St. John’s, Canada
September 12, 2009
We awake to a beautiful sunny day for our tour of St John’s, built on a hill rising above the harbor, as are all of the coastal cities. Navigating through the streets has been quite tricky, encountering narrow one-way streets, streets that change name with each curve, limited signage, dead ends, steep hills and impatient drivers. We find the tourist office without incident and free parking on George Street. The woman in the tourist office is very friendly even offering to tell us her secret blueberry picking site, a fact she won’t even share with office mates. She explains the screech ceremony to become a “Newfoundlander” which is practiced some establishments, it involves downing a glass of their local beverage, screech, and kissing a cod or the backside of a Puffin, we will probably remain simple tourists.
We begin our foot tour at the waterfront; lo and behold one of the first sights is a sailboat with Seattle Washington across the stern. There was one fellow on board so we stop to say hello and find that the boat is associated with the Pacific Science Center, UW and NOAA on a 13-month voyage having left Seattle in early May crossing via the north passage to Newfoundland, having just arrived in St. John’s. They will continue their voyage down the east coast all the way to South America and then back up the west coast. They are providing meteorological data to NOAA and conducting research in many areas including on jellyfish. We wished him well on his voyage and continued on through the waterfront area to a lovely park overlooking the narrow entrance to the harbor. In the corner of the park George spotted a memorial to Terry Fox, the young man we mentioned earlier who started his cancer awareness run across Canada from this spot after dipping his foot into the waters of the Atlantic.
Almost to Signal Hill we decided to stop for lunch at a small restaurant, Zachary’s. We sampled local seafood and discovered an excellent handcrafted beer from the Quidi Vidi Brewery.
We walked back through a residential area with colorful homes, Newfoundland’s version of “the painted ladies” of San Francisco. We stopped in an Anglican church originally built in 1699, destroyed twice by fire in the French wars and ultimately rebuilt out of local stone. The arched columns were made of Scottish stone brought over as ballast in the sailing ships. The main structure of the church withstood one more fire in the late 1800’s losing only the wooden roof. Once again it was rebuilt, as was most of St. John’s as “The Great Fire” destroyed most of the town.
At the end of town stands Signal Hill National Historic Site with Cabot Tower dominating the summit. The hill served as a defensive point protecting the narrow entrance to St. John’s Harbor. Cabot Tower was build on the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s discovery of Newfoundland and was later the site where Marconi achieved the first transatlantic wireless communication. Today the hill serves as a stunning overlook of St. John’s, the harbor and to the east Cape Spear and beyond.
On the north side of Signal Hill sits Quidi Vidi Village and the Quidi Vidi Brewery. It is a small picturesque cove offering a scenic spot to enjoy traditional ale originally handcrafted in 1890 and still mighty tasty after all these years.
September 13, 2009
As forecast a gray day but our drive north of St. John’s, along the Avalon Peninsula to Pouch Cove, was pleasant and unhurried through small communities. Rounding a curve and dropping into the village of Pouch Cove the small, narrow and rocky cove created a dramatic backdrop for the town with the sea crashing into the rocks. A viewpoint at the cove revealed a wooden ramp leading up from the water with small boats that had been winched into position, one behind the other awaiting launch and their next outing into the not so friendly looking sea. I cannot begin to imagine the dangers faced by these fishermen everyday but after seeing some of the precarious conditions first hand I will certainly think of them with more reverence as I enjoy my fish and chips.
Continuing on to Middle and Outer Cove along the Killick Coast Scenic Route more dramatic scenery made more so with the wind whipped waves crashing against the rock shores. Even with the overcast the colors of the water were shades of turquoise to dark blue, it was beautiful.