Wednesday, September 16, 2015

St. John's, Newfoundland: City of Cod Tongues and Resilience

Jelly Bean Row Houses, St. John's, Newfoundland, Canada 

After three very windy, cold and rainy days here in St. John's Newfoundland, we've finally given up any hope of hiking the many wild areas near the city and are heading west to catch the Marine Atlantic Ferry from Argentia south from Newfoundland to Sydney, Nova Scotia. We're preparing for a 17 hour overnight trip, in which we'll be sleeping in our seats since we can't enter our motorhome during the voyage and cabins cost an extra $200. Hey, we've done it before in other countries on overnight re-purposed school buses with non-reclining seats, constantly ringing cell phones, goats on ropes and chickens in crates. Although those trips weren't crossing the choppy North Atlantic and the Cabot Strait in September Maritime weather...

The Rooms Museum, St. John's 

We did have one sunny day in St. John's and took advantage of it by visiting the downtown area. We took the motorhome in since it was a Sunday and parking was free. If we visit a city on a weekday, we leave the RV at Wal-mart or a public transportation parking lot and hop the nearest bus/local ferry/subway into town. Last Sunday worked out well though since it was Doors Open, a periodic event across Canada that allows visitors to enter different venues such as museums, galleries and historic sites for free, often also offering free guided tours. 

St. John's has had more than its share of tragedy: the Great Fire of 1892 which destroyed most of the east end of the city and left 11,000 people homeless. the numerous losses of life and vessels of fishers and sealers, an influenza epidemic in 1918 and a tsunami in 1929. When the cod population was depleted in the early 1990s, the federal government put a moratorium on catching the fish and 30,000 people lost their jobs and often, their boats and homes. Despite all of these devastating setbacks, the people remain upbeat, resourceful, friendly and welcoming. During the Sept. 11th grounding of flights, many Newfoundlanders took stranded families into their homes for free for weeks, feeding them and keeping them safe and well looked after until the crisis passed. 

These days, it's going through a gentrification of sorts, in the shabby chic phase, with many of the older stone buildings still standing and turned into pubs, restaurants and art galleries, and with several of the colorful row houses that line the streets above the wharf being renovated. The city has a sort of older-residents-living-happily-alongside-hipsters-and-recent-immigrants vibe: think Portland, Oregon in the 1990s. The people of the city have a resilience and rebuilding mentality that is the result of years of having to do just that. When you live in the North Atlantic on the province known by locals as the The Rock and very near to the precipice of one of the Four Corners of the Flat Earth, you are made of some stern stuff and take it all in stride. You'd have to be to survive local dishes like cod tongues and seal flipper pie.  

Friday, September 4, 2015

One Year on the Road and Everyone's Still Alive

Luis and I just hit a milestone: one full year traveling through The US and Canada in a 21-foot motorhome. We racked up 22,000 miles, 32 states, 6 provinces, 12 UNESCO World Heritage Sites, 8 National Parks and 108 bumper stickers and we're starting our second year with, well, actually, high winds and freezing rain in Newfoundland, but also, zest for adventure! When people ask us how it's going, we say "Well, everyone's still alive and married". Whenever friends step into our admittedly-small-by-American-RV-standards motorhome, they usually gasp and say things like "Oh hell no! (unless they're from the south, in which case, they say oh hay-ell no!) I would kill my husband/wife/partner within 10 minutes!" How did we do it? Patience, love, days with some time apart and lots and lots of red wine.    

We also have a lot in common. We both love to travel, enjoy nature and hiking, both agree that watching motor sports is about as exciting as watching paint dry (oh, wait...that's just me). Both think that garage sales and thrift stores are the best possible way to spend a few extra hours on the weekend (um, also just me). Division of labor helps us avoid arguments about whose turn it is to do things. I cook, he washes the dishes. I navigate, he drives, which is just as well since my eyesight is so bad that I can't see a road sign or a moose until I'm right on top of it, sometimes literally...just sayin'. I put the clothes in the washer at the laundromat. I mean, come on, he's a boy; he would throw my cashmere sweaters in with the sneakers and bleach on the hot water cycle. He's on drying and folding because, really, how much damage could he do? 

We both favor experience over passive sight-seeing, with the added benefit of checking things off the bucket list. We are both extremely frugal when it comes to spending money on things such as campsites, food, clothes and supplies, but one thing that we won't skimp on is excursions. We are, after all, here to travel. Rappelling down a wall of Horse Cave? Check. Snow-shoeing across Hurricane Ridge? Check. Sampling the wares on the Bourbon Trail in Kentucky? Check, check. That's what it's all about. That's why we're here. And, most importantly, we're having the time of our lives together.