Marg hardly slept the night before we left, and the excited grin hardly left her face when I picked her up from work. At long last, we were finally on our way. Marg drove across Canada over three years ago to start a new life with a fresh start in Victoria. Like many of her fellow Newfoundlanders, the prospect of a better career (and warmer winters) drew her away from this beautiful land. This would be the first time she returned home since she packed up her little blue Saturn and headed for Port-aux-Basques for the ferry to the
Since we were flying on Airmiles, our trip began with a ferry to Tsawwassen. The connections through Victoria Airport just wouldn’t work, and with my mom living 5 minutes from the ferry terminal it was just as easy to fly out of Vancouver. We had a while before our 11:00 flight, so we went and had a beer with my Dad who was just getting off work in Ladner, and then off to the Airport.
The flight was easily one of the smoothest, most comfortable I had ever been on. Scarcely a bump was felt on the very quick trip to Toronto, where we found our connection easily and less than eight hours after leaving Vancouver, I was treated to a glorious aerial view of the cliffs behind the St. John’s airport upon our final approach.
Marg’s friend Jo-anne met us at the airport and drove us to her place where we’ve been staying. About 10 minutes outside of downtown St. John’s, it’s a great location to explore from. After traveling all night, and with the four hour four-and-a-half hour time change, I was dead tired when we got in and had to have a nap. Marg – not so much. She was so excited to be home that she scarcely took 15 minutes before getting up to visit with Jo-anne and her husband Corey. When I finally joined the land of the living a few hours later, I was informed we would be making a trip to famous George Street, an entertainment district with bars, pubs, restaurants and an outdoor stage in downtown St. John’s.
And visit George Street we did. Our first stop was The YellowBelly Brewery – a new brew pub at the foot of George. I love brew pubs, I don’t think there’s anything more authentic than to taste a beer that’s only brewed on site and not even available in bottles. We sampled their three offerings – Wexford Wheat, Fightin’ Irish Red Ale, and Yellow Belly Pale Ale. All were quite good, but I think their wheat could use a little work. Their St. John’s Stout was not available yet. Dinner was had at Jungle Jim’s – home of the gi-nourmous Hurricane drink, a tropical
concoction served in what almost looked like a fishbowl on a stem. Then we found The Rob Roy, whereupon I tasted two local bottled brews – Black Horse and Dominion Ale. Both brewed by Molson, I’m convinced they’re the same beer with a different label. Next up was Karaoke Kops – Where fun is the LAW. We got there early and got to sing a few songs before it got too busy. After that was O’Reilly’s – which I’d have to say was the most ‘authentic’ pub we visited. Traditional Newfoundland music and food, and a wonderful atmosphere – we’re to return there this evening.
We went to Cape Spear the next day, which is the most easterly point in North America.
There was a great old World War II-era batter and bunker there, which made for some really neat photos. One of the older lighthouses in Newfoundland is available for viewing, and of course makes for postcard-perfect pictures.
Yesterday we climbed Signal Hill, overlooking St. John’s Harbour. It was hot and humid – around 28 degrees, quite the difference from our cool Pacific coast. The hike from the Hill to Battery road was one of the most scenic hikes I’d ever done. I took lots of pictures, check them out on my Flickr page. After our hike we met up with more of Marg’s friends at Don Cherry’s. Side note, why the hell don’t we have one in B.C.? A sports bar/restaurant (duh), we went for the wings and nachos. Truly epic. This morning Marg made me work it all off with a 7 km run in the humid morning air.
I wrote the above a few days into the trip, and finally now have posted it… the narrative continues below:
We returned to Signal Hill the next day to visit the Geo Centre, which is a science centre which focuses on the unique and fascinating geology of the province of Newfoundland and Labrador which, I learned, has some of the oldest rocks in North America. I have always had a passing interest in rocks, so I was really interested in all of the exhibits they have there. It really is amazing how unique and varied the rocks that make up the rock are, as one travels across the province.
After the Geo Centre, we had sushi at Sun Sushi (not bad) and did a little shopping. Marg practically bought out the Downhome store, which carries all sorts of t-shirts, music, mugs, sou’westers, caps, and other Newfoundland paraphernalia. Her keen interest in all these somewhat toursisty souvenirs surprised me, since she used to live here, until she explained that you just can’t get this stuff back in B.C. and she wants to share her culture with the rest of our friends and my family. After experiencing the hospitality and genuine home-grown warmth of her friends and family over the past ten days, I think this must be a common trait among Newfoundlanders. Everyone I’ve met has been so excited to share their home and
their knowledge of all things Newfoundland with me, especially learning that it’s my first trip here.
The next few days were spent relaxing, and going for the odd run on the trails around St. John’s. I’ve met almost all of Marg’s friends now, and her mother. I’ve experienced George Street, and George Street Festival. We went to the Mount Pearl Glacier (an ice arena) and saw a couple of great local bands. Billy and the Bruisers are a 10-piece rock/pop/just about anything band complete with horn section and all sorts of percussion instruments. The Masterless Men have been a popular 6-member traditional Irish/Newfoundland band for the past decade and a half or so, and now I know why. They rarely play outside of Newfoundland, so seeing them was a real treat.
I was treated to a traditional Jigg’s Dinner, and tried cod tongues, which were tasty.
I learned that St. John’s has the only weather-dependent holiday in Canada. Regatta Day, which is the Annual Royal St. John’s Regatta, is only held if the weather is good. If the weather is bad, the holiday is cancelled, everyone goes to work, and the event is held the next nice day. Unfortunately for me, the Regatta was cancelled the last couple of days and today is the day we’re going to Port Union, to see Marg’s sister,
Corinne, get married.
My plans to blog regularly while I was away were stifled by a few different factors. I had trouble with my old wireless card for my laptop at the house we were staying at. By the time I got around to buying a new one, we’d accumulated so many pictures to upload, that all our computer time was taken doing that. Then we were staying at another house, where I had to “borrow” a very unreliable wireless connection which made the internet very frustrating if not impossible to use. Now, we’re going up to Port Union, to Marg’s parents, who do not have a computer, and thus no Internet. I have arranged for dial-up access (lol) but I don’t know if I’ll have the patience to actually use it. But, you can still follow me on Twitter for micro-updates, and friend me on Facebook for picture updates. Also check out my Flickr page for more photos.
I’ll update when I can over the next ten days – I’m expecting this last part of the trip to be the most interesting!
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