Tourists give N.L. two thumbs up

Gerry Phelan
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The tourism ads dazzle. They show things we often take for granted: icebergs, whales, majestic mountain gorges. And who can resist kids playing in windswept fields under a sky blanketed in blue, or families having special moments near scenic homes and multi-coloured clotheslines.

It portrays a different way of life, especially for those from crowded cities.

A few weeks ago, someone dared write a letter suggesting that perhaps all this stuff about Newfoundland and Labrador as the place to be, the place to see, was all guff.

I have to admit my initial thought was they may be right.

I’ve had some poor experiences on the tourist circuit during staycations. I’ve slept on beds in hotel rooms that might as well have been rock; one was so bad, we opted for the floor. At a popular restaurant, a summer lunch almost turned into supper; only one clerk was handling a cash register for what seemed like a busload of tourists; it was actually a local organization doing its monthly luncheon and paying individually. I’ve been overcharged and misled about promised services.   

I’ve had some great experiences, too. Kilmory Resort gave such personal attention I felt like family. A visit to the Lamaline area resulted in this stranger receiving supper invitations at three different houses.  

Still, the real test is when experienced travellers come here, and share their stories. This summer, several friends from away made stops in this place. One was a group of four. I asked them to let me have it, bluntly. How was the vacation?

Their reply was quick.

“We are missing ‘the Rock.’ Every one of us had a wonderful time. The weather wasn’t perfect but it was pretty darn good. The day we had at Cape St. Mary was absolutely perfect. Seeing the gannet colony was sensational. And the friendly people, all of the waitresses, the B&B hostesses, the whale sighting boat captains — just everyone — were just great.”

“After the people, there is a whole list of highlights:

“The wildlife. The puffins off Witless Bay were impressive in numbers and at Elliston we were able to come within about two metres of them.

“The scenery. The Skerwink trail near Port Rexton was fantastic, with its soaring cliffs and views over to Trinity. Trinity itself is a gem. We even bought a small etching of some of the houses in Trinity.

“St. John’s. Not only is the architecture striking, with the jelly bean houses and the nice old stone buildings, but the city is full of interesting places to see. We loved The Rooms! And places to eat, ranging from the funky Rocket restaurant to the extremely good food at Get Stuffed (highly recommended, and ask for Megan from Paradise to be your waitress — she’s terrific). The city is a wonderful blend of sophistication and downhome charm.

“The art. Of special mention has to be the arts and crafts scene in Newfoundland. We bought about $1,000 worth of art and craft objects because we just couldn’t resist. At the arts and crafts centre on Duckworth, at the Battery, at art galleries in St. John’s, Burin, Grand Bank, Port Rexton and Quidi Vidi, we loaded up! We had to carry the precious objects onto the plane but one of the paintings was too big for that so it had to go in the hold, marked ‘very fragile.’ Fortunately, the gallery in Port Rexton had wrapped it extremely well so it arrived home safely.

“We travelled about 1,850 kilometres in our rented car, and even then only covered a fraction of the island. Next time, and there certainly will be a next time soon, we will stay longer and come with our own car so that we can cover the whole island. That way, we’ll really let Newfoundland’s charm soak in.”

I’ll end with the final and most lasting tribute.

“On behalf of the four of us, thanks so much for contributing to our enjoyment of your wonderful homeland. Every Canadian owes it to themselves to see how great our easternmost province is.”

Thanks Neil! ’Nuff said.  

Gerry Phelan is a journalist and former broadcaster. He can be reached


Organizations: Kilmory Resort, Grand Bank

Geographic location: Newfoundland and Labrador, Port Rexton, Trinity Lamaline Witless Bay

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Recent comments

  • Kirby
    August 16, 2013 - 14:10

    Well I guess David and Don II will never be coming back to Newfoundland, pity! I would be interested in knowing the places that they would highly recommend! Maybe NYC, Paris, London or even Tokyo! Or maybe they prefer a very fine beach like in Hawaii, or Florida, or The Great Barrier Reef! Sorry but our Newfoundland (and never forget Labrador) can't do what these very fine places do but neither can these very fine places do what we do. Oh I have no doubt there is lots of room for improvement! And I am sure every tourist operator in Newfoundland will sit down after the dust settles to assess what needs to be done to get better. Now we could talk to the whales and puffins and try to convince them to work a little harder to please next year. And we all know too well that our weather can be fickle at best. Now if we want crashing waves then we simply must have gale force winds. God knows if we want fresh produce for our restaurants that MA must have ferries that work at least for the summer months. And we've spoken with the moose union any number of times but it seems they have a mind of their own. But I will acknowledge one thing for certain! It is long overdue that we do something very seriously about all the garbage and litter that is all over our fair province.

    • david
      August 16, 2013 - 15:27

      Though your post doesn't warrant any response, I will clarify one issue: I am well travelled, and I am educated. If that bothers you or makes you self-conscious, I make no apologies. Newfoundland is what it is, not matter what you or the government would prefer it to be, or even genuinely thinks it to be. Neither buying a pretty TV ad nor throwing a defensive tantrum doesn't change reality.

    • John L
      August 30, 2013 - 09:43

      Oh please David. This exchange is all in fun. I'm one in the party of four mentioned in Mr. Phelan's piece who thoroughly enjoyed my two-week visit, and I'm a Yank, no less. For sure (God willing), I'm coming back to re-visit and to explore some more. And thank you Newfoundlanders for you generosity and hospitality during our wrenching 9/11/01 crisis. You did Canada proud. By the way, here's a toast to the tasty QV IPA. This, as part of the overall NL context, declares "You've tried the rest, now buy the best!" (I hope this last comment is not deemed to be inappropriate organizational product plugging. I'm not an organization. One sultry afternoon in Trinity as a senior septuagenarian, I simply enjoyed this particular brewski. Yum.)

  • Don II
    August 16, 2013 - 12:00

    Thanks to The Telegram for publishing Davids comments. Congratulations David for telling it like it is and exposing the tourism hype for what it actually is, Government propaganda and pure Bullsh.....shucks! They old guard Government cronies have already started running you down to the dirt and soon they will be telling you to shut up or leave "da Hiland" or else. How does it feel to be deemed an enemy of the State? Great isn't it! Sometimes the media will not publish my comments. I am regularly accused of causing controversy in our great Province and for being too negative or for exposing too many carefully hidden Government secrets. I guess some people would rather I just stayed quiet like the rest of the sheep. I would like to know how difficult it was to obtain a rental car in Newfoundland and what it would cost to travel 1,850 Kilometers around Newfoundland. The tourism propaganda answer is: Just book far in advance,maybe a year or two ahead, ask for the less popular make and model of car, use a credit card that gives you bonus points or free kilometers deals on rented cars and buy your overpriced gas at a discount on Thursdays. No problem. All will be well. Just try calling CAA if you blow a tire or an engine anywhere outside of the major centers along the TCH! Oh, and watch out for the moose on the highways, they make terrible hood ornaments and can really mess up a cars paint job! Keep up the good work!

  • Jean Knowles
    August 16, 2013 - 10:54

    This letter is very much in line with what most visitors to this province experience if they come here with open minds and don't mind smiling from time to time. As for the "other" letter that appeared recently, quite frankly I'm convinced that it was a fake. First, the signature was "Gene Poole". Either the writer's parents had a cruel sense of humour or it's a pseudonym. Second, it was filled with the kind of whining, petty complaints that we ourselves tend to do oh, so well about NL but that visitors seldom bother to engage in; from the tone of David's letter, it's much more likely to have been written by him than by a traveller. I've been bringing visitors to this province since the early 1980s, and their response is overwhelmingly positive -- so much so that many return for further exploration of this beautiful and unique place.

  • david
    August 16, 2013 - 08:41

    You hear stories about how these shallow, dim-witted Hollywood-types surround themselves with a 'posse' of people whose job it is to compliment how gorgeous they are, that they're the most wonderfully talented person, and that everything about them is sooooo great. For awhile, they're stinking rich and popular. But eventually, their tlack of talent is exposed, the public tires of them, their careers start to go downhill, the posse dwindles, they spiral out of control and end up in rehab or worse. Newfoundland is the Hanna Montana of tourism.

  • david
    August 16, 2013 - 07:19

    Question: If this place is so great, why do people here have such thin-skins about rational, well-founded criticism that they need to ridicule and reject it? If this place is so self-evidently great, where does this universal, defensive, thin-skinned attitude come from? The answer is simple: we know its true and we just refuse to hear it...which is why it will never get better.

    • JP
      August 16, 2013 - 08:39

      Clearly David has not learned one of the most important of life's lessons - If you can't say anything good then don't say anything at all!

    • david
      August 16, 2013 - 10:52

      Yes...keep the illusion going. That's the introspection, no review, no conversation for improvement......just keep lying through your teeth. That's best. Like a Ponzi scheme, how could it possibly fail?!

    • Jean
      August 16, 2013 - 11:18

      It's curious that you seem to have the same attitude towards praise of NL. Why the bitterness and negativity? Why refuse to listen to what's good about this place?

    • david
      August 16, 2013 - 15:40

      Jean: Newfie cheerleaders are in incredible oversupply. And you'd prefer even more. Exhibit B.