Years ago, while listening to the CBC, I learned all about Gander from Stuart McLean. In that unmistakable and comforting voice of his, Stuart told me of the town’s remarkable history as an international aviation capital; in fact, in 1940 it was home to the world’s largest airport.
It held this honour because of its strategic location as a place for planes to refuel before crossing the Atlantic. This became especially important during WWII, when Allied planes were making frequent trips between North America and Europe.
The lounge of the Gander International Airport was designed with far more cosmopolitan glamour than you’d expect of a small town in rural Newfoundland, one that only a few decades earlier had been nothing but dense Boreal forest. Rural or not, Gander’s airport proved worthy of the works of internationally renowned designers including Herman Miller, and an epic, 69 foot long mural painted by Canadian artist Kenneth Lochead. It's frequently referred to as a 'time capsule' of Modernist design; even the New York Times says so.
All sorts of celebrities – Frank Sinatra and The Beatles included - have rested in this lounge, but you’ll have to listen to Stuart to get the full story on that.
While we very much appreciate its days of aviation glory, we (unsurprisingly) sought out food in Gander.
As a matter of fact, we even got a cooking lesson!
Chef Alex Bracci took us in at Bistro on Roe, a fine dining restaurant he and his wife Nicole opened eight years ago.
They use as many local ingredients as possible in their dishes, and Chef Alex showed us how to makes several of their signatures – the scallops with blueberry sauce,
cod puttanesca with house made pasta,
and the partridgeberry flaky.
They were all wonderful, and the 'flaky' reaffirmed our newfound love for partridgeberries. They’re slightly less tart than a cranberry, and Chef Alex reduced some into a sauce, then layered them with pastry cream and crunchy squares of filo. It was a very simple, elegant, and moreish dessert.
That evening we stayed with the lovely Ruth and Wayne at the Prints of Whales Inn, located in Sandringham. We wanted to explore the area a bit, so they suggested we take a drive to the village of Salvage (which is pronounced with an emphasis on the last syllable, rhyming with ‘age’).
Its fishing past and present are obvious; we settled down on a dock for a while, and took in the view of squat boathouses and moored fishing boats.
Looking out over Salvage, it’s tough to determine its age. Newer boats aside, you can’t really tell whether you’re in 1943 or 2013; there’s smoke rising from the chimneys of wood-heated homes, and weathered red paint on the old-fashioned boathouses.
It’s a quiet, restful little place, and you can be sure that unlike its more glamorous, bigger brother Gander, Frank Sinatra ain’t never heard of it.