My mom grew up in Brigus, a beautiful little fishing village in Newfoundland.
As a smart Catholic girl in Brigus, Mom’s career options were nurse or nun. She choose nursing school and started dating boys stationed at the Royal Canadian Air Force base in nearby Torbay. That’s how she met my dad (originally from the big city of Montreal).
Long story short… they married, settled in Nova Scotia, and had two daughters. Thus the origin of our annual pilgrimages to Brigus.
Legend has it that when my sister was a baby she made her first trip nestled in a laundry basket in the backseat of the old yellow Volkswagen Beetle. Ahhh, 1971… no five-point harnesses back in those days!
These journeys were epic to my young self. The drive from Halifax to North Sydney is over 40o km and takes about five hours.
From North Sydney, we’d catch the overnight car ferry to Argentia, Newfoundland. This is a 520 km crossing that takes 14 hours and only runs mid-June to late September when weather permits.
My sister suffers from extreme motion sickness, sometimes it was hard for her to smile for the obligatory pictures.
For some reason, we always seemed to be wearing matching outfits.
The next day it was just a hop, skip, and an hour drive from the ferry to Grandma’s house. We just had to keep an eye out for moose on the highway.
My sister and I would spend our time playing with feral kittens and roaming the green cliffs over the harbour, looking for icebergs.
I have intense visceral memories from these visits. The smell of my grandmother’s country store… the taste of blood pudding and toutons for breakfast… the feel of a hot day touched by a cold ocean wind… the sound of capelin rolling on the beach…
And man, I LOVED those ferry trips!
Did your family make any annual pilgrimages?
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We used to do an annual trip to Kitchener-Waterloo in Ontario (where my mom grew up). My Baba’s place was across the street from the Labatt brewery, and I still get a flood if memories everytime I smell that peculiar fermenting odour.
I don’t get back there nearly enough.
My kids will probably end up feeling that way about the Ben’s bakery smell!
I didn’t know you had a Baba… From which Eastern European country? I used to want to have a Baba! I thought “Grandma” was too boring.
My mother is from a Macedonian-Greek family (she was born near a place called Kastoria), so we had a mix of Greek, Massie, and other Balkan influences in the family.
Lots of baklava 🙂
Ah yes, that’s all ringing a distant bell. Mmmmm… baklava!
The caplin memory is one I have as well – it was so amazing to see the entire shoreline just COVERED in their glistening bodies when they rolled in. The whole town would have a big ol’ scoff the night it happened, every year. Just beautiful. Brigus is beautiful, you’re lucky to get to visit! If you ever miss it, turn on Republic of Doyle (if you can), Jake and the clan make their way out to Brigus quite frequently 🙂 xo
Do the capelin still roll in like that? So many of them, I mean. Such an amazing thing. And so delish! I haven’t been back to Brigus since my Grandmother died. I miss it so I’ll definitely have to try to catch the Republic of Doyle. Thanks for the tip. 🙂
You should make a trip back as soon as you’re able – the ocean air is good for the soul! The Caplin, I fear, no longer roll in like that. It’s been many a year since I’ve made it back to the small-town of my youth… My Nan relocated, and now whenever I go home I stop in around Grand-Falls and never go farther… Next summer I hope to make the trek back to Virgin Island and check on the Caplin. I’ll let you know! 🙂
Don’t you worry, I know the ocean is good for the soul… I live in Halifax so it is never far away!
GOD BLESS YOUR HEART for saying “North Sydney.”
Did you hear that Amazing Race Canada? The ferry leaves from NORTH SYDNEY.
Glad you wrote novel today!
I was thinking of you and The Amazing Race Canada when I wrote it!
We are neighbors and I never knew this! Wow, small world! Your blog brought back so many memories for me! I went to school from grades 2 – 10 in Torbay and spent much time on the beach catching caplin and letting them swim around my legs. And nothing, NOTHING says home to me like the smell of homemade bread and the taste of toutons and blood puddings! 🙂
Perhaps we were frolicking in the capelin together! I love how we don’t even try to hide what blood pudding is made of… Like those British wusses who call it black pudding, pshaw! 😉 Blood and guts, baby!
Such a great blog, Stephanie. Really enjoyed it.
Thanks Meghan! I wrote some book today too. 🙂