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Part of Canada’s easternmost province, the island of Newfoundland often feels like a country within a country. A couple of years after having moved to the Great White North, I was eager to discover a side of it I had never seen. Sure enough, throughout a week of driving, touring and eating, my notebook began to fill up with numbers and facts I had learned along the way.
1800 … Nautical miles to Ireland
Along the island’s Avalon Peninsula, rolling green hills fold into steep cliff faces eroded and beaten by storms and time. Irish immigrants arriving in the 18th and 19th centuries must have felt right at home, because their ancestors today make up more than half the population. Centuries-old influences are omnipotent; for instance, the now-defunct Irish dialect which still textures the local accent in a way that makes even insults sound endearing (“you gotta face only ya mudder could luv!”). Other hints of the Emerald Isle can be heard in the Celtic music played in bars along George Street, or glimpsed in the strangely familiar unofficial flag flown in fishing villages province-wide.
1001 … Ways to cook cod
As anyone who’s read or seen "The Shipping News" would know, Newfoundlanders have always felt the presence of the sea and its bounty. Visitors to the island quickly become aware that most Newfoundland cuisine is based around seafood, and especially cod. Among the delicacies that await: cod and chips, salted cod and “brewis” (boiled hard bread), cod and “scrunchions” (small pieces of salted pork fat), cod au gratin, cod fish cakes, and my favorite -- deliciously tender pan-fried cod cheeks. Prefer turf to surf? Keep it local with a hearty portion of moose pie.
403 … Years since the British arrived
Around the time that Samuel de Champlain was busy founding the French outpost of Quebec City, British counterparts were trying to claim Newfoundland for the rival superpower. The results of this era make for some of the island’s most interesting sites for history buffs, such as the destroyed colonial outpost being dug up by archeologists at Cupids, and the nearby islands of Saint Pierre and Miquelon, which are still officially part of France (bring your passport and some euros, s’il vous plait!) No doubt the Vikings would have been amused by all of the Franco-British fuss -- they settled in L’Anse aux Meadows more than 500 years prior, then turned around and left.
22 … Species of whales
Uniquely, many of them can be seen from the shoreline on a good day. Prime viewing spots are Cape Spear, also known as the easternmost tip of North America, and the coast along Witless Bay.
1 … Species of puffin
Go on any wildlife tour in Newfoundland, and you may learn that there are only three known varieties of puffins; of these, only the North Atlantic puffin likes to hang out in the area. Fortunately it’s the species most likely to win in a showdown of feathered adorability, with the looks of a toucan mixed with a penguin and the stature of a coffee mug. If you’re visiting in the warmer months, bring an extra memory card for your camera -- there will be nuffin’ but puffins on it by the time you’re done!