So 2 ½ weeks after I left Winnipeg for Europe I was now back in Canada, albeit in a different province. Why would I go all the way back to Canada in the middle of my European adventure you might ask? Good question! It was kind of a last minute thing, but I had been invited by International Experience Canada (a department of the Canadian Government) to represent them at the One Young World Summit being held in Ottawa this year. I had been recommended by one of the staff at SWAP (I am their Travel Ambassador for 2016) and when she told me about it, I jumped at the chance even though I would be in Europe at the time. I was so honoured to even be considered.
The only snag was that they couldn’t pay for my flights to and from Ottawa from Europe, even when I offered to pay the difference of what it would’ve been to fly from home. They could, however, pay for my flight to Ottawa to and from any Canadian city. I took a weekend to think about it and decided that yes!, it would be worth it even if it meant that when I returned to Europe I wouldn’t be able to stay for as long as I’d originally intended. Because what were the chances that I’d ever get asked to attend this summit ever again? Probably never, so I couldn’t pass up the opportunity.
Since they were willing to pay for my Canadian flights, I decided to fly into St. John’s, Newfoundland and have them fly me to Ottawa from there. The price from London to St. John’s was the same as a flight to Ottawa, and Newfoundland is the only province I had not yet visited, so I couldn’t resist. Newfoundland is in the Maritimes and has a really interesting culture and accent. Most of the people are descended from Irish, Scottish and British ancestry and they have their own accent and expressions that the rest of Canada tend to make fun of, lol. It’s a beautiful place to visit and I highly recommend it!
Originally, I was only supposed to be in St. John’s for one night and then fly to Ottawa the following day so we would have a few days to do some work with IEC before the conference. But they weren’t able to make this happen and so I ended up with 3 nights in St. John’s, which I wasn’t unhappy about, lol.
When I landed I decided to rent a car for a few days so I could do some exploring, since I now had the time. Unfortunately, getting off a plane and trying to rent a car without a reservation is not the wisest idea, since there wasn’t much left and what was left was more than I wanted to pay. But I ended up working it out with the guy from Enterprise (the company I usually rent from) and got myself a car!!!
I drove myself into town, found my hostel (City Hostel) and tried to check in but it was too early, so I decided to go visit a museum in the meantime. I headed over to The Rooms museum, which tells the history of Newfoundland and Labrador, its people and its environment. It was pretty interesting, and there are lots of different kinds of exhibits. There’s also a really nice café, where I had a lovely lunch overlooking the city and the harbour.
Once I was done, I headed back to the hostel, checked in, dropped off my stuff, then went walking around downtown. The downtown area is really cool, there are lots of shops, galleries, restaurants, pubs and bars. George Street is supposed to be the street with the most pubs and bars per square foot in America!
St. John’s is super picturesque with what is known as Jellybean Row houses (houses painted bright colors). It’s super cute! FYI, don’t go wandering around trying to find Jellybean Row, it’s not an actual street, more like a general style.
While walking, I happened to stumble across the Terry Fox Monument, which was really cool. Terry Fox was a Canadian who having lost a leg to cancer decided to run across Canada to raise money and awareness for cancer research. Running with an artificial leg, he ran a marathon (42 kms/26 miles) every day, starting near St. John’s on April 12, 1980 until he was forced to stop just outside of Thunder Bay (almost halfway across Canada) when the cancer returned in his lungs. His Marathon of Hope lasted 143 days and 5,373 kms (3,339 miles). He died nine months later at the age of 22. The Terry Fox Run is held every September in countries all over the world and has raised over $700 million for cancer research.
Eventually I made my way back to the hostel where I ended up talking to Alex, one of the girls in my room. She’s a teacher from B.C. and had spent her summer cycling across Canada by herself!!! I was in awe, what an incredible accomplishment! I had so many questions, lol. So much so, that I asked her if I could interview her for the blog and she agreed! So exciting!
The next day I got up early, got some breakfast and headed out for a day of exploring. I had decided to drive the Irish Loop, a gorgeous 312 km scenic drive that takes you along the coast and then back up to St. John’s. You can do it in a day and still have time for a bit of sightseeing along the way, although I’d recommend doing it over 2 or 3 days (or longer) if you have the time. I sadly didn’t have the time, so I did it in one day. It would be even better to do it in late spring/early summer, when you can see icebergs, whales (including the Humpback and Minke) and seabirds (including the Atlantic Puffin). Of course I missed all of that, but it’s still a beautiful drive any time of the year and there are plenty of other things to see and do.
My first stop was Cape Spear, just outside of St. John’s, and the easternmost point of Canada. I did some walking around, admiring the breathtaking views, and then went to visit the historic Cape Spear Lighthouse which is the oldest surviving lighthouse in the province, dating back to 1836. There is also a WWII coastal defense complex that you can check out, which is pretty cool.
I then continued along the route, stopping for pictures along the way, before taking a lunch break in Ferryland. I had a seafood chowder lunch at Bernard Kavanagh’s Million Dollar View Restaurant, which was good, but the best part was the view, which was really beautiful.
I was determined to make it to Cape Race early enough to have time to check it out, so after lunch I drove straight there. Cape Race is famous for being home to the lighthouse that received the distress call from the Titanic and coordinating her rescue. I got to the visitor centre and checked that I was still able to visit, as it was getting late. The information lady told me I could, but warned me about going alone as there is no cellular service and the roads are gravel. I told her I’d be fine and headed out. She wasn’t kidding about the roads, after the first few minutes the paved road disappeared and all that remained was the gravel road. I’ve driven on lots of gravel roads before, but I was in a rental and the road was very winding and hilly, with some quite steeps parts, so it was a bit scary.
Also, you can only really fit one car at a time, so you had to go slow around some of the bends because you couldn’t tell if there was a car coming the opposite way or not.I managed to make it to the lighthouse and there were 2 other cars there. The small museum was closed but you could still walk around and check things out, which was nice. The view wasn’t bad either, lol.
I didn’t stay too long as I didn’t want to be the last car to leave. I figured in case something were to happen on the drive back, at least someone would be coming by that could help me.
But everything went fine and I made my way back to the main road and continued my journey. By this point it was starting to get dark and I’d been driving for hours and I was tired of it. Normally I love to drive, but the Loop was very windy and so it was a different kind of driving than I’m used to and a lot more tiring. Plus I was hungry and so, so thirsty.
I hadn’t wanted to stop anywhere previously as I was trying to get in all my sightseeing before it got dark, but now that I wanted to stop there were no gas stations or convenience stores in sight. I went through several small towns without seeing anything and was starting to think I wouldn’t find anything until I got back to St. John’s, when I finally came across a small convenience store that looked closed but luckily turned out to be open. It actually looked like it was going out of business as most of the shelves were empty, but they had water and sun chips and that was good enough for me. Then I realized that they probably wouldn’t take debit or credit and I panicked as I only had $3 cash on me. Luckily it turned out to be enough and I was saved!
I headed back on the road and of course 2 minutes later I came across a fully stocked modern convenience store, grrrrrr.
I called my best friend and talked to her all the way back to St. John’s, then spent the rest of the night talking to the two German girls in my room, Lisa and Verena.
The next morning I got up crazy early and headed back to Cape Spear to see the first Canadian sunrise of the day. Unfortunately for me, it was super cloudy that day so there wasn’t much of a sunrise, but it was still nice although very, very cold.
After watching the non-sunrise, I hiked the East Coast Trail for a bit, which was really nice but very wet and muddy as it had rained the previous day.
I then headed back into town to visit Signal Hill, a hill that overlooks St. John’s which was used as a defensive site and which also received the first transatlantic wireless signal. There’s a geology museum at the bottom of the hill called Johnson Geo Centre, but it was closed the day I was there so I didn’t get a chance to check it out. Instead I walked around the interpretative path, visited the museum and went up to the top of the hill where Cabot Tower is located. If I would have had more time I would have loved to hike some of the trails around the hill, but it was time to return the rental car to the airport.
There isn’t really a good way to get into town via public transportation from the airport so I sucked it up and paid for a taxi. There is a bus you can get, but it doesn’t run that often and I didn’t want to waste all afternoon sitting at the airport waiting for a bus. I spent the afternoon shopping downtown, there were a lot of really cool shops and there were so many things I wanted to buy! I even found time to visit the Newfoundland Chocolate Company to try a few of their treats which were really yummy. Then it started raining heavily so I ducked into an Italian restaurant for an early dinner until the rain (hopefully) died down.
After dinner I went back to the hostel and spent a really great evening hanging out with the girls in my room: Lisa, Verena and Alex. We had so much fun comparing travel stories: Alex with her cycle trip across Canada; Verena had worked in Canada for 6 months and was now traveling across the country for 8 months before heading home; and Lisa had spent a year studying in Ottawa and was back to visit her boyfriend and friends (and do some sightseeing). While we were hanging out, Alex and Verena decided to go on an impromptu weeklong road trip to Gros Morne National Park. If I would have had more time I would’ve loved to visit the park, it looks absolutely stunning! We ended up going to bed pretty late, which sucked for me since I had to get up in a few hours to catch my flight.
Next stop: Ottawa and the One Young World Summit!
If you’re interested in seeing more travel pictures, follow my instagram account at: awinnipeggerabroad