May 23 to 30th is tourism week in Canada and if you’ve spent any time on social media, you may have noticed tourism boards across the country posting photos of enticing destinations within their jurisdictions. Fifteen months of COVID-related travel restrictions have hit the tourism industry particularly hard, as you can imagine. But! If we commit to spending two-thirds of our travel dollars this year on travel within our country, we can speed recovery of that industry by a full year while adding 150,000 jobs back into the workforce.
Today on CBC Edmonton AM, I spoke of St. John’s, the capital city of Newfoundland and Labrador, and if you have never been, please read on or listen to the on-air segment (I’ll post as soon as it becomes available) to find out why I think this city should be on every traveller’s radar.
St. John’s unique culture is a product of European and Indigenous heritage. The city was founded by the British in 1630, making it one of the oldest cities in the country, but the Vikings came to the area’s shores hundreds of years before that, followed by a host of others—Portuguese, French, English, Dutch, Irish and Scots. Remnants of these cultures show themselves, still, in the food, architecture, music and folklore.
It might take a bit of time and money to get to “The Rock” as Newfoundland is sometimes called, but this is a trip definitely worth the effort. So, when we are able to safely travel further afield, consider spending some travel dollars in and around St. John’s for these reasons:
If you love to laugh, if you love folklore and story telling, and if you love being pampered, being showered with hospitality and good food, Newfoundlanders offer that in spades. Never before, have I felt so welcomed or cherished as I did when talking to and interacting with people in this part of the country. After all this isolation, I need that again. I want to be referred to as lovey, m’darlin‘ and hun. If you need it too, you’ll find it in Newfoundland.
Come on. It’s ridiculous. Breathtaking views everywhere you look. Breathe in that air, let the water and waves and salt air soothe you.
One night, I watched a young couple dance in a pub on George Street in St. John’s historic downtown. They were so into each other. So connected, and so in step with the music, they moved like water. I was mesmerized and felt privileged to be witnessing this, and I was envious — while I sat there on the fringe, with a group of people engrossed in business talk. The Bishops, a celtic-rock band from the area, played for hours. They were fantastic. I could’ve stayed all night listening to them.
Then there were these two blokes who danced as if their limbs and joints were attached to strings—like a puppet’s—and they didn’t spill a drop the whole time. Priceless.
What I’m trying to say is, go for the music. Go dance. Get swept away. St. John’s is the place to do it.
The George Street music festival takes place every summer. If you love music, plan your trip for that time period.
The Culinary Scene
St. John’s has a fantastic food, craft brew, spirits and coffee scene. Of course, you must eat fish and chips until you burst, and you must try the toutons (fried bread) with molasses or jam, and pastries called flakies, and turkey flips (meat turnovers), and all the traditional food you can get your hands on. There are no shortage of mom-and-pop food shops and restaurants, but some of Canada’s top restaurant are here, too. Check out Raymonds, Merchant Tavern and Mallard Cottage. I’m sure there are more now since my last visit.
Breweries and distilleries abound—I mentioned the brewery Quidi Vidi, but there are a dozen more in the area. Go to liquorconnect.com to find Newfoundland beer, spirits and ciders in a store near you. Check out these gins from The Newfoundland Distillery!
If you’re hankering for a taste of Newfoundland food here in Edmonton, your choices are limited. In fact, from what I can find, only the Atlantic Kitchen (St. Alberta and Fort Sask) offers traditional east coast food on a regular basis—but please, if you have other information, let me know.
We do have some restaurants in and around Edmonton that offer very good fish and chips. When I put the question out on Twitter and Facebook, many people mentioned Grandin Fish ‘n Chips, Otto, Winston’s Fish & Chip Truck, and Chartier (in Beaumont). Also: Workshop offers great fish and chips on Fridays (but not right now while its operating as The Henhouse) and Knosh Catering makes killer fish and chips at the Crestwood Curling rink. And one last restaurant to note is Sabor, who as luck would have it, is offering their stellar fish and chips today and tomorrow (May 28 and 29th) as a special starting at 4 p.m.
Where to purchase fresh fish in these parts? My favourite places are Effing Seafoods (St.Albert) and Ocean Odyssey (Edmonton). Also, Skipper Otto, a community supported fishery operation that works with small-scaled independent Canadian fishermen, now delivers their frozen product to Uproot Food Collective and Organic Box in Edmonton.
More information from my travels can be found in a 2010 blogpost here, but by now I think you get the idea. Newfoundland is an incredible destination, a place unlike anywhere else in the country. You need to go, it’s that simple.