Exploring St. John’s

The CLA conference was held at the end of May, and the weather was mostly perfect. It’s amazing to be in a place with 500 years of history (and more considering the Vikings landed in Newfoundland and it was home to aboriginals as well). The colourful houses enliven the dull surroundings of rocks and scrubby trees. The people are warm and friendly, and they are always ready to tell their stories. Newfoundlanders have a real connection to their past, to the land, and to the sea. I think I saw the genuine St. John’s when I saw right beside the CLA conference hotel the typical small colourful houses clinging to a steep hill, washing spread out on clothes lines in the backyards and kids playing with water balloons on the sidewalks.
 
St. John’s still has it rough edges, with its weathered harbour where gritty work is done. Walking the Harbour Street sidewalk, I passed scruffy men with Popeye physiques and beer bellies. One had a bloodied hand poorly bandaged. Bits of garbage and rusted scrap metal lie around in spots, and a few downtown shops are boarded up. But there is a strong uplifting feel to much of St. John’s because of a drive to boost tourism. A number of the sites I visited were opened only in the last few years. People talk about their beloved premier Danny Williams– his popularity has soared in recent years, and there seems to be a symbiotic relationship between his scrappiness and the extra kick in people’s steps. This is a place where the people have one foot squarely in the past with their proud memories and traditions and one foot trying to get a hold onto the future. The people are self-conscious about the number of Newfoundlanders who have gone “up along”– left the province for jobs. But the songs and stories I heard, and the steady stream of local newspaper editorials, convey the deep attachment that many have to their unique and timeless province.
 
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St. John’s Harbour. In the distance, Cabot Tower looks down from Signal Hill.
 
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The War Memorial on Water Street. A fisherman and a woodsman are flanked by a soldier and a sailor.
 
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A Newfoundland dog and a Labrador dog. These statues also represent the new surprises to those who haven’t been to St. John’s in a while, since like these statues much has been invested in tourism recently.
 
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A hiking trail leads right by someone’s porch. I took the steps up on my journey to Signal Hill.
 
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The Haunted Hike. A CLA event is about to get underway in which we will learn about the dark and grisly past of St. John’s!
 
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OK, OK, I’m only pretending to be scared on the Haunted Hike!
 
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BUT these two librarians are really scared!
 
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Many people went “oooh” and “ahhh” over the splash of colours on these houses.
 
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This is a photo taken in the Railway Museum in St. John’s. The boat is from Newfoundland’s Travelling Library Program in the 1930s when books were delivered for circulation throughout each community. Transportation was always a problem in Newfoundland, and even the single rail link across the province was not very successful. Newfoundland doesn’t have a railway anymore (the federal government offered a choice of support for roads or rail but not both, and so the railway system was dismantled).
 
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This is one of my earliest shots, not far from my hotel at the top of the hill. The CLA conference was at the bottom of the hill at the Delta Hotel, so it was quite a steep hike back up (I didn’t mind– it was great exercise!)
 
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