Since our last blog entry, we managed to hook up with 3 Boomers from our Escapees RV Club and we all camped on the shores of a scenic pond about 25 miles southwest of St. John’s. Here is the view out our windshield:
Chris Christensen is traveling along with Bill & Marianne Ecker-Laird. Of course, we had Happy Hours together to share information and talk about daily events, and it was great to get a “Boomer fix”. Here we are having lunch at a pizza place in St. John's:
For 3 days Elaine and I drove into St. John’s and explored, and then one day all 5 of us went to the Canada Institute of Oceanic Research. This is the place where they build models of ships and test them in their tanks, and they also test them against ice, bad wind and waves, etc. They test drilling rigs, other equipment, even things like life jackets and Arctic suits. The yachts for the America’s Cup are tested here, with great secrecy. They took our cameras away before the tour. It was very interesting and informative and we were glad we did it – and it was free!
One fairly different thing Elaine and I did was tour the Quidi Vidi Brewery. The tour was given by Dave, the owner of the brewery, and he was very good. We went to the tasting room and tasted 6 of the beers that they make there and Dave explained all about the brewery and the beers while we were tasting. Then we had our choice of which beer we would like to have a bottle of to take home. We chose Iceberg Beer and Honey Brown Ale. It was a hard choice because ALL the beers were really good. One interesting thing he mentioned was when they were deciding where to start a brewery, they did market research and learned that Newfies drink far and away more beer than in any other province. Alberta used to be last, but now that the cod fisheries have been closed and lots of Newfies work there 3 weeks out of the month in the tar sands project, and come home for the 4th week, Alberta has jumped to third place in beer consumption!
Iceberg beer is really unique because they harvest ice from some of the icebergs that float down here and so the water is about 10,000 years old and absolutely pure. You can taste the difference in the beer. We have heard that there are other places in Newfoundland where you can get iceberg wine, so of course, we will try that too. After the tour, Elaine bought packs of 3 kinds of beer, which cost about $38 (for 16 beers) which gives you a clue as to how expensive alcoholic drinks are here, because compared to bar prices, this was cheap. On the ferry on the way over, we drank beer in the pub during the entertainment and it was $6 per can! A bonus at the Quidi Vidi tour was meeting 2 ladies from Vancouver who have purchased a home in Bonavista where they stay each summer and where we are heading now, and they invited us to come and visit them.
July 1 was Canada Day and we headed into town thinking that we would go to Constitution Hall where they were having cake, partying and entertainment. But we found out that Signal Hill and Cape Spear were free today, and always wanting to save a buck (for the next travel adventure, of course), we headed to Signal Hill. This overlooks the entire harbor of St. John’s, and also the very narrow entrance to the harbor between 2 cliffs, called The Narrows.
There was a fort on this hill and this is where they used to signal when ships were coming into the harbor because they could see for miles up and down the coast.
At the interpretive center they have good exhibits and a film about the history, and we happened to be there for the first showing of the Tattoo. A bunch of guys march around dressed in authentic uniforms with muskets and a fife and drum band playing, and they do drills while information is given about military life at that time.
It was kind of boring after while so we left and beat the crowd up to Cabot Tower, named for explorer John Cabot who landed here in 1497. This was the place where the signal flags were flown from the top.
Cape Spear is the most easterly point in North America, plus there are 2 lighthouses there, old (1833) and new. The old one has quarters for the keeper and his family and has been restored so people can see how they lived. This is out of town and on cliffs overlooking the ocean so is also a great place to see whales. We did see some spouts but they were too far away to see anything else.
Of course, we also walked around the tourist areas and harbor area of St. John’s, and at a pond in Pippy Park, as well as all around Quidi Vidi Lake. St. John’s has fairly steep hills and streets in the older part near the waterfront, and the houses are not only painted in bright colors, but attached to each other in rows. It really reminded us of San Francisco. In 1892 there was huge fire in St. John’s and more than 1700 buildings were destroyed. We are assuming that these row houses were built after that event.
Most of the days we went into St. John’s, the weather started out foggy and overcast and then by afternoon it was partially sunny. Yesterday, when we said goodbye to Chris, Bill & Marianne and drove to Brigus, it also started that way and by noon it was warm enough for tee shirts – hooray! In Brigus, we toured Hawthorne Cottage, the home of Capt. Bob Bartlett, a famous Arctic explorer who was instrumental in the success of Peareys dash to the north pole. This year is the 100th anniversary of that event and they have recreated his ship, The Bowdoin, and are sailing it first to the festival in Brigus, next weekend, and then to a series of towns along the coast for their festivals. We are planning to see this ship at the Twillingate festival between July 23-25.
This little coastal town was also scenic, as they all seem to be, but we didn’t linger there, we headed up to Clarenville, where we are now parked in the Wal-Mart parking lot. By the time we arrived here, it was late afternoon, 75 degrees and humid; the warmest day we have had to date. Had our first NL lobster for dinner last night and it was even better than the other times because we steamed them ourselves so they weren’t so salty. Going through the Sobey’s store to buy them, we found it ironic that butter here costs about $5 per pound, only 77 cents a pound cheaper than the lobster! The prices of things are occasionally really screwy. For example, refried beans are $2.69 a can, while canned mushrooms and dried apricots are cheap. Gas has dropped a few cents so it is now about $1.11 per liter, or $4.20/gallon Canadian, or $3.75 American dollars. Good thing it is so easy to find boondocking spots because the campgrounds all charge a minimum of $25 and we need that money for lobster and beer!