I thoroughly enjoyed spending last week in St. John’s, Newfoundland. It was my first visit to “Da Rock”, but I knew enough to be prepared for some idiosyncrasies. Here are a few things the travel brochures don’t tell you.
Everyone who’s ever visited Newfoundland raves about how friendly everyone is, and it’s true. Within a day, I’d been repeatedly called Honey, Sweetie, Darlin’, and Doll, all in delightful accents that ranged from lilting Irish to twangy down-home Newfie. And that was just the women.
The men were even friendlier. I got honks and waves, offers of rides, and one guy even offered me his hat (it was a windy day and my hair was flying). Oddly, my husband didn’t get the same warm treatment from the guys. Sheer coincidence, I’m sure.
Here’s the best piece of navigational advice I can offer: Turn off your GPS while in St. John’s. There are so many intersections where streets converge in a haphazard conglomeration, the GPS can’t keep up. “Turn right” could mean any one of three possible options – and you will invariably choose the wrong one.
When your GPS’s voice starts to sound first miffed, then frantic (“turn right…” “recalculating…” “turn left, then turn right…”, “recalculating…” “turn right, then keep left, moron…” “recalculating…” “RECALCULATING…”) you know you’re doomed.
Paper maps are a better option, but we discovered the best solution is to follow a trucker through town. You might not end up exactly where you wanted to be, but at least you’ll be on a main road and you can turn around and try again.
And now for a critical health warning: Through careful research and experimentation, I’ve determined that Jiggs Dinner is highly volatile when combined with beer. Do not, I repeat, do not consume this unless you plan to spend your evening in solitude. This meal’s after-effects pose extreme danger to anyone within a thirty-foot radius. On the upside, you won’t need to use your nose-hair trimmer any time soon.
For the uninitiated, Jiggs Dinner is a traditional Newfie meal composed of salt beef boiled with dried peas, cabbage, potatoes, carrots, and sometimes turnips. The result is delicious… but mixed with beer? Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
By my unofficial count, St. John’s has one church and one Irish pub per ten residents. You’ve gotta like people whose priorities are that clearly defined. And I’m not talking little churches – I’m talking huge stone cathedrals. I was lucky to discover that the Anglican cathedral on Duckworth offers a free ½ hour classical concert on their pipe organ every Wednesday afternoon. I crept into the chill, shadowy building to gape up at the lofty Gothic arches and soaring stained glass while the sonorous tones of the organ filled the enormous space.
One word: Wow.
But since St. John’s has a total population of about 200,000, I can’t imagine why they need all those giant churches. I’m pretty sure every person in the entire town could go to church simultaneously and still have room to spare. That’d never happen, though, because they’re all in the pubs drinking beer and eating Jiggs Dinner.
Which actually makes sense when I think about it. Those stone cathedrals get damn nippy. They could use a bit of hot air.
Yep, those Newfies have it all figured out.
P.S. Seriously, if you ever get a chance to go to Newfoundland, go. Stay in downtown St. John’s, and you can walk to virtually all the attractions (if you like uphill walks). It’s the oldest city in Canada, with wonderful food, beer, people, and history… and we got to see an iceberg up close in Quidi Vidi Harbour. Doesn’t get much better than that.
18 thoughts on “Beer and Jiggs on “Da Rock””
Hilarious tour Diane. I love the GPS conversation. They do get so frustrated with us don’t they? 🙂
They do! I’m not sure how a completely computer-generated voice can manage to sound impatient, but they manage it. 😉
That sounds like a very fun trip. The first time I ever heard a Newfie accent I was baffled and fascinated. Now with your post, I would like to go and visit.
And educational and entertaining post! 😉
What a cool experience! Thinking about all the attention you were getting there…hmmm….were you walking around in those 6″+ heels again? lol
LOL! No, strictly jeans and sneakers. Six-inch heels might make the hiking tricky – especially the downhill slopes. I think the guys are just universally friendly out there.
I have always wanted to go to Newfoundland. Growing up, I lived in Canada for a few years, but I was in a prairie state and we never ventured that far east. I have been to British Columbia though. Is lovely.
I grew up on the prairies, so the ocean is a delightful novelty for me, too. It’s fascinating to compare the coastal regions – they’re so very different in climate and culture. Newfoundland’s wild, desolate coastline is all tumbled rocks and frigid waves. Just a few days later, we walked the placid sandy beaches of Prince Edward Island while the warm water lapped at our feet. We watched the tidal bore surge into the Bay of Fundy in New Brunswick, and saw the boats aground in the mud of Nova Scotia, the water nowhere to be seen because of the tremendous tide.
I once lived in Nova Scotia, but I hadn’t been back to the east coast for 24 years, so this trip was a real treat for me..
There was a movie with Kevin Spacey years ago that took place in Nova Scotia. I can’t remember the name of it, but I don’t think I’ve seen another movie (or read a book, for that matter) with Nova Scotia as its setting. Sounds really lovely.
I’ve seen that movie. It’s called The Shipping News. It also stars Dame Judi Dench as the Aunt, and Julianne Moore as the love interest. The minor characters boast some great actors as well. Lasse Hallström directed the movie which I found hauntingly beautiful, palpably cold, full of inexplicably loving characters, and very foreboding and mysterious. The coastal fishing village in New Bonaventure, Newfoundland is not just the setting, it is a character by itself. It makes it seem that the sun never emerges out of a thick cloud bank to warm the land or cheer its’ people. The movie tells the tale of a man who has been broken by his past who moves to his ancestral home with his daughter and aunt to start a new life without any idea of what he can do to support himself in the town. It is a quiet contemplative moody movie well worth seeing unless all you like are action/adventure movies.
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It’s a great film, for sure.
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I’m thinking after that meal you could call them, The Hearty Farties! HF
LOL! Heave ho, me hearties!
Newfoundland is now on my go-to list! 🙂
Right on! 🙂
That sounds like so much fun! Well, other than Jiggs Dinner with beer. But the rest sounds lovely, even with faulty GPS. I love getting lost in new places — you discover some the best things that way.
Actually, the Jiggs Dinner with beer was fun, too, if you happen to have a sophomoric sense of humour like mine. But we had a blast – we always seek out the back roads anyway, so getting lost was a pleasure.