Playing The Rock
As anyone who has visited Newfoundland will tell you, a trip to “The Rock” is a visit to a different country. It is Canadian, certainly, but it is Canada with a richer sense of humour and a finely developed understanding of the art of self deprecation. Where else would the woman driving the taxi apologize for her wind-ruffled hair with this – “I know, I look like a birch broom in the fits!” And where else would the person sitting next to you in the bar invite you to a kitchen party, a Newfoundland ritual, because “we’ll be cookin’ up a scoff!”
Where else would a golfer tee off on a cliff overlooking the mighty Atlantic, with a moose in the nearby bushes, a red fox looking on, seemingly critically, and nothing between him and Greenland but a huge expanse of awesome sea?
That’s Newfoundland, or at least a very small slice of this large, welcoming and affable province that is becoming the new hot destination for the traveller in search of authenticity.
Golfers are discovering that Newfoundland is home to some of the country’s best golf courses. Humber Valley Golf Resort, near Cornerbrook, is one of the newest courses to create a buzz in the golfing community. The River Course at Humber Valley is a par 72 course measuring 7,194 yards that snakes through the beautiful Humber Valley, which incorporates Deer Lake and the Humber River.
The course at Humber Valley was designed by the well-known Canadian golf architect Doug Carrick who has built a reputation for creating golf courses of exceptional character and beauty. Readers may already have experienced his work. He has designed the King Valley Golf Club in King City, Osprey Valley in Caledon and Angus Glen in Markham.
The Humber Valley course offers gently rolling terrain, wide fairways and undulating greens, challenging for experienced golfers, but still accessible for the beginner. Some fairways drop steeply along hillsides, and there are 103 bunkers along the course. With pristine forest lining the fairways, it is not uncommon to encounter wildlife, moose, fox, or the occasional bear, on the greens.
The views are breathtaking. In addition to the natural beauty of the surroundings, Humber Valley has all of the delights of an upscale resort, and offers fly fishing, hiking, river rafting and other adventures in addition to golf. Visitors can stay in one of the resort’s chalets, which seem to blend seamlessly into the forest.
Humber Valley is easily reachable from Central Ontario. Air Canada, WestJet and Sun Wing run regular direct flights into Deer Lake, a short drive from the resort.
Golfers are also discovering the charms of Terra Nova Golf Resort, on the Bonaventure Peninsula, ranked in Score Magazine's “Top 100” golf courses for 2004 and recently rated by Golf Digest with 4 ½ stars, placing it as a “must play” course. This course plays over the fast moving rapids of 2 salmon rivers and along the rugged coastline of the Atlantic Ocean. The fairways wind through some of the most scenic settings of any golf course in Canada. Refined greens contrast against the rugged forest and ocean cliffs in this lovely course that has been called “Canada’ Pebble Beach”.
The contrast of the beautifully manicured fairways and greens set against the dramatic
Daily three hour flights from Toronto to St. John’s makes playing Terra Nova easy.
Culinary travelers and those with an eye for distinctly different accommodation are discovering the special charms of Newfoundland. For a unique stay, borrow a page from the travel guide of the Hollywood stars and consider the Fishers’ Loft Inn, just an hour’s drive from Terra Nova.
When director Lasse Hallstrom went looking for the right piece of Newfoundland coastline to film his movie adaptation of Annie Proulx’s novel, The Shipping News, he discovered the Trinity Bight, a small harbour of paradise on the Bonavista Peninsula. And when filming was about to commence, the stars of the film – Dame Judy Dench, Kevin Spacey, Julianne Moore, Cate Blanchett – discovered the Fishers’ Loft Inn and chef Helen Fowlow’s superb cooking.
The Fishers’ Loft is Newfoundland’s finest inn, built in the local vernacular architectural style, with local building materials and local craftsmen. The interiors are minimalist, muted and calming. Sleeping here is a bit like sleeping in a Christopher Pratt painting. It is a kind of luxury without clutter.
Like the décor, the dining is focused on local produce and traditional dishes, with recipes that celebrate the quality of local fish, vegetables and berries, without too much fussiness.
Helen is the main chef at the Inn, and found that cooking for movie stars, at least this particular bunch, was hassle free. “I didn’t know any of them before. I’ve lead a rather sheltered life here in Ship Cove. But Dame Judy was a down-to-earth lady who demanded no special treatment and never had moods.”
One day, when Judy had decided to entertain her co-workers, she appeared in Helen’s kitchen for a lesson in bread baking. When the final loaves, brown and crusty and perfect, emerged from the oven, Judy carried them in her arms to the table to slice and serve herself.
“You’d have thought she had just given birth,” says John Fisher, innkeeper. “She was that pleased.” And so were her guests, Kevin Spacey, Julianne Moore, Gorden Pinsent, Lasse Hallstrom and other actors and producers whom she had invited to the Inn for dinner.
In between takes, there were long walks with the Inn’s resident dog, the three legged Heike, views of big skies and rugged coastline, and the serenely isolated calm of this inn at the end of the lane in a Newfoundland outport.
And at the close of a busy day, food to satisfy.
Helen’s style of cooking, with its emphasis on robust flavours and fresh ingredients is typical of the hardy fare enjoyed in the area, and celebrated at Fishers’ Loft. It’s one of the reasons that the Inn garnered a star in “Where to Eat in Canada”—one of only two restaurants in the province to be so honoured.
Her fish cakes, made from salt cod and dressed with Newfoundland drawn butter, paired with her grilled peach salad with citrus dressing, and finished off with a traditional berry crisp and farmhouse cream for dessert , is the perfect menu for a cosy autumn dinner.
When you are not golfing or dining, the delights of the world famous Skerwink Trail await, just outside the door of the Fishers’ Loft.
Hikers can follow the craggy coastline, past small fishing villages, lighthouses and isolated harbours. Nearby also is Random Passage, the authentically recreated Newfoundland outpost village built for the filming of the mini-series of the same name, and now used as a charming introduction to Newfoundland coastal life in the early 1800’s.
Guides will tell you the stories, sometimes there’s music, and omnipresent is the dramatic back story of romance, danger and the rigours and beauty of Newfoundland coastal life.
Golfing, great hikes, comfortable digs and “a fine mug up”. Doesn’t get much better. Answer Newfoundland’s call this summer and every day will be “an awful nice day”.
Fishers’ Loft Inn - www.fishersloft.com
Terra Nova Golf Resort – www.terranovagolf.com
Humber Valley Golf Resort - www.humbervalley.com
© Barbara Ramsay Orr