The first time I came to St. John’s was in 2010. I was living in Toronto and decided, along with two friends, that an adventure was in order. We chose Newfoundland because each of us had always been interested in going there, and there were great deals on flights to St. John’s at the time. I was surprised to discover that the general question people asked about our upcoming trip was, “Newfoundland? But… why?” I really didn’t understand this reaction. To me, Newfoundland seemed endlessly appealing: rugged natural beauty, a unique culture, friendly people, and small, vibrant communities. I was, of course, basing my perception of the province on what I had seen in tourism ads and magazine photos; I didn’t yet know that the charm and beauty of The Rock would far exceed my expectations.
Before we had even landed I was hooked. The view from the airplane window took my breath away: endless ocean met by a wild and rocky coastline, a colourful city hugged by mossy hills and ancient rock. I felt an immediate connection to this city and its setting. My horoscope in that week’s copy of “The Scope” (a weekly alternative newspaper that is now sadly discontinued) confirmed it: “You have found your tribe.”
Our week-long visit to St. John’s was spent immersing ourselves in the area’s unique and vibrant culture: we wandered the colourful streets (most of the time marveling at the thigh strength locals must need to tackle such steep hills), hiked around Signal Hill, took silly photos by the ocean, and rented a car to drive the Irish Loop and frolic in what we dubbed “the sproingy grasses of Ferryland.” Having lived in Toronto for a few years, I was most amazed by the friendliness of the people we met on the Avalon. While out for a stroll, it was common for strangers to say “good morning,” or stop their cars to let us cross the street. For three girls from the big city, this was truly remarkable! I was also impressed by the local art scene- everyone we met was a creative of some kind, and the bars played host to a huge variety of live music every night. Folks were keen to invite us to an art show or kitchen party, or just out for a cup of tea and a chat. The feeling of community was incredible.
On the last day of our visit, we woke up early (very early!) to watch the sunrise from Cape Spear, the easternmost point in North America. As I sat there, bundled in a blanket with two of my dearest friends, watching the sun rise on the continent, I realized that I had found a place I would one day love to call home. Leaving felt wrong somehow, but I knew I’d be back.
I’m happy to say that I moved to St. John’s in January of 2015, after having lived in the city for the summer of 2013 and returning for almost a dozen visits before and after that. I was always welcomed by everyone I met, filled in on the week’s best events, and invited to BBQ’s, concerts, and secret swimming holes. I’ve had the opportunity to explore the island from coast to coast; the beauty of the landscape combined with the sense of community and kindness I’ve encountered along the way has never ceased to amaze me. The charm of this province hasn’t faded, and I doubt it ever will. I am still amazed by everything Newfoundland has to offer, and I’m thrilled to be in a position to share my passion with others who choose to visit. If you’ve ever had a doubt about planning a trip to Newfoundland, just drop me a line or follow this blog- I’d be happy to fill you in on the endless list of answers to the question, “Newfoundland? But… why?”