We spent our first night in Newfoundland at The Claddagh Inn, home to the smallest pub in the province. Perhaps in all of Canada? It’s so wee!
The inn is located in St. Mary’s Harbour, and run by Patrick and Carol Monsigneur. They both retired from the Royal Canadian Air Force three years ago, and started busy new lives on The Rock as innkeepers and cooks. They intended to spend half the year running Claddagh and the other half travelling, but they’ve been so busy, they haven’t quite gotten around the travelling part yet!
Over the past few years, Patrick built himself this Cobra (we both pretended like we actually knew what a Cobra was), and they're finally planning to take it to Arizona this winter. Good. They’re lovely folks who deserve a break.
They’re also folks who know how to feed two ravenous travellers. Once we’d checked in and dinnertime arrived, we realized we’d essentially been awake for 24 hours and hadn’t eaten much beyond bagels.
A bit delirious from jetlag, we stumbled down to the Claddagh’s cozy dining room, probably more in need of a hearty meal than we’d ever been. And that’s exactly what Patrick had prepared for us.
We started off with something new – bottled moose! We’d seen preserved moose in Port aux Basque last year, but hadn’t had the chance to taste it. It was tender and rich, like it had been braised, and tasted wonderful with Dijon mustard and fresh cracked pepper.
We also ate corn chowder, homemade perogies, roast pork with potatoes and green beans, and halibut pie, which was like a coastal version of shepherd’s pie.
For dessert, Carol baked up a wonderful wild blueberry cobbler, which was the first of many wild blueberry desserts to come. Then, unsurprisingly, we both had seriously deep sleeps.
The inn is located on the site of a former convent, and before we left in the morning, we visited the graves of four nuns who lived there during the 19th century. St. Mary’s Harbour is a quiet little town now – I can’t imagine what it must have been like 150 years ago.
After we left the inn, we had a second look into the past. The locally-known “Miniature Village” is easy to miss; it’s located on the side of the road, next to the artist’s house, and there’s no signage. But what you’re looking for is this: a tiny replica of a Newfoundland fishing village, set on a ‘harbour’ next to a forest, complete with unruly teenagers kissing in the trees.
There’s a miniature church, general store, school, and graveyard, as well as a slew of miniature houses, boats, docks, and even a tiny flake for drying salt cold.
Momentary giants, we walked amongst the buildings, in awe of the details its maker, Frank Mullet, had included.
The village is a replica of Oderin, the fishing village where he grew up, which was resettled in the 1960’s.
The fact that he’s essentially rebuilt his childhood home is both beautiful and deeply sad.
The history of resettlement strikes an emotional chord amongst many Newfoundlanders, particularly of older generations, and for good reason. For the past five decades, as populations have dwindled and the fishing industry died, countless small communities have been uprooted and re-dispersed to larger settlements. In some cases, people were so unwilling to give up their family homes, they floated them around Newfoundland's coast to new sites.
While the arguments for and against resettlement are both powerful, there’s no denying the tragedy of it all. Many people have had to leave the villages their ancestors founded, the very places where generations of their families have lived, died, and are buried. They've been forced to completely redefine their sense of home and identity, literally leaving behind all they’ve ever known. The CBC has done some excellent pieces about resettlement – I’ll post links at the bottom of this post if you’re interested in reading more about it.
We're honoured to have seen such a remarkable tribute to a part of Newfoundland we'll never get to visit.
*Resettlement house-moving photos from http://www.bonnyvillenouvelle.ca and http://www.townofdover.ca/resettlement.html
From the CBC:
From Memorial University's Maritime History Archives:
From Greg Pike:
And finally, a heart-wrencher from NTV: