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Vacationing in St. John’s, Newfoundland

As you may have noticed, there were no posts last week. This was because hubby and I were vacationing in St. John’s, Newfoundland. It’s a very interesting city to visit and with the Canadian dollar worth less than the American dollar right now a great option to travel within Canada. A little bit of history about St. John’s: it is considered to be the North America’s oldest city, with year-round settlement beginning after 1630. English fishermen set up seasonal camps in Newfoundland in the 16th century, but were forbidden by the British government to set up permanent settlements until after 1630. The first European to sail into St. John’s harbour was Venetian explorer John Cabot in 1494. Cabot’s Tower on Signal Hill is named after him.

St. John’s today is a city of about 106,000 (2011 census). The main languages are English and French. Though as most people know, Newfoundlanders or Newfies have their own dialect called Newfinese or Newfoundland English, influenced by the Scottish, Irish as well as the city of Bristol, and the counties of Cornwall, Devon, Dorset, Hampshire and Somerset. Some really strange phrases have come about from this mixture of dialects as you can imagine. I walked into one souvenir shop and found some chocolate bars they were selling with some typical Newfinese phrases like: Stunned as me arse, or Yes b’y. Which translates to: you’re stupid and Yes boy. Another example of Newfinese is really evident when you do the screech-in. Screech is the name for the Newfoundland rum which is I think 100% proof. In Wikipedia screech technically means any cheap alcohol or moonshine. But I think it was also called screech because that’s the sound you make when you taste this stuff! Hubby was screeched in at Christian’s Bar. You can check out the Yelp reviews for Christian’s Bar here, mine is under Hazel P. Below is a video of a screech-in I found on YouTube. This is essentially what happens at a screech-in though hubby’s was a little different.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1xxr46oLBFQ

So you may be wondering what is St. John’s actually like? St. John’s is a hilly city and often windy. If you plan to walk around the city bring a good pair of walking shoes. Your thighs will get a good workout on the hills of St. John’s. As for the wind, the whole week we were there a breeze was ever constant. In Toronto you can get days when there is barely any breeze or wind. But winds can gust as high as 54 km/hour in St. John’s. Ladies, this will play havoc with your hairdo so just relax and don’t worry about it. You’re on vacation after all! Weather-wise, at times it was cool (9C in the mornings) and at times the weather was hot (27C in the afternoon). We were lucky as it didn’t rain much when we were there. The downtown area is quite compact. The busiest streets are Water Street and Duckworth Street which are close to the harbour and have the most businesses. Shopping consists of independent shops. There isn’t a large mall downtown there like Toronto’s Eaton Center. Restaurants are a variety of Seafood, Italian, Japanese, Mexican, Middle Eastern food, Chinese, Vietnamese and Canadian. There were about 6 vegetarian restaurants I saw in the city. You will find though that many restaurants have vegetarian friendly foods. For those who like to party, George Street is where you find all the pubs. When the music festival is on, the ends of George Street are blocked off and you’ll find a live band playing on the band shell.

The people in St. John’s are the friendliest I’ve encountered in my travels of Canada’s cities. Whether you’re dressed up fancy or casually that doesn’t impact how friendly they will be to you. They don’t care how you’re dressed. They won’t judge you by how you look, but by how you treat them. The same goes for your ethnicity. I’m Filipino and I didn’t see many other ethnicities around. But despite that I felt very welcomed by the people of St. John’s. I have traveled in some cities outside of Canada where I was stared at for being the only Asian-looking person in the area. That welcoming vibe extends into their restaurants. You can go into almost any restaurant dressed casually and they will serve you without making you feel you’re underdressed. I also noticed that when you’re crossing the streets and there’s no stop light the cars will stop for you and let you go by. Here in Toronto some people won’t stop if you’re not at a stop light.

We stayed at a bed and breakfast in St. John’s called the Balmoral Inn. This is a beautiful 130 year old Victorian house converted into a bed and breakfast. The Balmoral is close to everything and it was a great location for us to be in. Kim and David, the owners of the Balmoral were super friendly and I also liked that the Balmoral has a commitment to being eco-friendly. They recycle, use organic bedding, energy efficient bulbs, print on recycled paper and more. Their breakfast options also include some organic items like tea and bread. If we ever come back to St. John’s we will stay at the Balmoral Inn.

To see more of the pictures and videos from my trip, take a look at my Instagram feed. I love seeing the other cities in Canada. Not only is it more cost effective, but we don’t have to worry about currency conversion rates, or bringing special travel plugs for our electronic devices. Also, there are so many great cities to see in Canada and we haven’t even visited them all! Canada is a beautiful country and I love it. I’m going to borrow a phrase from the Canadian anthem: “God keep our land glorious and free.” It’s my hope that Canada keeps its wilderness clean and make its cities more eco-friendly so that wildlife is minimally impacted. Have you ever been to St. John’s, Newfoundland?