity Factories, an island fixture for many years and makers of several traditional-style confections. For many Newfoundlanders, Christmas would not be the same without a bottle of Purity Syrup, and breakfast without some of their partridgeberry and apple jam wouldn't be right. (Note: Partridgeberries in Newfoundland are referred to in many other places as "lingonberries".)
You will be in for a "time" (a social gathering) with lots of cheer. This is a province that consumes per capita more alcohol than any other in Canada. The legal drinking age in the province is 19. You will find nearly all the alcohol you desire in a Newfoundland bar. George Street in St. John's, Newfoundland has a reputation for having the most bars per capita in North America. Its largest celebration, George Street Festival, starts in early August and finishes on the Tuesday before Regatta Day.
Newfoundland & Labrador has a wonderful set of regional beers that you cannot find outside of the province. While a number of these are now brewed by the large Macrobreweries (Labatt and Molson), some of them are not. Depending on where you are, you will be able to locate brews with names like Kyle, Killick, Rasberry Wheat Ale, Hemp Ale, India, Black Horse, Jockey Club, Dominion Ale, Quidi Vidi 1892, and Blue Star. Something you may notice while drinking beer in the province is the tendency for the breweries to advertise that their beers are union-made "right here" in Newfoundland. Beer is commonly found in convenience stores with a liquor license and from the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation (NLC). The NLC is a government-owned monopoly and, much like most of Canada, there is a better selection of local and foreign beers than there are provincial beers. Inter-province trade in beer tends to be limited to the major brands, with no attention paid to the many excellent craft breweries in other regions.
While in Newfoundland, you will also encounter Screech. Screech is a Jamaican-style dark rum. This is the historic result of the trade between Newfoundland and Jamaica. Jamaica got the salt cod, Newfoundland got the rum. In all honesty, the Rum has been tamed to conform with contemporary liquor laws, especially when compared to descriptions of its much more potent ancestor. Hard liquor is usually found only at the Newfoundland Liquor Corporation in urban areas, and in licensed convenience stores in rural areas.
Newfoundland has a quiet but strong tradition of berry wines. Blueberry wine, for those in the know, is as closely associated with Newfoundland tastes as Screech, and for many, may be a far more palatable first experience. Also be sure to look for partridgeberry, blackberry, cloudberry, and rhubarb wines. All of these can often be found in NLC outlets. The NLC retains the distinction of being the only liquor control boards in Canada which still directly manufactures and bottles several of its hard liquor products (Screech, notably, but also gin, brandy and two vodkas), to retain the strong provincial association.