This is Viking Country

We woke up at a reasonable time on Monday morning, packing our bags, loading the car and then going for a quick breakfast at the restaurant. I wanted to get going early-ish as we had a four hour drive ahead of us to get to L’Anse aux Meadows at the northern tip of Newfoundland. This is where the Vikings settled, about five hundred years before Europeans got here.

There was no rain as we left and the further north we went the brighter the day became. We had perfect weather on our drive up, weather we’d wished we had the day before. Bright blue skies contrasting with the vibrant green of the trees and the sulphuric orange and yellow of the rocks along the coast.

We stopped at The Arches Provincial Park along the way, which has some archway rock formations on the beach. The beach is also covered in rocks and pebbles of various colours and patterns that have all been worn smooth. It was a great place to make a stop.

After that we stopped at a couple of points to take some photos, wherever the view was too breathtaking to pass up. At one of the stops I picked some crackle berries. They do indeed crackle when you bite into them. They don’t have much flavour though. We also stopped for petrol, Glen almost frantic that we’d left Cow Head with only 3/8ths a tank full.

Along the drive we also saw Labrador across the water. It’s not that far after all so we were wondering if we got up early enough on Tuesday whether we could take the ferry over and get back to Newfoundland in time to get to Deer Lake. We can’t. We’ll just have to go another time. Still, it was pretty cool to see Labrador from Newfoundland.

Norstead

We arrived at the L’Anse aux Meadows visitor centre at about 1pm and headed in, passing a woman who said there were moose nearby. Moose! We hurried in then went outside the other end. No moose.

Glen didn’t want to wait for the 2pm talk as it was 1pm and he ABSOLUTELY HAD TO EAT LUNCH NOW. We argued in the foyer, no doubt making the person by the counter feel uncomfortable, but it was all done with relative good humour. She gave us pointers on where to go.

We went to the nearest place, a cafe just down the road in a little seaside village. The food and drink took a while to come as there was only one person working there, but it didn’t really matter. We hoped we’d make it back for the 2pm tour but it didn’t quite matter as it was so beautiful out on the deck.

While we waited, I went down to the water’s edge and took some photos. Unlike the rocks at the Arches, these rocks were thin and shale like. They were pretty cool. Food came, as did the drink. We finished off and then got talking to the English couple behind us. They were going to catch a ferry to Quirpon and stay in a lighthouse! Very jealous. It was nice to chat to them.

We’d missed the 2pm tour and the next was at 4pm so we went to Norstead instead, a tourist attraction that’s been built to look like a Norse settlement. The main feature is a big boat shed that contains a boat called a knarr.

It’s a working replica of a Viking boat that was built in Maine in 1997, transported to Greenland on freight, and then rowed from Greenland to L’Anse aux Meadows. It retraced the journey of Leif Ericson, to see if it could be done. Leif did it with 35 men. In 1997 they did it with 9. It took 10 times as long to arrive in Newfoundland, but they did. The boat now sits at Norstead.

Norstead have a bunch of interpreters in the different buildings. Some were a little bit awkward when only talking to two of us. Others were interesting. We saw how they would have lived then, including seeing that 35 people would have slept in one long room. Only the chieftain and his wife got any privacy, and still they were in the same building.

I found the wool area the most interesting, watching how they spun the wool with this loadstone thing. It was so simple yet so fascinating. And then there was the loom that was used to weave everything, including sales. It looked so complex and slow but if that’s all you had to do all day, I’m sure you’d get so proficient at it that the loom would just fly.

After the buildings, we climbed up the little hill and looked out over the sea. The weather was so perfect that everything was bursting with colour.

L’Anse aux Meadows

We returned to L’Anse aux Meadows with a half hour to look around the interpretation in the centre. The Vikings only wintered at L’Anse aux Meadows for a few years across about a twenty years so their influence on the place is so minor compared to the Aboriginal peoples who were also there. I thought the interpretation handled the connection between the Aboriginal peoples and the Vikings really well.

The tour started at 4pm, Glen and I both anxious to see a moose. The guide took us along the boardwalk. I asked about some of the plants and trees that were about the place, and he pointed out which plants the bake apple grew on. He also confirmed that I was eating crackle berries and not something else.

We went around the mounds that signify the Viking settlements. Everything was covered over in the 70s after the last excavation to keep it all protected. You can still walk around everything and the guide pointed out what was what. There’s also a reconstructed long house there as well that you can go in, but Glen and I had seen most of that sort of thing at Norstead. We went for a walk along the coast instead to get us back to the parking lot.

Along the way I found a desiccated bake apple and either a rotten or under-ripe one. Bake apples, though they grow wild, are worth a lot of money. About $90 for a barrel or gallon or whatever it is. They’re not very big so they need to collect a lot of berries. I also found some patridgeberries which are like grapes. They were tasty.

At Norstead I ate crowberries. They don’t have much of a taste. Like cracker berries. Glen rolled his eyes every time I exclaimed about a newly discovered berry. Anywhere else and I’d refrain.

We still didn’t see a moose. However, L’Anse aux Meadows was on my list for Canada, first because it’s where the Vikings landed in North America, and second because it’s right at the top of Newfoundland. Two achievements in one day.

We went for dinner at the Norseman in L’Anse aux Meadows, which is one of the nicest restaurants in this part of the country. The food was good, hit the spot. I’ve eaten a lot of cod while in Newfoundland. I suppose it’s the thing to do.

Afterwards we drove to our accommodation at Burnt Bay Cabins. We stopped a few times to take photos along the way as everything is so beautiful. The sun was going down as we got into town. Just beautiful.

One Reply to “This is Viking Country”

What do you say, eh?

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s