After a solid sleep in, we met in the hotel restaurant for breakfast and then set out for further exploration of the hills and sights of St. John’s. Our first stop was the tourist information center, where we got maps of the area and a recommendation of a whale watching trip, that we booked for Tuesday. Having been moving for at least a half hour, we took a rest for coffee at “Second Cup” and then set out, back uphill all the way to see The Rooms, the local history museum.
Along the way we stopped at the St. John the Baptist Anglican Cathedral, which was very pretty and had local folk bustling about preparing for a funeral, placing flowers and conferring about the placement of “the stack” (chalice and paten for communion) just like we would see in our own church. A block or two later (assume all blocks are followed by the word “uphill”) we got to The Rooms. They are clearly racing to meet the July 1 memorial deadline, with electricians installing lights in the sidewalk outside and men with tiles of turf, dishing them onto the bare earth.
We had lunch on the top floor of The Rooms, with some tasty salad and a great view of the city and harbor below. The museum proved to be excellent, starting with the art display “Play” which was several artists take on playing games. There was a large seesaw, a piano with light switched instead of keys and several very complicated board games that very likely showed the comicality and futility of life all at once. Sadly no pictures were allowed in this gallery, what with the playful scent of copyrighted art in the air, because Alison and Anne immediately got on the seesaw and had a fine time.
In the other galleries there were: a history of the Irish influence on St. John’s, and then the origins gallery showing the artifacts and stories of the five groups that make up Newfoundland: Livers (descendents of European settlers, mostly English and Irish) and the four indigenous groups: Innu, Inuit, Southern Inuit and Mi’kmaq. It was really interesting and in addition to artifacts had pictures of present day descendants of all the groups and recordings of them talking about particular items and history of their culture. Another gallery further covered ancient native culture and the animals of the island and surrounding waters. On the main floor was the new Royal Newfoundland Regiment Gallery. Not open, but totally worth the look was hanging from the ceiling, the beautiful band of metal forget-me-nots leading to the gallery. It reminded me of the red ceramic poppies that Melissa was a part of placing in the Tower of London two years ago.
After the requisite stop in the gift shop we walked back to the hotel via Moo Moo’s Ice Cream and the Newfoundland Chocolate stop. Pretty tough work touristing, I know. I decided to put my feet up for a bit, while Anne and Alison hired a taxi to take them up to Signal Hill. They reported back an hour or so later, quite wind blown. They had a great view, but the wind was extremely brisk.
Our walks and activities are simply the means to the next meal, and for dinner we were hoping for a place with a good view of the sunset on the harbor, so we ended up at “The Keg” which had a nice view of the harbor, but it was quickly eclipsed by the view of our very handsome waiter and some nice lobsters. He looked and sounded Irish, but told us his name was Jamal, which really didn’t seem to fit, but who are we to judge? We did speculate that it was perhaps “Jamal Patrick O’Shaunessy,” and when the bill came, we called him on the fact that his given name seemed to be noted on the Bill as David.” During all the dinner, we had good food, tasty drinks, and plenty of local info from Jamal Patrick David O’Shaunessy. We were particularly interested in the “Screeching In” ceremony that makes one a Honorary Newfoundlander. We knew that was something we were going to have to do!
So that is why about an hour an a half later we were at Christian’s Bar, listening to a man with an oar talk about how to speak Newfoundlandese and the rights and responsibilities thereof. (We warmed up the event with a jello shot and a discussion of current American politics with a nice fella and his girl who were sitting at the bar when we came in. Note: We (USA) are not looking that hot right now, FYI.) But back to the ceremony. We ate some Newfoundland steak (baloney) kissed a large frozen cod, and did a shot of Screech Rum. We then received a certificate! Everything is official if you have a certificate!
He told us a lot of cool firsts about Newfoundland, but right now all I can remember is it is the receiving place of the first transatlantic telegram. Yay Newfoundland!
Honorary Newfoundlander, signing off for now.