Travel Journal // St. John’s, Newfoundland

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First things first – you are going to NEW-fund-land. Not New-FOUND-land.  As a local taught me, it rhymes with “understand.”  NEW-fund-land.  As you may remember from my previous post, to arrive, you must fly or take a boat (or as I was reminded…be born there!)  The Province’s time zone is 1.5 hours ahead of the Eastern time zone… it’s literally called Newfoundland Time.  The island has it’s own dialect of Irish, English and French, and the local people are renowned for their friendliness and hospitality.

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Most of our day was spent traveling from Calgary to St. John’s.  We had a four-hour flight from Calgary to Toronto, then a 3.5 hour flight from Toronto to St. John’s.  We initially had a 1.5 hour layover in Toronto, but due to weather, our plane was held in a holding pattern for an additional 40 minutes, so once we landed, we literally deplaned – walked to the next gate – and boarded.  Once the plane touched down in St. John’s, we were informed that our luggage did, in fact, not make the connection flight.  But the airline gave us an overnight kit and offered to send it to the hotel for us so that we could have it the next morning.  We did lose 3.5 hours, as St. John’s has it’s very own time zone – but the benefit of that was that we were still wide awake when our plane landed at 12:30 AM.  We headed over to the car rental desk, picked-up our vehicle, and drove a short 10 minutes to the hotel – Sheraton Hotel Newfoundland.   Day1-Getting_There STJ_Day2
The hubby had to go into the office for a couple of hours on Friday morning, so I spent my time exploring downtown: Water Street, Duckworth Street, George Street, and St. John’s Harbour.  I stopped in various shops along the way…taking pictures of statues and old buildings…and really just enjoying the fabulous weather and friendly people.  I was surprised that the “vibe” of the city mirrored that of New Orleans – in the sense of the rich culture and history, the cobblestone streets, colorful houses, and again, the friendly people.  I walked up and down each major street and lots of stairwell alleys, before accidentally stumbling upon George Street.  I was taking pictures of the Yellow Belly Brewery and Trapper John’s before it really clicked that Hey!  I’m on the infamous George Street!!   A lil’ while later, I was walking along the harbour when the hubby called and told me that I just HAD to check out the MASSIVE iceberg that was floating by.  It was like the circus had entered town – people were scrambling to look out windows, get outside, and just marvel at the small “island” of an iceberg that was making its way across the bay.  It was truly amazing.  My camera truly cannot do it justice.  Once I meandered back to the office, a few work buddies found out that The Duke of Duckworth was on my St. John’s checklist, so they invited us out for lunch.  I was so excited because this place is heralded as having the BEST Fish ‘n’ Chips in the city!  And they did not disappoint – the lightly battered cod with a side of fries fill you to the gills.  STJ city STJ-Harbour After lunch, I was on the hunt for the colorful heritage row houses referred to as Jellybean Row Houses.  There are streets upon streets upon streets of these vibrant houses!!!  I could not get enough!  I only wish I could have gotten a few shots where there were no cars in front of the houses (honestly – how do the professional photographers accomplish this?!), but other than that…I loved exploring! STJ-Jellybean Around mid-afternoon, we headed over to Signal Hill – a location that played a key role in Canada’s communications and military history.  Cabot Tower sits at the top of the cliffs, while the Queen’s Battery sits on the slightly lower plateau.  The entire location has two amazing views – one overlooking the Ocean – and the other looking back over the city of St. John’s.  It was a beautiful, clear day out, so we hiked the hill to take in the views and watch more icebergs. STJ-SignalHillThat evening, we decided to eat at one of the two hotel restaurants, Bivver Lounge.  We ordered Seafood Chowder and split an amazing burger.  I also had my first Iceberg Beer (made at the local Quidi Vidi Brewery) which is a light lager brewed with 25,000 year old iceberg water harvested from Newfoundland’s awe-inspiring icebergs.  I seriously could not get enough of the icebergs!!!

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We slept in until 9 am the next morning (which was technically only 5:30 our time!!!), and decided that we would drive out to Cape Spear.  This was on my St. John’s bucket list because it is the most easterly point of land in North America.  That’s right….you can stand here with your back to the sea and the entire population of North America in front of you – or you can face the sea and the next stop east is Ireland!  Cape Spear is perched on a rugged cliff, and being there will overload your senses with ocean vistas of crashing waves, feeding whales, and majestic icebergs!  We first hiked over to the most easterly point of land for some fun pics – then hiked past the old WWII battery – then over to the cliffs where we first caught a glimpse of the whales! .  They were really too far away to get any good pics, but if you just sat and watched, you could hear then breaking water…and it was so cool.  We climbed lots and lots of stairs along the cliff side to get to the top, and even as the oldest surviving lighthouse in the province, it looked so grand with the ocean behind it.  The family house was unique – stark white clapboard sided 2-storey cube.  We decided to pay $3 for a tour of how they used to live in the 1800’s…and it was pretty neat!  For more history, click this link here: If Cape Spear Could Talk. CapeSpear1 When we got back to the car, it was only 1 pm, and the weather was absolutely gorgeous, so we decided to call the Whale Tour place and see if they still had any spots open.  It was our lucky day…they did…and the tour left at 2 pm, so if we could make it there in time, we could go!  It was about 40 minutes from Cape Spear to O’Brien’s Whale & Bird Tours in Bay Bulls.  We paid for our tickets, grabbed some Salt Water Taffy snacks, and boarded the boat!  The crew was friendly, entertaining, and informative!  As we headed out to sea, we were informed of a pod of whales a short distance out.  As we got closer, we cut off the engines and just drifted.  Suddenly, the captain told us to get ready, as he saw some curious whales come our way.  We were delighted to see a few humpback whales…and then I think I squealed with glee as a mama and her baby were showing off within 20 feet of the boat!   I took multiple videos while the hubby took pics – it was SO COOL.  You can see a slight teal color just below the surface of the water right before a whale breaches…and it was a game to us trying to figure out where they would come up for air next!!!  The mama and her baby were NOT shy…they easily swam the perimeter of the boat three times before finally heading back to the group.  I was ecstatic…I couldn’t believe we were that close!

Whales

We then traveled to one of the largest seabird sanctuaries in the world – and saw thousands of birds!!!  And I was one happy kid because I finally got to see the Puffins!  Unfortunately, the puffins are so small that my camera phone did not do a great job at capturing them….but seeing them dive into the water and skip along the ocean waves made me all too giddy!

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And after rounding the last cove of Gull Island, we circled a nearby iceberg and had some breathtaking views!  I cannot adequately describe the beautiful teal colors that sit within the center of the iceberg!  You might think a giant chunk of ice is boring, until you’re there.  Until you’re standing in front of its huge, completely silent mass.  Like it’s holding on to all the ancient secrets it pulled from the ocean as it made its way from Greenland and down through Iceberg Alley.  But the coolest part was that we sipped on some Iceberg Beer as we were circling the Iceberg.  The whole experience was surreal.

Icebergs

All in all – it was one of our favorite days on the island!!!  We made sure to take a few fun shots too!  Enjoy!

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That evening, we headed to a local pizza joint – Pi – and then decided to walk over to Quidi Vidi Village.  It’s a short scenic hike, weaving in and out of the downtown core, and threading our way along the streets of Quidi Vidi Village to the Quidi Vidi Brewery.  The only thing was…the brewery was closed.  Ooops.  We were quite disappointed that it was closed during the weekend, but we took advantage of the sun getting ready to set, so we turned around and strolled along Quidi Vidi Lake.

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We slept in again on Sunday, and decided to have a fun day driving the coast.  On Nick’s first visit to the island, he was taken by a local to the North for some amazing scenery, and he wanted to share that with me.  We drove up to the town of Torbay so that we could drive the coast to Logy Bay/Middle Cover/Outer Cove.  It was absolutely stunning, as each turn in the road you were faced with another amazing cliff side view!!!  We then decided that we would drive down the coast along the Irish Loop, which covers the southern portion of the Avalon Peninsula.  We drove back through St. John’s, and on down to Bay Bulls, where the Whale Tour company was located.  Then we just followed the map to all the mini-lookouts: Witless Bay, Tors Cove, Bauline East, Cape Broyle, and Ferryland.

Irish Loop

I had researched that a FABULOUS excursion was the Ferryland Lighthouse Picnics.  As it was Father’s Day, and we had no reservation (the place is so popular you typically have to reserve months in advance!), we did not have any expectations of getting into the Lighthouse, but were content with just exploring the area.  So we pulled into the Visitor Center to figure out our plan of attack, and were told that there were some cancellations, and if we hurried over, we would surely get in!!! I was SO EXCITED!!!  We drove the lil’ gravel path up to the base of the hillside, and then walked through the wooded path and up the rugged cliff side of windswept rocks to an amazing red and white lighthouse!  When you walk inside, you are transported to a modern-day bakery/bistro, where the day’s specials are written in chalk on slates.  The menu was filled with amazing, yet classic picnic food: orzo, pepper and fresh mint salad; Chutney-glazed ham, apple & brie on molasses oatmeal bread for me and curried chicken with mango and sliced almonds for the hubby; freshly squeezed lemonade; and dessert – bakeapple tarts for me and marshmallow brownie for the hubby!  After you place your order, you are given a picnic blanket and nautical flag, which serves as your identification.  Then you are told to simply find a spot among the cliffs where you want to enjoy your lunch, and a waitress will bring your order to you.  So we roamed the foot-trodden paths to find a perfect picnic spot and just enjoyed the breeze and the sound of the ocean!  Our food was brought to us in a picnic basket and was so fresh and delicious!!!  I couldn’t get over just how fun and romantic the entire experience was…and how it truly captured the simple pleasures of life in a coastal town of Newfoundland.  It was a real anniversary treat!

Lighthouse PicnicAfter lunch, we continued along the coast through Aquaforte, Fermeuse, Renews, and Cappahayden.  The area started to get a little bit foggy once we neared Cappahayden, and it looked like it was about to rain, so we decided to nix the idea of driving the entire loop, turned the car around, and headed back to St. John’s.  It was 5 PM when we reached the city, and the hubby received a text from a friend and coworker asking if we would like to meet him and his wife for dinner at 5:30.  We thought…why not?!  So we freshened up, took a stroll to Blue on Water downtown, and had 4 fabulous meals while catching up.  The whole day was relaxed and fun and truly became another favorite experience!

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It was raining when we woke up on Monday morning – nothing too crazy…just a steady shower and grey skies overhead.  The hubby had to go back into the office for a bit, so I decided to put on my raincoat and explore the downtown shops.  I had read that Rocket Bakery was an excellent place to grab some coffee, so I headed there first to get some caffeinated motivation.  The cafe was quite crowded, but had a fun atmosphere, so I grabbed a solo seat at the bar to people watch.  I then took my time exploring lots of little shops all along Water Street and Duckworth Street: Downhome Shoppe and Gallery, Heritage Shop, Hancock Gallery, Nonia, etc.  I then decided to drive over to The Rooms, the local museum and art gallery – full of unique Newfoundland culture and stories!  I sort of just walked around slowly and took everything in…but the best part, for me, was the section on the history of the city…following the first people and their families.  I just love the huge Irish influence (I know…I’m a bit biased!)  I was finally ready to head back to the hotel and pack up my things so that I would be ready to roll for my morning flight.  The hubby and I decided to order pizza and just relax in the room watching movies all evening.

The Rooms
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Ah…the final day.  I originally had plans to grab some toutons for breakfast (slabs of bread dough, fried up in butter and smothered in molasses) before heading for the airport…but ended up sleeping in a bit.  I guess I have to leave a few things for next time…  I said goodbye to the hubby as he headed back in to the office, then was on my way home.

Thank you for sharing in our 7-year anniversary! Until next year…

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Goodbye, Newfoundland…until we meet again!

Jen

 

 

 

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Recaps from past anniversaries:

1-Year Anniversary.  Lake Tahoe, CA
2-Year Anniversary. Flagstaff, AZ 
3-Year Anniversary. Sanibel/Orlando/Clermont/Tampa, FL
4-Year Anniversary. New York, NY. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3)
5-Year Anniversary.  Cozumel, Mexico. (Part 1, Part 2)
6-Year Anniversary. Punta Cana, Dominican Republic. (Part 1, Part 2, Part 3, Part 4, Part 5)

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