"" Writer's Wanderings: Port of Call - St. John's, Newfoundland

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Port of Call - St. John's, Newfoundland

Arriving at a port on a Sunday is always an iffy proposition when it comes to what you might see. St. John’s, Newfoundland, in Canada was very quiet. While there were quite a few shops and restaurants open, the residents in this small city were not out in droves and the streets were pretty much taken over by the passengers of our cruise ship the Crystal Serenity.

While waiting for clearance from immigration so we could go ashore, we scoped out the town as much as possible from the top deck of our ship. Up on a hill we could see a large basilica. We set our goal to climb up to that spot, check it out and then see what the shops might have to offer on the main street in town.  After all, we figured, if nothing else was open, at least the church would be. Not so.

We made it all the way up the hill stopping to take a few pictures of nothing in particular along the way. If you stop for pictures as you climb, people are less apt to notice how out of shape you are. You can claim the breathlessness is from taking in a beautiful view. When we reached the Basilica of St. John the Baptist, a cathedral founded in 1841, we found several other hardy (and breathless) souls who informed us that it was closed. The good news was that the walk back to the ship would be all downhill.

St. John’s, the city not the cathedral, is a fishing town. There were dozens of fishing boats in the harbor. It’s wealth at one time was built on salted fish. The weather there so far north is often cold and harsh. To compensate for so many gray days, the homes and buildings are brightly colored. The city is said to be one of the oldest in North America dating back to the time of the Vikings. It is also said to be the most easterly city of North America.

There is much history to be garnered here but unfortunately a lot of historical places were lost to a large fire in the late 1800s. Still, there is Signal Hill, the site of Marconi’s first transatlantic signal, a 17th/18th century French fortress called Castle Hill and Cape Spear Lighthouse in nearby Avalon, and several other points of interest that will have us coming back to visit when we can spend more time.

Our gray day turned sunny just in time for the sail away. We were amazed when our ship was able to turn in the very small harbor and head out through one of the narrowest channels we have ever encountered. This was almost as narrow as the one in Bermuda when we docked in the old town. Once out of the channel, we could see what we had missed in the fog of the morning—a breathtaking view of the coast and even a couple of lost icebergs that had gotten hung up along the shore and were quietly melting away in the warming seasonal weather.


 The captain set course for Iceland and the ship picked up speed. Would the North Atlantic be kind to us?


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