Newfoundland part 3: The Beginning and the End

Mar 1, 2015 | 0 comments

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
Monday was my last day in Newfoundland, so I was determined to make the most of it. My friend had class in the morning, so I took the city bus into town to wander the streets and take in the sights one last time. 

Unfortunately, my phone decided to break just as I got off the bus, which totally caught me off guard — how would I know what time it is and when I should head back? What if I got lost? What would I do if there was an emergency? Just as quickly as all these thoughts flooded my head, I mentally snuffed them out, thinking how silly it was that I’ve become so reliant on it. Not even reliant, just more of a security blanket. I reminded myself that I’d made it all over England, Ireland, and Wales without a phone for 4 months back in college, and days at a time in the Alaskan backcountry without one, so I could certainly manage a day in the ultra-friendly town of St. John’s, Newfoundland. In fact, as I wandered disoriented through the jelly bean streets, I felt an excited sense of freedom, openness, and disconnect. 
I didn’t take many pictures, but instead wandered up and down the steep and narrow streets. I found a visitor center and collected some maps, but didn’t even end up using them; I was content to be lost and invisible that morning.
Miraculously, after a couple hours I guesstimated the time accurately, found my way back to the bus stop, managed to get off at the right bus stop, and found my way back to my friend’s apartment without a hitch. Woohoo!
‘Canada begins here! …or ends, depending which way you’re going.’
Our destination for the afternoon was Cape Spear, the easternmost point in North America. In truest maritime fashion, the weather was socked in with heavy bands of fog and chilly bite to the air, the fog horn at the lighthouse bemoaning the dangerous conditions every few minutes. A fantastic sign read in English and French, “Canada begins here! …Or ends, depending on which way you’re going.” I thought it rather fitting for the end of my trip, and beginning of my new-found fandom this wonderful country. 

Boardwalk at Cape Spear
WWII bunkers

Before getting up to the lighthouse, we passed through a couple WWII bunkers that had originally been built there as a coastal defense battery. It was a strategic location during the Battle of the Atlantic because of the lighthouse’s proximity to convoy routes. They were pretty eerie, and inside the floors were slick with ice and the walls covered with graffiti.

An icy passageway
It was a straight drop down to the water, about 50′

The new lighthouse

The original lighthouse at Cape Spear was built in the 1830s and looked almost exactly like the one in Bonavista, but the working lighthouse that is active now was built in the 1950s. Interestingly, the lighthouse was tended by the same family, the Cantwells, for over 150 years. Unfortunately, the museum and buildings were closed since it’s still the off-season, but I would have liked to have learned more about it while I was there. (At least there’s always Google.)

The light house.. doing what lighthouses do
Pretty wicked waves!


After thoroughly freezing our buns off we headed back into town to warm up and relax for a few hours before evening.

Cool view of town from the hill

This is poutine

Before returning home however, we stopped into the Poutinerie, a fast food joint that serves Canada’s perhaps most famous greasy wonder: poutine. It sounds gross when you first hear about it, but believe me when I say it is the most delicious bad food you will ever eat. Poutine is basically just french fries with gravy and cheese curds.  Yes, you will feel guilty after eating it, but it’s so worth it. Don’t judge, it’s amazing.

Seal gods forgive me.
Supper later that night was even more guilty but for totally different reasons. On the menu: Flipper pie. Seal gods, forgive me. Seal is a common traditional food among many native arctic groups, and in Newfoundland it can be found in some of the smaller local grocery stores. It becomes especially popular in April/May during the seasonal seal hunt. Of course, we had to try it.

After about 20 minutes in the oven, we cut into it to find something resembling a potpie with black meat and a distinct aroma of fish. We served it up, along with a bowl of soup, birch beer (kind of a fruity root beer), and a Nanaimo bar for dessert (another heaven-sent Canadian specialty).

My friend took a video of the first bite:

The first taste isn’t bad, but as soon as it hits the back of your tongue, the flavor is a force to be reckoned with. That’s some powerful stuff. It has a tender, weird chicken/tuna stringy texture, and an extremely fishy flavor. I managed to make it through a few bites, but after that I was all about the soup. At least now I can say I’ve eaten seal, and won’t have to worry about ever craving it!

After dinner we took off to the university radio station, where my friend records a weekly radio show. We had planned out the playlist over dinner, of course highlighting the music we’d heard in concert over the weekend, as well as some Alaskan and American favorites in the spirit of our friendship’s roots. It turned out to be a total blast, once I got over the awkwardness of talking into a microphone. The radio show was goofy and cheesy and extremely rough, but all in good fun.

If you dare, you can listen to the broadcast on SoundCloud here and hear to me embarrass myself multiple times on air. Hooray!

That pretty much wrapped up my whirlwind trip to Newfoundland. We played a couple games of Settles of Catan with my friend’s roommates late into the night, and finally went to bed for a few hours before my morning flight out the next day.

All I can say is, what a weekend! There was still so much more to see and do in Newfoundland, but I feel like I got a pretty good taste of the place and culture, food and music. I definitely want to go back one day, and especially see more of Canada now. Thank you a million times over to the good people of St. John’s and Bonavista who livened my journey throughout, and especially to my friend who let me crash on his floor and was a fantastic tour guide all weekend.

May we all soon meet again, and long may yer big jib draw!


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