Subject: St. John's Newfoundland travelogue Part 1
St. John's, Newfoundland March 2001

March 22-27

An end of winter break in the old city of St. John's, Newfoundland where my cousin Gayle lives with her family. Last time i came to Newfoundland in 1997 they were living in Grand Bank on the Burin Peninsula and i spent a few days in the city that trip too. This is just a 4-5 day weekend.

Newfoundland has received over 600 cm of snow this winter, breaking records. When i went over, some of it had melted off but there was still more snow on the ground and heaped into banks on roadsides and along the highway than i have seen since i was a kid.

I flew over on Thursday night, taking the airbus after work from the nearby hotel. The plane was full but i'm in row 6 up front so should at least get off quickly as i have no checked luggage. The plane was delayed a half hour because of one thing and another, then one passenger was called off the plane leaving a seat for a stand by passenger to get on. Then they had to de-ice the plane because it started to snow. Sheesh. Finally got there and home to Gayle's and greeted everyone. Am sleeping in Jonathan's room, putting him out onto a mattress on the living room floor. He doesn't seem to mind.

Friday, March 23

We've decided to do a bit of driving around this morning. The weather is overcast, cold and windy but thought the wind is chilly and damp, there isn't' the bitter bite to it that comes from a winter north wind. At least not as long as you aren't out in it very long. St. John's is on the Avalon Peninsula, a southeast bit of the island of Newfoundland. It's got a small natural harbour and a nice sized city with a lively downtown area fill of shops and restaurants including the infamous George Street. The malls in the area, and the big box super stores don't seem to have taken too much custom away from the downtown.

We drove out of the city and up along the northeast and northwest of a peninsular point of land north of the city stopping first at Middle Cove in Logy Bay. The cove was all iced in though the water was moving under the pack ice. The cove is surrounded by cliffs out of which spout frozen waterfalls and the sand is black crushed granite and pebbles, the beach littered with huge rock formations and immense boulders of dirty ice. I stepped back off that beach realizing three rolls of film for a 4 and a half day trip might not be enough! (actually it was, but i bought more while i was there just in case)

From there we drove a bit further through Torbay and down a side road to Bauline, a tiny fishing village with narrow hilly roads twisting past a little church down to a small pier where most of the dories were hauled up out of the water and beached for the winter. It would have been really pretty under a sunny sky but it still had a certain raw ruggedness with a cold wind blowing in my face as i took a photo of a rush of water emerging from an icy bank into the harbour.

Further along the road, after a detour into the nearby city limits for a bagel and tea break at Tim Horton's, we headed back towards the shoreline for Conception Bay South. We stopped in St. Philip where there is a ferry to the small Bell Island and drove through Paradise to Chamberlain's Head where Chamberlain's Pond was on the map. It looked interesting on the map, like a bay that had been closed off from the sea by a strip of land so we followed a few rough side roads and down an unpaved one, not much wider than the car. That bay, or pond was frozen and the strip of land looked as if a celestial dump truck had laid a strip of gravel along to make an embankment across the mouth of the bay. It must have been the tides and waves breaking up the rocks over a natural breakwater underneath that formed it.

Along we drove through the villages, enjoying the stark winter beauty. We had a little bit of sun and blue sky but it didn't last long and was gone by the time we reached the highway back to the city.

We drove through the downtown core along Water and Duckworth streets so we could pinpoint the pub where we are to meet Floyd and Lorraine tomorrow and headed back out to the outskirts with a stop at the grocery store to pick up a few things and have a gawp at some of the alien species: on sale there. LOL Yes, Philip, there really is such a thing as cod nuggets and cod loins!

Back to the house for a sandwich and Gayle took Jocelyn to work and picked up Jon from school. The weather is supposed to get nasty later tonight, snow turning to freezing rain to rain by the morning. We did run over to the brand new Wal-Mart and the weather started by the time we left. However it stopped snowing a half hour after we got home. I rang Floyd to check in and got some computer email time in.

Saturday March 24

Had an easy morning, Gayle had to go to the office so i took my time getting ready. We went out about 1:30 and Jocelyn drove us downtown. We had a look in some of the tourist craft and food shops along one end of Water Street until it was time to meet Floyd and Lorraine. The pub is called the Duke of Duckworth and is located just off Duckworth Street in one of the little alleys connecting the two streets. The city has wrought iron signs displaying the name of the lanes and a few businesses have their entrances on the alleys as well so they are well maintained and traveled. The Duke is a small British style pub and wasn't, very comfortable, not crowded so we spotted them right away. Furiously enthusiastic hugs are exchanged and introductions made for Gayle and we settled in for a drink. We left there after an hour or so for the Westminster restaurant which was just at the Water Street entrance to the alley. It's a British theme restaurant with British names slapped on the menu items, some of which are traditional but some of which feature the wonderful fresh Newfoundland seafood. We ordered an assortment of appetizers before our meal. It was a lovely meal and we took our time and had a lovely visit, ensconced in a deep padded booth in the corner. Floyd and Lorraine are good friends of mine from the Coronation Street chat room and i've met them before, two years ago in Toronto. It was wonderful to catch up and see them again! Thanks again for dinner, mates!

Finally time to leave and say good bye. Jocelyn picked us up and we drove up Signal Hill to see the end of the sunset over the city. There were at least another dozen or more cars parked up there too even though the evening was cold and damp with a chilly but fresh and bracing wind up on the hill high above the city. On the east side of the hill you can look down to the steep cliffs and walking trails to the sea and the lighthouse at the impossibly narrow mouth of the harbour. The ice was broken up and floating back out to sea with the tide, where earlier, the harbour was tightly packed with it.

Back home we downloaded the photos of us at the restaurant from Gayle's digital camera and i sorted out a quick web page so the chat room people could see them. Gayle and i decided to go out to a late movie at the multiplex at the huge Avalon Mall. I picked up a couple of paperback books while there before the show, The Mexican, starring Julia Roberts and Brad Pitt and James Gandolfini. Pretty good movie overall.