Reaching St. John’s, Newfoundland

We woke up early on October 30th, 2017 from the cold weather that was chilling our bones. The temperature is reaching the negatives now (in celcius) and driving is the only time we get any artificial heating. We started our drive to Terra Nova National Park to hike along the Atlantic coast of Newfoundland and maybe do a bit of bird watching as well. When we arrived at the park, it was unfortunately closed for the season and all of the facilities were already locked down.

With our hiking plans cut short, we decided to continue our drive to St. John’s, NL. By the time we arrived in the city, we were starving and craving something healthy to nourish our bodies after the previous day’s long hike. We settled on a vegetarian restaurant called The Sprout. We ordered a chickpea curry and a pad-thai, both loaded with lots of fresh vegetables and bright spices. After a few days on a camping diet (bread, cheese, apples, nuts, some a lot of junk food), you really start to crave for cooked vegetables and meat.

Luckily, we had one more punch left on our trial gym membership at Goodlife Fitness so we used that to scrub off all our dirt from the past few days of hiking. We spent the rest of the evening loitering at Avalon mall and enjoying the warmth indoors before returning to the cold of our car.

Signal Hill

Considering we did a tough hike two days ago, we decided to take today off by doing some light city touring. We wanted to see Signal Hill and perhaps do the North Head trail to see historical landmarks. The weather was extremely windy and a light rain started the moment we got out of the car. By the time we reached Cabot Tower at the top, we were thoroughly soaked and our historical learning experience was cut short.

During our hike down Signal Hill, we ran into another hiker who was braving the rain and strong winds. Pauline is a local who lives nearby and hikes Signal Hill everyday after work, in rain, heavy winds, and even snowstorms. We learned from Pauline that snow covers St. John’s well into April and May.

On the surface, St. John’s seems like a reviving city when you look at the many young small businesses that we came across as visitors, but Pauline shared a different perspective. She worries about the declining economy and population and rising unemployment as a result of falling oil prices and mine closures.

Queen's Battery and hiking on the North Head trail
Top Left: The hike along the North Head trail brings you through the Queen’s Battery. It is a strategic spot to place fortifications to protect the harbour and the city during WWII. Top Right: A city view of St. John’s from Signal Hill. Bottom Left and Right: The trail leads you through fields of red flowers and views of the Atlantic ocean.
Harbour view from North Head trail at Signal Hill
Hiking on the North Head trail along the coast of Signal Hill. Colourful houses dot the hillside and are seen all over the city.
Red Adirondack Chairs at Signal Hill
Early in our travels, we noticed these red Adirondack chairs dotting select viewpoints around landmarks and hikes. We later learned that this is called the Red Chair Experience, and there’s a huge list of their locations on the Parks Canada website.

The colder weather has had us craving for hot soup. We found a funky looking ramen joint, Bad Bones Ramen, that we decided to check out for lunch. It had just opened a few months ago, and it’s the city’s first ramen restaurant. The menu is short and straight forward (a good sign) and we ordered a chicken miso and vegetable shoyu ramen. We loved the flavourful broth and the generous abundance of toppings. This was better and much healthier than some traditional ramen bowls I’ve had and it’s also an amazing value for what you get.

There were still a few minutes left on the parking meter so we browsed the shops along Water street. What caught my eye was a small lifestyle shop hidden in an alley on a side street called Civic Duty. When we walked in to the shop, the owner was busy working on his side gig making vinyl decals for local businesses. They sold all kinds of apparel, footwear, home goods and more. I ended up picking up a neat handmade woodcut print by local artist Grahram Blair. We hope to hang this up on our wall when we get back to a home with walls!

Considering the rain was still pretty heavy, we decided to find some indoor entertainment back at Avalon mall. We bought two tickets to Blade Runner 2049, and brought in a beer and a few other snacks. The theatre was completely empty when we walked in, so we took this opportunity to lay out our rain jackets to dry. It felt comforting to sit in a warm empty theatre after a long morning of wet windy hiking. I thought the movie was a good modern addition to the original film based on Philip K. Dick’s short story. I left the theatre still immersed in their world and had mixed feelings if I should feel sad for Joi.

Winding Down

We had a car full of damp clothes so we thought it would be a good time to hit the laundromat before we left St. John’s. This is the second time on the trip that we did our laundry, so there was enough to make a whole load. We drove to Mighty Whites Laundromat and asked if we could use their side alley to cook dinner. We were making tortellini with tomato sauce so it took a bit of time to get the meal going. During the whole time, I was wondering what people would think if they looked down the alley and saw us cooking in the dark. I shrugged it off and had my dinner inside while watching the live report of the NYC truck terror attack.

After the laundry was done, we brought everything back in the car and decided to go check out Cape Spear lighthouse in the dark. We turned the key to start the car and all I could hear was a click. The starter motor didn’t make a noise and nothing seemed wrong so I tried again. I suspected there was something wrong with the ignition switch because of the humidity we create while sleeping, and it could be the starter motor because it didn’t even try to turn the engine. We walked back into the laundromat to read up on what could be the problem. After finding out a slew of possible solutions, I went back into the car to give it another go. Other ford focus owners who have similar symptoms said if they moved steering column up and down while turning the key, their car would start up. With this new trick up my sleeve, I gave it a shot and the car started! What a relief! I wasn’t very happy with this witch doctor cure, but what can I say when it seemed like a real fix?

With the car running, we took the chance and drove to Cape Spear to see the Newfoundland’s oldest lighthouse. Cape Spear is the most eastern point of Canada and one can see humpback whales and icebergs here. Unfortunately, the view wasn’t much to look at tonight because the sky was thick with clouds so the ocean was pitch black. It would be wonderful to come back here in the summertime when you can take a boat tour to see puffins, whales and icebergs. We kept the car running as we checked out the area and returned to Walmart for the evening. We parked in range of a Mc Donald’s wifi connection, so we caught an episode of Stranger Things 2 before calling it a night.

Return to Toronto

With the car doing poorly, we made the decision to start our way back to Toronto tomorrow morning. Hopefully, the car can carry us back to a garage without much trouble. The rest of the trip back was not really eventful as we didn’t stop by any unique landmarks or did more hiking.

Moose head from Newfoundland
Hunters carrying their trophy back to Nova Scotia on the Marine Atlantic Ferry. The head sits on an enormous cooler that likely contains the rest of the animal. This is the first time I’ve seen the head of a freshly skinned unmounted moose head. A bunch of us walked around the truck and stared at the head for 10 seconds before we were grossed out and walked away.


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