The Avalon and St. John’s

I am sitting here in our RV living room with my feet up in my recliner looking out the window.  What is unusual is that the scenery is changing.  Mike is driving down the highway while I rest and play with my computer in comfort in the back.  Today and tomorrow will be the first time in Newfoundland that Mike and I have driven for hours.  There are really strong cross winds on the highway which make the drive that much more work and more tiring for Mike.  We have had to cut our time a short in the Avalon and St. John’s so that we can go to this week long Cape Breton Celtic festival.  I am looking forward to the festival but I am a bit disappointed to have to start rushing for the first time on this trip.  We also have to be a little careful with the ferry.  We haven’t booked tickets yet hoping that October isn’t the busy time of year.  One concern is with Hurricane Matthew.  When we took the ferry to Fogo Island we were the last arrival before they closed the ferry down because of a hurricane much more distant than Matthew might be.

We had a wonderful time visiting old and new friends in the St. John’s area but we didn’t spend much time in St. John’s itself.  That is too bad because we have been told that St. John’s is actually the oldest city in North America.  Mike and I spent one evening with John Harris, a friend from IBM, at the Spirit of Newfoundland dinner theatre in a restored Masonic temple.  The show “Where Once We Stood” is promoted as a dramatic, musical and comedic tribute to the 100th anniversary of Beaumont Hamel.  Beaumont Hamel was a disastrous battle in WWI that decimated the Newfoundland regiment.  800 men from the regiment took part in the battle on July 1, 1916.  The next morning 68 men answered roll call.  July 1 is known as Memorial day as opposed to Canada Day in Newfoundland and Labrador.  Over the following months new enlistments continued and brought the regiment back to full strength.  The regiment did extremely well during the war and George V bestowed the prefix “Royal” to the regiment’s name. This was the only time during WWI that this honour was given.

We visited John’s house a few times and had dinner with him and his family.  We also had dinner at Lucy and Bill’s home overlooking Conception Bay.  Lucy is the friend of an acquaintance of ours from Mississauga.   People are just so great here.

Mike and I wandered around St. John’s for one day including a walk around Quidi Vidi Lake.  That evening we went to a couple of pubs on George Street that had been recommended for their live music.  George Street is recognized as being both the oldest street in North America and, more importantly to many, it has the most pubs per square foot of any street in Canada.  George Street is pedestrian only during the afternoon and night.  Only very early in the morning are vehicles allowed so that the bars can restock their goods.  Although it doesn’t get really busy until well after Mike and I left, even quite early in the evening there was live music coming out of a lot of the pubs.   This was what we had wanted to see in Ireland but didn’t.  I was disappointed in Ireland for their pubs and music, not in Newfoundland.  It was a Tuesday night and the pubs weren’t particularly busy.  It was very nice and relaxing.  Earlier in the trip we met a couple touring from the US.  They were commenting on how they had been to Ireland and Scotland and that touring Newfoundland was every bit as good, if not better, and much closer to home.  Of course it depends on what you are looking for but from a scenery and music point of view they were absolutely correct.

Signal Hill Walk
Signal Hill Walk

cape-st-marys-8This morning before we left for our highway drive we walked Signal Hill in what felt like gale force winds to us.  It was both exhilarating and disconcerting walking down the edge of the cliff with the wind just howling and pushing at you.  You finish the walk by walking across the back deck of a private home.  It is the only private deck maintained by Parks Canada.  A lot of the tourist destinations in the Avalon have closed down for the year.  We were the last visitors for the season at one of the Information Centres.  We visited the Cape St. Mary’s Ecological Reserve which has huge colonies of birds on rocks/hills right off the edge of the cliffs.  When we were there, there were 15,000 pairs of Northern Gannets along with some fledglings.  It was interesting, noisy (not as bad as penguins) and somewhat smelly.  The rangers were out in boats tagging the fledglings to see if they came back and where they go to.  Northern Gannets are supposed to come back to nest in the exact same spot year after year.

We also visited the Salmonier Nature Park.  It was over 20 years ago since we were last there with my mother and father.  It brought back memories.

Baby moose at Salmonier
Baby moose at Salmonier

We will spend today and tomorrow getting to Corner Brook and hopefully have some time to explore that town.  Depending on weather and predictions about Matthew we will then have one or two days to explore the area around Port aux Basques before we leave on the ferry for Cape Breton.  Our time in Newfoundland is really winding down and that makes us a little unhappy.  It has been a super few months meeting the people in Newfoundland and getting to see the province in some depth.

We found out yesterday that a friend of ours will be arriving in Cape Breton just as the festival is finishing.  She has invited us to park at the inn her friends run and join her and her friends for an evening or two of music, drink and stories.  We thought that sounded like an excellent idea and something else to look forward to.

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