It all started out very touristy. The classic climb to Signal Hill—a hill overlooking the city of St. John's, where the final battle of the Seven Years war was fought in 1762. It's also the location where the first wireless transatlantic signal was received by Guglielmo Marconi in 1901.
My travelling companion was my sister and we started out on the street, climbing up Signal Hill Road. Cab drivers had said it was "crazy" to climb the hill, it being steep and long. We thought they vastly overestimated the effort it took to climb, and veered off to scramble up the hill itself. It was July and purple thistles and other pretty underbrush were in bloom as we reflected on the views before us. St. John's harbour, with orange oil rigs and Coast Guard ships lined neatly in a semi-circle, and the Atlantic Ocean, framed by the craggy, grass-covered rock Newfoundland is known for. It was a sweet morning, taking pictures and meditating on the landscape.
|St. John's Harbour—View from Signal Hill|
|Atlantic Ocean—View from Signal Hill|
In the afternoon, we booked a whale-watching boat tour. "Iceberg Quest" was the name of the company who promised to "sail in search of icebergs and whales on a true Newfoundland cultural adventure". With the large number of people lined up for the boat, I thought it might be a cultural adventure just boarding ship. But, we all fit, and off we went in search of whales, as the summer 2014 was too warm for icebergs.
I had heard other's tales of whale watching tours where typically none to few whales were spotted. So I was excited when the Captain directed our attention to the first whale and I took this lousy picture.
Then I put the camera away. I erred on the side of probability that I wasn't going to capture best picture award for my wildlife photography. I'm glad I did. Because soon people were gasping in awe while pointing, cheering and clapping as humpback whales dove and breached beside the boat. Two came up beside my sister and I, playfully rolling onto their backs, showing their white underbellies that looked aquamarine in the water and the knobbiness of their jaws. One went under the boat and another breached within arms reach beside us. Not even the couple fighting beside us (awkward!) could ruin the magnificence of seeing these creatures in their habitat.
The wind whipped our hair as we headed back to the harbour, passing sea caves and puffins skipping along the water, East Coast folk music blaring out a loudspeaker. It was one of those moments in time where if you died right then and there, you could say you experienced life, really lived. I was happy.
The Man in the Fur Bomber Cap
We decided to end our day by buying tickets to the George Street Festival, an annual festival where thousands of people cram onto the pedestrian-only and pub-filled George Street to see live bands, drink, and dance. We hadn't known about the festival until we checked into our hotel, but decided we didn't want to miss out on a piece of fun East Coast culture. The whole day had been like this, spontaneous and serendipitous.
Seven thousand people occupied the two-block long George Street; standing in the street, hanging out of windows, sitting on patios, and drinking in bars. People donned yellow rain hats and we were given some gaudy red flashing glasses to wear. The band Shanneyganock headlined and everyone sang along to the East Coast tunes. Thanks to my third grade teacher, I was able to join in for Drunken Sailor and Ise the Bye.
|George Street Festival, 2014|
|Sailor Rain Hats. A George Street Tradition?|
My Saturday in St. John's was one of those days that stick in your head, a series of simple, wonderful, and funny moments. Moments that I hope will allow me to revel in nostalgia if I'm lucky enough to grow old. These memories of the views, the whales, and the man in the fur bomber cap.
If You Go:
Signal Hill National Historic Site: http://www.pc.gc.ca/eng/lhn-nhs/nl/signalhill/index.aspx
Iceberg Quest: http://icebergquest.com/
George Street Festival: http://www.georgestreetlive.ca/festivals/george-street-festival/
Also, I beg you to check out Raymond's Restaurant. The best meal I've had of my life, so far. Voted top restaurant in Canada in 2014. http://www.raymondsrestaurant.com/