Newfoundland - Rain has been flirting with us all morning. As we drive along the traffic-free Baccalieu Trail, a familiar vision keeps reappearing on signposts: a bearded sailor in sunshine-yellow rain gear.
This is the icon that symbolizes the Baccalieu Trail, "baccalieu" being a variation on "bacalao," the Spanish word for codfish. Seeing the sailor flash by every few kilometres reassures me that my amateur navigating skills will indeed get us to Brigus, on the Avalon Peninsula. A visit has been highly recommended by many Newfoundlanders who claim it's one of the province's prettiest communities.
No glaring signs welcome us to Brigus, so we miss the cutoff. Looping back, we spot a dainty green sign with the word "Brigus" painted in yellow - it's no larger than a loaf of bread. The main road suddenly narrows into a lane, where we're sandwiched between 19th-century stone houses, some with white picket fences and freshly painted flower boxes overflowing with colourful pansies.
There are hints of agricultural commerce on the lawn of one large clapboard house: handpainted signs for fresh blueberries, blueberry crumble and other blueberry delights. Possibly because of the heavy rain, there's not a human being in sight. The little we've seen of Brigus looks like an abandoned set for a film based on a Jane Austen novel.
Before looking around, we want some breakfast, but every single store and restaurant is closed. We finally seek refuge in the Country Corner, the only open establishment. A salty cod chowder hooks us by the nostrils as we step into the quiet gift shop. The restaurant seems to be tucked into the back of the building, forcing us to walk past every single display of pottery, knitwear and postcards.
Instead of the greasy diner of my dreams, we arrive in a peach-and-pink-striped eating lounge. A soft-spoken woman with a thick lilt greets us from behind an ice cream counter. She informs us that she doesn't serve breakfast, and suggests we head over to the North Street Café, which won't open until 11 am.
It's raining too hard to walk around outside, so we have no choice but to wait. We rummage through shelves of stuffed puffins and whales, T-shirts and knick-knacks of every sort. My hunger goes into fifth gear at the sight of gleaming jars of jelly.
We finally head out into the rain and meander toward the café, noticing that everything about this town down to the last detail is quaint - even the street signs, which are ornate pieces of wood painted porcelain-white, each street name in perfect black calligraphy.
To our delight, the words Today's Menu gleam from a sandwich board (which wasn't out when we drove by earlier). The limited but eclectic Newfoundland specialties sound delicious. We shuffle past the screen door into a window-lit teashop.
The owner, a jolly woman in a freshly pressed apron, greets us from behind her antique cash register. She points to the communal menu on a chalkboard behind us, and with a chef's pride informs us that her scalded cream is fresh and that she makes her own partridgeberry jam.
We speed-read the menu and want to order everything: muffin, raisin bun, carrot cake, blueberry ginger cake with caramel sauce, scone with jam and fresh scalded cream, soup and roll, fish cakes, sandwiches, baked beans and toutons, and macaroni and cheese.
Later, our bellies full, we've visited Wilcox Gardens (one of Canada's Peace Parks), poked around the Hawthorne Cottage National Historic Site (once the home of Arctic explorer Captain Bob Bartlett) and are now simply enjoying the picturesque streets of this wonderful seaside town.