Sunday, October 23, 2016

St. John's, Newfoundland

To be completely truthful, I really have no idea where to begin these next three  posts about our trip to Newfoundland and Labrado and also Nova Scotia, so let's just start with the fact that I offered up Donald and Hillary to every Canadian I came into contact with in exchange for Trudeau.  NOT A SINGLE TAKER.  They all think our country is screwed either way.  They'd be correct.  Moving on.

Exclusive Resorts has partnered with the Fogo Island Inn which entails three nights at the Inn with two nights preceding it spent in St. John's, the capitol of Newfoundland and Labrador.  It's not an easy place to get to, however, and I didn't want to waste any of the days on travel, so we opted to fly to Toronto and spend the night so that we could arrive in St. John's by early afternoon.

We stayed at the Four Seasons and because my amazing travel-agent cousin hooked us up, we got the movie-star upgrade to this amazing suite.  BOOM!  (She can hook you up her!)

Too bad we only got to enjoy it for about 12 hours!!  What's there to say about the Four Seasons?  Great service, comfortable beds, fabulous bar and restaurant.

Let's get to the meat, shall we.....

Out of there bright and early and landed in St. John's shortly after noon.  We stayed at the St. John's Sheraton.'s a Sheraton but it was clean, they staff was friendly and the hotel is perfectly located.  A short walk to the downtown area where there are tons of restaurants and the harbor area.  It's also about a mile walk (up some STEEP hills) to Signal Hill for some fabulous hiking and stunning panoramic view of the city.  There are some new hotels under construction right in the harbor which ER may want to look into in the future.  

Anyhooo....we dropped our stuff in the room and headed out to find some lunch.  Side note....when you pack for Newfoundland weather, make sure you account for wind because THERE WILL BE WIND.  Not a breeze, people.  WIND.  I tell you this because I DIDN'T PACK FOR WIND.  It was 49 degrees (oh, and practice your Celcius conversions before you go....Canadians can't convert to Fahrenheit and better than we can convert to C.) with a wind chill of about -20.  Needless to say, we didn't walk far.  But we did get lucky!

Can we talk about the St. John's food scene?  This small city, population around 200,000 people is home to the #1 and #4 restaurant in ALL OF CANADA.  Think about that....not Toronto or Montreal or Vancouver....St. John's.  And the one's that aren't rated are pretty damn good too.  We were lucky enough to score a reservation at both restaurants and I'll talk about them in a minute.  But for lunch on our first day we went into the first one we walked by because WIND....Get Stuffed.  It was 1:30ish and we were the only ones in there.  We split the grilled calamari and it was fabulous.  The soups we got were adequate, but I highly recommend the calamari.

We headed back to the hotel to put on 10 more layers of clothes so we could stand to be outside.  Neither one of us were interested in walking a mile in the cold and (you know what) so we grabbed a cab to take us up to Signal Hill to walk around. The road to the top was under construction, so we were dropped midway at the Visitor's Center and hiked to the top.  Here's the Wikipedia link if you're interested in the history of Signal Hill.  Marconi assembled his first receiver here, used in defense of the harbor,  blah, blah, blah.  I was interested the views and photo ops.  I'm shallow.

A view of Signal Hill from the plane ride in.

We lasted for about an was brutal at the top.  I really wish the weather had been better because this is a fabulous hike.  A couple of miles along the side of the cliff right on the water that drops you right back downtown.  I'd love to have experienced it.

Dinner was at Raymond's, the #1 restaurant in ALL OF CANADA.....did I mention that already?

I try not to take a LOT of pictures inside of fancy places, so these arent that great.  I can see why this place is highly regarded....beautiful location with nice view of the water, well-informed, friendly staff, nice wine list, delicious food.

I don't remember everything we had, but I know we started with the freaking caviar!!!  Because vacation!  It was fab, as expected.  The did add a few accouterments I'd never had with caviar before....pickle and cucumber.  I stuck with the traditional creme fraiche, egg and chives; but the mister enjoyed them.  And they paired it with some not bad Canadian sparkling wine.

If you want to go here when you're in St. John's, a reservation is a MUST.  This place is booked solid every night of the week.  We were there early on a Tuesday night and it was jammed.

Our guide, Mike, picked us up 10 the next morning to get our tour on.  Oh Mike.  Apparently he was a grade school teacher in his previous life and he's not quite ready to give it up.  He repeated himself a LOT.  So much so, that by the end of the day, after the second time he say something I just said "Got it" so I didn't have to hear it a third and fourth time.  I had to stop Ed from jumping out of the car twice.

Mike gave us a ton of history on the city, most of which I don't remember (I should have....he told me enough times) but he took us to some beautiful spots, so I have pictures!!!  You want history you're gonna have to go to another blog, people.

Houses in the historical district have to be brightly colored.  It's the LAW.

View of downtown St. John's

On the way to Cape Spear

The East Coast Trail runs along this area and is a 340mile trail that traces the east coast of Newfoundland and Labrador.

Cape Spear lighthouse....Operating since 1836.  Look...HISTORY!!

Cape Spear is the most easterly point of Canada and North America.

Ed kept urging me to get closer to the water to take pictures.  I later learned that Mike told him the story of two women who had done just that, only to be sucked into the very powerful undertow never to be seen again.  This is why my husband can't convince me to get a life insurance policy.....

View from the St. John's harbor......WINDY

Fishing boats in the harbor.  You're welcome.

The Battery.  The trail from the top of Signal Hill finishes here.  Literally on someone's doorstep.  Yes, I used  "literally" correctly.

Mike finally caught my attention with the story of these doors carved into the side of this cliff.  Mike got the details wrong, but here's what a Newfoundland Heritage website says...

"The origins of the practice of aging Newman's Port in Newfoundland dates back to 1697.  According to tradition in the fall of 1679, a Portuguese vessel loaded with port wine bound for London slipped its moorings.  As it floated out to sea it encountered French privateers.  The privateers drove the ship further off course and, in attempts to escape it ventured out in to the Atlantic.  After weathering severe Atlantic storms, the captain decided to head for St. John's where the ship stayed for the winter months.  The cargo of port wine was safely stored in caves in the Southside Hills of St. John's.

The following spring the vessel finally completed its long, arduous journey to England.  It was soon discovered that the port that had over-wintered in Newfoundland had acquired a bouquet, a smoothness and flavor that it did not have before.  From that point on, Newman and Company decided to age its port wine in Newfoundland."

I like wine history.

Canadian equivalent of the Guv'nah's Mansion.

We then ditched Mike and went to lunch at The St. John's Fish Exchange.  Nothing fancy but great fish and chips and Iceberg Beer.  Yup, beer made from actual icebergs.  They also make iceberg vodka and rum

A little alcohol helped us get through the afternoon with Mike where we toured some of the coastal towns outside of St. John's

Finally, Mike dropped us in Quidi Vidi, a small neighborhood in St. John's at Mallard's Cottage....the #4 restaurant IN ALL OF CANADA!!  (sorry)

Completely different style of restaurant....much more casual than Raymond's but equally great food.  We shared several different appetizers, a bottle of wine and called it a night.  Off to Fogo in the morning.

This was the only part of the trip I was dreading.....a five hour ride to get to the ferry and then another 45 minute crossing to the island.  Ugh.  Our driver was a young guy named Matthew and was super nice.  Dude even tweaked my Fantasy Football team for me since I'm a rookie and he's in like 25 different leagues.  #whoop

At least on the drive north we finally got to see some fall colors....

In the next post, we finally get to Fogo!!


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