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  • Writer's pictureDaniel Bates

Tales from Newfoundland

Updated: 6 days ago

It’s the middle of summer and I woke up to beautiful clear skies. The sun was shining over the bay. It was the first day on the island after arriving very late during the night after flying from Hawaii to Saint John’s, Newfoundland in Canada. I had two connecting flights in Vancouver and Toronto to reach the easternmost of the island, flung out in the North Atlantic Ocean and crossed 7.5 time zones in the process. On my journey I had a fantastic breakfast in Downtown Vancouver as I did the journey in twenty-one hours, now waking up, Vancouver seems a long way. It’s true, it’s 7,461km (4,636 miles) at the other end of the Trans-Canada-1 highway, the main road which starts and finishes here in Saint John’s and goes right to Victoria on Vancouver Island. There are many landscapes on that road which people will drive by. Ocean, valleys, mountains, prairies, lakes, swamps, fields, forests before meeting the ocean again.

The flag of Newfoundland
The flag of Newfoundland and Labrador

Today marks another chapter of trying to conquer the Trans-Canada-1 highway. On a week’s visit I would drive the length from Saint John’s to Deer Lake (taking side trips on the way). I have been waiting a long time to come to Newfoundland and explore the beautiful landscape. Waking up in my motel in Conception Bay after a few hours of sleep. I arrived late the night before which meant I actually got to see the sunrise before my head hit the pillows. The sun’s first beams of the day spread warmth over the island before they cast their glow anywhere else in North America. I was so far out into the ocean that the thought of the rays touched down here while the rest of the continent remained in darkness for a little while longer.

Conception Bay, Newfoundland
The car I hired, the hotel I stayed at and breakfast at Tim Hortons, all in one shot!

It was time to hit the road. I had a long drive ahead of me. As soon as I got out of the area and headed westwards, there were not many settlements to see. There were a few rest stops, a few small towns to pass by on my journey which would see me drive 684km (425 miles) to Rocky Harbor on the west coast. It wasn’t long that the view became tree after tree. Trees littered the skyline. Lots of ponds (well, they are lakes but the locals call them ponds) were to be seen. I was cautious for the whole week as there were a lot of moose and bears around here and I didn't want to hit one of them. In the end I saw one moose and one bear and that was an amazing experience. The bear was a cub which I saw in the Gros Morne National Park. It was dusk and it was a good job I saw him otherwise I could have smacked right into him. The cub looked at me with his eyes and then just walked on, into the forest, not to be seen again.

Gros Morne National Park, Newfoundland
Gros Morne National Park

My first stop on the long drive was Dildo, which was about six miles off the beaten track from the road. It had to be done, who would call a settlement Dildo?. I didn’t spend much time here but I stood by the roadside, looking out over the bay. Not a sound. Not a sign of life. All was peaceful. Everything was fantastic. Forty minutes later I stopped again for another stupid place name (or a silly sounding one to us British). I discovered Come-by-Chance but seriously, don’t let me explain this one to you guys.

The drive was a fantastic one across the island. Not many cars on the road, to be honest there would be some hours where I would only spot two or three cars. When I stopped it would be for lunch, or a tea break (I drank so much tea on this trip to keep me going) or to stop to capture the beautiful landscape. The more I drove into the centre of the island, the more dense the forests were becoming. At one point I was driving through Terra Nova National park which was simply stunning.

Just one of many shots I took on the highway in Newfoundland

I passed place names like Gambo, Gander, Grand-Falls Windsor and Deer Lake. Nothing too grand in the name, just short, pleasant and sweet. All offered the services needed for road trippers and hikers who were going across the island. No fancy shopping malls, sports stadiums, etc, just small settlements with food and gas on the roadside before folk would drive on and continue with their journeys.

A flock of geese flew over me as I drove westwards and disappeared into the sunset. I had been driving all day but I was near my destination. Turning off at Deer Lake I headed up the 430 towards Rocky Harbor. The road goes through the southern end of the Gros Morne National Park and this is where I saw the bear as mentioned earlier. The road went up and down mountains, it was a beautiful sunset drive. It took the sun forever to set. Then I saw it, one amazing view with the sunset in the background. I had to pull over in this parking lot which overlooks this fjord. Mountains, trees, dotted the surrounding water. I got out of the car and just stood there. The sounds of crickets could be heard, maybe an owl in the far background. Apart from that no sound was to be heard. It was like the Earth had come to a sudden halt. Time had stood still. It has been a long time since I had an experience like this. This was the moment I fell in love with Newfoundland.

During the week I drove through various other parts of Newfoundland away from the main highway which the road keeps communities together. Before the highway there was a railway line but it became too expensive to maintain and to ship goods from mainland Canada to communities towards Saint John’s. Whilst in Gros Morne National Park, I checked out the Western Pond, a massive fjord north of Rocky Harbour. The trees became more sparse in places as I hiked from the main road to the lake (this fjord does not connect to the sea nearby). Then on a boat going through the fjord, the mountains got higher, the trees got heavier but the peacefulness of the area caught my attention. I wish I could live here instead of dealing with the hustle and bustle of city life back home.

A pond in Newfoundland

Then there was the Baie Verte Peninsula located in the central north, a good hour north drive from the highway. This is where I spotted female moose on the roadside but the landscape was just trees until we got to the sea. Here fishing communities remain. Settlements with French names which meant French fishermen settled here until they left and then were taken over by English fishermen. Here I felt a long way from home but it was also here that we learnt a lot of the history of the island, the culture, the food.

Baie Verte Peninsula, Newfoundland
Baie Verte Peninsula

It was later on in the week and it was time to head eastwards, back along the main highway littered with ponds and trees each side, still looking out for the wildlife. However I diverted southwards and drove for miles on end through the Burin Peninsula. The further south I drove, the less trees there were. The lakes were now the size of actual garden-size ponds in places. The southern tip was a barren landscape. This must be because of the harsh southerly winds off the ocean in the winter months. The rugged coastline was more visible from the road. I spent a few days down this end of the island and despite the landscape being more rugged than the rest of the island, I still found peace. There were not many souls to be had. I even crossed over to the island belonging to France which was an hour’s boat journey, Saint Pierre and Miquelon which was also of a similar landscape.

Burin Peninsula, Newfoundland
Burin Peninsula

It was time to head to my final destination at the end of the Trans-Highway-Canada-1. I learnt that over the years the island was and still is home to many. Vikings, Palaeo-Eskimos, Maritime Archaic Indians as well as the English, Irish and French have claimed the land as their hunting ground or home. Arriving back to where the trip started at the province’s capital, St John’s several days ago, I also discovered the city has the title of North America’s oldest English-founded settlement with about 500 years of history going on here. Despite being flung out on the east coast, separate from the rest of the province, the city has a European, cosmopolitan feel as I discovered on our last night as we hit the city. It was so much different to the peaceful isolation I found on the rest of the island.

George Street, St Johns, Newfoundland
A live performance in one of the bars on George Street, St John's.

Could I live here if I didn’t want to be bothered by the problems of our planet. Yes. Did I find peace and harmony here? Yes. Could I hike for months on end in this beautiful paradise. Yes. The island is one of the most beautiful places I have come across and I was very glad I made the effort to come here. I fell in love with the place. It's unspoilt, not many tourists, a great sense of local community and the beauty. Nothing beats beauty. It could even beat the beauty of that of the Rocky Mountains in Western Canada.

Welcome to St John's, Newfoundland

As mentioned I was in Hawaii and Vancouver on my way to Newfoundland. Those places are far away and how far away I felt. But my next stop would be home, in London, UK. That was at the other side of the ocean, several hours flight away. I stood by the water in Saint John’s at the Terry Fox memorial and just looked out eastwards for a few moments. I knew I was on the other side the following day. But the memories from the year before, on the Dingle Peninsula in Western Ireland, which is directly opposite Saint John’s, I remember saying to myself at the time as I stood at Ireland’s most western-point, that I would be standing in Saint John’s doing the same thing. It was a strange moment but I have stood directly at the same spot looking at each other but a few months apart ... .if that makes any sense at all. It did to me. The ocean is big but not big enough to keep me away from enjoying this beautiful landscape.

Tales from Newfoundland: the Baie Verte Peninsula

‘The northern shore’s used to be settlements full of French fishermen, now they have gone and the English took over them’, one local told me, ‘but for some reason the French place name lives on’. To be honest I didn’t come to the Belle Verte Peninsula in Newfoundland, Canada to find out why places had a French background (but it was nice to get a local history lesson in), instead I was here for a few reasons which I will explain.

Baie Verte Peninsula, Newfoundland
Baie Verte Peninsula

Taking a turn on the main highway of the island (The Trans-Canada-Highway-1) and going up route 410, I didn’t pass any settlements, towns, or gas stations for about forty miles. Just trees, lots of ponds (as the locals call it but to me Europeans they are called lakes), and potholes in the road. I came here as Summer arrived. There’s only two seasons here, one is called Winter (or freaking freezing season) which lasts from September to June and the other is Construction season (when the sun comes out and it’s time to repair all the roads).

Before I reached the settlement of Baie Verte I took a right turn onto Route 414 and I had the same view all the way as the previous road. Lots of trees with ponds in beautiful surroundings. Another twenty or so miles of this before I turned onto a gravel track heading towards the ocean. The first destination was Tilt Cove, known to be Canada’s smallest town with a population of four people. I first discovered this town on the BBC News website back home and was kinda wondering what life was like in the smallest town in the world’s second biggest country. Well here I was, overlooking the town on the only road with a sign saying ‘Tilt Cove - Smallest Town in Canada - Population: 4’.

Tilt Cove, Newfoundland

Driving down the dusty track, I parked outside the ‘Way We Were’ museum. Inside I was met by Margaret Collins who is the town clerk and runs the museum (In Tilt Cove there is also Margaret’s husband Don who is the mayor whilst her brother and his wife who live nearby are the town councillors). It was great to walk into the museum to see bits and bobs from the buildings in the town and were given to her. Items such as books used in the school, some old china and photos which were displayed. There is a lot of history here too about the town when in its heyday they had 1,500-2,000 people living here. Starting off as a fishing village, copper metal was soon discovered and because of this, people came across the land to mine and get paid good wages. At that point there was a nightclub here, a movie theatre and sporting activities would take place (Nearby we saw a run down playground which children used to swing on the swings in a run-down state. There would be no activities taking place here unless one wants to throw themselves in the pond or build a snowman when the snow comes).

Tilt Cove, Newfoundland
Tilt Cove

Margaret loves her town very much, knows the whole history and I was all ears when she was telling her stories and facts about the place like, the only road into the town is the last to get plough by the province as there are no children here (or bus routes). Another one I liked is that there are no internet connections here (great for a social media detox). There is a dial up connection which was installed many years ago but because of the remote location and the cables probably frozen into the ground and snapped, it was a long wait to establish a connection so they just don’t bother anymore. When she isn’t busy talking to the curious visitors in the museum, she keeps busy as the town’s town clerk and told me that her main priority is to keep paying bills so that there is water still flowing into the households and keep the two street lights on the road burning.

I could have talked for ages as I loved her charm and her burning desire to show the world what Tilt Cove was like. She was passionate and showed that by not just giving me answers to my questions or explaining about the life of people here but at the end of every sentence, there would be a smile. She was definitely one of the friendliest characters I have met in Newfoundland so far. After saying goodbyes, I did a tour of the town with the car, driving around the pond and seeing the other buildings with their colours fading away.

Just to point out whilst I was in the museum, there were two other tourists from Canada and I got talking. They explained that earlier that day there were two icebergs joined together (small ones), in a nearby town called Fleur de Lys right on the northern tip of the Belle Verte Peninsula. I didn’t have time to put this town into my schedule but I sure would love to see the icebergs which flow down from the Arctic coming near the coastline (hence the area’s nickname is Iceberg Alley). I will continue this point a bit later on in the post.

It was time to drive to my next destination, La Scie (or as visitors would call it, Lassie, after the famous television dog). This would be my stop for the night as it was late in the afternoon. I checked in at my bed and breakfast accommodation at the Fair Haven Retreat overlooking the town from the north. My host Celeste welcomed me and got settled in. However now it was 6pm and I was asked by Celeste if I had eaten. I hadn’t and she said that all the restaurants would be closed but the grocery store should be open for snacks. I noticed on the drive to La Scie that there were no other restaurants etc for about a three hours drive away (I drove all the way from Rocky Harbour on the west coast) so I had a look of despair on our faces. However, Celeste said she knew the owners of a nice tea room at a museum a few minutes away and would give them a call to say ‘hold fire guys, I got more out of towners heading your way for some food’ (well, not in those words but you can sense where I was going with this).

La Scie, Newfoundland
La Scie, Newfoundland

Arriving at the Outport Museum and Tea Room dead on 6pm, I was made very welcome by the owner, Valerie who served me the best Mac ‘N’ Cheese ever (and I was told to have the famous Jiggs Dinner, some sort of beef meal which is served all over the island but I opted for the pasta dish). Sitting there with a big smile on my face, I got talking to Valerie before her husband Larry came down from the museum to give me a talk on the history of the island but before he did, he said he had the best job on earth, testing Valerie’s food. He is a proud Newfoundlander or Newfie’s as they called around here and as the conversation went on, the more intrigued I was. Walking around the museum I was shown bits and bobs which were given to him and the museum over the years about life on the island. Most of it was fishing stuff but there were some interesting bits and pieces like a compass, photos of some hockey players and maps. He even showed me a flag which he found in the loft one day, a flag of the Union Jack (which is the British flag) with a picture of the Queen on it from the 1950’s. To Larry, this was one of the biggest finds and seemed very pleased with the flag.

The British and Newfoundland connection was explained and it was quite simple. The Kingdom of England (the United Kingdom which at this point didn’t exist until 1801) along with other European countries first started to sail across the Atlantic looking for new land, resources etc but eventually, Kingdom of England ruled the island (and over the years despite having arguments and wars with the neighbours to the south, the French were allowed to stay on the island on the northern shores like La Scie and were only allowed to fish and then they had to return back to France). This happened from 1610 and it was only in the late 1940’s it was given to Canada as the United Kingdom was in financial trouble because of the Second World War. These days some of the older generation still regard themselves as British and some still have the Union Jack flag blowing in the wind proudly outside their homes. The Union Jack flag was used for Newfoundland right up until the 1980’s despite Canada owning the province.

Whilst talking to Larry I noticed a harsh Irish accent (or similar) along with some other locals I spoke to on my visit. It seemed during the years the Kingdom of England/United Kingdom (when it had Ireland under its wings until independence in the early 20th century), sent over more Irish than English, Scottish or Welsh to fish, to live, to find new lands. Now during the week I was comparing Ireland to Newfoundland. The scenery may be different here as with the weather (Newfies have the snow, the Irish have the rain), but the culture, the music, the food, the sense of humour in the remote places, they were very similar. Some locals say on a clear day they can see Ireland from the Bonavista lighthouse on the east coast of the island (of course this is a joke as there is about 4,000 miles worth of ocean in between both islands).

I was kinda sad to stop talking to Larry and Valerie and about the history as I was totally enjoying myself. However I was there for over four hours and now I could hear the owls or other types of birds in the nearby forests or by the cliffs making noises. The streets were in complete darkness. La Scie has gone to sleep (to which I thought was about 6pm but by now, surely everyone was in bed!).

The next morning in my bed and breakfast, Celeste explained about some historical Eskimo carvings in nearby Fleur de Lys. My eyes lit up as I love Arctic history and the whole essence of exploring the region. I thought bugger it, it is time to head up to Fleur de Lys (and kicking something else out of my schedule for the day) in search of the carvings and hoping to see some of the icebergs which were mentioned by the other tourists when I spoke with them in Tilt Cove the day previous. After breakfast I said my goodbyes to Celeste and her lovely dog Zoe, then very quickly went to the lookout points to the north of the town and out to sea, hoping to see whales and maybe an iceberg. Nope, I just got battered by the wind.

The drive to Fleur de Lys was about an hour from La Scie but before arriving I came across a female moose who loved to give me a stare and wanted to know what the hell I was doing. In the end she got bored and moved on, disappearing into the forest. Eventually I drove into the town (with a population of 265 in the 2011 census) until I came to the end of the road. Here I spotted it, the two little icebergs which are connected together but can’t be seen as the connection is under the water. Then before I knew it, another HUGE iceberg drifted in and stopped next to the small ones. I was hoping to get a local fisherman to get me nearer to the icebergs or out to sea in a boat for a small fee but this didn’t happen.

Next stop was the Eskimo carvings. There is a museum explaining about how the discovery was made many years ago in the quarry behind the building. There was a certain tribe of Eskimo and the only place they have left evidence of their existence was here and some settlement high up in the Arctic regions. The carvings on the quarry walls were the highlight but with the weather turning it was time to hit the town and find some place to eat.

Now that has become a very hard task. There was nowhere to eat in the town but I did find a bar. I spoke to the barmaid whilst taking in the clean, modern decor and furnishings whilst having a lunchtime beer before making tracks but I got talking about traveling (of course), what life is like here before talking about the bar. I didn’t see anyone else having a drink here and the barmaid said sometimes there could be days where nobody will be here. It was such a shame as this was a lovely bar with a welcoming barmaid. The highlight of my chat had to be when she owned a car which was purple in colour and it attracted moose out of the forest while she drove south out of the town. (Hint: do not rent or buy purple cars in Canada, it could be a thing where the moose likes purple and wants to say hello).

I left Fleur de Lys and the Belle Verte Peninsula, watching moose as I drove. I loved this area, I loved hearing tales and the history of this island from the locals. There is a real sense of community here and to be honest in North America, this special connection can be hard to find sometimes. I was pleased that I made the journey to this area and hopefully one day I will return, to see if Tilt Cove has got bigger or smaller, if a ‘Jiggs Dinner’ is the meal to have or to see if any more Iceberg’s have floated on by.

Tales from Newfoundland: A tour of the Western Brook Pond

Yes, I have done a tour on a pond. But pond’s are not big you say? Well, in Newfoundland, Canada’s easternmost province, a pond is their word for lake and one particular pond I came across was the Western Brook Pond, located on the western edge of the Gros Morne National Park.

To be honest, it’s actually a fjord. However this is one fjord which has been on my ‘bucket list’ for a while and when in Newfoundland, it just had to be ticked off. I booked my ticket in advance as during the ‘tourist season’ (which runs from July to August due to the weather around these parts), and collected them from their ticket booth located in Ocean View Hotel in Rocky Harbor, located about twenty minute drive south of Western Pond. It is easier to book or collect tickets from here, as I was told that the credit card machine might not work at Western Brook Pond due to its location and connecting the machine to a server.

Starting early from my hotel in Rocky Harbor, I drove twenty minutes north on route 430 until I saw a signpost on the right hand sign saying ‘Western Brook Pond’. If visitors are running late and have to drive to this location, don’t speed. There are moose and bears lurking in the trees but I didn’t see any that morning. It was a splendid drive with the Gulf of Saint Lawrence to my left and the mountains appearing above the forests to the right. After parking up I can tell you that the toilet block here came in very handy. After this point, it will take forty-five minutes to an hour to walk to Western Brook Pond.

It’s a strange pond (or lake) or even fjord. This is because this is the only fjord I have come across in the world which isn’t connected to the sea. I was walking past mini ponds between the sea and the fjord. The scenery around here is flat but beautiful. Don’t get me wrong, the walk is very pleasant on the gravel track, with no sounds apart from birds in the trees nearby.

I arrived at the pond to see a huge crowd of people got here even earlier than me to get the best places on the boat. The boats were small, two storeys high in both and everyone wanted the top deck (as there were limited seating). I can’t be bothered to play that game anymore and make sure I had a nice cup of tea from the cafe here (and an emergency toilet stop just in case the water got rough during the boat tour). It was first thing in the morning, a hike was done, nature was cooling and I had cups of tea. What more could make me happy….

Well, this ...the view of the opening of the fjord. What a sight! I for sure had trouble thinking of ways of describing this scene but it was simply stunning! On the boat I met the two tour guides providing the commentary. A fantastic guy in his forties (I am guessing) who put so much energy when it came to describing stuff along the route and providing information. He would make a great soccer stadium announcer. The young lady did all the French (Quebec-dialect) language to which I understood and was trying to translate some words from their dialect to the French spoken in France. It was all a learning curve. Still the two tour guides made the announcements very enjoyable to listen to.

The views were simply amazing as the boat rode into the heart of the fjord. This has to be one boat tour I won’t forget in a hurry, the dramatic settings made sure of that. The boat rode all sixteen kilometers of the lake to the eastern end (which has a depth of 165 meters) and not for one second did I take my eye off the views. I saw waterfalls cascading down from 2000 feet, one of which is named Pissing Mare Falls (which I couldn’t stop giggling about). I tried to spot the fish here ranging from Atlantic Salmon, Arctic Char and Brook Trout. Did I see the colony of cliff nesting gulls, I did not.

After a while the boat reached the eastern end of the fjord where the boat dropped off a few hikers who were going to hike for a few days to reach the summit of the mountain called Gros Morne (to which the national park is named after). Good luck to them, they had to defend themselves. No toilets, no shops, no nothing. Just forest where the bears and moose like to play.

Arriving back after my two hour tour I decided to have some food before the hike back to the car. They had a good barbecue outside the cafe and had some of the finest hot dogs I have ever had.

Tales from Newfoundland: Screeched in St John’s

I only had twenty-four hours in St John’s which I know isn’t long enough to see a small city but I am sure I will be back in Newfoundland and the city itself very soon. On arrival before checking into my accommodation at Hotel Jag (see below for my review), the first stop was to see the start and end of the Trans-Canadian Highway One, the longest road in Canada. I am a bit of a geography geek and have to admit, I studied road atlas books in the UK instead of reading books like Harry Potter or Dungeons and Dragons when I was a seven year old kid. Everyone thought I was loopy back then but by god, after looking at road maps all my life, who needs a GPS? I have traveled on parts of this highway and I hope to conquer it all one day but in Newfoundland, I have driven from St John’s all the way to Deer Lake, a total of 638km (396 miles) each way. Anyway, getting off track, the Highway starts and ends at a set of crossroads on East White Hills Road and Logy Bay Road (route 30).

Another landmark I did was the ‘Mile 0 monument of Terry Fox’ which is where one inspirational runner back in the early 1980s tried to run from St John’s to Victoria, BC. He was amputee due to losing one leg to cancer. I already saw the statue in Victoria and to see where he started his run, here on the Atlantic Ocean coastline, was a feeling I wouldn’t forget. Canada is so vast. I have been to most parts but either flown or drove parts.

Terry Fox memorial at St John's

After checking into my hotel, it was time to let my hair down as it was the last night in Newfoundland on my four-week trip. George Street which was a block away from the Hotel Jag is known for its pedestrianised street with lots of restaurants and bars. What I love here is that there are quite a lot of bars playing live music, in the style of the old ways which have come over from Ireland and England. I think I did several bars that evening and it was one of the best night outs I have ever had in my life. The music, the locals, the food, the warm air outside. I can’t remember what time I got back into the hotel that night. It was truly amazing.

Then I also kissed a fish! Yes, I took part in the Newfoundland tradition of getting ‘screeched in’. It's a way of making outsiders to the island turning them into honorary Newfoundlanders. And I managed to do this at Christian’s Pub at number 23, George Street, the oldest bar on the street. This involves having a shot of screech (Newfoundland Rum), listening to a short recitation and then the kissing of a cod. The screeching starts with the leader of the ceremony introducing themselves and asking those around him if they would like to become a Newfoundlander. The response would be a ‘Yes b’y!’ Each person is then asked to introduce themselves and say where they are from. Then every person will hold their shot of Screech whilst the leader asks ‘Are ye a screecher?’ or ‘Is you a Newfoundlander?’ and the response has to be ‘Indeed I is, me ol’ cock! And long may yer big jib draw!’. This is translated into modern English ‘Yes I am, my old friend, and may your sails always catch wind’. Then it is time to kiss the cod on the lips. If anyone is coming to Newfoundland, get screeched! It's so much fun and I walked away now as an honorary Newfoundlander.

Hotel review of my stay in St Johns: JAG Boutique Hotel

I decided to stay in the JAG Boutique Hotel for the final night of my trip to Newfoundland. There were a couple of reasons for this. Location, fantastic reviews I have read about the style and to be honest, instead of staying in Bed and Breakfasts and budget hotels, I wanted to spend the cash and have a bit of luxury. I got that with JAG and was so glad to stay here.

As said, location. It was the last night of my trip, I wanted to let my hair down after being on the road around the USA and Canada for the past month and when I heard about George Street, a long stretch of road going through the heart of the city with lots of restaurants and bars, I wanted to stay nearby and thankfully JAG was a five minute walk away from the western end of the street. I also hired a car for this part of the trip and the hotel is located a couple of minutes away from the main road out of town and a twenty minute drive to the airport (on a clear road).

Parking up outside the main entrance, the doorman happily took my luggage from the car to my room (I had pre-booked my stay the day before) and the other guy took my car to the secure parking. Walking in with my hands free I was welcomed by the very friendly front-of-house staff who were very informative and gave me the low-down on the hotel and the city. Walking into the lobby just before that I noticed there were a lot of memorabilia on rock music dotted around the place from huge pictures on the wall of famous rock bands/singers to a table which looks like a huge cassette. This is because the current owner of the Steele Hotels group (John), has a lot of memorabilia and rock-inspired art in his personal collection and has it all on display in the hotel. Going up to our room there was rock music playing in the elevator, none of that chilled-out lounge music going on here.

The design of the hotel was done by Ron Fougere who is an architect from a local firm and the outside walls of the building is coloured bold red which blends in well with the other colourful buildings nearby. For the inside there is plenty of glass to let the sunlight in and the rooms are minimally styled but still has the everyday needs to which a hotel stay has.

There are eighty-four rooms here but in the summer months especially (or any day there is a huge party on nearby George Street) the hotel fills up quite quickly so it’s best to reserve. All rooms have calming shades of cream and grey so I found this to be a huge influence for a relaxing stay here.

I opted for the standard room and thankfully as it was a hot day when I arrived, the room was fully air conditioned. There is a huge king-size bed with a wall-mounted headboard and I can honestly say, I had one of my best nights of sleep here. Other features of the room is the huge television screen with digital cable and high definition channels. Free WI-FI is included (as well as local calls) and I found the WIFI connection to be fast, clear and no interruptions from my room. Also there is a sofa, a desk to do some of ‘that’ important office work and a coffee machine, a snack basket as a well as a stocked up mini fridge (for a fee) to keep your stomach happy whilst working or wanting that midnight snack.

Another important factor is always the bathroom. If the shower works and has a lot of pressure, then the stay is a success and this is the case here at the JAG. Again, after a month on the road, this was the best bathroom I had on the trip. There is plenty of space to move about in the room and the hotel provides locally designed and manufactured bath products like shampoo. There are also bathrobes and hairdryers provided to make the stay even more pleasant.

After my nice sleep it was time for breakfast in the morning and I checked out the hotel restaurant. Despite feeling a bit sluggish from the night before with all the beers, a good hearty meal is what is needed and here there are a few options for breakfast but I had to go for a full breakfast which includes the usual eggs, bacon, sausages. When I checked into the hotel the previous evening, before hitting nearby George Street, I did have a drink in the bar (also the same room), which was a fantastic way to start the evening. Sat at the bar, received excellent service, drinks reasonably priced and I just loved checking out the artwork dotted around the place.

Overall, I really enjoyed my stay here at the JAG and it was a great way to finish off my trip. I am seriously hoping to be back in Newfoundland in the near future as I fell in love with the place and if so, I think another stay at the JAG has to be done. It had everything for me and the price I paid, well, I got our money’s worth that’s for sure. Worth every penny.


Traveling to Newfoundland by air: The main international airport is St John's and is located several kilometers north of the centre of the city. This is the main gateway to the island for those who are traveling without a car. There are two other airports and several small ones which has flights across the island and to nearby provinces, there are Gander airport and Stephenville airport.

By ferry: The main ferry route (which also forms part of the Trans-Canadian-Highway-1) is from Port-aux-Basques on the south-west of the island and takes passengers and cars to the town of North Sydney in Nova Scotia. This is the shorter route, however there is a longer route (which will save fuel on the car) and that is North Sydney to Argentia in the south-east of Newfoundland (which is a lot nearer to St John's). Another route is in the north-west of the island, which connects to Lourdes-de-Blanc-Sablon in Quebec (and is very close to the Labrador part of the province). Lastly, there is a ferry route to France, yes, France, well, to France's oversea's islands of St Pierre and Miquelon, where ferries depart from Fortune in the south-east of the island.

Please note that is there no railway line on the island of Newfoundland for passengers. As mentioned earlier, the line closed down years ago.

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