I have very fond childhood memories of traveling to the Maritimes with my family and other close Chinese family friends as well. Back then, we all traveled by car (presumably to save on money), and while I can’t remember where we all stayed, I do remember eating lots of fresh seafood (lobster and mussels) and seeing lots of touristy sites.
Driving from Southern Ontario, Newfoundland was the only Maritime province we missed out on that summer (during my childhood). The distance traveled had to be balanced with the limited time everyone had available for vacation, so you can imagine my excitement (as an adult) when I learned I finally had an excuse and a reason to return to the area!
One of my best friends, Gale Franklin, was moving to St. John’s, Newfoundland for her Masters in Ethnomusicology. [If you don’t know what that is, you’re not alone. Haha. I too had to Google what “ethnomusicology” meant when she first told me that she had been accepted to do her Masters at MUN (Memorial University of Newfoundland) on a Joseph Armand Bombardier Canada Graduate Scholarship from the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada! So proud! Yes, I have very talented friends!] The mother in me wanted to ensure that she had a safe and smooth transition to the island, and the traveler in me wanted to explore and experience the sites, sounds and cuisine of Newfoundland. I never anticipated falling in love and feeling so at home with the mountainous landscape and ocean views that the island has to offer.
August 27, 2018
My first trip to St. John’s had an early start. My flight had a 5:15 am departure time, with a connection in Montreal, and I remember arriving into St. John’s before lunch time.
I’ll never forget that first flight into St. John’s because I had no idea that the flight path to landing at the St. John’s International Airport (YYT) would be so bizarre! I remember feeling excited as we flew over the island, and then a wave of curiosity and worry came over me when I realized the plane wasn’t descending at all… that the edge of the island was clearly visible by that point, and then we actually flew past the island and back out over the Atlantic Ocean! I remember thinking (or should I say panicking in my head as I was taking the pictures below): Where are we going? Why is everyone else so calm – heck, why is no one else freaking out that we just shot past the island? Did I get on the wrong flight? Doing my best to remain visibly calm, and not make a scene (as one of the few… if I wasn’t the only visible minority on the plane), I finally managed to breathe again when the plane did a u-turn and flew back towards the island and landed at YYT.
The Jeep Grand Cherokee was my first car rental on the island, and it was a vehicle that truly impressed both Gale and I. It was so smooth! It handled the bumpy and steep terrains with ease, and it made our journey in and around town, as well as down the East Coast a truly comfortable ride.
I stayed at the Sandman Signature St. John’s Hotel for my first trip to St. John’s. My room was very comfortable (see pictures below), clean and clearly quite new at the time. I liked the fact that the hotel had a gym (which I did use a few times), lots of (free) parking, and was located close to the highway, restaurants and other basic shopping necessities.
Particularly memorable for me was the wonderful customer service and hospitality of their front-of-house staff. I had a lot of questions about where I could go to see whales and puffins, where was the best place to get screeched in, where I could go to eat some authentic Newfoundland cuisine, and the friendly and personal advice they offered has truly left a lasting and positive impression on me.
The Duke of Duckworth
For dinner, Gale and I ventured downtown and tried out The Duke of Duckworth, “the best pub in town.” The place came highly recommended by friends of mine (originally from the island) who said that I absolutely had to try The Duke’s Famous Fish ‘n Chips, and so I did. OMG! I have never tasted fish that delicate before!! It actually melted in my mouth! It was seriously the best fish that I have ever had – so fresh, so tender and tasty, and it fit in perfectly with the small pub environment we were in.
I wish I had taken a picture of the interior of the pub. The decor and customer base was exactly like something you would see out of a movie. There were people of all ages (from young adults on up to retirees) – chatting, laughing, and watching soccer on the large digital screens hung throughout. It’s a local place to hang out and have beer, and people looked very much at home there.
Did I feel awkward being the only visible minority in the place? No. The Duke of Duckworth is a really friendly place, and while I could sense that I was the “shiny new object in the place,” no one seemed to stare or look at me funny. It was a very positive and memorable experience, and I would definitely go back for their fish ‘n chips again. Of the several restaurants I have tried on the island to date, I have yet to taste fish ‘n chips more mouth watering than The Duke’s Famous Fish ‘n Chips.
Bring on Day 2
I thoroughly enjoyed my first day on the island! I’m telling you, it felt like I was home. Even more impressive would be my next day – sightseeing and breathing in the coastline views… views that help to calm my soul.