Friday, June 30, 2017

Newfoundland time

My first glimpse of Newfoundland
The first I heard of Newfoundland was when my book group read The Shipping News by Annie Proulx. I imagined it like Maine but colder, with lots of rope to tie knots. I had only been to Maine once, with my mother and grandmother, on a trip I had planned long before Google Earth, flying to Boothbay Harbor and then taking the ferry to Nova Scotia. It rained, and there were 6-foot waves, so my mother decided she wanted to go home the second day. I found a flight from Bangor to my uncle and aunt’s house, and we were back in NY in hours. I still haven’t made it to Nova Scotia.

Of course the second time was when all the international flights coming from Europe were stranded in Gander on September 11. I heard about it the following week, moved that a small fishing community adopted so many out of town visitors, setting up camp in churches, internet access in the schools and libraries, and taking a few lucky folks out fishing. 
I was so inspired I wrote a script for a TV movie. I’m not usually sentimental, but it seemed like the kind of story we really needed in 2001 when the world felt startlingly cruel to sheltered Americans. It never occurred to me the story should be a musical. My mistake.

This is Signal Hill, where the festivities will be tomorrow, from the busy port in downtown St. John's. The tower is named after John Cabot.
St. John's was the first place spotted in what is now Canada, having been noticed by Cabot, representing Henry VII, in 1497. It was new found land, hence the name.
It's still a working port, and was an important supply spot during both World Wars, as well as a target.

St John's is famous for brightly colored row houses, nicknamed Jellybean Row. The downtown harbor area burned nearly to the ground in the late 19th century, so much of it was rebuilt shortly after. It was bright and sunny today, so everyone was out painting their houses.
Some of the hills are quite steep. I felt right at home.


I've done a ton of research for this trip, as I do for all of my trips when I have time to savor the anticipation. Middle of the night web searches took me to iceberg alley and Viking sites and the earth’s mantle at the Tablelands. And the Titanic!

Did you know Newfoundland has its own time zone, and it’s a half hour off? This page is clear as mud. Nova Scotia and New Brunswick are in the Atlantic timezone, but we're just 30 minutes ahead of that.

Timezones were invented by Sandford Fleming, a Canadian who emigrated from Scotland. Because, of course they were.

I will be very disappointed if there aren’t Newfie puppies running all over. Just in case there aren’t:


***

So a few things I’ve learned in my first hours here, 3 flights and 19 hours of traveling later: Newfoundland is the island, but the province is Newfoundland and Labrador. And get this. There are two dogs named after it. Because Labrador retrievers are a variant of Newfie!

Tomorrow is Canada's 150th birthday. Events start at dawn on Signal Hill and proceed to a celebratory town breakfast, dancing, a memorial to the Newfoundlanders who died 101 years ago fighting in Flanders, music, and eventually fireworks. Nearby Cape Spear (from the Portuguese, espero) is the easternmost point in North America, so it's where the sun will rise on Canada Day.