St. John's Walking Tour - Hiking Newfoundland

 

Beginning an adventure to explore a bit of Newfoundland for the first time.

 

 

 

The two-hour drive south from Dieppe in New Brunswick to the Halifax Stanfield International Airport in Nova Scotia begins before sunrise.  The entire trip is under overcast skies as Hurricane Leslie moves north in the Atlantic Ocean pushing heavy weather ahead of the major storm. 

Following a quick breakfast at Tim Hortons near the airport, Mélanie and I swiftly check in for the direct hour and a half flight to St. John's, Newfoundland on a Porter Airlines Bombardier Q400 turboprop airplane.

 

St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

 

The flight leaves ahead of schedule.  Condiments, including beer and wine are complementary.  Service is excellent.  The flight is predominantly above cloud, first over Nova Scotia, then over water for most of the trip.

It is uplifting to see the Newfoundland coastline for the first time.  The flight passes over the small French islands St. Pierre and Miquelon.

Shortly after landing early at the St. John's Airport,  Newfoundland Visitor Services provides a precise route to get from the airport to the hotel.

 

St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada The first view of the Avalon Peninsula, Newfoundland from the plane.

 

St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada These are not the French Islands of St. Pierre et Miquelon but the flight passes them on the flight path from Halifax, Nova Scotia to St. John's, Newfoundland

 

Somewhat miraculously, the drive survives the complex road system for arrival at accommodation on the other side of the city.  The afternoon will be dedicated to sightseeing and accommodation is close to downtown at Extended Stay Deluxe so, armed with a map, the haphazard walking tour begins.   

Later, at the St. John's Tourism and Culture Centre on Water Street, we learn there are four formal walking tours to more thoroughly discover the long and fascinating history of this historic and unique city. 

The first discovery is the George Street United Church, built in 1873 and one of a few churches which survived the Great Fire of 1892.

 

St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

 

Further east, at the end of George Street is an interesting statue representing several venues of Newfoundland culture and entertainment.

 

St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

 

The old part of the city is built on a hill.  Many of the street levels are connected by elaborate stone stairways.

It is interesting to note the Island of Newfoundland hosts the greatest historical depth of discovery in Canada and is also the last Province to join Confederation in 1949.  Tradition runs deep here.

 

St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

 

The discovery walk continues downhill past elaborately painted, angular homes to the waterfront of St. John's Harbour where iconic Signal Hill stands sentinel over the Narrows which separate St. John's Harbour from the Atlantic Ocean.

A light rain begins as is common and rain gear is equipped to handle it.

 

St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada Cabot Tower stands in the mist on top of Signal Hill above St. John's Harbour in St. John's, Newfoundland

 

St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

 

The waterfront at St. John's Harbour is a combination of busy shipyard hosting every conceivable variety of vessel, and museum.  There are brass plaques and storyboards attached to nearly everything.  History here is long and deep.

There is little more than cursory opportunity to examine content but the descriptions are exciting and fascinating.  Several days could easily be spent absorbing the plethora of interesting historical information.

 

St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

 

There is an opportunity to take a ride on the Duffet Docks.  The water is reasonably calm but it quickly becomes apparent, motion is spontaneous and unpredictable in every direction and angle so it would be easy to get pitched into the harbor.

 

St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

 

Following is a single example from scores of brass plaques at the waterfront.

Note the dates.

 

 

Some of the stairways between streets contain elaborate war memorials.

 

St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada Looking up from the bottom.

 

St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada Looking down from the top.

 

To say the least, residential streets are colorful.  Many of the homes are very old and have been restored many times.  Foundations rest on solid rock.  Real estate is expensive and property, for the most part, is meticulously maintained. 

Streets are on steep hills and are often one way or blind alleys.  Street names can change 3 or 4 times in half a kilometer.  Everything is at angles.  There are no 'blocks' downtown.  Old is mixed with new.  Signage is unpredictable and often missing or too late.  Navigation is an adventure best done on foot.

Parking is a crap shoot.  Residential streets are by permit only.  Street planning is a dog's breakfast.  Be forewarned.  Plan ahead.

 

St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

 

On the return walk to the hotel for rest, and to prepare for dinner, the downtown walk proceeds past scores of historic structures.  Each has a story board like the examples below.

The depth and preservation of historical information in St. John's is truly impressive.  This blog post barely scratches the surface of the volume of content visited in just a few hours.

 

 

St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

 

A few minutes are spent at the landmark Basilica of St. John the Baptist to see an overview portion of the huge cathedral and complex.

The massive and truly impressive facility deserves more time than is currently available.  A separate post will be prepared for the impressive and historically significant structure.

 

St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada The Convent is adjacent to the massive stone Basilica.

 

St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada St. Patrick's Hall, constructed in 1877, is across the street from the Basilica in St. John's Newfoundland.

 

At the next corner, west of the Basilica, resides the National Historic Site dedicated to Sir John Harvey and Fort Townshend on the final approach towards accommodation.

 

St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

 

Just behind Fort Townshend is a modern structure called 'The Rooms'  which is an impressive modern structure with internal open space containing large quantities of black granite and glass.

The structure provides rooms for archives, museum exhibits and an art gallery.

 

St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada

St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada 'The Rooms' - Archives - Museum - Art Gallery

 

St. John's Walking Tour - St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada A view through an upstairs window in 'The Rooms' across the front of the Basilica and St. John's Harbour towards Signal Hill above St. John's, Newfoundland

 

This is the first time Mélanie and I have set foot on Newfoundland and the shared experience occurs in a place full of fascinating wonder, surprise and fascination where depth of history is staggering and the degree of preservation is substantially beyond impressive. 

Supper is served at Smitty's Restaurant in the Courtyard Marriott on Duckworth Street where dinner in the lounge occurs while watching ships sail through the Narrows into St. John's Harbour.

One of the very large ships is bright orange and we are told it makes nearly daily voyages shuttling supplies to and from Hibernia.  The impressive vessel parks at the docks directly in front of the lounge dinner location.  A fine meal here includes unique ambiance and perpetual entertainment.

On the return walk to the car, Mélanie stops for treats at a popular Water Street chocolate shop for a relaxing end to a long day of travelling and touring the downtown of St. John's, Newfoundland on foot.

This trip is hosted by my long-time friend and hiking partner and the initiative is truly appreciated.

 

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