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Newfoundland – tick!

Cape Spear Lighthouse

After having flown over Newfoundland and Labrador more times that I care to count – even once stopping for fuel on a Continental 757 flying from Berlin to Newark – I decided it was high time to actually visit Newfoundland, specifically St. John’s.

I timed the trip to take advantage of Reformationstag, the day celebrating 500 years since Martin Luther nailed 95 theses to the church in Wittenberg. This year – and only this year – Reformationstag was a legal holiday in every Bundesländer – so by taking Friday and Monday off, I had an instant 5 day weekend.

Getting there I flew on Lufthansa and Air Canada: first an A321 to Frankfurt, then an A320 to London, and then an A319 to St. John’s. At the time spent increased, the plane sized decreased, until, ultimately, I checked into my hotel in St. John’s, where I was assigned room 318.

Some quick impressions: St. John’s is a very understandable city; at least for me. I walked around downtown my first afternoon, looking in some shops and buying a new winter coat, which I was in the market for regardless. I bought it at The Outfitters, a local sporting goods shop, where a very helpful assistant assisted me.

Unfortunately, I put my foot in my mouth to some extent: his accent was nothing like what I expected. Somehow, I guess that I expected a heavier version of the Maine accent, but with Canadianisms thrown on at the end, eh? Instead, to my poorly qualified ear, the guy sounded like he was straight from Sydney – and not the one in Nova Scotia, but the one down under. I wish I’d kept my mouth shut, because I asked. Over the next 70 hours, I would hear his accent, or other versions of it, from different people. Seriously, it’s a charming accent and the way English is used is quite different from what I expected.

Happily, though, I found a terrific winter jacket that might actually be a shade too warm for what I want, but it is still fantastic – the assistant was patient and helpful, so I offer great thumbs ups to The Outfitters.

Beyond that I was proud of the fact that I managed to stay awake until 8pm, by walking around town, eating seafood for dinner, then looking at an art gallery opening. After that, I was pretty promptly out.

Morning from Cape Spear

Saturday, I woke up pretty early and headed out to Cape Spear to watch the sunrise. I got incredibly lucky: although the horizon was cloudy, the colors were magnificent. I probably spent about an hour wandering the grounds of Cape Spear, including visiting the monument marking Canada’s furthest east point.

Cape Spear Lighthouse

After that I visited The Rooms – a local provincial museum that is perched awkwardly on top of a hill overlooking the city. The museum is actually quite interesting (dried cod notwithstanding), but the actual museum is in a building that I think is excessively large and out of scale when compared to the city it oversees.

From there it was to Signal Hill, where I had a panoramic view of everything I had already done, including Cape Spear and The Rooms.

St. John's from Signal Hill

Newfoundland spoke to me in the way that Wyoming spoke to me. The specifics of the scenery are different, but they the people interact with the surroundings and the overwhelmingly rural nature of the province are similar to Wyoming. There are more people and more moisture, but I had this sense of independence and fortitude that resonated with me. I could actually see living in Newfoundland.

Dinner Saturday night was at Raymond’s, a restaurant that was recently reviewed in The New York Times – it was well worth the time and money. I’ve been to only a very few restaurants that are as attentive to details in both the cooking of the food and in the service as Raymond’s. If I ever return to St. John’s, I would happily eat there again.

Sunday way my Newfoundland road-trip day, and I had two destinations in mind.

Once the first one was out of the way, I had a few hours to kill as the Toutons and Tunes tour did not begin until 2:00, so I took a leisurely tour of region where both Dildo and Bay Roberts are located, heading to the city of Heart’s Content, where I discovered the first Transatlantic Cable Station, and a line marking where the cable from Europe came ashore.

Transatlantic Cable Crossing at Heart's Content

Then I wandered down to the city of Bay Roberts, where I took the Toutons and Tunes tour. Toutons are a fried bread dough pastry that is served with molasses. These were waiting for us at the end of the tour, along with local high school students playing traditional tunes. Further, as I was on the last tour of the season, both mussels and a seafood stew were prepared – talk about being incredibly lucky!

Bay Roberts seashore

The tour was charming: in addition to me, the oddball European resident visiting for the weekend, there was a German foreign exchange student, and about 6 or 7 locals. The first 15 minutes of the tour were spent understand where people came from and how they were related to everybody else. Once this was established we walked along the seashore to the red building where the toutons and tunes were awaiting. Along the way, there were a couple of stops, where local history was shared.

Berries along the coast

All-in-all, it was an excellent, densely packed, weekend. St. John’s is a charming city and the province is beautiful. I only have two more provinces and the three territories left to go before I’ve completed Canada.

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