We've arrived in Holyrood just outside of St. John's almost a week ago and have explored it and the surrounding areas since then. First of all, should you ever be in or near St. John's you just have to see it! This is a must. On the day of our arrival we drove to the visitor centre which is conveniently located in the harbour area in downtown St. John's. Great, this is the part of the city we wanted to see anyways and while looking for a place to park, we got a little tour by car. We decided to come back in another day to explore it some more. Until then we went for a drive along the coast with all its little fishing villages and visited several historical sites. It would make for a very long blog if I was to write about everything we have seen and learned so let me simply give you the basics and the links to check them out:
Hawthorne Cottage is the house in which explorer Captain Robert Bartlett was born. He was one of the figures in Arctic exploration and the skipper who prepared the way for Commander Peary on his trip to the North Pole in 1909. Bartlett spent many summers in the Arctic and once became a hero when getting help for the crew of his ship which had become ice-locked and subsequently was crushed by the ice and sank. He and some of his men walked for weeks to get help while the rest of the crew were left behind in a camp. Some of them tragically had died by the time the rescue operation arrived.
Castle Hill National Historic Site. In order to protect their interests in fishing the French founded a colony in what today is Placentia in 1662. In times of war they used the fort as a base to attack English settlement. The most famous battle was a bloody invasion of the English shore in 1696. While the French launched a number of attacks over the next 70 years, the English were able to blockade the colony and in 1713 gain control of it.
Cape Spear is the easterly most point in Canada. Its lighthouse has guided the way for mariners entering St. John's harbour and played an important role in protecting the entrance to the harbour during times of war throughout its existence. Signal Hill has been used for signalling since 1704. These two sites communicated with one another at times of peace and war first by flag or canon blast and later on by other technologies as they became available to human kind. Signal Hill, which is located on the other side of the entrance to the harbour of St. John's, was the other fortified lookout for St. Johns' protection. The picture shows André at Cape Spear.
Needless to say that we, once again, learned a lot not only with regards to Canadian history and geography but also about the way people lived in the early days.
I mentioned at the beginning, that we went to the visitor centre upon arrival in St. John's. This has a reason: we find that going to the tourist information / visitor centre is the best way to get lots of information and literature for a specific area. The staff generally is very knowledgeable and helpful and will direct you to places of interest. If you have specific interest they will know of the places that will correspond with them and give you information and answer questions you might have. The same goes for the staff at the sites we have been visiting. They will usually give you an introduction and quiet often Parks Canada sites will also have short movies (6 to 20 minutes) about the site. In our experience it is well worth listening to the introductions and watching those movies. They will give you an overview of the respective place and help you to better understand its history and significance as well as what you're about to see. We found that we would have missed out on a lot of details and how things and events are connected had we not gotten those introductions. So if you are traveling or plan to do so our advice is to take advantage of the knowledge of staff, don't hesitate to ask questions and take the few minutes for the introductions. It will make your experience tremendously better.
Tomorrow we will hit the road again and start our way towards Port-aux-Basques from where we will catch the ferry to Nova Scotia.