Best pics of Newfoundland Blizzard 2013


“Cold and wet. Nothing a cup of tea and dry socks won’t cure!”

That’s the sentiment a day after a big blizzard in St. John’s closed the city down. On Friday January, 10th, 2013, the power went out for the whole day as the winter storm with wind speeds topping 110 km/h dumped from 25 to 55 cm of snow on the Avalon. Reports say it’s the worst storm in 7 years. But around here, it’s no big deal.

And that’s why I live here. No drama, sensationalism, or fear-mongering.

“It’s winter, and we live in the middle of the Atlantic – what are you expecting?”

Here’s how to deal with a blizzard in Newfoundland.

Some people see this as an obstacle.

snowstorm in Newfoundland blocks the door.

Others see it as an opportunity.


blizzard fridge


Shouldn’t be too much longer…

(This great shot from made it onto CBC.)

newfoundland turkey cooks over tealights during a power failure


Dude, where’s my car?

(crtsy Steve Halley)

car covered by snow, Newfoundland blizzard 2013





Climb to the back door…


I listened to Frankie, and stayed indoors.


Then I ventured out Friday at about 2 pm to catch these pics.
Owly Images

Owly Images

Thanks for the photos. If I haven’t credited the photos properly, let me know.

Car Rental St. John’s Newfoundland

Renting A Car in St. John’s, NL

Here’s your tip: BOOK EARLY!! Renting a car in Newfoundland in the summer can be frustrating.

St. John’s Airport

Avis Rent A Car – St. John’s Airport
+1 (800) 879 2847
View Website

Budget Car Rental
1 (800) 268 8900

View Website

Hertz Car Rentals – St. John’s Airport
1 (800) 263 0600

Near the mall

Capital Car
120 Kenmount Road, St. John’s
(709) 726 7111

Dollar Rent A Car
497 Kenmount Road, St. John’s
1 (800) 800 4000

Thrifty Car Rental
278 Kenmount Road, St. John’s
1 (800) 563 8411
View Website

St. John’s West

Discount Car & Truck Rentals
709 Topsail Road, St. John’s
1 (800) 263 2355

909 Topsail Road, Mount Pearl, NL
1 (800) 239 7990
View Website

Mount Pearl – The suburbs, just southwest of St. John’s
Enterprise Rent-a-car
Mount Pearl
1 (800) 325 8007
View Website

National Car Rental
St. John’s
1 (800) 387 4747
View Website

Whale Watching Newfoundland

Including Whale watching videos!
Whale Watching Newfoundland
Creative Commons License photo credit: cgreb

I am finally going whale watching this year. I have a car and I can almost drive it. Please note, driving a standard in the hilly town of St. John’s is mighty scary. Please stay back if you see me.

I know nothing about whales, but this is what I have gathered from all the literature I am reading, or by talking to people I have met and asking them questions, which, as Ms Judith Keenan  ( book trailer guru ) will tell you, is my fave thing to do.)

At least 15 species of whales will come by in the spring and summer months to feed in the Newfoundland waters. They are coming up after spending their winters down south where they calve – and they are arriving hungry. The humpbacks (not sure about the other species) haven’t eaten all winter, so they are coming up to feed off the capelin (caplin) – a small smelt-like fish which lives in plentiful numbers off Newfoundland’s coast.

The reason we see whales more often in the spring and early summer off Newfoundland’s Avalon coast is that the whales are close to shore. They are following the capelin, and the capelin have come in to shore to “roll.”

The capelin roll is quite a site I am told, as millions of fish “roll in” with the waves and onto the beaches to spawn. The waves are literally made of fish and it is common for people to be on the beach with buckets and rubber boots, ready to snap them up for a fish-fry meal.

That is if the whales don’t get them first. Here’s a humpback caught on video only 30 feet from shore at Middle Cove Beach – just 15 minutes away from downtown St. John’s. Middle cove is a popular spot for bonfires and picnics for St. John’s residents, and the capelin roll here too.

As for when the capelin roll – it’s usually  mid-June to mid-July but last year they didn’t roll until August 2009.

The humpbacks will continue north, following the capelin, and once fed and full, will swim out into the ocean, farther away from shoreline and camera’s view, to return back to their winter birthing grounds.

But while they are here, you may have encounters such as this one while kayaking with humpbacks in Mobile, Newfoundland, Canada. Yes, I believe “Holy shit” is the proper expression to say if one of these surfaced near your kayak.

Here are some of the whale species that you might see here in Newfoundland.

Minke Whales – arrive earliest in the season, they are here by June, and also leave the earliest. Minkes are very shy and unpredictable and smaller than the Humpbacks and Fins.

This is a baleen whale. Baleen is the stuff that hangs in place of upper teeth in this type of whale’s mouth – think Finding Nemo. The whales feed by filtering fish through these long fibrous plates. Here’s an interesting fact – baleen was once one of the products that made whaling hunting so profitable – it’s a hard yet flexible fibrous substance and was used as the “stays” in Victorian corsets and early bras – to keep women nice and rigid. I used to work at the Ontario Science Centre, where we had a piece of baleen on display at the Health and Beauty demonstration. We would corset up volunteers good and tight, to make sure they weren’t “loose.”

Back to whales. A Minke will average about 16 feet long, is the smallest baleen whale, and will not show its tail when diving. You can see them from the shore in the summer and fall as they feed on capelin, herring and mackerel.

Here’s a minke seen by a whale watching group in Bay Bull’s Newfoundland.

Humpback Whales - arrive from the Caribbean in the early spring to feed. They can be spotted mid-June to mid-November and arrive super hungry. Humpback whales are huge and can grow to 50 feet long and weigh up to 40 tons.

Here’s a video of a humpback showing off his tail (in Bay Bulls again.)

The humpback, like the minke, is also a baleen whale, eating up to 2 tons of fish and planktonic crustaceans a day, in 2 to 4 meals.

Humpbacks are the bales that breach – that’s the word for used for when whales jump out of the water and crash on their sides. No one knows why whales breach – some think it’s a way to get barnacles and parasites off their hides.

Some think the whales are actually “showing off” and many people I’ve spoken to said that they’re sure they are doing that – breaching multiple times if a boat is near.

Fin slapping is another popular whale activity. Though you may not see them breach, you may see the Humpbacks slap their flippers on the surface, roll over, and play.

Humpbacks are also the whales who show off big fan tails when they dive.

Fin Whales are the second biggest whale after the Blue Whale and will arrive late July. These are less acrobatic, but at 80-feet long, they will outsize most tour boats. A fin whale’s back is black and its underside is white. Their blows are high and straight – reaching 20 feet. They travel in groups of 2 – 8, are fast swimmers and are generally a bit farther off shore.

These whale watchers get so close to a fin whale they are rendered speechless for a few seconds.

The Pilot whale is Newfoundland’s only toothed whale. These whales thrive on the abundance of squid in the southeast coasts and like to travel in a pod. You’ll see pilot whales, known as potheads to locals, from early May through October.

Here’s a pod of pilot whales chasing squid at King’s Point, NL

The Harbour Porpoise - is the smallest of the whales and is called a “puffin pig” locally because of the grunting sound it makes while breathing. Usually seen alone or in small groups of 3 to 5 playing and spinning amongst each other.

It’s skin is dark grey on the back and speckled white underneath with a rounded head with no beak. The shy animals are listed as “threatened” on the Canadian Endangered Species List.

You might also spot an Orca – in fact the 1977 eco-cult film Orca was filmed in Newfoundland. These whales travel in pods and can be spotted year round.

Orcas have teeth and are predatory animals – they hunt seals, salmon and other large fish and may even attack other whales including the much larger fins and humpbacks. They are very curious and will often come quite close to a boat – like these orcas din in Quirpon, NL. More “Holy Shit.”

Other whales you might see are the occasional Beluga or Sperm Whale, though these are less common.

Excited yet? Here are a few companies that will take you whale watching.

Stay tuned for my whale watching newfoundland report.

Lobster in a Tank

Lobster in a tank

Lobster in a tank. Handsome little guy.

Sobey’s has a great aquarium stocked full of lobster making lobster portrait taking super easy. This was taken with my new Canon A2000 IS point and shoot. The camera boasts 6 times optical zoom, but yesterday I was enamoured with the macro settings.

Lobster was a ridiculous $6.99 a pound this weekend at the store! Not sure if it’s Newfoundland lobster or Nova Scotia lobster…most of the fish the giant superstore carries is from Nova Scotia I was told.

Which reminds me of a conversation I had a few months ago at the sane fish shop. I was checking out a flounder up close, because I find them fascinating. Flounders are like halibut – these fish start out normally, symmetrical, but slowly during adolescence one eye starts to migrate to the other side of its head until both the eyes are on the same side. Then the fish turns on its side, sinks to the bottom and becomes a bottom feeder, it’s two eyes now at the top of its head, which was formerly a cheek.

Since I, raised in landlocked Toronto, had never seen one, I had my nose pressed up to the glass, checking out the Picasso-esque nature of the fish, when I sparked the interest of the woman working the counter. I remarked to her how wild I thought it was that the fish started out normally, but by the time they grew up, they came out all crazy like that.

She returned my comment with a deadpan, “yep, like most of the people in my family.”

Newfoundland humour. I loves it.

Newfoundland Bed And Breakfast On The East Coast Trail

Newfoundland bed and breakfast Kay's Chalet has a Gazebo

Newfoundland bed and breakfast Kay's Chalet Gazebo.

Now’s the time to start planning your Newfoundland vacation. Newfoundland has many charms and delightful attractions – enough to lure this Torontonian away permanently.

One of these delights is Kay Williams, who runs the Newfoundland Bed And Breakfast Kay’s Chalet B&B.

I met Kay last year as she graciously offered to host us in her cabin for a few nights. The “us” was filmmaker and pilgrim Sue Kenney who was in town for the St. John’s film festival to promote her film “Women Who Walk” that was screening there. Sue and her walking friends were hiking to St. John’s via the East Coast Trail and for 4 days Kay wined and dined us in her gorgeous country cabin. We’re now fast friends and I can’t wait to get back out there for that sing-a-long with Kay and her friend and assistant Jean.

There is plenty of fun to be had for the whole family at this Newfoundland Bed and Breakfast. The lakefront Bed and Breakfast offers a stunningly picturesque view of Hell Hill Pond, which is perfect for swimming and boating in the summer.

Kay's Chalet Newfoundland bed and breakfast

Kay’s Chalet Bed & Breakfast and Pond Side Tea Garden is located on the Southern shore of the Avalon peninsula, just 40 minutes south of St. John’s. It’s close to many of Newfoundland’s world famous attractions:

  • the famous East Coast Trail which offers superb hiking trails and stunning views.
  • the accommodations are close to all the attractions on the famous scenic drive called the “Irish Loop”
  • is just 2.2 km. from La Manche Park Entrance.
  • minutes away from whale watching and iceberg sitings,
  • nature lovers will delight bird watching and in theWitless Bay Ecological Reserve
  • sea kayaking, fishing, hiking, snowshoeing for the outdoorsy types
  • the area boasts archaelogical digs and historic sites, and picnics at lighthouses,
  • golfing, wonderful restaurants. theatres, local crafts and more.

pondside garden at the Newfoundland bed and breakfast

Your stay at Kay’s includes superb accommodation, a delicious authentic Newfoundland breakfast, plus a dinnertime snack of home made regional specialties.

Tucked away in a wooded setting, this log-style cabin is the perfect spot for hikers, honeymooners, or hammock-lovers – indeed anyone who would like to relax and enjoy the warmth and generosity of Newfoundland’s famous hospitality.

Driving the Irish Loop? Stop by for some tea and partridgeberry muffins at the Pond side Garden.

To book your stay call (709) 687-4643 or Email Kay to inquire about the hiker’s package.

More info and photos on the website - Newfoundland Bed And Breakfast

Newfoundland Winter

Newfoundland Winter - The view from my window.

Newfoundland Winter - The view from my window.

What’s a Newfoundland winter like? Well, I am not even one full month into winter if you count December 21 as the first day of winter. But from what I’ve heard this has been a good one so far, as there was hardly any snow. Up until now.

This is a pic from Monday Jan. 12 after a particularly pretty snow fall. It was light and fluffy, and did one of those excellent blanketing jobs.

Today, with a winter warning effect, is going to be “some different.”

That’s the expression I have picked up first: adding the word “some” in front of nouns to describe things – like that’s some pie. And that’s some beard you have got growing there.

I like this “some” thing.

I don’t like how hard it is to get around in the city during winter. It is some hard. More on that later.

Berry Picking on Signal Hill

Frozen partridgeberries and squashberries

Frozen partridgeberries and squashberries

Berry Picking is a big deal in Newfoundland. I have never heard the words berry picking mentioned as often as I have since I moved to Newfoundland. In fact, the number of times I have heard the words “berry picking” during the months of August and September alone is easily three times the total number of times I have heard them pronounced in my lifetime.

What is even more fascinating is that berry picking is always mentioned here with reverence and total appreciation. Thus I learned that berry picking is regaled in Newfoundland.

Not so in Ontario. The last few times I had heard the phrase in Ontario it was uttered always with a scowl on the face with one hand placed on the lower back – this being due to the pain of being bent over for so long, and the scrubbing time spent trying to  the berry stains out of the kids clothes.

“There were more berries on the kids than there were in the baskets.” That’s what we say in Ontario.

But here, the very mention of the words berry picking lights up people’s faces. Adult faces beam with delight and become all childlike and dewey. It’s quite delightful.

And, as it turns out everyone’s either gone berry picking at least once, or are on their way. A few charmed lucky ones have been gifted a carton of hand-pint or two of blueberries, picked bright and early by some generous morning person.

In fact, even I went berry picking this summer. It turns out this isn’t hard to do at all. All you have to do is go up to Signal Hill where the  wild blueberries grow.

It was a gorgeous summer day the day I decided to skip “the office” and make my way up the hill. A perfect summer day one might say. I had never walked up the hill, and fancying myself not too unfit as I had just got my second degree black belt a few months earlier, I was quite a bit shocked at the searing burning pain in my calves a third of the way up the hill. It was so bad that I had to take frequent “let’s admire the view in order for me to catch my breath and for the pain to subside enough so that I could continue.

It was harder to get rid of the the ego pain that came when a man clearly in his seventies whipped by me, and breezed to the top.

At about the halfway mark up Signal hill, you could start seeing the berry pickers. Some old, some young, a dads with his itsy bitsy daughter holding a bright green pail half her size.

I was letting the calf pain burn off while I was looking at a map of the hill’s trails when a nice couple with a few pints of berries came by. In usual Newfoundland fashion, they struck up a conversation and inquired if I needed some help. I told them no, it would be the first of many walks up there – pant – and that I was just familiarizing myself – wheeze – with the trails before picking a few berries of my own.

They told me that the blueberries were abundant, the partridge berries weren’t ripe yet and to be careful with my footing. It’s a craggy mountain  – that hill is  – and you have to mind where you are going.

Then the mister recounted how once while picking berries on Signal hill he slipped and tumbled about 30 feet before finally coming to a halt. His wife in a panic peered down to where he lay and hollered that he’d  “better not have spilled any of them berries.”

Berries are that big a deal.

Yesterday I finally made it to Bidgood’s in the Goulds. Though not mentioned as often as berry picking, I have heard Bidgood’s mentioned numerous times by various locals – enough times to peak this food lover’s fancy. I also just love the name the Goulds. I just love food, and Bidgood’s is a little treasure.

I skipped the seal flipper pie this time, but did load up on some ridiculously cheap frozen wild berries. Blueberries of course, and then a tub of brightly coloured squash berries.

Um. What do you do with a tub of squashberries? Man those are some tart berries.

Please send recipes.

The St. John’s Harbour Bustles

Le Grand Bleu is docked in St. John\'s October 2008

Despite all the bustle, the St. John’s harbour is still a popular place to take a leisurely stroll, especially on a warm October Sunday.

Strollers aren’t the only visitors to the harbour. The big boats come too. Here is Le Grand Bleu. The yacht is one of the 10 largest in the world and was reputedly given to Eugene Shvidler by friend Russian billionaire Roman Abramovich in 2006.

She was docked in the St. John’s harbour the end of September and early October, and rumour has it, she came there to host Elton John who was performing at Mile One Stadium.

I’m not going to display all her statistics, as a Google search will do that, but yup – that’s a 74-foot sailboat on deck. The other side of the deck is for the 67-foot speedboat. Usually there is a helicopter on board too.

Here’s a nice note to this otherwise ostentatious display of wealth. Le Grand Bleu is the first private yacht to receive an Environmental Protection Notation from Lloyd’s, certifying that she complies with stringent voluntary guidelines to control pollution.

To see a bit more of Le Grand Bleu, here is a video I made as BABS!, a videographer for, a site geared towards creating a strong filmmaking community in Newfoundland. BABS! is their emerging filmmakers poster child.

Le Grand Bleu appears at around the 2 minute mark.