First of all, welcome to Quebec and Canada - and congratulations on becoming a Quebecer and Canadian.
It's wonderful to know we live in a country that offers enough to attract young people such as you. I know it's never easy to leave your home in pursuit of better opportunities elsewhere - and especially a home like Mexico, which has life-threatening problems, to be sure, but is also spectacularly beautiful, impressive, and filled with potential.
No matter how much better it may be for you here, I know coming here is a big sacrifice on your part - so thanks for coming and welcome!
I'm thrilled to know you wish to visit all 10 provinces and three territories. While there are many similarities between neighbouring provinces such as the Prairies and the Maritimes, each is different enough to make it worth visiting individually.
And some places - most notably your home, Quebec, and mine, Newfoundland, as well as Canada's largest cities - offer an experience so unique that it simply is not replicated anywhere else in the country.
In the same way our largest cities, such as Toronto and Montreal just to name two, are the only places in Canada you can experience true urbanity, Newfoundland is the only place where you can experience a completely separate, English-speaking culture.
Until 1949, we were an independent country, the Dominion of Newfoundland - equal in status to and completely separate from Canada, Australia, New Zealand, and so on. And it shows still today.
Everything you know about Canada - how old the country is, when women earned the right to vote, when universal healthcare was introduced, what wars they fought in, what years wars started and ended, what the official languages are, what the holidays are, what the traditions are... all of that is completely different for us. We even drove on the left side of the road until we started preparing to join Canada.
Our villages, towns and cities have their own nonsensical urban form and haphazard architecture (the houses remind me of clusters of friends chatting in a busy city plaza) - and names that reflect the tremendous diversity of early settlers, including English, French, Scottish, Irish, Basque, Breton, Norman, Italian, Spanish, and others:
Town of Bonavista:
Town of Plaisance:
Village of Branch:
Village of Trinity:
Likewise, St. John's was a proper capital. Small in population, of course, but far more significant and powerful than most Canadians acknowledge today. Through our 500 year history, we have certainly welcomed more royalty, national leaders, celebrities, and other honoured guests than most Canadian cities - and probably more than any, really.
From the titles bestowed upon on our oldest sporting event - the Royal
St. John's Regatta - to our police force - the Royal
Newfoundland Constabulary - you can see the hints of how proud a city we were, and are.
This gives us a self-confidence that is, in my experience, very difficult to find elsewhere in Canada. Simply put, we are comfortable in our own skin. We care less about silly things and fight less among ourselves. Spend some time in our section here on SSP and you'll find very little conflict, very few competitive comparisons to other cities - except in response to condescension directed toward us. (And there's also an exception for Halifax that is, in many ways, no fault of that city. When we joined Canada, we went from being a national capital with everything that Ottawa has to being a backwater serviced primarily from the largest mainland Canadian city in the region, one we never considered to be even our equal, let alone superior. Imagine if Canada joined the United States and not only was everything based in Ottawa moved to Washington, D.C., but even basic federal services were provided to Ottawa from Utica, New York. Imagine watching as Utica became bigger and better while Ottawa stagnated and declined. That's how we felt, and you can still sense that anger and frustration, however indirectly, today.)
The lyrics of a Jann Arden song suit St. John's - in its spectacular historic, geographic, and cultural uniqueness and isolation - perfectly:
"I am not lonely, I swear to God I'm just alone."
Before you visit, the following two misconceptions are very common among Canadians:
1. Assuming it's a small island and can be toured from stem to stern in a day or two. Excluding continents, Newfoundland is one of the largest islands in the world. It is 903km to drive from Channel-Port-aux-Basques, where the ferries linking Newfoundland to Canada dock, to St. John's. From our southern tip at Cape St. Mary's to our northern tip at St. Anthony, it is a 1,071km drive.
2. Assuming the Trans Canada Highway is a scenic drive. It's not. With few exceptions, it simply travels across the interior of the island. You can almost count on one hand the number of times you can see the ocean on that 903km-drive. Do not base your roadtrip around enjoying that drive, base it on getting off the TCH and visiting key areas - such as the Port-au-Port Peninsula, Gros Mourne National Park, Terra Nova National Park, the Bonavista Peninsula, the Burin Peninsula, and so on.
For information about what to do and see, contact Newfoundland and Labrador Tourism
. They're friendly and helpful and will send you well-done information - including a massive trip-planning book - absolutely free.
And, to conclude, tourism promotion videos. We've won awards all around the world for ours. They're spectacular. Here is my favourite example. This one features a great deal of Labrador (which is often ignored) and I think it's actually targeted to Newfoundlanders living in mainland Canada - that's why the music is so heartwrenching and mournful. When I was living on the mainland, I spent many nights playing this on repeat. The thumbnail image before you hit play is Gros Mourne National Park, on the west coast of the island.
• Video Link
And here is my favourite of the ones targeted toward tourists:
• Video Link
And here is the latest one specific to St. John's:
• Video Link