Newfoundland Stories of August 4

Photo of Canadian Junior National Hockey Team hopefuls, courtesy of "The Telegram," St. John's newspaper

As the Sheraton elevator hauled my half asleep butt up to the 6th floor for breakfast, I noticed I was surrounded by a pod of 6-foot tall, middle-aged men all wearing black Under Armour polos with red maple leafs over their left pectoral. My, how patriotic, I thought. After rubbing the previous night’s George Street Festival mascara out of my eyes, I noticed the silhouette of a hockey player set against the bright red of the leaf. They looked official. As I turned from the elevators and made my way down the hall, 4 tall, Abercrombie and Fitch-esque, barely-legal aged young men chirped well-synchronized hellos in my uncaffeinated, still bed-headed direction. I may not have been awake enough to use a hair brush, but I was awake enough to know a good-looking guy when I saw one. I confess, I did a double take, watched them until they turned the corner, and in the process, walked smack into wall.

Later, I found out the Canadian Junior National Men’s Hockey Team was in town for a training/development/selection camp and were using our hotel as home base. Every guy staying at the hotel wanted to know where the boys were playing. Every woman wanted to know how if the players were of legal age yet…

The first Wednesday of August is the famous Royal St. John’s Regatta — the longest running sports contest on the continent. Fixed-seat, coxswained skulls of 6 or more rowers hit Quidi Vidi lake at 9AM and race all day until 9PM. In the morning, the officials check the weather. If it’s a good day, the Regatta is a Go and the city of St. John’s shuts down — Regatta day is a civic holiday with a rain-date.

Sunny with scattered clouds, the 4th was a perfect day to watch a boat race, but we opted out of a day a local said “means sunburn and bratty kids with cotton candy” and headed for Springdale — a midway stop between the capital on the east and the entry/exit town of Port aux Basques, where our ferry to Nova Scotia was scheduled to depart on Friday morning. Springdale boasted a 4.5-star luxury establishment called the Riverwood Inn and it seemed like the ideal place to begin the end of our vacation. The Inn’s website displayed pictures of beaches and boat tours, gourmet picnic baskets and luscious views of an expansive river and picturesque harbour. The photographer for the Riverwood Inn’s restaurant deserved an award for spin-master of the year.

The river was a creek. There were no kayaks or boat tours. There was no restaurant in the hotel to make our picnic basket. The whole surrounding area was under development, with construction workers tromping through the inn’s small yard. The “beautiful village of Springdale” was several miles away. The Inn was located a quarter mile from lumber yards and gravel pits. The nearest restaurant was at a dingy-looking motel next to one of the aforementioned gravel pits.

We didn’t stay at the Riverwood Inn.

Nor did we stay at the Marble Inn “Resort” two hours down the Trans Canada Highway.

My mum and I travel often together, and whenever I call home, the first question my father asks is not “how are you,” but rather “Has your mother changed rooms yet?” It’s a running joke in the family. Well not only did we change rooms twice today, we changed hotels… not once, not twice, but 3 times.

The three Recklings finally found ourselves in Corner Brook at a less-than-the-Holiday-Inn motel named the Mamateek Inn. Outside the door, some bikers were passing a joint and a heard of ATVs grumbled and bounced into the parking lot. The motel was nondescript, but the guests had character.

The door keys didn’t work. Then when we did get working keys, the door was wedged closed and required excessive quantities of shoulder-shoving to get it open.

We may have just checked in to the worst hotel on our Newfoundland vacation, but we were about to have the best dinner since leaving home.

The Bay of Islands Bistro is a small house restaurant that prides itself on using local organic ingredients (apparently, they DO grow lettuce in Newfoundland). Fresh, clean, and delicious, everything on the menu was something I wanted to order. We were thankful for the lobster cakes and the smoked spare ribs, grateful for a piece of fish that wasn’t fried. Don’t get me wrong, the fish and chips have been well-worth the calories, but after a long day of driving, mishaps, and shanty-shacks, the gourmet finish to the day was much deserved.

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