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MARTHA MUZYCHKA: Twillingate’s magic swept over me

Twillingate at dusk — Martha Muzychka photo
Twillingate at dusk — Martha Muzychka photo

For me, the magic moment happened quietly on a beach outside Twillingate.

The moment I’m talking about ought to happen in every vacation. You don’t see it ahead of time, and you may not even know it when it’s happening, but you feel the glow as soon as you recognize it.

It’s the moment you know you are well and truly relaxed. The moment when all seems right with the world, when all the mundane cares of the regular world are far from your mind, when your body feels a sense of ease.

At that particular moment, I was on a small beach on one of the connected islands that make up Twillingate, slowly looking for sea glass, or as I see it, little bits of wonder.

Twillingate, I am embarrassed to say, was new to me. I know parts of the province quite well and I’ve been fortunate enough to travel across Labrador for work, but there are still places left to explore. For our vacations, we’ve wandered through lots of corners, though we’ve found comfort in returning to some delightful places we know well again and again.

But I had never been to Twillingate, and it had been many years since my husband had been there, and it would also be a new discovery for our son.

We went in late August — long after the icebergs that define the town’s appeal had come and gone. The whales had also moved on by then, despite our best efforts to spot them.

No matter. We were delighted by the whole experience.

One of the first things we learned is how much tourism has come to influence Twillingate. We were aware of this before we arrived, but it was something else to be there, even well after peak season.

Signs everywhere promote attractions, excursions and places to get a feed of fish. Every other house seems to be a B&B. There are craft shops, high-end coffee shops, a brew pub and a winery. There’s tourism infrastructure in Twillingate that other areas of the province would be wise to study. If you ask for a recommendation on any activity, someone is willing to share their favourites.

We learned that there are more than 30 different places to get something to eat in Twillingate and surrounding towns, which is pretty incredible.

On our first evening, we went for a walk, only to find ourselves sprinkled by rain. Refreshing, we thought, up until the moment the skies opened fully and a deluge descended upon us. Even before the rain had hit peak fall, we were squared away in a restaurant, ordering our dinner and chatting with the staff. We learned that there are more than 30 different places to get something to eat in Twillingate and surrounding towns, which is pretty incredible. (We saw a framed touism clipping from a Toronto newspaper from the early 1990s, which counted a half-dozen restaurants, mostly fish and chips.)

Like many outports, Twillingate has had a devastating time in recent decades. The 1991 census, taken the year before the cod moratorium, recorded a population of 3,570 on Twillingate Island. In the 2016 census, that figure was 2,585.

The fishery is still there, albeit smaller. There were longliners on the wharf and a retired fisherman told us about his relatives who were far offshore, and not expected back for days. But tourism seems to be the life of the community, at least at this time of year. We ate well, slept comfortably, walked everywhere and met lots of people.

On a boat tour, we met an athlete from South Africa who felt compelled to visit after a competition in Montreal. We met an older couple from Wisconsin who were travelling our coastlines. In guestbooks, we saw signatures from across Canada and from around the world.

Our journey was not nearly so long. The amenities we found are all lovely, but it was the coastline in the end that won my heart. There’s a wildness to Twillingate — and I don’t mean the polar bear in Durell’s museum— that stays with you long after your return home.

Martha Muzychka is a writer looking forward to planning next summer’s adventures. Email [email protected]


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