Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland
I’m always thinking about my next trip, and the one after that, and sometimes the one after that. And I often think about where I’d love to go if I had the time and money though will probably never get to those places, miracle lottery win aside.
This year is New York City in May and a road trip around Scotland in October. We’ve already talked about a couple of destinations for next year. If Graham can manage to get the vacation time for the end of August for my niece’s wedding, then we talked about maybe a few days in Iceland. IcelandAir flies from Halifax through the summer season and they do decent packages with hotels. Everyone I know that’s been there enjoyed it.
If that doesn’t work out, he asked about Newfoundland. The easternmost province of Canada only became part of this country in 1949, having remained a British colony long after the rest of the territories joined Canada.
The province of Newfoundland is mostly remote and rural. It is sparsely populated by the most wonderful people you will ever meet. The city of St. John’s is the oldest English-founded city in Canada, even in North America according to Wikipedia. It’s purported to have been discovered by John Cabot. Here’s the rest of a potted history of the city quoted from Wikipedia:
Newfoundland was claimed as an English colony in the name of Elizabeth I in 1583, temporarily captured by the Dutch in 1665, and attacked three times by the French who captured and destroyed its settlements in 1689 and 1707. St John’s was retaken each time and re-fortified. British forces used St. John’s fortifications during the Seven Years’ War in North America, the American Revolutionary War and the War of 1812. St. John’s served Allied needs in World War ll by providing an air base for the US Army Air Corps and a harbour for antisubmarine warfare ships.
Colourful houses on the steep streets of St. John’s
The City of St. John’s is very hilly, some streets are so steep that there are stairs built into the sidewalks! The City that’s there today really only dates back mostly to the beginning of the 20th century. There was a devastating fire that wiped out a lot of it so it was rebuilt. There’s a couple of nice cathedrals, a Catholic and an Anglican one and there are a couple of old neighbourhoods that are intetresting to explore, the Battery and Quidi Vidi.
There are a couple of nice museums and some nice parks to enjoy the outdoors. There are also more bars and pubs per capita than anywhere else in eastern Canada! It isn’t a city of skyscrapers and the tallest building has only about 12 or 13 floors. The provincial legislature is here and there are some interesting old buildings and houses open to the public as well so there are good reasons to visit the city.
View from Signal Hill over St. John’s
Another claim to fame for St. John’s is Signal Hill. On this spot was received the first transatlantic wireless signal in 1901, sent from England by Marconi. There’s a tower built to celebrate the 400th anniversary of John Cabot’s discovery of the province back in 1497 and there are excellent views and hiking around the hill.
Outside the city, there are plenty of little coastal towns and villages to see. Most of Newfoundland’s population lives around the coastline since fishing was the mainstay of the economy for centuries. It’s suffering now and there’s a lot of unemployment since the cod stocks have been depleted. That’s a whole other issue that I’m not getting into here.
There are not a lot of roads around the province so it often feels like you have to drive the long way around to get places but you will see some spectacular scenery while you do it.
There are some great national parks and there’s a national historic site where they’ve found remains of a Viking settlement, at L’Anse aux Meadows which is on the northernmost tip of the western “arm” of the island near Labrador and the mainland. That kind of kicks John Cabot to the curb for discovery! There’s a national heritage park there and you can see the excavations. It’s a long way to go to get there, though not quite so bad if you fly into Cornerbrook or Deer Lake and drive from there, but it’s worth it.
As I said, the people of Newfoundland are warm and friendly. You won’t find nicer! It would be a different sort of holiday in Newfoundland. There’s a bit of urban living but most of the attractions are outside the city. Bird watching, whale watching, fishing, hiking and camping. You need to watch out for moose on the highways, though, especially at night. In a confrontation between a 1 ton 7 foot tall moose and your car, the moose will probably win.
There are two main ways to get to Newfoundland. You can fly into St. John’s, Gander, Deer Lake or Cornerbrook or you can catch a passenger ferry from North Sydney, Cape Breton. There are sailings to Port aux Basques and Argentia, both on the south coast of the province. There are also ferries from Labrador in the west. If you aren’t restricting your visit to St. John’s, you’ll need a car to get around though there are some bus tour companies available. Cruise ships also dock in the small harbour through the summer season.
Another place you can visit is France. Oh yes. There are a group of small islands near the towns of Grand Bank and Fortune called St. Pierre and Miquelon and they still belong to France. They are small villages and there isn’t a lot there but they’re quaint and peaceful. You can take a ferry there from Fortune and stay overnight though there are a few day returns through the summer for a one day visit. I haven’t had the chance to do that because I wasn’t there on the days that the ferry came back the same day. (My cousin lived in Grand Bank and later in St. John’s so I’ve been to Newfoundland a couple of times).
Newfoundlanders have a distinct accent. It’s strongly reminiscent of an Irish accent for the most part. That’s one of the non-native groups that settled here.
Oh, one last thing. Pronounciation. I’ve found that most people that are not from Canada pronounce the name of the province as “New *FOUND* Land”. Canadians know it’s “NEWfunland”. Just so you know.