Christine Mao

St. John’s, NL (Trip 1, Day 2)

Life on the island is significantly different than what I am used to in my day-to-day routine. The pace is slower and more relaxed. Things are simpler and less complex.

Back home, my default idea of having fun is spending time at a theme park where there are thrilling rides, height defying roller coasters, and with that environment comes long lineups and lots of atmospheric noise. As I was planning out my vacation, and researching what tourist attractions I absolutely had to take in, I realized that’s not what’s available in St. John’s, or anywhere else on the island, and part of me had a little panic attack. (Seriously. I’m not even joking.) A frantic search of the Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism website revealed that the highlight of their tourism industry is… nature. (The city girl in me screamed, because what you may not know is that I’m not an outdoorsy person. I put on a brave face when I’m hiking and camping as a volunteer Guider with the Brownies, Guides and Pathfinders, and in the past as a Scouter with the Beavers and Cubs.)

My primary purpose in going to the island was to be there for my friend, to help support a smooth transition and move to the island, so there was no turning back…. (Inside, though, I was throwing a pity party because when I wasn’t hanging out with her… what would there be for me to do – see lighthouses and go hiking?!? – that was the conversation going on in my head.) Little did I know then how much the natural beauty of Newfoundland would speak to me, and that it would be these visuals (including lighthouses and hiking trails) that would call me to return time and time again.

August 28, 2018

The day started off a little damp and grey, but it didn’t stop us from getting out there and having an amazing day!

Today’s focus would be MUN (Memorial University of Newfoundland) and its Botanical Garden and Ocean Sciences Centre. I found it quite impressive that the university actively took the initiative to be included and recognized as part of the local tourism industry, and I looked forward to seeing what they had to offer.

MUN Botanical Garden

What a wonderful way to start our day. For a nominal fee, and even a discount for MUN students, there was quite a bit to see and take in at this Botanical Garden.

Plants used for herbal and medicinal purposes were the first to greet us as we entered the garden. Following that, there were a number of trails to explore. I’m not an expert when it comes to trees, plants and flowers, but as your average person who likes to take in some visual beauty, greenery and have the open space to be able to enjoy a walk and chat with a friend, the Botanical Garden was perfect.

Equally as quaint was bumping into the summer camp counselors and their elementary aged campers at the top of the hill. Seeing them there brought a smile to my face as I reminisced about the fun Guiding and Scouting experiences I have had over the years.

I’m hoping to be able to visit the MUN Botanical Gardens again – only next time on a more clear and sunny day. As well, I’d like to try out the gardens during the winter months, particularly during their Merry & Bright Holiday Light Festival. I missed out on the festival when I was in St. John’s in December 2018. As a follower of their mun_botanical_garden Instagram page, I really enjoyed seeing pictures of their festival exhibits, and with any luck, I hope to see them in-person the next time I’m around in December.

MUN Ocean Sciences Centre

Next, we took a quick drive down to Logy Bay (about 12 minutes) to check out the MUN Ocean Sciences Centre. After finding a (free) parking spot, I literally jumped out of the car and ran out to take a picture of this breathtaking view! The colour of the water, combined with the majestic mountainous cliffs… I was in heaven! I hope to be able to take in this view, one day, with crystal clear blue skies as the backdrop. I can only imagine how beautiful that would look!

The students who study here are truly lucky indeed. Talk about the picture-perfect environment to study and be at one with nature. (This picturesque state is so different from what I endured as visuals and environmental smells during my undergrad and law school days….)

The Centre’s Outdoor Summer Marine Public Education Program offers an outdoor touch tank, and being the big kid that I am, I thoroughly enjoyed reaching in and touching the sea cucumber, and picking up this plump starfish. (So cute!) They also have a Seal Facility which I was hoping to check out. Unfortunately, the harp seal wasn’t available at the time we visited, so I will definitely need to find the time to visit again.

There are no indoor tours of the Ocean Sciences Centre Facilities, so it didn’t take long to get through everything. Was it worth the drive? Absolutely! I will be back again for sure.

Boca Tapas Bar

I typically take pictures and timeline the meals and drinks that I order – it’s so typical of our Instagram generation today…. In this case, I’m going to defer to the Boca Tapas Bar website so you can check out their mouthwatering visuals, including their menu, and the next time you’re down on Water Street, hopefully you’ll give them a try.

Its main entrance is down a side street (Clift’s-Baird’s Cove), and if it wasn’t for its protruding store signage, we probably wouldn’t even have noticed that it was there. I’m really happy we decided to venture inside though, because the food (Spanish cuisine) was absolutely delicious – both to the eyes and the taste buds.

Newfoundland Chocolate Company

The last stop of the day was to the Newfoundland Chocolate Company, on Duckworth Street. I was told by my friends (who are originally from the island) that there is no other chocolate like Newfoundland Chocolate, and that I absolutely had to give them a try. I’m so happy to have taken the time because I had such a wonderful time in this store.

Let me tell you, even more memorable than their delicious chocolatey treats are the way they market and package their products! Their Newfoundland Sayings Bars, for example, are absolutely hilarious! The sayings look like they are written in English, and yet, without their translation page, I had no clue what they were each trying to say! For example:

  • GOT TO GET ME MOOSE B’Y means, “I’m going moose hunting”
  • I DIES AT YOU means, “You’re funny”

Hubby and the kids found the Newfoundland Sayings Bars just as entertaining as I did, and they loved the taste of the chocolate bars too! Bringing home Newfoundland Chocolate Company chocolate is an absolute must – it’s a souvenir from the island that I dare not forget.

Bring on Day 3

I’m just loving my vacation now! It’s definitely not what I expected at all, and I’m excited to see what the rest of my 10-day adventure would bring. On the itinerary for tomorrow: the Cape Spear Lighthouse National Historic Site, Quidi Vidi and its brewery, and nightlife on George Street.

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