Tuesday, 16 September 2014

Great fall golfing at Humber Valley Resort in Western Newfoundland

      by Keith and Heather Nicol
       Fall in the Humber Valley of Western Newfoundland means brilliant autumn colours and where better to enjoy these than on Newfoundland’s top rated golf course at Humber Valley Resort.  When we walked into the pro shop on Tuesday, September 16 we met the Managing Director of Operations, Gary Oke who told us that despite the slow start to the season, that they had had a great season so far. “ One of our big new accolades is that Score Golf Magazine ranked us as number 16 in Canada up from number 32 last year. There is no other course in Newfoundland with that kind of ranking which suggests that we have a great product here” he told us before our round. 
Heather putting on the par 3 fifth hole
  We love playing this course since it is challenging but also very scenic. This course will test all of your golfing skills from tee to green. There are over 100 sand traps that will penalize the errant drive or approach shot and the large greens will test your putting skills.  Be sure to bring your camera since the front nine features fine vistas of Deer Lake, especially on the first 5 holes. In fact, the par 3 fifth hole is right along the water (see photo above). Some courses have 1 or 2 signature holes, but the course at Humber Valley Resort has many, perhaps the most famous is #10 which provides a magnificent view of the Humber Valley. The back nine winds toward the Humber River and both #14 and #15 are along the river. If you want to play the course when the fall colours  are peak , try playing in the first and second week in October. For more information on the Humber Valley Resort golf course see: http://humbervalley.com/

Heather on the scenic 14th hole
      After our round we had a chance to chat with Heather Oke, the resort’s marketing and events manager. “So far the September weather has perfect for golf and it has been a very busy summer. The course continues to be a big draw for golfers in the St. John’s area but we also have had lots of people from Ontario and B.C. play here as well.” She also told us that the golf course has been ranked by Golf Digest as the 10th best modern course in Canada . As we were leaving she added, “We hope to be open until the end of October so there is still lots of golf left “ 
If you want to golf at the peak of the colours try early to mid October

Friday, 5 September 2014

You only have a few more days to see the iconic play “Tempting Providence” in Cow Head

By Keith and Heather Nicol
       “Tempting Providence” has been running for 12 years and has become one of the favourite plays at the Gros Morne Theatre Festival (GMTF) in Cow Head. It has toured internationally and has been performed over 650 times! This  summer it has again played to sold out crowds but you still have a chance to see it this September. We recently saw the play on September 2 for our 4th time and it is still just as powerful as the first time we saw it 9 years ago. “Tempting Providence” is the true story of nurse Bennett  who was dedicated to serving the health care needs along Newfoundland’s rugged Northern Peninsula for over 50 years beginning in 1921. She was known as the “Florence Nightingale of the North” and delivered more than 700 babies, extracted over 5000 teeth and amazingly reattached a logger’s foot that had been severed in an accident! It has masterful staging (it is hard to believe how many uses a white table cloth can have) and Adam Brake, Colin Furlong, Amelia Manual and Marquita Walsh received a standing ovation for their great performances in this play. “Tempting Providence” was commissioned by Theatre Newfoundland Labrador (TNL) and was written by Robert Chafe and directed by Jillian Keiley. 
The simple set and costumes let story telling stand out in Tempting Providence
      Another bonus is that the TNL and the Shallow Bay Motel have teamed up for a great fall special.  This includes one night's accommodations, breakfast for two at the Shallow Bay Motel and two theatre tickets for “Tempting Providence” all for $149.99 plus tax.  Check out the Gros Morne Theatre Festival September schedule at www.theatrenewfoundland.com, choose your show and call the Shallow Bay Motel at 1-800-563-1946 to book your “Tempting” Fall Package (based on availability). Note that “Tempting Providence” runs until September 13 and that the GMTF season ends on September 21. Also if you are looking for a place to have supper, then look no further than the Shallow Bay Motel. We ate there before seeing the play and we had superb grilled salmon and pan fried cod. And for dessert we had partridge berry and bakeapple cheesecake. Yum, Yum! 
We enjoyed a delicious meal in the Shallow Bay Motel before the show!
  If you are in the Cow Head area and want to go for a beach walk or even a swim then have a look at the Parks Canada day use area at Shallow Bay. It is one of the few sandy beaches in Western Newfoundland and it is just a couple of kilometers north of Cow Head. The beach is 3-4 kilometers long and  Heather spent half an hour swimming on our recent trip and there were several other people enjoying the water as well. There is also a picnic area and playground for kids near the beach. Also birders will enjoy looking for shore birds along the beach.
Shallow Bay Beach was still warm enough for a swim on our early September visit


Thursday, 4 September 2014

Check out the Gros Morne Golf Course for fall great specials

By Keith and Heather Nicol  
     When we go to a play in Cow Head at the Gros Morne Theatre Festival we often like to head up early in the day to enjoy a hike or to Shallow Bay beach. But if you like to golf we suggest you also pack your clubs and test your skills against the Gros Morne Golf Course. The course was closed for a year a couple of years ago according to manager Lorne Warren but they have been working hard this year to get the course back in shape. “Business has really been picking up especially during August and we plan to be open until mid October this year “Lorne told us.  We had played the course a few years ago and really liked it so we were glad to see the course back in operation. If you do decide to play you will be pleased that it is easy to book a tee time. On our most recent round in early September we played 18 holes with a power cart in less than 3 hours.   The course is very scenic with the Long Range Mountains as a backdrop and some holes have views of St. Paul’s Inlet. 
Many of the holes have views of the Long Range Mountains and St. Paul's Inlet
 The 18 hole course measures 6264 yards off the white tees (5443 yards off the women’s tees) and has a typical mix of 4 par 5’s, 4 par 3’s and 10 par 4’s. There is water on several holes and numerous sand traps but the fairways are generally wide open which makes it forgiving for the average golfer.  Perhaps the most challenging hole is #13 where the green is surrounded by a moat! There are also lots of great specials which Lorne Warren told us have been very popular. For instance, on Tuesdays seniors can play 18 holes for just $30, Wednesdays are 2 for 1, and Thursdays are $30 for everyone.  The course also has a driving range and you can book a tee time by phoning 709-243-2606.   
Many of the fairways are wide like the par 5 6th hole

Tuesday, 19 August 2014

What to do on a rainy night and day in Woody Point.

by Keith and Heather Nicol    
       Despite the forecast of cloud and rain we headed to Woody Point in the afternoon of August 18 to see the last “Charlie and Mena” show of the season.  The “Charlie and Mena” concert features Charlie Payne on various accordions and singer Mena Lodge on guitar and is part of Gros Morne Summer Music.  They were joined by guitarist Darren Vincent and they put on a fine performance featuring Newfoundland music. It was held at the Heritage Theatre in Woody Point which is a great old building that Charlie Payne carefully restored. Before the show we ate at the popular Loft Restaurant and enjoyed a halibut supper and fisherman’s platter, both delicious. Then it was show time and Charlie, Mena and Darren played lots of lovely nostalgic Newfoundland songs as well as a few fast paced jigs and reels that got everyone’s feet tapping. That evening we stayed at the Blanchard House Bed and Breakfast (http://www.crockercabins.com/Blanchard_House.htm) which is a perfect place to stay in Woody Point since it is comfortable and central to everything.  The house was built in 1904 and has many furnishings which add to the historic nature of the house. 
Check out the historic Blanchard House Bed and Breakfast in Woody Point
     The next morning the rain was still falling in earnest. After a filling breakfast prepared by Ruby Sharpe at the Blanchard House we asked her about what we might do on a wet day in Woody Point and she gave us a map and pointed out many craft shops and art galleries.  We never knew there were so many artists in this community and many have their own shops which display their work. If you are interested in prints and paintings,  check out the Christine Koch Studio or the Sorensen’s Studio of Fine Arts. If you lean toward fibre art then the Molly Made Fibre Art Studio is well worth a visit. They even sell kits so that you can make your own hooked rugs. Aunt Maggie’s Homespun sells wool and owner Margaret King makes a wide variety of sweaters, slippers and caps. The Galliott Studio on the waterfront is another place worth checking out. Jennifer Galliott makes pottery, weaves and paints and she has combined this with a cafe so you can sip a coffee while you view her art. If you want to see an antique display, then head across the street to Aunt Janes Bed and Breakfast. Or if you are after interesting gifts and other crafts then the Old Loft Craft shop, Seaside Souvenirs or Hunky Dory Folk Art and Things have beautiful and unique selections. And once you have visited all of these locations then you can always head to Parks Canada’s Discovery Centre which is just outside Woody Point. They have interpretative displays on numerous topics like geology, glaciation and vegetation , their own art gallery (which is definitely worth a look) as well as a gift shop. So if you get caught on a rainy day in Woody Point you should definitely be able to see and learn lots.
The Molly Made Fibre Art Studio is just one of the many galleries and craft shops in Woody Point


Friday, 8 August 2014

See "The Known Soldier" for dramatic theatre at the Gros Morne Theatre Festival

by Keith and Heather Nicol
      “The Known Soldier” is one of 6 performances that the Gros Morne Theatre Festival (GMTF) is doing this summer in Cow Head. On the 100th anniversary of World War 1 it is fitting to produce a play about one of Newfoundland’s heroes of that war- Tommy Ricketts. And “The Known Soldier” was written and directed by the talented Jeff Pitcher, GMTF’s artistic director! What is significant about Tommy Ricketts is that he lied about his age when he signed up (he was just 15 at the time) yet in just a couple of years he had earned the Victoria Cross, the Britain’s highest award for valour. His sprints over open fields in the heat of battle are legendary. Yet when he returned to Newfoundland he avoided the limelight and didn’t like to talk about the war.  The cast of Adam Brake, Jennifer Furlong and Craig Haley do an impressive job of telling his story from his early days growing up in Middle Arm to his war years and then returning to Newfoundland. The simple set allows the actors to move quickly around the stage and is transformed into trenches for the war scenes.  “The Known Soldier” is fine dramatic theatre and is it is an appropriate play to see on this centennial of the beginning of World War 1. For more information on TNL’s Gros Morne Theatre Festival schedule or to book tickets to a show see- www.theatrenewfoundland.com or call 1-877-243-2899. 
Jennifer Furlong (left) and Adam Brake perform in "The Known Soldier"
      Looking for moose is a big past time for people visiting Gros Morne National Park (GMNP) . After all GMNP has some of the highest moose densities in the world so visitors think they should be everywhere. But come summer time they are often hard to see since they aren’t often at the side of the road where most people might see them. We have had most luck seeing moose on some of the hiking trails that cross the coastal plain. For instance, on a recent hike in late July on the Baker’s Brook Falls trail we saw 3 moose and 2 were quite close to the trail browsing in the forest. Although we couldn’t get a clear photo of them we could easily see the rack on the large bull. And last summer we had luck on the Western Brook Pond trail where we saw a moose that had been laying down in the tall grass about 15 meters in from the trail. At that point it was not visible to hikers but for some reason it decided to get up just as we walked past and we got some good photos of it. So head off on a hiking trail and you might see a moose. 
A moose near the Western Brook Pond trail