What’s the Draw?

Kathleen Tucker
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What is it that draws tourists to Newfoundland? Is it the commercials, or is it knowing someone who lives on The Rock?

I didn’t go to Toronto with the idea of becoming a tourism ambassador for the Northern Peninsula, but somehow it happened. This summer, if you see vacationers flocking to the Northern Peninsula from Ottawa, Toronto or Kingston, you can point the finger of blame at me. If you see them flocking from Moncton, that’ll be Ian’s doing.

Hopefully, though, tourists will make it across on Marine Atlantic without becoming seriously sea-sick. Amy and her young man, Ian, crossed on the Atlantic Vision the third week in April and became intensely sea-sick; unfortunately the vomiting didn’t strike until after midnight when the gift shop had closed. Ian, much the worse for wear, begged Amy to find someone, anyone—who could sell them Gravol. The Purser insisted the shops were closed; Amy insisted she wasn’t leaving until she had the Gravol, so the Purser called the attendant and the attendant grudgingly complained at the inconvenience of opening the shop after midnight, but Amy got the Gravol and by morning they were both feeling relatively human. 

Incidentally, Ian very much enjoyed his first visit to Newfoundland. His parents, both doctors in Ontario, were medical students in 1978 and set up an elective in Goose Bay Labrador, which was sponsored by the Grenfell Mission. They spent two months in Happy Valley Goose Bay as medical students and two further years practicing in St. John’s, Grand Falls, Gander, Corner Brook and Twillingate. Thus, when Ian mentioned traveling to the Northern Peninsula, his parents were quite enthusiastic about his taking pictures of scenery and partaking of local fare.

We met Amy and Ian, ‘the infants’, as I dubbed them, at Deer Lake; they had driven from Moncton. I had flown in from Toronto and Len had driven from Ship Cove. Driving from Deer Lake up the Northern Peninsula, Len suggested Ian stop to see The Arches. Ian enjoyed climbing the rough-hewn rock and taking pictures of the large pieces of ice which were floating just off shore.

Ian was eager to start sightseeing once he arrived in Ship Cove, so the next day we were off to L’Anse aux Meadows; the visitor center was closed but ‘the infants’ had a grand time scaling the ten-foot snowdrifts flanking the entrance to the center. Later, Ian had a fine meal of fish and brewis and even took pictures of the meal to send his parents. He was on The Rock only one day when he acquired his very first pair of knitted socks from Nan, and two extra pair to send to his parents. He hiked on Western Head—a cold, blustery walk—first thing in the morning; neither Amy nor Ian had brought warm winter clothing, but they managed to dress themselves in layers. After their hike, Ian—who had heard people mention the art of hopping from ice pan to ice pan—went ‘tallying’, or ‘copying’ at Cape Onion while Amy video-taped the adventure. All-in-all, he had a good visit and enjoyed meeting people in the area.

When I flew to Toronto the week previous, I didn’t have it in my mind to encourage tourism or to meet someone named Grenfell; I just wanted to reconnect with old friends and to see the sights; the swarming, faceless crowds, the 401 freeway, the skyscrapers, and the malls. 

Perhaps it comes down to the old maxim; the grass is always greener on the other side. I was itching for the faster pace of the city—for a while, at least—but people in Ottawa, Toronto, and Kingston are itching for the solitude and slower pace of Newfoundland, and they’re watching the commercials and they’re planning to come. By the time of my departure I had a good handful of people promising they’d be up to visit the area as soon as possible. 

The most intriguing part of the visit was meeting a man in Toronto, recently emigrated from England, whose father’s name was William Grenfell. We didn’t have time to establish the man’s possible connection to Sir Wilfred Grenfell, but the man had heard many years ago of Dr. Grenfell and has always wanted to meet someone from the St. Anthony area. Whether he’s related to Dr. Grenfell or not, he told me he is a former chef and, when he arrives, he will cook for us. What could be better

Whatever the draw is…whether it’s a desire to see something new, for historical purposes, or just my gift of the gab, people are drawn to the area. Hopefully we will see some of them this summer.   

Organizations: Marine Atlantic

Geographic location: Toronto, Northern Peninsula, Ottawa Kingston Moncton Newfoundland Goose Bay Deer Lake Ship Cove Ontario Happy Valley Grand Falls Corner Brook Twillingate Western Head Cape Onion England St. Anthony

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