May 24, 2013
Today was such a beautiful day that jeddy1989 and I decided to take our excursion a little farther afield than usual and visited Cape Spear National Historic Site, the Town of Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove, and the General Protestant Cemetery in the West End of old St. John's.
A few weeks after the tourists started arriving, Parks Canada has finally opened up its historic sites so this weekend is the first that they've really been able to get into the historic buildings instead of just looking around them. That drew considerable crowds out to Cape Spear and other historic sites throughout the city.
A song to set the mood...
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She's bordered by inlets, tickles and sounds
By reaches, by coves and by bays
She soothes your vision as you sail 'round her shores
With her mixture of green, brown and grey
And the houses lie scattered among the rocks in the cove
Trimmed with orange, green, yellow and blue
In Twillingate, Fogo, Little Heart's East
Fortune, Trout River, Fermeuse
She's been tortured for centuries, her stories untold
She struggled with fortunes unknown
Laid bare by the glaciers that scraped her to the bone
Taking soil to make Grand Bank shoals
She's been battered for eons by the cold, biting winds
Chewing rocks into soft beaches of sand
And carving her face, giving us a place
That we now call Newfoundland
The ocean surrounds her, it gives and it takes
Like shepherd, lion and lamb
The pounding and grinding are a constant reminding
Of the forces that follow our town
From the fury of a blizzard on a cold, winter's night
To the quiet of a warm, summer's day
All hardships forgotten, old debts all repaid
With a day on a quiet, peaceful bay
She's a rocky isle in the ocean
And she's pounded by wind from the sea
You might think that she's rugged and cold
But she's home, sweet home, to me
1. The Edge of the Earth - Cape Spear
Leaving St. John's up the switchback road that climbs out of downtown to Cape Spear.
TOURISTS! WELCOME! One of my favourite things in the world to do is trail behind tourists, close enough to eavesdrop on their conversations. It's usually flattering. "How does anyone work here? Can you imagine trying to work in some office with this on your doorstep?"
Generally those who lounge around are locals. Jeddy and I soon joined them, and spent a good 30 minutes sunbathing on the rocks. It was quite windy, but the breeze was warm. An amazing day - easily the best of our year thus far.
Helicopters are used to transport workers to and from the offshore oil rigs fueling our economic boom. Several years ago, one crashed - killing more than a dozen and leaving just one, single survivor. The entire city shut down with grief. It was the most impactful event since our wildly popular former Premier, Danny Williams, announced his resignation. He famously had approval ratings "Middle Eastern dictators wouldn't dare fake" - people cried in the streets. No joke.
2. The little town that could
The town of Petty Harbour-Maddox Cove is part of the St. John's Metro. It's a thriving little fishing community, boasting many of the most popular tour boats as well as zip-lining, an aquatic petting zoo, and more.
There is something a flag war going on in Newfoundland. We only joined Canada in 1949 following a referendum in which just 51% voted to do so. Half the country was in mourning - and, in many ways, still is. The separatist flag of my avatar is commonly seen throughout St. John's. In more rural areas, the Canadian flag dominates. Petty Harbour is split pretty evenly between the Canadian and Union flags (our official flag prior to joining Canada) - but there sure are a lot of them. There are dozens of flags flying in the small community.
Even people who couldn't care less are aware enough about what's going on to notice when a flag is changed.
3. What you are now, we once were. What we are now, you shall be
The General Protestant Cemetery is one of the largest and older cemeteries in St. John's. It's also always been one of the most inclusive.
Roman Catholics and Anglicans always had and strictly enforced their own separate cemeteries - but remaining Protestant denominations pooled together to bury their dead.
What's more, they welcomed anyone. In this cemetery you can find the graves of Muslims, Jews, Taoists, Buddhists - and even the brave few Catholic women who dared marry outside their faith.
Many of the wealthiest families, such as the Bond family (which includes a former Prime Minister of Newfoundland, as you can read) have large family tombs or collective plots.
The cemeteries are likewise not immune from the war of flags.
And they're certainly not immune to war. July 1 is Canada Day, Canada's version of America's Independence Day. In Newfoundland, it's also our Memorial Day. It's when we have military and police parades, visit our National War Memorial, lay wreaths, wear poppies, and pay homage to the fallen at statues, memorials, and battlegrounds throughout the city.
And, yes, we still sing our former national anthem.
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July 1 is the anniversary of Beaumont Hamel, when virtually the entirety of the renowned Royal Newfoundland Regiment was wiped out in Europe. The graves of those killed in the battle, and the few who survived it, are buried in poppies by passers-by on July 1.
The Taylor family sacrificed a lot for King and Empire. You can see the top son died on July 1, at Beaumont Hamel.
Some of the city's first non-European immigrants still have descendants living here today. You can tell which because their tombstones are replaced as they age.