Rainy day in St. John’s

July 28, 2013
Posted on December 12, 2013

The rolling streets of downtown St. John’s

Our morning in St. John’s started with a breakfast together with some of the other guests of the B&B we stayed at. It was interesting to talk about all sorts of random things while the breakfast was prepared, and this morning we were treated to some insights into shipbuilding. It was looking gloomy outside, but we still decided to get out of the city and check out Cape Spear.

We made a few calls first to arrange boat tours for next day and to confirm our tire change appointment, and then headed out. Cape Spear is advertised as the easternmost point of North America, though I find most claims of this nature to be fuzzy at best. If we are not sticking to the requirement for the point to be part of the continental mainland, then why are we ignoring Greenland?

Road to Cape Spear, with the two lighthouses barely visible on the horizon: new one to the left of me, old one slightly to the right.

After getting to the cape, the gloomy weather became rainy weather and turned on my moody mode. We sat on the rocks not too far from the cliffs and looked out into the ocean. From here on it really is open ocean with no land for a long while. The fog over the water covered up whatever we would otherwise see, and we had to entertain ourselves watching a huge tanker which for some reason was stuck just off the shore.

View near Cape Spear

When the rain got stronger, we went inside the souvenir shop to avoid soaking through. There was nothing terribly interesting there, with the exception of a large model of the Fresnel lens. The small shop was stuffed with people looking to escape from the rain, and it soon got way too hot and crowded. We went outside and decided to visit the nearby lighthouse museum.

It was right across from the souvenir shop, but its modest appearance did not attract any attention so it was free of any other visitors. This museum showcased paintings of over 80 of Newfoundland’s historic lighthouses, created by a single artist over the course of over two years. It had everything from the famous lighthouses like Twillingate and Bonavista to less known towers on the small islands off the shore of Newfoundland. It was run by the Coast Guard and soon after coming in, we were greeted by a retired guard who talked at length about the origins of this collection, lighthouses and Newfoundland life in general. The diversity of architectural styles present in all these lighthouses was astonishing, tall and short, round and square (and polygon), bare brick walls, a variety of paint colours and patterns… It was definitely worth checking out.

Rain kept drizzling, so we decided to head back to the city and have lunch. We parked the bikes near our B&B, changed into more street appropriate clothing and headed out by foot. We set to try a well recommended spot on Water St called The Rocket. It is a quintessential urban food joint. Kind of hipster, opens early and closes late, pretty interior and very good food, including desserts.

Manhole cover in St. John’s

They were closed, all out of sausage.

One thing about St. John’s: it’s not very flat, it’s got slants in all directions.

Cat and beer, what more can a soul desire?

After lunch we circled around the downtown block looking for odd things and as the drizzle intensified, headed back for a cat nap. Woke up just in time for sunset and decided to take a ride in the city. It has been a long while since we’ve been out riding in a city at night, and it felt not entirely unlike Toronto, except way smaller ;). After a few minutes we ended up in the Battery, an area at the edge of the city with great view of the harbour and lots of steep inclines and hairpin turns. It was very quiet and beautiful there, so we spent some time taking photos of the night harbour and taking in the atmosphere.

St. John’s port

Views from the Battery

Looking out towards the Narrows – a treacherous exit from St. John’s harbour.

Next up: Signal Hill. The view of the night city from there is one of the best, contrasted by the total darkness on the opposite side – the ocean.

Looking over the city from Signal Hill

It was relatively busy at Signal Hill, so we went back towards the city and stopped near the port entrance on Harbour Drive. “Marsec Level 1” was prominently displayed there, and the security guard on duty came out of his booth and chatted with us for a while. Like some other Newfies we’ve talked to, this guy spent a few years working in Ontario before coming back to Newfoundland. He mentioned it’s very common for people here, as work can be hard to find locally.

At the port entrance

As we came back to our B&B it was very quiet and empty, so we decided to make a little bit of noise by preparing fresh tea and sipping in on the sofa in the lounge. We did not turn on any lights so the room was only lit up by whatever light was coming from the street. There was a large painting on the wall that matched a smaller photograph on the table. It was a portrait of a person that looked strangely genderless, except for the thin pearl necklace that we did not notice right away, which pointed to it being a girl. It was a bit creepy being watched by two copies of that portrait on either side of the sofa, but I suppose whoever decorated this place, was going for that effect. Case in point: our room featured a reproduction of The Lady of Shalott, not exactly a joyful piece of art.

Our bikes parked in a quiet courtyard at the back of the B&B. If you want to stay in the city, you definitely need to make sure you have access to safe parking as few places in downtown core offer it.

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