When I tell my students that it is logical when a city is built on a harbor site, I usually say there is always going to be someone on the boat that is all “OK, that’s it, no more of this sailing the high seas stuff, hey, look there, a harbor and a flat spot of land, pull over!” St. John’s Newfoundland & Labrador meets the criteria almost perfectly, a beautiful safe harbor and calm places to park your boat. However, there are about 20 feet of flat land, and then you best commence to drag your carcass up some hills. Anne, Alison and I arrived on Sunday, and in our very first junket out of the hotel (located on Hill O’ Chips Street (not making that up)) we ended up going up the aptly named Long Hill Road and since then have trekked up and down the surrounding area several times. If you leave the hotel you are going to be climbing a hill sometime soon, count on it.
St. John’s was the first English founded city in North America and is now the Capital of the Province. The Province is not Newfoundland, but Newfoundland and Labrador, as I am endlessly telling my students. We are however, solely on the island of Newfoundland for this leg of the journey, so I’ll just call it Newfoundland for now.
I have come to this fair city with my friends Anne and Alison. Alison and I are heading out on an Adventure Canada “cruise” (hereinafter to be called an “expedition”) of Newfoundland, Labrador and Greenland. When Ali and I head out to sea on Wednesday, Anne will fly back to the states and then onto Cuba! We do have some interesting travels, don’t we?
After settling at our hotel, we went for a walk along Water Street, seeing various ships in the harbor and found an excellent park, with a war memorial, a history of the city on plaques, and large statues of a Newfoundland dog and a Labrador. Also all along the light poles are banners for the centennial celebration of World War One. I’m sorry we won’t be here on July 1, as it is the 100th anniversary of the Battle of Beaumont Hamel, part of the Battle of the Somme. At roll call the day after Beaumont Hamel there were only 68 men there. Over 700 were killed or missing. There is a memorial event every year, but this year is to be very large and includes a visit from the Princess Royal (HRH Princess Anne) and the opening of a new exhibit about the Royal Newfoundland Regiment at the local museum, The Rooms.
We faced our first hill, the aforementioned Long Hill, soon after, on the quest for a fish and chips shop Ali’s friend had recommended. It’s probably a good thing we are doing a lot of walking, because Ali and I got what was described as a classic dish, fish and chips, the chips being fries laying on a bed of dressing (stuffing) and covered in gravy and fried onions. Frankly the fish seemed a bit of an afterthought, kind of hidden between my mound of fries. This delicate dish followed our appetizer of cod tongues, which is another Newfoundland speciality, although when I say “our,” I mean Anne had one bite and Ali didn’t try any. Me, being a renaissance woman and open to the cultures of many lands, I chowed down, and the cod tongues were not horrific, but not something I feel I ever need to have again. They are fried, but as Ali read somewhere, have a bit of a “gelatinous” texture, kind of like a raw oyster. Tip: Don’t chew your cod tongues too much, just let them slide on down.
After rolling ourselves out of the Ches’s restaurant we began to ease our way back down the hill, passing a several churches (we passed some on the way up the hill too) and many colorful row houses. It’s a charming place, quiet and pretty and the people, though few are out on this Sunday night, seem very nice.
To be continued in the next episode: Monday: We continue to walk up and down hills and become honorary Newfoundlanders.