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Wednesday, July 11, 2018

Twillingate Island

Hi Blog!

As we travel around Newfoundland, we are learning that distances on a map are a lot further than they appear. Each peninsula has it's own scenic drive. Near Gander, where we are camped, the Road to the Islands combined with the Road to the Shore would have had us driving for six hours and that doesn't include stops for adventure. Since we only have one full day here near Gander, we narrowed our focus and just drove out to visit Twillingate, the iceberg capital of the world. Along the way, we passed a number of "outports" that saw better days before the cod fishing ban.

On our way, we spotted this old church, which is just asking for someone to come and make it a brew pub!

Twillingate is very popular with the bus tourists. As we stopped to take pictures of the church, two buses passed us on the way to Twillingate. We knew this meant a rough day:  we would be hounded by the tour buses and their hordes of tourists wherever we went. 

So we decided to head straight to the lighthouse in order to beat the crowd.

Long Point Lighthouse is an active lighthouse located outside Crow Head on North Twillingate Island. The lighthouse, completed in 1876, is considered to be the most photographed lighthouse in Newfoundland, as Twillingate attracts thousands of tourists each year.

While we waited to tour the lighthouse tower, we learned all about the Titanic disaster. Although we had done the Titanic Experience in Pigeon Forge, Tennessee some years ago, this museum exhibit was totally different. Rather than focusing on passengers' life on the big boat, it went out of its way to point out all the things that went wrong during the voyage and the many mistakes and misjudgements made by the owners and operators of the Titanic. We were each given a passenger card. At the end of the exhibit, there were two books -- survivors and victims. Kathy's passenger survived, but David's passenger died.

Soon it was our turn to take the hike up to the tower. All the original fixtures are still present in the tower. However, the light itself has been automated, so hand cranking is no longer necessary.  While there are still two lighthousekeepers employed on site, the modern day keepers focus on maintenance and repair, rather than cranking the gearworks every two hours.

The old oil laterns were replaced with LED lights. In the photo below, Kathy holds the lightbulb used in the light. That tiny little bulb, when placed inside the adjoining Fresnel lens housing, can be seen for 30 kilometers!

Just as we finished our tour and walked over to the trailhead to take a hike near Long Point, the tour bus showed up and threw up its contents all over the viewpoint.  Luckily for us, bus people never venture far from the bus. Just a few steps down the trail, we had the place to ourselves. We decided to head over to Sleepy Cove first before taking in the view of Nanny's Hole.

If you look closely, you can see tiny little hikers working their way out Crow Head. As we hiked we noticed a tour boat circling around just beyond the point. We took out our spy glasses - there be whales here! They were too far away to photograph, but we got to see them surface and spout!

If you plan to do any hiking in Newfoundland, be prepared to climb up and down stairs.

Sleepy Cove was anything but sleepy when we arrived. The local seagulls were having their convention on the beach.

Here is the whale watching tour returning to harbor.

Nanny's Hole was impressive. The crystal clear water makes for colorful photos.

After our hike, we drove back down into Twillingate in the hope of finding lunch. The Canvas Cafe, known for its seafood and vegetarian options, had a tour bus parked in front. The Auk Winery Island Winery and Restaurant had THREE tour buses parked in front. Luckily, we found a little local place and shared a two-pound order of local mussels! After lunch, we decided to visit the Wooden Boat Building Museum and Twillingate History Museum.

Twillingate is one of the oldest seaports in Newfoundland. The French fishing fleet used the waters around the island between 1650 and 1690 and it was these fishermen who gave the islands the name "Toulinquet" because of their similarity to a group of islands off the French coast near Brest. The name became anglicized to Twillingate with the first formal settlement of a town, around 1700. The first permanent settlers, were English fishermen and their families from Devonshire. Boat building became an important and respected trade.

The first floor of the museum, is filled with displays on the various types of boats used around the island. The second floor is actually a boat building workshop. Fortunately for us, the boat builder was at lunch, so the student trainee gave us the tour. He had grown up in Twillingate and his grandfather was a boat builder. We had such a good time talking to him, we didn't even mind that one of the tour buses showed up.

They had a couple older boats on display to show the different styles. The one front and center was rowed with oars. The one in the back uses an outboard motor.

This is the newest boat. Once this boat is finished, it will be raffled off to raise money for the museum. Every area of Newfoundland had its own boat builders. The boats were built to handle the coves, harbors and weather near that particular part of the island.

On the way over to the History Museum, we stopped into St. Peters Church, one of the oldest wooden churches still in existence in Newfoundland. It was built in 1842. The church was modeled after a similar church in Poole, England.

Twillingate prides itself as the birthplace of a world renowned opera star. Georgina Sterling was born in 1867, the youngest daughter of Twillingate's first doctor, William Sterling. Known as the "Nightingale of the North," Georgina changed her name to Marie Toulinguet (the French name of Twillingate) and made her Paris grand opera debut in 1893. She had a long and storied career before returning to Twillingate.

All that musing can build up a powerful thirst. Before heading back to Gander, we stopped at the Split Rock Brewery and sampled their offerings before deciding on a couple to take back to camp with us. We would have liked to do one or more of the other hikes, but we'll have to save those for next time. Tomorrow we move to Corner Brook.

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