Tuesday, 7 October 2014

St. John's

We were exited to finally be heading to St John’s. We drove through all of the FDR [Fog, Drizzle, Rain of Newfoundland, particularly St John’s, weather]

Past "Come By Chance"

on our way to the capital. On one high hill, we could barely see the road in front of us!
We arrived at Pippy Park right in the city, to discover we were only a couple of sites away from our “Cocktail buddies” – a perfect way to end the day.

There was an organ concert the next day at the Cathedral of St. John the Baptist, and since we didn’t know the city, our friend drove. The church is amazing. We talked to an extremely knowledgeable member of the congregation. Many of the stained glass windows are Kemp windows. The vibrant colour and detail are spectacular.
East window-The Tree of the Church - five lancets and five rose Kemp Windows at the front 

The Te Deum Powell Windows at the back of the cathedral, above the Great West Doors
A magnificent cathedral

The organ had 3600 pipes and the sound is so rich.

I sat where I could see the organist play. His hands and feet just dance over the keys and pedals. It was an hour and a half of a medley of wondrous music. We spent some more time after the concert further exploring the church.
We had some time left so we decided to drive up to Signal Hill to see the tattoo. However, it was pouring by this time, so we figured it would be cancelled. The Johnson GEO Centre down the road from the Cabot Tower was our alternate choice.

It is carved from the ancient rock of Signal Hill,
One wall of the GEO Centre is the rock of Signal Hill

A section of the rock wall

and has a wonderful display explaining the geological history of the planet Earth. There is an excellent exhibit explaining oil and gas, and the working of the oil fields on the Grand Banks with a scale model of the Hibernia gravity based oil drilling platform (the structure rests on the ocean floor), and a special Exhibit on the Titanic Story.
a model of the sunken Titanic

Titanic had at least nine wireless warnings of the icebergs, yet on a cloudless night ran into one at nearly full speed.  This story tells of the greed, arrogance and bad judgement which led to this tragedy.
The story boards are set up with the story then the Truth- the facts

We didn’t have time to see all the exhibits, so we saw part of it, and decided to return the next day. Before going back to the campground, we went down to Quidi Vidi Village. What a pretty village!

The inner harbour- the green building is the Quidi Vidi Brewery

These can only be accessed by boat.

It is on the Quidi Vidi Gut, a small sheltered inlet with a very narrow neck out to the ocean.

This is the site of the famous Quidi Vidi Brewery. This small coastal battery was built to ward off a possible American attack during the War of 1812-14.

The next day, we decided to drive to the GEO Centre to park and take the Hop-on, Hop-off bus to see the Newman Wine Vaults.  This is the site of the only stone wine vaults in the province and tells the story of a 300-year old connection between port produced in Portugal and the cool climate of Newfoundland. The story goes that in 1600’s, a ship carrying barrels of port to England was chased by a French privateer, and in escaping, the ship sailed to Newfoundland where barrels were stored for a few years. When they eventually got to England and were tapped, the Port was superb. The improved taste was attributed to the rolling of the barrels in the ship and the storage in the cool damp cellars of the Newman Wine Vault in St. John’s. Up until the early 20th –century the vaults were then used by Newman & Company, a British trading company who brought Portuguese port here to mature in the vaults in exchange for fish and supplies.

We wandered up Water St. and found a local pub to eat lunch. Then we hopped back on the bus to tour the city and back see the rest of the GEO Centre, and of course the Gift Shop.

Friday nights in Quidi Vidi at the Brewery is Kitchen Party time. We were warned to get there early, so arrived about 5. I went to line up, and John parked the truck. There were a few people already there, so we got talking. They were all Newfoundlanders from the area who came here 3 or 4 times a month, and know how important it is to be early. They invited us to sit at their table. The evening was fabulous – a mix of Newfoundland and Irish Folk Music.
The original Group
The people we sat with and the crowd by the bar

 Our “cocktail buddies” joined us and I invited another couple from away as well. We were a small group of folks from “away” in a large group of Newfoundlanders. There was one major music group, but when they took a break, they invited anyone, who wanted to, to come up and entertain. Several other groups came up and played and sang. Several others were invited up to join the bands for a song or two. People got up and danced in the spaces between tables, and were delighted when John and I got up too. It was a night of great fun, even though we had to listen really carefully to try to understand what was being said.

Saturdays there is a Farmers’ Market in the Lions arena. It was small, but had crafts, fresh bread, a couple of lunch options and home-made ice cream. There was some excellent produce from a variety of farmers and local producers. We bought fresh vegetables and herbs, then decided to head to Cape Spear before heading to try to catch the tattoo at Signal Hill. The Cape Spear road is on the opposite of the harbour, and there is only one bridge. It was a challenge to navigate the one-way roads and those which cross at odd angles. After a couple of wrong turns and a trip through several new neighbourhoods of the city, we found our way to the right road.
A little confusing...
It was further than it looked, but we finally made it. The coast is spectacular, rugged and wild. Newfoundland’s first colonial government decided to build a network of lighthouses to help ships navigate the rugged coast.
looking back on the road from the original lighthouse
The original lighthouse at Cape Spear, built in 1836 on the continent’s most easterly point,

The most easterly point in North America
was the first. It is a low, two storey keeper’s house built around a stone tower.

Original tower and home- note the 2 red chairs!
A modern tower,
Built in 1957, the new Lighthouse

light, fog horn building and keeper’s house were built in 1957. However the original lighthouse was preserved as an important part of Newfoundland heritage, to show how a lightkeeper and his family might have lived in the mid-19th century.

Living Room

Flag Room

Disappearing Gun

During the Second World War, a new danger threatened shipping. U Boats of the German navy hunted the North Atlantic to sink ships taking supplies to Great Britian. The Canadian Army established a battery of two massive disappearing guns to provide protection for ships in approaches to St. John’s harbour. All that is left today are the remains of the bunkers and guns.

When we got up to Signal Hill Parade Ground by the Gift Shop, we discovered that the daily tattoo was no longer being performed. Instead, we were able to see a simulated battle – but one side only- no enemies [we were told to imagine them].

A little difficult to imagine an enemy...

Telling the story...
This was interesting and well done, but would have been better with the enemy present too. Then we drove up to the Cabot Tower on Signal Hill, originally known as The Lookout.
Signal Hill- bunker and Cabot Tower
The climb to Cabot Tower

The road up from St John's
Signal Hill has been used for defence, observation and signalling since the early 1700s. The Cabot tower was built in 1897 to commemorate 400 years since Cabot’s landing on Newfoundland and Queen Victoria’s Diamond Jubilee. Here you can climb to the observation tower for a view of St. John’s,
view of St. John's

... or walk the Lookout Trail
visit the gift store and see the exhibit on Marconi’s first transatlantic signal.

That night was cocktail evening at our friends’ RV, with our new friends joining us too. Cocktail hour turned into a whole evening of fun, snacks and good company.

We decided to drive around the Avalon Peninsula up to Pouch Cove on the Killick Coast Scenic Route
to see some of the country beyond St. John’s. Our first stop was Middle Cove. This is really pretty with massive cliffs to the water on either side of a pretty pebble beach and a tumbling little river running to the ocean.
Cliffs and the brook flowing to the ocean
The pebble beach
A little further around the coast is Flatrock, named for the large rocks that run down to the ocean. 
Flatrock Harbour

This was a popular fishing village, as the rocks were excellent for drying fish.  On the opposite side of the bay is Our Lady of Lourdes Grotto, a beautiful little grotto by the road.

There are stairs either side to climb to the top
Pouch Cove is the tip of the peninsula,

Pouch Cove
then down to Portugal Cove,
looking back at the harbour and town
Portugal Cove, cars lined up for the ferry
The suburbs- a street of new homes- even new ones are colourful
The Bell Island ferry

and back to Starbucks to check the internet and do some shopping.

Pouring rain defined many of our days in St. John’s. These were the best days to drive to other areas, not walk around St. John’s. One of these we drove around the Irish Loop
The Irish Loop
to the south. Well, we did not actually drive around it, because on this day, the rain did not let up at all. Several times it was down to light rain, but more often, it poured. The rocky coves and bays are beautiful with rocky fingers stretching into the ocean.

 We stopped at Bull’s Bay at the Information Centre. We were told about the Puffins on the rocks in the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve. You have to take a boat from Witless Bay to see them. However, just now the pufflings are beginning to fly. Unfortunately they get disoriented at night with the fog and rain, and fly towards the streetlights on the mainland. Each night the Puffin Patrol, a group of people from the area, go out with huge light looking for the little ones wandering on the roads. They are taken to the Needs Convenience store in the area. The next day, the Puffin Patrol takes them to the shore and tosses them into the wind, as this is the only way they can fly. If they don’t fly and land in the water, they use their wings as flippers and head back to their island. The night before we arrived, the Puffin Patrol had picked up 80 pufflings.

We stopped for lunch at Witless Bay
A place to sit in Witless bay
A Model Harbour in a stream in Witless Bay

at a delightful little café, looking across the bay to Gull Island, one of four islands of the Witless Bay Ecological Reserve, with North America’s largest Atlantic puffin colony with more than 260,000 pairs nesting here during breeding season.  We drove on down the coast to Cape Broyle,
This is from the car window as the rain was too heavy to get out!
then the road turned inland. We drove as far as Ferryland, as we wanted to see the Colony of Avalon working archeological dig. From Beothuk Indians, early European fishermen and Sir George Calvert’s first permanent settlement in 1621, this is considered the oldest continuously occupied village in British North America. However, the rain was so heavy, there were huge puddles and mud, and not even the archeologists were working. We dashed into the Interpretation Centre, to discover, that you couldn’t visit this, unless you paid the full fee for the exhibits and relics, the old kitchen and the site tour. We went into the gift centre, then decided to run through the raindrops into the Tetley Tea Shop for high Tea. We drove back to the campground via Mount Pearl. The next morning, John took the truck into a dealer in Mount Pearl to get an oil change, while I did the necessary cleaning in the trailer.
It was to be cloudy with possible showers, so we took the chance of a day walking the city.

A typical street of "Jellybean" Houses
Well. It was more than ‘possible’ as we found out! The lesson learned- always carry an umbrella, even if it looks sunny! We went in and out of shops and doorways as we walked the length of Water Street and Duckworth St.

Duckworth- even the shops are colourful
We really wanted to go along George St, a pedestrian street of bars and pubs, but the rain was too heavy, and we couldn’t find anywhere close to park.

On our walk we saw a periscope sticking up from the roof a building on Water Street near the WW memorial.
The periscope on the roof-stairs are to the left

We walked up the stairs from Water St. and discovered up another flight of stairs, there was an Officers’ Club called the Crow’s Nest which was open to the public.

The 59 steps were well worth the climb. What an intriguing find it was! By 1941, a need for a sea-going officers club was recognized by Captain E.C. Mainguy, but space was at a premium in the busy war port. Colonel Outerbridge DSO offered vacant space on the fourth floor of a warehouse building for the annual fee of $1.When it was ready in 1942, offices had sawn off jetty shores to squat on. Today, however, members and visitors lounge in leather chairs set in front of a five-foot hearth. Captain Mainguy ruled that each ship visiting the port was to be given wall space two feet square for their gun-shield artwork. These works of art still adorn the walls of the club, with crests and souvenirs from visiting ships and branches of the armed services. The bartender is a fountain of knowledge about the club, its visitors, and its history. Anyone with current or previously held commission in the allied services or Merchant Navy, or anyone interested in the preservation of military and marine affairs, artifacts and traditions can apply to   become a member. We were treated to a fascinating afternoon of stories, history and looking through the Club scrapbook.
Then we drove across the river to see St. John's from the other side,
looking across at St. John's- the typical picture of the city is from this side of the harbour
Jellybean houses here too!
and the Narrows up close.
Homes perched on the hill

The Narrows- entrance to St. John's harbour
John walked around to the lighthouse, my knee told me to sit in the truck and wait.

The last place in the downtown part of the city that we visited was The Rooms.
The Rooms [large building in the middle] from Signal Hill

It is a modern building that stands out above the city. It contains the Provincial Archives, a beautiful Museum and an Art Gallery. The Museum tells the stories of Newfoundland and Labrador and its diverse peoples.

Natural history specimens and artifacts connect Newfoundlanders’ with the past and the environment which has shaped their experiences and been changed by their presence.

A Full side 3D display of early people

There is even a Polar Bear on the ice.

Looking at the city from the Observation Deck outside the cafe
There is also a wonderful café on the top floor. The menu is unique, the service, excellent and the food, delicious.

The day before we left, it was partly sunny, so we took a trip just outside Pippy Park, to the Suncor Energy Fluvarium.

The indoor part of this is a self-guided tour of interactive gallery showing how water shapes the land, cities, history and our lives. It helps you understand the various wetlands found in Newfoundland- swamp, pond, marsh, bog, and fen.

Downstairs is a viewing room to watch the brown trout in the fish ladder in the pool of the stream.
This is the best explanation of a fish ladder that we found.

Through other windows you can watch what is happening in the stream, at a deep pool, and a shallow pool, as it flows past the Fluvarium. There are knowledgeable guides who explain life in the seven aquariums -amphibians, a variety of salmonids, bait fishes and an eel.

They have to ensure the top is secure, as the eel has managed to escape.
Since the sun had come out, we decided to walk the trail

The route around the lake
The bridge just outside the Fluvarium- to the beginning of the trail
around Long Lake,
The boardwalk through the woods

The Rotary Harmony Garden- you can actually play these...
along the side of the Memorial University grounds. There is even a blind,

The blind at one end overlooking the marsh

to allow you to watch the water fowl. This is a really popular walking and jogging route.
The path by the lake

Back to pack up, and put the trailer in travel-mode for the trip back to Whiteway on the Conception Bay Peninsula along the Baccalieu Trail. We are almost at the end of our Newfoundland trip. We could easily stay longer. There is so much more to see and do….

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