Land Ho! St John’s, Newfoundland
After 5 rather turbulent days on the Atlantic avoiding Hurricane Lorenzo, we docked in St John’s, Newfoundland! Not that we didn’t enjoy our sea days because we did, even though the ship was rocking and rolling. What’s not to like having all your meals prepared, your room cleaned, beds made and nightly entertainment! We also enjoyed cooking classes, on board lecturers and a wide variety of premium cocktails and wines!
The above was at The Grill, outdoor dining on Hot Stones.
St. John’s, Newfoundland: The beauty of arriving at St John’s is that the ship docks right downtown. For more than 500 years, St. John’s has been visited by European explorers, adventurers, soldiers and pirates. St John’s, the provincial capital, is the economic and cultural centre for Newfoundland and Labrador.
It was first discovered in 1497 by John Cabot and later claimed as the first permanent settlement in North America for the British Empire by Sir Humphrey Gilbert. St. John’s has a rich and colourful history. It offers an enticing combination of old world charm, unique architectural, historic and natural attractions, top notch facilities and services and is located in close proximity to spectacular coastlines, historic villages and a diverse selection of wildlife.
Our ship arrived a day earlier than planned as we had to miss our stop in Ireland. Once docked we headed out. Downtown St. John’s is truly one of the most unique destinations you will ever visit. A place where old world charm mixes with a bustling business core in the oldest commercial district in North America. Downtown offers historic churches, art galleries and museums, pubs and more pubs! On George St, just a couple of blocks from the ship, there are more drinking establishments per square foot than anywhere else in North America. So, off we go in search of some local brew and music. We found it at Kelly’s Pub where we had to have a beer and listen to the wonderful local music. The beer we had was called Iceberg Beer brewed by the Quidi Vidi Brewing Company. They actually use chips from Icebergs to make the beer. Apparently, the ice is formed tens of thousands of years ago from compacted snow. That means there are no minerals and lots of tiny bubbles trapped inside. They say “it gives the golden beer a special, very light taste.”
St. John’s has been the site of several significant modern events. Marconi made the first reception of radio signals from across the Atlantic in 1901 on Signal Hill, above the harbor. Cabot Tower on Signal Hill is the last North American landmark sighted by Charles Lindberg on his famous solo flight across the Atlantic in 1927 as St.John’s is located further east than any other city in North America.
This is where we started our Coastal Hike shore excursion. While it was cold (5 C) and a bit windy, the hike was exceptional. A school bus took us up to the top of Signal Hill. The hike is an awesome way to return to downtown along the 1.7km North Head Trail, which connects Cabot Tower with the harborfront Battery neighborhood. The walk departs from the tower’s parking lot and traces the cliffs, imparting tremendous sea views.
The Battery is a small neighbourhood that sits on the entrance to the harbour located on the slopes of Signal Hill. It is sometimes described as an outport within the city. The area is noted for its steep slopes, colourful houses, and its importance as a battery for the defense of St. John’s Harbour in both World Wars.
The Battery is home to Chain Rock, a land outcropping to which a large chain and anti-submarine boom were attached connecting to Fort Amherst in order to prevent the entry of German U-boats into the harbour during World War II. Chain Rock is one of two rocks located on opposite sides of the Narrows, Chain Rock on the battery side and Pancake Rock on the opposite. The space between the two rocks is 174 metres. Chain Rock and Pancake Rock were used as early as 1770 where a defensive chain was stretched between both rocks at nightfall to prevent illegal entry of enemy ships. During World War I the chain was replaced with anti-submarine nets.
After returning to the ship for lunch, we wandered out again to explore some of the colourful sites of the city. One of the main attractions is the Basillica of St. John the Baptist. It’s located on Military Road, with a fine view over the Narrows and is claimed to be Newfoundland’s architecturally most important building built between 1842-92. It is built in the form of a Latin cross and graced by slender twin towers 46 meters high and is noted for some fine statues and its beautiful ornate gold leaf ceiling.
The thing that stuck me as being beautiful throughout the city is the lively, colourful way the houses are painted. Every street is like a painter’s palette of colour. Not sure how they decide on the colours or how they are mandated to have to paint the houses but it is certainly unique and beautiful
That’s it from St John’s. Hope you saw how beautiful this city is. I appreciate you reading along. Next stop is St Pierre et Miquelon!