St. John’s rainbow streets

Three weeks and 5031km. It’s been a big trip. I’m not sure that measurement is exactly right, but it was the distance given to Vancouver from the top of Signal Hill in St. John’s.

After two days driving around the Avalon Penisula it was a bit disheartening coming back to a city. But St. John’s can barely be called that in comparison to other provincial capitals. The city itself is home to about 160,000. I arrived late in the afternoon, after nearly being blown off the island at Cape Spear. Here my CouchSurfing host is John, a Newfie through and through. He grew up in central Newfoundland, but moved to the city a few years ago. I’ve been warned that Newfie’s may be a bit more rowdy than other Canadians and I get my taste of that when we hit the pubs.

George St in St. John’s is a famed entertainment strip and we see it on a interesting night. Tom Petty is in town for two shows so that has bought a big crowd in. Before we went out, we had a few drinks at John’s place were I got an introduction to some special Newfie personalities. I would love to give you an idea of what I’m talking about, but it’s just not in me to repeat some of the conversations. It was colourful. I was a little surprised at the activity on George St. There were a lot of pubs and bars for such a small city and they were all pretty well packed. Although there seemed to be just as many people on the street and plenty of food vans to keep them fed. I called it a night about 2am and that was incredibly early by Newfie standards.

The next morning I braved the wind and walked to Signal Hill and Cabot Tower, about 4km from John’s place. The walk up there wasn’t too bad, but the wind made it difficult to hang around too long. Just enough time to take some pictures, admire the view and marvel at some uni-cyclists who were riding down some of the tracks up there that I would have thought more suited to mountain bikes.

Back downtown I got to explore the city that looks so beautiful on postcards. Although the weather wasn’t in my favour, it was nice enough to stroll through the streets. There are various activities you can do in St. John’s; whale watching tours and the like are popular. But I’m content just to walk around. I absolutely adore the jelly bean houses. I think the name refers to a particular set of the colourful gems, but I’m just going to apply it to all of them. There’s a house in nearly every colour, some in better shape than others. I wonder if the city has even considered putting the power lines underground. It certainly would enhance the view.

There are larger shopping centres on the outskirts of town so the downtown area isn’t really a central shopping hub. There are still some really cute stores; second hand book shops, chocolate stores, lots of art shops, heritage shops and cafes. I followed the recommendation of a customer in Vancouver and headed to Rocket Bakery. It turned out to be a very good choice, and a place John later said he would have sent me if I’d asked. There’s pastries, soups, sandwiches, hot meals and a bunch of other stuff and it’s all made there. So much of the food here is flown in (as I noticed in the supermarkets) so it was nice to have something fresh. I walked along George St again. What a change from last night. I was the only person on the street. There was a line of taxis. It must be the place in town to catch them. When I walked past again about 7pm, there were already people about, and it was a Sunday night.

The next morning John drove me out to Quidi Vidi, a little village only a couple of kilometres from downtown St. John’s. There’s a small little harbour and apparently only a few weeks ago a decent-size iceberg was pushing on the breakwater. There’s no such spectacle for me though; just a cute little area. One of the main attractions is the Quidi Vidi Brewery. I sampled some of their products on Saturday night…not too shabby.

On the way to the airport we made one last stop at Tim Hortons. Í hardly went when I was living in Vancouver, but for some reason I wanted to make sure I made the most of it before I left. Guess I must be more Canadian than I thought.

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