I am not a fan of cities. I don’t know why. If they are very old I go to take pictures of the architecture, cathedrals, castles, etc. Places like Lisbon, Barcelona, Seville, London, Porto, Athens, etc.
But St. John’s surprised me. Maybe because it’s not too large? I don’t know.
There’s quite a bit to do in and around the city. I especially liked exploring just uphill from the downtown area (Water St and Duckworth St) looking for “jelly bean houses.” These are row houses wherein each one is painted a different color. Early in the morning it was cloudy and foggy but I remembered where they were in order to return to grab shots with blue sky and sunlight (if it cleared up enough today.) If not, I could return tomorrow. The good thing about being here on the weekend is that parking is free downtown. Just be sure not to park in the lots that require permits or streetside parking requiring same.
Headed out by 7:30 in order to get to a restaurant a couple of folks crowed to me about: The Celtic Hearth. It reminds me of the Magnolia Cafe in Austin where people who had partied all night would go there for breakfast.
I get there and it is a bit dark inside and I see a woman sweeping the floors. I figured I’d need to be seated so I stood there for about a minute no more than 2 feet from her and she paid me no mind. I found that unusual so I went right up to her and said, “HI!” She glared at me and resumed sweeping THE CUSHIONS with the same broom she swept the floors. A waiter then showed up and I looked looked at him, looked at her and shook my head. Sitting away from her I ordered: two cods cakes (big!), two eggs, a pile a hash browns, 2 large slices of toast. $12. I could not finish it all.
When I paid I made it a point to tell the waiter what she’d done. His jaw dropped and he apologized. I will make sure to write this place up in TripAdvisor. Totally uncalled for.
Who knows? Maybe she’s the house’s “surly Irishwoman?”
Wandered around Water St. and Duckworth St. taking pictures. Also changed my ferry booking to two days earlier and am writing this up as I await the clouds to part.
It’s currently 2PM and I am back at the campground. No cloud parting anticipated just yet although the weather forecast calls for clearing later.
Got bored and headed out anyway to try my luck at about 4PM. Went up to Signal Hill to check out the scenery. It’s a steep climb and many cyclists were out and about. First thing you come to is the Interpretation Center and then you can drive or walk to Cabot Tower.
To the right of the Interpretation Centre is Gibbet Hill where, many years ago, the body of a hanged criminal, wrapped in chains, dangled as a chilling deterrent to potential law breakers.
At the head of the hill is Cabot Tower, built in 1897 to commemorate the 400th anniversary of the discovery of Newfoundland and the 60th year of Queen Victoria’s reign. Wander the grounds surrounding the tower to learn about the hills’ history. It was from a spot just below Cabot Tower that Guglielmo Marconi received the first transatlantic wireless signal on December 12, 1901, ushering in the modern world of telecommunications. Halfway up the hill is the Johnson Geo Centre, which explores the planet’s geology using examples from all over Newfoundland and Labrador. Outside paths and walkways with interpretive panels and displays, explain the geology, flora and fauna of the area.
In 1919, St. John’s was the starting point for the race to fly the Atlantic because of its proximity to Europe. Several crews tried, but the honour of the first non-stop flight went to Captain John Alcock and Lieutenant Arthur Whitten-Brown. Cabot Tower was the last North American landmark Charles Lindbergh saw on his solo flight to Paris in 1927. He flew right out through The Narrows, the aptly named inlet between the hills that connects the harbour to the ocean.
No joy on the sunshine, though. But now back at the campground, 3 miles away and it is partly sunny. I still hear the foghorn from here so it must still be foggy down there. How odd. Reminds me of San Francisco.
That pretty much wrapped up the day.
The alarm actually went off this morning at 5:45! Blackout curtains are the trick.
Took them down, looked out, saw blue and within 10 minutes was on the road to Signal Hill to catch the city at sunrise. The place has got a great harbor setting. No wonder people stayed here.
Somewhat understand a bit better why Asians eat our collective lunch, culturally: other than a few non-Asians the only people I saw were groups of them walking to someplace or at some place. GROUPS. Not single individuals. GROUPS. At 6 AM.
Then I headed back into town looking for my jellybean houses. Compare this to one from yesterday (above.)
At about 8AM the clouds rolled in so I headed back to the campground to get addresses for my Jigg’s Dinner after which I will head to Cape Spear.
Found the restaurant and verified they served it and then went to Cape Spear. As luck would have it a special bonus was there: whales.
One of the must-see places on any visit to the province is Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site, the most easterly point in North America.
To reach it, drive west on Water Street in downtown St. John’s, keeping a keen lookout for the small brown Parks Canada sign indicating the road to Cape Spear, Route 11. Keep in the left-hand lane. The turn onto Route 11 is just past Victoria Park and goes over a bridge. You’ll come to a stop sign at the end of the bridge that says “Welcome to the Cape Spear Drive.” Continue straight ahead up the hill, through the neighbourhood of Shea Heights and to the lighthouse about eight kilometres from Water Street.
Built in 1835, the Cape Spear Lighthouse is the oldest existing lighthouse in Newfoundland. The two-storey wooden structure that served as a marine beacon from 1836 to 1955 is now a museum. A modern lighthouse stands nearby. The first lightkeeper at Cape Spear was Emmanuel Warre. Following his death in 1845, the government appointed James Cantwell to take his place. Members of the Cantwell family have tended the light ever since.
World War II saw increased activity at the Cape. Two gun emplacements were constructed and underground passages and barracks were built. Most of the installations were demolished after the war, but the gun emplacements still exist.
Returned to the restaurant at a place called “Big R” and possibly the best meal yet in Newfoundland.
It is generally agreed these days that the name Jiggs Dinner, referring to the common Newfoundland meal of salt beef (or salt pork spare ribs), boiled vegetables and steamed pudding got its name from the popular comic strip “Bringing Up Father,” which began back in the early 1900s. In that comic, the main character was an Irish lad named Jiggs, whose favourite meal was corned beef and cabbage. While the Newfoundland version does not have corned beef, but instead uses a fattier cut of trimmed naval beef (cured), the similarities were obviously close enough that the label of Jiggs Dinner stuck somewhere along the way and became entrenched in Newfoundland food lore.
Talked to the wait staff and the cook. One of the waitresses is going to Disney in October so I gave her some tips about the Orlando area, restaurants, going to Cape Canaveral and St Augustine.
The cook was a portly guy (good sign in a restaurant) and he often does these dinners for Newfies and tourists alike. Last week he did a bus tour of 52 people and also “screeched in” most of them. Various bars do that here but they are open at night and I can’t drink at night for nightmares so I beg off when it is suggested.
I left them all a nice tip and headed back into town and then the campground where I need to re-arange stuff and prepare for my return to mainland Canada.
If you are interested in what “getting screeched in” entails, read on:
The “Screech In” ceremony can only be preformed by a natural-born Newfoundlander.
What you need:
— A real fish (traditionally a cod, but, since these are hard to find, any whole fish will do).
— Fisherman’s hat
— A bottle of Screech
— The Newfoundlander (needs to have been born there) will have the initiate stand in front of witnesses with the fisherman’s hat on. The Newfie holds up the fish so the initiate can kiss it (it has to be on the lips!!)
— Whoever the host (or hostess) is of the establishment the initiation is taking place in, along with any witnesses present, will determine whether the kiss worthy to conclude.
— The last bit requires the Newfie to pour a full shot of Screech (newfie flavoured rum). This is then given to the initiate who has to say, before drinking, and while holding the glass high: “Long may your big jib draw.”
— The initiate is then presented with the “Screech In” Certificate as proof of their acceptance into the Royal Order of Newfoundlanders.