Notes from Newfoundland

By  Michele Faux, Catholic Register Special
  • September 28, 2007
{mosimage}Forty-six per cent of Newfoundlanders are left-handed. At least that’s what my husband’s golfing partner told him while they played the Terra Nova course.

The partner is a St. John’s lawyer but I’m not sure his claim would stand up in court. However, it might just explain a few things we observed while visiting Canada’s 10th province.

Last summer, after spending time in British Columbia, I said my next holiday would be in Newfoundland. I could then state that I’d visited every single province (and the territories would have to wait). It was a bit of luck when our middle daughter made plans to study for her master’s degree in St. John’s. We could help her settle into her apartment and see some of the province at the same time.

{sidebar id=2}Everyone told us how friendly we would find Newfoundlanders. When my daughter and I made an advance weekend trip, we were seated beside an ex-Newfoundlander who talked all the way from Toronto and then insisted on paying for the taxi to the hotel. Our taxi drivers were friendly and full of advice, even though we didn’t always understand them. A friend of mine recommended that we hire an island moving company: cheap and personable but “you’ll feel as though you are never going to see your stuff again.”

Driving in St. John’s; was a challenge with San Francisco-like hills, missing street signs and streets that changed names every few blocks. The roads always seemed to be one-way and it wasn’t our way. Much to our surprise, pedestrians rule the road. You just have to think of crossing the street and cars in all directions come to a stop. At least, that’s the way it works most of the time. The cook in our bed and breakfast said that “Newfoundlanders stop for 95 per cent of pedestrians. The rest, we run over.” A sample of the local humour.

St. John’s doesn’t follow conventional rules. Garbage days change with the month. Racoons aren’t a problem but garbage bags are covered with hoops and netting to keep seaguls away. Recycling is non-existent (at least in my daughter’s area) yet the local Canadian Tire sells blue bins. Except for downtown, dogs roam leash free.

Newfoundland is a province of “good-byes” with so many citizens off working in Fort McMurray or fighting in Afghanistan. While we were there, a village fire was left to burn because there were no men left in the village to operate the volunteer fire brigade. That same week, the Hebron oil deal was signed with hopes that Newfoundlanders might finally come home to work.

Newfoundland has a wealth of churches and a multitude of bars. The Catholic Basilica of St. John the Baptist dominates the St. John’s skyline and there’s a little white church in every fishing village. On George Street, there’s at least one bar for every one of those little churches.

There’s more to the province than whales, puffins and icebergs and I remain very much a tourist after two short visits. Nearly 60 years ago, it was a different country and it remains unique today. Not unlike the lefties you know.

(Faux, a mother of five, is a Contributing Editor to The Catholic Register.)

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