6.17.2008

st. john's

We were up at 5:00 for our 7:30 flight, which was an uneventful not-quite three hours. In Pearson, I saw a newspaper over a man's shoulder, with a headline reading "send him back to pay his dues". I did a double-take, and realized it was the National Post (for non-Canadian readers: a right-wing rag), a dueling viewpoint they have already run online, Corey Glass vs. columnist Jonathan Kay. The man reading and his wife noticed we were talking about them, so I asked what paper it was and explained I was involved in the issue. As we were getting ready to board, the woman asked if I wanted the paper. As he was giving me the section, the man was eager to tell me that it gave "both sides of the story," in a way that told us where he stood. After all, he is reading the Post. But I called the Campaign - at least we have a hard copy of it now. Allan says we'll see them in Gros Morne; he's calling it now.

The airport is not far from downtown, and we drove right in and found our hotel. On our way there, we drove through the main drag of downtown St. John's, Duckworth Street. I noticed the two pubs my Newfie Campaign Friend recommended, one that has live music every night.

The hotel is a "Hometel" - rooms in brownstone houses. It's a much nicer room that we expected, stylish and comfy, with free phone, internet, parking and a hot breakfast. It's right at the base of Signal Hill.

After getting settled in a bit, we went downtown for lunch at a pub - fish and chips, of course. I have no idea if the fish actually comes from here anymore, but it seems like the thing to do. We also had local beer, Quidi Vidi (pronounced "Kiddy Viddy"). My pan-fried cod came with "scrunchions," which are diced bits of fried pork rinds. Kind of like salty fried fat.

From there we drove up Signal Hill, which overlooks St. John's Harbour, with the city on one side and the Atlantic on the other. The approach to the harbour is a narrows, with cliffs rising on both side; it's easy to see why this was such an important strategic point.

I thought Signal Hill got its name because it's the spot where Marconi received the first Transatlantic radio signal, but the signalling dates much farther back, to the signal flags (a redundancy, I think - the flags were called signals) that were raised to communicate from ship to shore. There's a little look-out building that looks like a mini-castle, and the remains of the fort, powder magazine and cannons. This is all perched on high cliffs, the kind you always see in photos of Newfoundland. It reminded us both of Ireland.

The whole point is a national park, and there are trails along the cliffs. We walked some, mostly to get good views. It's a great view of St. John's. The building where Marconi received that radio signal is gone (burned in a fire), but there's a plaque marking the spot.

We were tired and not up for a big hike, but on the way out of Signal Hill, we stopped at the visitor's centre, which was very nice. It tells the history of the hill in terms of its military and communications significance. And guess who we saw there? The National Post readers from the airport in Toronto. They didn't see us. Gros Morne? We'll see.

From there we went back downtown for coffee, then we were going to hang out in a pub, but suddenly realized how tired we were. We picked up some food and went back to the room, thinking we would join tonight's Red Sox game in progress on our computers. It was 7:30; game time is at 7:00. But our laptops said 6:00. Duh: time zone! We're on Newfoundland time, and we didn't miss a pitch. Pub tomorrow night, tonight we're crashed.

* * * *

People here are extremely friendly, as advertised. If this is what they're like in St. John's will they be pathologically friendly in the rest of the province?

Weather watch: it's nice so far, mostly sunny or a bit overcast, and the occasional mist. I was too warm in a long-sleeved t-shirt and windbreaker. Everyone we speak to says we've brought the sun; it's been raining solidly and cold for weeks. We have tons of stuff with us, many more clothes than we would normally pack, but when you have to prepare for heat, cold, rain and sun, what else can you do?

* * * *

I can scarcely describe how happy I am about this big writing assignment that fell from the sky last night. My original plan of how I was paying for this trip fell through a while back. It was too late to cancel (nonrefundable air and rental car) and I knew I'd figure out a way to pay for it over time, although it could potentially take quite a long time. Goddess knows it wouldn't be the first trip we paid for six or eight months after it ended. My plan was to spend July trying to drum up some decent paid writing work. Then the night before we leave, some comes to me!

Spinal Network is a very well-known and highly regarded resource guide for people with spinal cord injuries. It was created by Sam Maddox, a pioneer in the field; Sam also began New Mobility, the magazine I've been associated with for a long time. Spinal Network, New Mobility and now Kids On Wheels (which I helped create) are now all published by the same group.

Ten years ago, the current publishers of Spinal Network put out a new edition, and I edited the Sports chapter. Then, some years later, Kids On Wheels was born, the first-ever resource guide for children who use wheelchairs and their parents. I wrote the sports and recreation chapter for that, then wrote and edited for the magazine before I recently gave it up.

So last night, the editorial director emailed me: they are doing a completely new edition of Spinal Network, a thorough overhaul, am I interested in working on it? I'll be re-writing and editing the Sports section. It's going to be a lot of work - work that I will really enjoy, and which should pay nicely. I'm excited! But right now the best thing is the financial concern has been lifted from my mind, just as I start the trip. Lovely.

* * * *

I called home, just to satisfy my mind that the Katherine The Dogsitter had arrived. They were all outside, doing fine. I miss Tala! (Don't worry, I miss Cody a little, which is more than she misses me.)

Pictures of St. John's are here.

7 comments:

Scott M. said...

Yep, the whole province is "pathologically friendly".

Is Cape Spear on your list of things-to-do in the St. John's area? It's not far, and it is the most Easterly point of land in all of North America.

Oh, and you'll probably see Icebergs as you're going down there, possibly right in Blackhead.

If you're thirsty, pull off into Blackhead (it's right at Cape Spear) and follow the signs to the art shoppe or whatever she calls it, there's a little trailer that has some beverages and knick-knacks and a very friendly shopkeeper.

James said...

It was 7:30; game time is at 7:00. But our laptops said 6:00. Duh: time zone! We're on Newfoundland time, and we didn't miss a pitch.

"The year was 1812... 1842 in Newfoundland." -- An old Air Farce gag from their radio days.

Sarah O. said...

First, congrats on the new assugnment!

I'm envious you get to take your time in St. John's - we didn't have time to do anything while we were there but walk around Signal Hill. I really wanted to go to The Rooms. I love the concept behind its design so much, I wish we attempted it more often here in Atlantic Canada (or attempted it even once in NS).

I love the idea of repurposing vernacular styles of building for new construction. And they didn't just copy an Italianate facade for a condo buliding (that happens waaaay too often in Halifax), they made a giant family home structure into a museum, arts and culture facility. Awesome. My biggest wish for Halifax's new public library is that it would have some giant Lunenburg Bumps.

impudent strumpet said...

I miss Tala! (Don't worry, I miss Cody a little, which is more than she misses me.)

First thought: "Don't say that! What if Cody reads this?"

L-girl said...

Scott, yes, we're going to Cape Spear. I have been to Land's End in England, the westerly most point, so I must go to the easterly most point, too. It's one of the first things I heard about Newfoundland, and we're definitely going.

Sarah, we're actually not going to The Rooms, although I agree the building is very impressive. With limited time in this area and very good weather, we decided we'd rather spend it outdoors, this being more of a natural-beauty trip than a museum trip. If it was rainy, I'd definitely go! And if I ever make it back to St. John's, I'd also spend some time there.

Thank for the congrats!

James, that joke is a lot funnier if you watch CBC at all. :) I remember that shortly after we got here, Brian Williams during the Olympics, "...6:30 in Newfoundland".

Nancy said...

your trip sounds wonderful! and it's good to hear that the dogsitter is working out. Congratulations on the job, too. Extra money is always welcome when one is holidaying.

James said...

I remember that shortly after we got here, Brian Williams during the Olympics, "...6:30 in Newfoundland".

Forget "eh" or "hoser" or "zamboni" -- the most Canadian phrase in the English language is "...6:30 in Newfoundland". :)