Friday, August 18, 2006

Adventures in Newfoundland: Seeing Newfoundland from the Inside Out Day 4

Today I would naively coin, “the day I fell in love with Newfoundland”. That would be until I saw Gros Morne and truly fell in love with it. But today we got to experience Newfoundland from the inside.

It rained (of course). Mark and I went to the sushi place in town – highly recommended by several people. They cooked our spicy tuna roll, which was weird, but the food was okay. Then I went off to shop and Mark went home to have a nap and not get wet. I bought a bunch of postcards for my family and a deck of Newfoundland card which Mark and I would use a lot as we would later wait for busses and airplanes. I even bought Mark a cheap black umbrella (which he would joke about probably losing right away, then he’d lose it right away on our next outing in two hours at the Duke of Duckworth pub).

One of Mark’s best buds from Thunderbay, Cory, and his girlfriend, Sarah (who came from St. John’s) flew in to St. John’s early this morning (4am). They’d invited us to have dinner with them and Sarah’s dad and girlfriend and the family. They came to pick us up around 4pm and took us to the Duke of Duckworth (the last official sighting of the shortly-in-our-lives black umbrella from St. John’s) – Sarah’s favourite pub. She chatted about our first impressions of St. John’s and how treacherous the streets would be in the wintertime.

Then Sarah drove us to the top of Signal Hill. Even though it was foggy, the view was beautiful. I really wanted to walk the path around the hill, however, I value my life too much to attempt it when the weather is wet and the visibility less than perfect. Sarah and Cory insisted that we come back from the west coast early in order to spend an extra night in St. John’s at the end of our trip (shoot – we’ll have to cancel a night at the Deer Lake Motel) and experience George Street and its pubs like true locals. We could stay with them.

We then drove down Signal Hill at to the tiny village of Quidi Vidi with twisty roads too narrow for two cars. I got the impression that if someone opened the front door of their house, they would take out our headlights. Quidi Vidi is where the annual Regatta takes place.

Sarah’s parents’ place reminded me of the Brady Bunch. There was her Dad, Andrew, who spoke with an Irish accent and was a chartered accountant turned photographer (and wonderful chef too!). He insisted we smell the halibut filet before it was cooked to see how fresh it was. His girlfriend, Shirley, sat with us and drank wine as Andrew fluttered about the kitchen preparing beer-butt chicken and salmon and halibut and fried wild rice and bean salad and mixed-berry flan. Shirley is an artist. Shirley has three sons, aged between 14 and 18. Andrew has three kids, the Pokaroo-like Jane who was there in spirit but not in person, Sarah and Stephen (who arrived with is girlfriend Kelly). THEN, there was Sarah’s best friend, Rachael, who was like Kenny on the Cosby show – the friend who’s like family. We all sat at a small kitchen table while the food was being prepared and helped with vegetable chopping. Then we congregated in the dining room for the meal.

We laughed a lot. We learned about the stereotypical term “skeet”. In fact, somewhere along the lines, the word was wikipedia-ed and the print-out was shared and every local at the table was laughing so hard they were crying. Also, everyone seemed to agree that Rachael had dated the textbook definition of skeet during her adolescence – this made everyone laugh even harder.

We learned that there are about 100 000 moose in Newfoundland. They showed us pictures of their hike up Gros Morne Mountain and told us about the drink they invented afterwards, called the Gros Marnier – a concoction of Gatorade and Grand Marnier and other ingredients too secret to be disclosed here in the blog. We learned from Andrew that the Seven Years War didn’t really end on the Plains of Abraham in Quebec, but in Newfoundland. We learned that St. John’s was a british colony, then french, then british, then DUTCH, then british, then french british etc. We heard stories of how a net used to be set up across the narrows during the second world war and how one morning a torpedo was found in it and enemy subs were found in the cove nearby. We learned why there are no coke products in St. John’s – there used to be a coke plant in St. John’s and when they closed down many people lost their jobs, so there was an informal informal boycott for many years. We learned why there are TWO flags for Newfoundland – one is the provincial flag and the other (the one that looks like a faded Italian flag) represents the independent people of Newfoundland. It’s green, white and pink. The green represents Ireland, the pink represents the rose of England and the white represents the peace between them.

Most of all, we learned how tight-knit a group of folks the people of St. John’s are – we got in on the gossip (like about whose baby is downright ugly) and also got a taste of some true St. John’s hospitality. In fact, after we shared our incredible car rental misfortune (and stupidity), Shirley offered us HER car! Of course we couldn’t accept, but it was such a kind gesture.

* * *
Back at Anna’s House, Olga shushed us as we came in and then promptly interrogated us about her parking permit which had gone missing the day we used her internet. (Did I mention that we DON’T HAVE A CAR!)

The next morning I would leave a note explaining how her disposition had made us feel, as her guests. It wasn’t nasty or rude, but it was honest. It was honest enough that, when we realized we’d left our Frommer’s Guide to Newfoundland at her place, we wouldn’t go back to get it.

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