St. John’s in a van
Right now I am sitting in our red rental van typing in the flicker of tea-lite-candles and to the sound of the powerful Atlantic Ocean crashing against the Canadian east coast. We drove north from St. John’s to Biscayan Cove where we parked at the road’s end - under a lighthouse. Alex and I began our trip to Newfoundland with a race, that is, the CIS XC National Championships. This is the peak of our university XC season so I knew I was going to be flown across Canada to compete but Alex didn’t want to miss out on an adventure so he flew out as well and we delayed our return tickets another week.
We specifically chose to rent a mini-van to use as our means of transportation and as our accommodation! With the seats folded down we have room for an air mattress, our sleeping bags, clothes, hiking boots, camp cookware and a little bit of food. One thing for certain is that we packed our bags full of ‘roll-with-it’ attitudes and adventure!
It is getting close to winter here, and the days are quite short. So what are travellers supposed to do in the dark after 5:00? Our first night we became honorary Newfoundlanders at Christian’s Bar by ‘kissing the cod’ and getting ‘screeched in’. Christian’s Bar did a great job at making this a big event by having a local Newfoundlander tell stories, spout out Newfoundland facts and teach us some Newfoundland lingo. We got a taste of Newfoundland steak (which is Bologna of all things!), a lick of a frozen cod, and a swig of screech rum. In the end we both got formal papers awarding us honorary Newfoundlander status.
We drove up to Signal Hill, which has a beautiful view of the city lights to the west and the vast Atlantic to the east. There was a lot of traffic up to the night views on Signal Hill but we were able to find a parking lot mid-way down that seemed quiet enough for us to sleep. In the middle of the night we had a few interruptions of vehicles driving by, our van interior lights turning on when the other person had to get out to pee, and our air mattress fully deflated by 4:00AM meaning that anytime one person moved the other got launched out of their slumber. Alex never slept, but me(Alison), with my special gift of being able to sleep anywhere in any way, was able to pull off a record solid sleep of 11hrs! Alex still hasn’t forgiven me.
So far, we have had delicious food from pulled pork turnovers at Rocket Foods and Bakery to Atlantic seafood chowder and brew at Yellow Belly Brew House to the biggest Newfoundlanders breakfast at the locally recommended Bagel Café. We have self-toured St. John’s Marine Street, peered in windows of century old churches, and strolled past the cheerful jellybean houses. We posed next to the Terry Fox monument, sat on top of a zinc and lead Newfoundland dog statue, and climbed the stairs of Newfoundland’s biggest Roman Catholic Grotto (a shrine built for the faith). We have hiked along the Atlantic coast and are not shy to make friends when we are lost.