We’ve spent the last day and a half exploring St. John’s, and it’s already clear to me how different Newfoundland and Labrador, or “Newfie,” is to the rest of the other Canadian provinces we visited, even Prince Edward Island and New Brunswick. The accents are stronger here and surprised me; they sound like some combination of a Canadian accent mixed with Scottish and Irish. St. John’s feels very quaint and small, even though it’s the capital of Newfoundland and Labrador. The downtown area felt like a little seaside town in many ways, with brightly colored homes (in the vein of the Jelly Bean Row homes), windy streets, and small shop storefronts. All the businesses we’ve visited so far support other local businesses, for everything from their meats, cheeses, and produce all the way down to the salt they use. And if they aren’t supporting local businesses, then they are literally making and growing everything they use and serve themselves. The Newfoundlanders take so much pride in their crafts.
I guess they didn’t accidentally name Nova Scotia “New Scotland” for no reason, nor are the accents similar to the Scottish accent for no reason, as well. We visited the Johnson Geo Centre, which is built right beneath the beautiful Signal Hill National Historic Site, the highest point of St. John’s. The centre describes the earth’s geological makeup, the local area’s cultural history, and in general, Newfoundland life. The craziest thing we learned from visiting this exhibit was that back in the Caledonian orogeny 400 million years ago, two bits of the earth’s crust began to collide. The result much later was the Central Pangaean Mountains that formed. What we know now to be Newfoundland and Labrador and Scotland were actually the same land mass once upon a time but have since been separated. The same rock formations found in Scotland can be found in Newfoundland today, and we saw many examples of this during our hike as well as at the Geo Centre.
The other interesting history we learned was the real cause of the Titanic sinking. At first, I was wondering why the Titanic even had its own exhibit, but then I found out this was due to the Titanic crashing in this vicinity. The exhibit made it very clear that you cannot blame the Titanic sinking “because of an iceberg,” which I always thought was idiotic, yet another example of human beings refusing to have any accountability or take responsibility for their mistakes. The crash and the over 1,500 deaths that happened as a result of the Titanic sinking was really due to many, many greedy and arrogant white men, including J.P. Morgan, who at the time, made selfish and short-sighted decisions, resulting in this epic and tragic devastation. What probably made my blood pressure soar the most was seeing that those who managed the Titanic gave zero reparations for damages and deaths to the survivors and families despite their extreme wealth. This, plus the fact that there were not enough life boat seats for everyone, and they boarded people on the life boats in order of class – it’s just amazing how greedy and heartless people are regardless of what time period we’re in.
Signal Hill gives a gorgeous view of the entire city and the sweeping water, harbor, and lighthouses that surround it. We spent the late afternoon yesterday hiking this area, and it was so impressive how well laid out and maintained it was. It reminded me a lot of the coastal walk in Rhode Island, just that here, there were far fewer people hiking, and the ones who were actually in the area seemed more like locals going for their daily exercise. There are boardwalks and stairs in many areas, chains where the ledges are very slim so that you can still safely walk across the rocks, and many resting areas where bright red Adirondack chairs can be found. The colors of the area were so vibrant; the green of the grass seemed to be nearly florescent and glowing in some areas, while the water appeared aquamarine and emerald-hued, sparkling wildly depending on how bright the sun was shining. The greens and the blues really contrasted with the whites and reds of the lighthouses. You could also see all those millions of years literally layering on top of one another when gazing over the cliffs and the rock formations, with all the different layers and shades of tan, brown, orange, and red.
The rugged beauty of this area has stunned me in the last couple of days. I’m happy that it feels so remote and untouched because that adds to the beauty and serenity, but given its proximity to New York City (it’s just about 4 hours away by flight), it’s crazy that so few people come visit. Most of the tourists we’ve noticed so far have been domestic tourists exploring their own backyard. This truly feels like a getaway from civilization as we know it.