The rain was coming down in sideways sheets when we landed in St. John’s. Once outside, I tried to capture how intense the downpour was blasting down. It was dazzling how beautiful the rain created reflections/refractions against the lights, but photos just didn’t do it justice.
St. John’s is the oldest English-settled city in North America and the sixth largest island in the world. You can read more of the history of the city here: History of St. John’s, Newfoundland.
Typical Directions in Newfoundland
Even the cab driver could not find our rental apartment in downtown St. John’s. Up and down the steep hills and side streets, round and round. The house numbers and street signs were blurred in the rain. Finally, the driver realized that the address was on the back alley, literally at the back of an apartment block. The directions were interesting, to say the least:
The address is 203 Gower St. The entrance is on Bulley St. Go through the gate with the two lifesavers. Then you will find another gate that doesn’t require any code, enter, walk through a path, turn left, at the 2nd door to the left you will find the door with a code.
Well, in the drenching rain, that black gate was impossible to see. You couldn’t help but chuckle that the life-savers were actually life saver buoys for water. In our minds, they were those little lifesaver candies with the hole in the middle that we all know and love.
The apartment was a few steps down from outside but it was spacious, modern, and nicely decorated. We chose it because it was downtown and close to George Street.
Prices in St. John’s, NL, are high in July and August, but after much research, it turns out that apartments and condos are about the same price as a bedroom in a bed and breakfast, and this is true all over the province. We found the best prices on VRBO/Home Away and it is best to book well in advance. When we were booking in April, many places were already sold out for July.
In the fridge, previous renters had left whiskey, Kahlua, eggs, cheese, salsa, and Perrier. In the cupboard, we found 3 boxes of cereal, sugar, peanut butter, and crackers. Bonus. Eggs and cheese and coffee for breakfast the next morning.
Leaving the Berg the next morning, our neighbor is outside and he starts a friendly chat immediately, his dog eager for his morning walk.
After a leisurely 15-minute conversation, he starts walking down the street showing us the way to get to the center of downtown St. John’s, the dog at his side, and hilariously, his two cats surreptitiously trailing behind. If you looked back, they would sit down, look the other way and pretend they didn’t care at all about where he was.
Downtown St. John’s
St. John’s, Newfoundland, is a city full of wonderful shops and pubs; just be prepared to walk up and down very long steep streets. Stay a few days just to wander around downtown. We stopped in a souvenir shop where an animated woman full of fun and laughter told us about puffins and called them “flyin’ potaters“.
Wondering the streets of downtown St. John’s is anything but normal.
Prices at the Rocket Bakery were high, but we enjoyed this delightful gentleman happily sitting outside the restaurant playing his accordion. There is something about street music as you wander a town or city that makes it particularly memorable. St. John’s reminded us a little of New Orleans. There are pubs everywhere, and Newfoundlanders love their music.
Stairs, Stairs and More Stairs
To go from one street to another, be prepared to go up and down steep sets of stairs at every turn in St. John’s, Newfoundland, as well as getting lost on curvy streets, and finding short little streets that end abruptly.
Mussels on the Corner
As we wandered down the streets, we came to a mussel and beer pub, a gorgeous little place on Water Street.
T loves mussels, so we stopped there for a snack, and a beer. It was a perfect warm June day. We were thirsty.
The mussel soup was dynamite good; the Seal Poutine was not so good. Seal, I discovered, is tough, stringy and greasy. It was served with a weird-tasting gravy and fries four times the size of usual fries. We are adventurous eaters finding unusual foods all over the world, but frankly, we’d advise anyone to skip the seal meat, at least in St. John’s, Newfoundland.
As usual everywhere in Newfoundland, there is a bit of humour even at the chocolate shop. Take a good look at these photos.
After a long long walk, and several pub-stops later (there are pubs in great abundance), we found Raymonds, the restaurant with the best chef in the world according to Anthony Bourdain. We almost missed it because the sign is very subtle on the plaque by the door.
Raymonds is an elegant place with a great view of the harbour. Although the restaurant was closed, and only open evenings for dinner, they allowed me to come in and take photos. We thought we might be able to afford lunch there, but one look at the dinner menu prices and we decided to pass. In fact, they were booked a solid three months in advance.
We were trying to find the Granite, and had to climb a million steps up to Duckworth St. We had walked back and forth, with no luck. Walking down the sidewalk, we were quietly discussing where it might be. Suddenly a young guy walking by the other direction simply stopped and asked if we were looking for the Granite. He then pleasantly pointed out that it was the other direction and with a big smile, he walked on. That’s what you call Newfoundland friendliness.
Dying of thirst on this warm day, we had drinks at the Granite while enjoying the marvelous view of the harbour.
Jelly Bean Row Houses
You can see these candy-coloured row houses scattered all over downtown St. John’s. There isn’t just one street of them. At first, we wondered where they were, then they would appear over the hill, or around that corner. Quite a captivating sight.
Next, we took a taxi to The Rooms, curious to see what the fuss was all about. A taxi ride away from downtown St. John’s, it is a grand modern building set on a large parcel of land.
There were many different museum rooms with excellent displays of the history of Newfoundland.
The Art Gallery was wonderful with grand views of the harbour.
The Rooms Cafe
Inside The Rooms, we ended our exploration with dinner at The Rooms Cafe. We shared Cod Tongues for an appetizer – very good, and a seafood chowder for the main course, which was not great.
You can find more information about The Rooms here: The Rooms. We spent the afternoon and evening there and it really was not enough time.
After a warm day, the evening was suddenly cold and windy when we came out of The Rooms in St. John’s. We were shivering outside on the sidewalk waiting for a taxi alongside an older woman who was waiting for son to come around with the car. When the son pulled up, George offered us a ride downtown. We hesitated but they both insisted. Just another example of Newfoundland hospitality and helpfulness. He too had a bit of a hard time finding our address, and we drove around downtown for at least fifteen minutes. George and his Mom were just the nicest people, so full of laughter and good humour that we thoroughly enjoyed their company and kindness.
Entering our nice comfy condo felt good as we relaxed to watch a movie. It had been a full day of little adventures and we highly recommend you spend a few days in pretty St. John’s, Newfoundland.