St John’s Newfoundland is a proper city but it’s so easy to walk through that it feels a lot more intimate than one.
It’s streets after street filled with rows of colorful houses that, we decided to (figuratively) throw the map out of the window and just get lost in its colorful streets. It was brilliant.
Newfoundlanders are a very warm bunch and before long, we found ourselves chatting away to some city locals, eager to give us tips for us to make the most of our time in the city.
Dinner that evening had us return and I’m not even ashamed. Lol! I know I should be trying other places but the food was so good there and it was within walking distance that it was something of a no-brainer.
The following morning, on what was our final morning of the trip, we headed out to meet a local from Cod Sounds, for a bit of food foraging, followed by lunch, before heading for the airport.
Now here’s a bit of a confession, I’m not the biggest fan of foraging, I tend to get distracted part way through and subsequently bored so I tend not to look to do it. Lloyd, on the other hand, is quite the opposite and finds everything about it so fascinating.
Despite my lack of enthusiasm for foraging, somehow (and I have to give huge credit to our guide for this), I had such an amazing time foraging for food!
I think it’s just how well she did it. She didn’t waste time explaining stuff I had no interest in and everything she did was with a purpose and a point. It felt very much like we were “shopping” in nature for stuff for our lunch which I loved. When she needed to, she explained why some of the stuff was necessary and how to select the right ones but it was just the perfect balance of information and activity.
She also grounded everything in how her family had done this for years and how the settlers from Europe (read: Ireland) had done this across several generations and something that could have been a dull afternoon became this fascinating insight into local customs, traditions and survival techniques.
Once we were done foraging we stopped in at a place where two ladies in the community were waiting for us all to have lunch together. Oh, and lunch was so good!
We dined on smoked fish, mushrooms, wild cabbage, stewed fish (cod) and even grilled moose – most of which was prepped right in front of us (asides from the stuff like smoked fish which was done in advance. Clearly it takes hours – maybe days? – to smoke fish properly)
We even had a dessert of wild berries and jams made from local berries. One of my favorite things about the whole afternoon was also the conversation.
Getting to meet the locals, felt like such a privilege to find out even more about Newfoundland and Labrador (I realized relatively recently that – and maybe this is in part because I like to talk a lot – nattering away with locals is one of my absolute favorite things to do when we travel).
I love learning about stuff that they do that’s perhaps similar or even very different from what we might do in the same situation and for me (as pretentious as this sounds), feels like an opportunity to learn even more about the world.
I feel like these perspectives actually make you a much more tolerant, much wiser person and this is something I definitely don’t take for granted. (Okay, I am aware of how soppy this all sounds, I genuinely enjoyed spending time chatting away with these ladies).
They sent us off with batches of wild spices, ground up with sea salt for us to make our own meals back at home!
Well, she put them together and we got to grind them (which means I’m taking full credit for making these even though I’d have had no idea what to put in them).
And just like that, it was time to head home.
Our time in Atlantic Canada, despite it being a week-long had felt fairly brief, I guess in part because we’d gotten to see so many parts of it over that week but it’s just left me wanting to come back for even longer to do it all again and then some more.
The unique and striking architecture of Newfoundland has served to draw many tourists to the province. The Heritage Foundation of Newfoundland and Labrador has long recognized and been an advocate of architectural heritage as an important factor in the preservation of Newfoundland’s cultural identity. The preservation of individual structures is crucial to the tourist industry, and the economic well being of communities.
Architectural heritage is not only of value to economic growth, it also contributes to social survival. If the value of what our ancestors built and the documentation of the skills used in constructing these buildings are recognized, then Newfoundland heritage in our Canadian society will be further enhanced.
Preserving our Past
Many people are drawn towards our beautiful old buildings and we, as Newfoundlanders, feel a strong pride that goes along with the wood and nails. The preservation of Newfoundland folk architecture in recent years has received deserving attention. In Bonavista, for example, the community college has developed a heritage carpentry course. Students learn how to reconstruct heritage houses, and as a result they are also enriched with the art of making traditional furniture. In Trinity, a number of local carpenters have revived the making of traditional windows and have created a market for these products throughout the province. Also, an inventory of Newfoundland folk homes is being compiled as part of a strategy to preserve Newfoundland’s architectural heritage.
Due to the lifestyles of early Newfoundlanders, many of their houses were built upon hillsides and cliffs by the sea. This would allow for easy access to the water for fishing. This posed a problem for the fishermen since building on a steep incline was risky business. The houses were unstable and in heavy rains, very unpredictable. In 1973, a mud slide caused by heavy rains swept four houses built along a hillside into the harbour. Four children died that night. This is a dark side of Newfoundland folk architecture; our houses are subject to harsh environmental conditions.
A distinguishing feature of the majority of houses in Newfoundland is their wooden construction. The reason for this goes back to the seventeenth century. When settlers first landed on our shores they could not ignore the abundance of lumber around them. The style at the time in Europe was to build with lumber so these New World settlers also built their houses of wood.
Availability of wood was not the only reason why they chose lumber as the best material. Building a stone or brick house required a great deal of time and money, neither of which was available to most settlers. To build a stone or brick house required special skills and many months of dry warm weather which Newfoundland does not always enjoy. As well, bricks had to be shipped from England in order to have them as a building material. Stone was not an acceptable building material either, because the settlers would have to locate and operate an accessible quarry.