A video essay about Canadian pride during the last winter Olympics held in Canada has resurfaced on Facebook so I watched it and got goosebumps again and was instantly filled with patriotism. That patriotism lingered in my system for awhile and narrowed itself down a bit more from Canadian patriotism to Newfoundland patriotism.
Not many people know where Newfoundland is. Even some Canadians I have met know very little of the most eastern province in Canada. We are closest to the UK. We have our own time zone. We get New Years before everyone else in Canada. Aside from the fact that we seem to have lots of shitty doctors, I love our quaint island that is rich with culture (mostly Irish) and art. Fun fact: there’s a town in Newfoundland called Dildo. Another fun fact: there’s a town in Newfoundland called Come by Chance. Seriously. So many jokes can be had if you live in Newfoundland.
The city I live in is called St. John’s. It is the oldest city in North America. Wikipedia tells me that the city’s nickname is “The City of Legends.” This is news to me, but I can see it being true. There are approximately 200,000 “townies” living in St. John’s. It is small as far as cities are concerned, but a sprawling metropolis if you take into consideration the rest of the island.
St. John’s has a lot to offer it’s residents. We have: a movie theatre, at least 3 bowling alleys, approximately 750 pubs, a strip club with a sign that tells me there is world class entertainment 7 days a week, about 10 McDonalds, a church crypt where you can have tea and desserts, 1.5 shopping malls, countless hiking trails, coffee, hotels, places to work on your fitness, museums, Menchies, a couple bookstores, an outdoor skating rink in a park. Someone told me there is a laser tag place. I haven’t found it yet but just the thought of it is pretty exciting. Also if you visit us there’s a 90% chance you will accidentally become an extra on the show Republic of Doyle. We basically have everything NYC has to offer with less smog. Seriously, our cup runneth over.
I live in the downtown core of St. John’s. I moved downtown because I realized I am always happy when I’m there. The coffee shops, boutiques and pubs make me feel all warm and tingly on the inside and I thought I owed it to myself to feel that way as often as possible. Downtown St. John’s is full of what we call “jelly bean” houses. We are a very colourful city.
photograph by Brian Carey - http://www.briancareyphotography.com/
See! Super colourful and cheery. You would feel all warm and tingly on the inside too! Admit it, you’re jealous.
There are lots of cute little streets downtown that you could totally miss if you aren’t paying close attention and those streets are full of colourful old homes and little benches to sit with your friends and have a chat.
Sitting with Kate having a chat on an side street downtown. She doesn’t look very impressed with me. Lovers spat I suppose.
Celebrities seem to enjoy visiting St. John’s because there is no such thing as paparazzi here. If we see Meg Ryan or Russell Crowe walking down the street the most we will do is say “Hi Meg Ryan” or “Hi Russell Crowe” and then text our friends so they can be a little bit jealous. I’m not sure if everyone else reacts to celebrities with such apathy for the same reason I do, but for me it just comes down to laziness. One night a friend text me that Russell Crowe was singing in a bar not far from my house and I text back that I was excited for him but I was already wearing my pajamas and there is no going back from that. I think the real reason celebrities like it here is because people are mostly nice around here and leave other people alone. Of course that’s not everyone. We have our fair share of douchebags too. But we won’t focus on the douchebags today. Instead we will look at more pretty pictures.
photo cred Ronin Photography http://roninphotography.photoposts.org
The tower at the top of this picture is Signal Hill. It was used for wars and things and the first transatlantic wireless transmission was received here in 1901 from Marconi. Now it’s a place to get a nice view of the city and to park and make out on a Friday night. Or as my mom would say – it’s a great place for necking.
Photo cred Jim Costello found at http://gregpike.ca
This place is called The Battery. It is under Signal Hill downtown. People actually live there even in the winter. I recommend never driving down those roads because you will know what it is like to feel a near death experience.
Somedays, especially when looking out over St. John’s from Signal Hill, I just want to scream from the rooftops how amazing the city I live in is (there would be a disclaimer that I am ignoring the healthcare and winter road clearing initiatives while shouting about the greatness of St. John’s). But people would probably just look at me funny and say “I know, I live here too.”
I was trying to find a way to describe the character that is St. John’s, NL to everyone, especially those people who are not from Canada, and I knew that my words would fall short.
One thing I will say about St. John’s, NL is that we are a city filled with extraordinary talent. From film directors to comedians to writers to musicians, St. John’s is the place to come if you enjoy the arts scene. We have the likes of Hey Rosetta! who are an amazing local band making a huge name for themselves internationally. We have Rick Mercer. We have Great Big Sea. We have Ron Hynes. We have Wayne Johnston and Lisa Moore. We also have another extremely talented folk singer-songwriter who is going to help me describe to you the character that is St. John’s, NL. His name is Ian Foster.
Ian has toured across Canada and even parts of Europe and has brought with him that same pride I feel when I think about this island as my home. He sings many beautiful songs about many beautiful things but the song I will show you right now is an anthem for my province. There are many stereotypes surrounding our island and the people who live on it, and Ian decided to write a song about it after meeting people on tour who believed those misconceptions about Newfoundland. The song is called “An Open Letter from the Island.” I think this video is the perfect medium to explain to you guys how beautiful my home really is. The video also showcases a lot of my friends and Boyfriend. So that’s another reason I like it.
Ian also did a video for his song “Sparrow” with the Heavy Weather boys. Heavy Weather is a really cool place to check out amazing musicians from Newfoundland. This particular video was shot in that side street downtown St. John’s that I just spoke of and I think it really captures the small city charm that we have to offer.
While I write this I am listening to trucks beeping and clanking outside in an effort to remove the piles of snow that was dumped on us yesterday. St. John’s isn’t always a magical place. I too often curse it in the winter. And you would too if you looked outside and saw this:
photo cred http://www.cbc.ca
But on those days, which are plentiful this time of year, it is nice to look back on those warm downtown days and remember the real reasons why I love calling this place home. And if looking through my old facebook photos of the city doesn’t do it for me, a warm beverage at Rocket Bakery usually does.
If you like Ian Foster’s music – and if you have two ears and a heartbeat you will – you can find out more about him at http://ianfoster.ca
If you want to check out more videos by Newfoundland musicians filmed by the talented Adam Penney & Justin Davis at Heavy Weather, head over to http://vimeo.com/heavyweatherca and have a gander.