Tuesday, September 8, 2009

St. John's, Newfoundland

The flavours of St. John's, Newfoundland are distinctly and transparently military and maritime, both steeped in history. The backdrop to the City is its traditional harbour-front, housing the massive stone buildings of the Court Houses, financial institutions, legal firms, churches, Masonic Lodge and the like. Upon touching down in St. John's (I am guessing that most arrive by air, for the only other alternative is by sea), it is immediately apparent that there is more that is ancient about the City than the rock upon which it sits. Its inaccessibility to the outside world has preserved the City from the monotony of North American cities, and I understand it is an unyielding and sometimes aggressive obsession of those who live there to keep it so. It is easy to be quickly transported into another world, far away from anything we know about city dwelling. The great thing is that it appeals to young people, not merely retiring bureaucrats and professionals who are now seeking to enjoy a slower pace in life. Make no mistake, however, there is a distinct smell of money about the place if you know where to look, and thankfully even that display of richesse has been crafted in a unique way.

As one might expect on the Atlantic Ocean, the view on a clear day from Signal Hill (about 1,500 feet above sea level) is indescribable. Standing in the wind, watching the sea below, was an experience of a life-time, one more reason the place tugs at your deepest instincts, casting your mind across the boundless water to the horizon thousands of miles away.

Though the Ocean is vast, the village texture of the old town is dense and concentrated, tiny houses abutting one another, hanging magically from the towering rock edifices to which they cling, threaded by narrow twisting roadways barely wide enough in many places for a small modern car. There are precipitous walkways which suddenly manifest themselves, leading temptingly around yet another corner.

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