Friday, October 28, 2016

St John’s, eh

Entering St John's harbor
We didn’t arrive in this pretty city until noon, but we stayed until 8:00PM. Getting into the harbor is fun in that we came through the narrows where you could see the eyes of the birds nesting on the banks. St. John's is an interesting town with most everything built up the hills from the harbor, which is quite small; it is the capital and largest city in Newfoundland and Labrador, Canada. St. John's is also one of North America's oldest settlements. However, people didn’t begin living here year-round until sometime after 1630 but seasonal habitation can be traced back to between 1494 and 1545 (depending on whose records you read). The English fishermen who had seasonal camps in Newfoundland in the 16th Century were forbidden by the British government from creating permanent homes along the English controlled coast, which is the reason that St. John's was late in becoming a town.

Our tour, which I would not do again because it was over-priced for what we got, took us up to Signal Hill. This is the location of Cabot Tower which was built in 1897 to commemorate
Left: Cabot Tower
Right T to B: Harbor and cruise ship,
Houses in business zone
the 400th anniversary of John Cabot's discovery of Newfoundland, and Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee. There were great views of the city and the harbor and I’d have liked to have taken a walk or two, but we only had about 20 minutes. Signal Hill is so named because the first transatlantic wireless transmission was received here by Guglielmo Marconi on December 12, 1901. This is not the only 1st to which St John’s holds claim. It was the starting point for the first non-stop transatlantic aircraft flight. In June 1919, John Alcock and Arthur Brown left Lester's Field in a modified Vickers Vimy IV bomber; they landed in a bog near Clifden, Connemara, Ireland. It wasn’t a pretty landing, but at least they walked away and they set a new world’s record. Although the original Lester’s Field is now in a suburb, we did drive by the area and through the streets where the first business zone developed. The houses here are quaint and colorful, but I really didn’t see that they were especially ‘Victorian’; they looked more like the houses you’d find in Maine. Although St. John's has had its share of fires, wars, and other upheavals, it was seriously affected in the 1990s by the collapse of the Northern cod fishery. This had been the driving force of the economy for hundreds of years and it has taken a significant length of time, along with the influx of jobs from the nearby oil fields to re-start population growth and commercial development.

We did get a chance to see the exterior of several churches and historic buildings before we
Top L to R: The Rooms, Sea Woman
Bottom: Sled, spinning wheel, crib
were dropped off at The Rooms, a natural history/history/art museum. The building is named for its architecture that harkens back to gable-roofed sheds called ‘fishing rooms’. These were once common along the waterline in fishing villages. The construction of this structure was not without conflict. It sits on the site of Fort Townshend an 18th-century military fort. This National Historic Site of Canada which was once one of the largest British fortifications in North America, then at one time housed of the Royal Newfoundland Constabulary, and finally the St. John's Fire Department was buried beneath the museum. The Rooms has an interesting mix of ancient and modern displays with a current exhibition of WWI thrown in.

As we walked down the hill to get back to the boat and hunted for souvenir places which are
Left T to B: Mermaid mural, Whale mural
Right T to B: Dog statues, Wharf speed
surprisingly scarce, we stopped to see the monuments to veterans and to dogs. Of course, I had to rub the dogs’ noses. It was a lovely walk and I quite like this town. We did discover a wonderful area in which the buildings had murals. I liked the mermaid; Dave liked the whale. There is a lot more to see in St John’s and the surrounding area, so we will have to go back and rent a car. Since we can travel at wharf speed, we may need to rent the Enterprise.

There were days I think all we did was eat, so I was glad to have some time on shore to
Top L to R: Mango salad, tuna
Middle L to R: Steak, Thalli
Bottom L to R: Cheesecake, Ice cream
walk up and down hills. This evening’s dinner included Jamaica mango salad, Thalli, seared ahi tuna, grilled New York strip loin, strawberry cheesecake, and tiramisu ice cream. So glad we didn’t go hungry…

Lights as we left St John's

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