Monday, September 01, 2008

Travel Stories from St. John's!

My life has been in the fast lane for the past couple of years. So, when I came across the full page ad of air travel to St. John's, NL; that promised tranquility to visitors; I was curious! The ad featured nothing but sprawling green. That same day I looked the official tourism web site of Newfoundland and ordered a free guide. Flipping through pages of the guide, when it arrived, reading about the natural peace and beauty this province offers, I knew I had to go there some day. What I didn't know that my rendezvous will be so early --this summer.

St. John's, Newfoundland --August 29 - September 2, 2008

St. John's welcomed our arrival with abundance of rain. Our inn keeper, we stayed at The Bluestone Inn, a B&B located in downtown St. John's, welcomed our arrival with urgency and promptly left us to go look after a sick friend. We were left in our room, on the second floor of a 1900 building. We counted there were 38 stairs to our room. Suddenly, I had much more appreciation for elevators. The room was furnished with stuff that could have also dated to the time when the building was built. No kidding! Everything about the place screamed antiques.

I was feeling completely out of place, calculating the number of hours left of the trip, thinking maybe I should change the departure date and grinding my teeth with frustration at the thought. Last thing I wanted to do (on my vacation) was to spend hours on the phone talking to the airline's customer service and feeling helpless.

They say, "Never judge a book by its cover." In my moment of snap judgment, I had decided that my visit to St. John's was ruined, however a couple of hours and a few dozen camera snaps later, I had a totally different view about this.

Welcome to the Far East. Where people have been living since the 1620s. Where Newfoundland and North America begins. Here you can indulge in (hi)story and natural beauty.

Don't be surprised if people on the streets say hi to you and ask how you are doing today. Don't be shy to reply and ask the same questions from them. We found the newfie accent endearing. It's a mix of Irish and Scottish English with a little bit of drawl.

The art and culture may seem unfamiliar. If you are a traveler and have visited many art galleries, museums, etc., brace yourself for a refreshingly unique art. This I think is because people in this area have lived here for generations and established their own way of expression and art. You can see nature has a lot of influence on the art works.

Renting a car, even for one day, to see the seaside settlements and wildlife (beaver and caribou) is a must. We didn't get around to do it this time round (yes, we are planning to go back). We spent our time exploring almost all the St. John's sites, culture and people.

We did most of our touring using either public transit, metro bus, or on foot. Taking the Route 10 bus is a must. The bus travels through some of the major streets, Freshwater Rd, Elizabeth Avenue (the one and only flat street in the city), it passes by the most significant landmarks, City Hall, Memorial University of Newfoundland, Health and Sciences library and Pippy park, a 3400 acre land reserve right in St. John's. The bus rides are $2.25 and can be paid, exact fare, on the bus. Make sure to ask the driver for a transfer if you have to switch buses. Stopovers are not allowed, though.

You must hit the trails, you must! Walking to the top of the Signal Hill and then hiking along the Atlantic coast was an exhilarating experience for me. Besides amazing view of the Atlantic ocean, I relived Marconi's moment when he received the first transatlantic wireless signal.

Places you are likely to visit:

  • Signal Hill Road
  • The Battery
  • The Rooms
  • Basilica of St. John's the Baptist
  • George Street (Enjoy the nightlife of St. John's here --for best experience go on the weekend)
  • Cape Spear (easternmost point in Canada --beyond this point is Atlantic Ocean)
  • Geo Johnson Center (Built deep into the earth with only the large, glass-encased entryway protruding above ground, this geological is literally embedded in Signal Hill, which is made up of 550-million-year-old rocks!)
    It offers three very unique exhibits:

    • The Titanic Story (did you know that Titanic sank 350 miles away from Newfoundland?)
    • The ExxonMobil Oil and Gas gallery (go there if you want to learn why oil is nicknamed black gold.)
    • Earth's geological showcase (story of earth --going back to over 4.5 billion years ago)

Visitor Information Centre is located on 384 Water Street

I bet you are hungry to know about St. John's restaurants and bistros. I have one word for you: Coffee Matters, Go there! I crave their creme brulee!

St. John's was an unforgettable destination for us. There is something simple and sincere about this place. Go there if you are looking for a quiet spot --it gives you a whole new perspective!

No comments: