Understand Newfoundland

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You have to understand….Newfoundland. For people inside Canada, they will definitely know the correct pronunciation of Canada’s youngest province. Rather than assertively pronunciating the three distinct words, the Canadian way is to say Newfunland, with an emphasis on land. We were only stopping in St. John’s, the provincial capital, but it was certainly enough to get a feel for the windswept island that we call ‘The Rock’

We left Gatwick last week on a new air route – West Jet is a Canadian airline that has just opened up many new direct flights to Canada. Since we were travelling one way and starting our trip in the East, this seemed perfect timing. The flight time from London to St. John’s is just under 5 hours. Compared to the 10 hour flight to Vancouver I have been doing for years, this seemed like a doddle. In theory, you could even do a long weekend to either St.John’s or vice versa to London.

Since my husband was landing himself as a Canadian resident, we needed to get his paperwork processed by immigration, which was rather painless (we were seen by some of the friendliest border guards ever encountered). In the meantime, I went to wait for our bags so we could clear through customs. I waited, and waited and eventually the baggage belt stopped moving and there were no more bags. Mine was missing.

There’s no real reason to panic if a bag doesn’t make it, technology is so advanced and everything is labelled, so normally a bag will just be put on the next flight. We filled in the delayed baggage forms with West Jet and hopped into a cab into town.

St. John’s is a very small place, but a dramatic one. The harbour is very much a working one, with coast guard ships and fishing vessels departing and returning through a dramatic opening to the Atlantic called The Narrows. It’s quite a stunning sight and I can see why the Europeans settled here – very easy to defend from enemy attack. The whole town and harbour is overlooked by Signal Hill, where the military could watch for the approaching enemy. We walked up Signal Hill and back down behind St. John’s to a fishing village called Quidi Vidi, a very quiet sheltered place with a brewery that made a beer with water from the icebergs that float off the coast of Newfoundland. The brewery tour they run is really informative which includes tastings of the products.

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The Narrows in St. John’s harbour

The other really cool thing about St.John’s is the general vibe, there are loads of independent coffee shops and pubs (Newfoundlanders or ‘Newfies’ love to drink) The architecture is very Nordic, but there is British and Irish history on every corner. I don’t think I have ever seen so many informational and commemorative plaques and sculptures in Canada before.

The not so cool thing about St. John’s is the weather. It’s a very volatile place. The day before we arrived it was 25 degrees. We then landed in a full on fog with temperatures hovering at about 5 degrees. And it stayed that way the entire time we were there – with the icy wind ripping our faces off everytime we went outside.

I will just remind you now that my luggage did not arrive when I did, and it contained almost all of my clothing, including some warmer items. For some reason I had put my hat and mittens in my hand luggage, but other than that I just had what I wore on the plane. Unfortunately for me, and despite calling West Jet constantly, my luggage never appeared in St.John’s. At the end of 4 days without my belongings I was starting to look like a crazed bag lady and feeling quite grumpy.

In a comic turn of events, just as we were leaving St. John’s and in the line to board (yet another West Jet flight) to Halifax I got the call I was waiting for – my bag had just arrived on the London flight and they were putting it on the Halifax flight for me. They had finally found it after 4 days!

Alas….we got to Halifax but were paged to West Jet luggage…the bag didn’t make the flight. Let’s hope it doesn’t make the journey across Canada one step behind me.

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For the Canadians – Mile 0 of Terry Fox’s Marathon of Hope

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St. John’s Jellybean Houses – painted with boat paint as it was cheaper than normal house paint.

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