“You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose. You’re on your own. And you know what you know. And YOU are the one who’ll decide where to go…”
~ Dr. Seuss, Oh, the Places You’ll Go!
That Dr. Suess, he sure knew his stuff… while some people might chalk it up to fun rhymes intended to entertain the kids, there was a whole lot of truth in what he wrote. What you think, where you go and what you do is always a choice made by you.
So on that first day in St. John’s, new running shoes on my feet and a spring in my step, I headed to the Starbucks in Atlantic Place on Water St. to grab a latte and biscotti and cop a squat at a round table by the window to watch the big ships on the water – something you definitely don’t see everyday back home – and just breathe, taking it all in.
Along the way, I saw some of the cutest sights and shops ever…
Was it chilly and misty? Yes, but I just zipped up my coat and put on my hood. Did I know where I was going? Kind of (I had my map that concierge Jeff had carefully marked for my travels), but if I got lost I would just ask someone.
It became clear quite quickly that I needed to start a list of everyone we had met and things we had done. So I grabbed a pen and whatever was closest – a scrap piece of paper, a boarding pass, a cocktail napkin from the hotel lounge – and got to scribbling.
Here’s a snapshot.
Who I Met
- Drunk Judy – we met this fabulous 60-something and her younger sister in the hotel lounge one night. Long story short, Judy, who didn’t really drink, ended up having about six shots and getting smashed. Mary had struck up a conversation with her and by the end of the night we were all chatting away, with Judy swaying like tall grass in the cool summer breeze. When someone suggested she drink coffee to sober up a bit she replied, “But love, I don’t drink coffee”, to which I replied “Well you didn’t drink alcohol either, but look at you now!” We all had a great laugh and over the next two days would talk about her alcohol-laced evening like old friends.
- Lobby Lady – I met this kind soul as I waited for our cab in the hotel lobby and she waited to hear from a friend who had come to town to attend her mother’s funeral. We got to talking, as you do with pretty much anyone within close proximity in St. John’s, and upon learning we were stranded for a few days, she was more than happy to provide suggestions on where we should go and what we should see. I don’t think I’ve ever been called “love” more at one time in my life, but I wasn’t complaining!
- Walter the Room Service Gentleman – With the event over and nowhere to go, we ended up in Mary’s room to decompress. Enter kindly Walter, who literally brought up our snacks on a silver platter. When asked to take his picture, Walter replied “Now I dun’t know about dat der, me love, you see I just lost me tooth in a hockey game last night!” We all laughed, then I jumped in, put my arm around him and the girls snapped a commemorative photo I’ll always cherish.
- Random Elevator Dude. This dark-haired, bespectacled kid couldn’t have been a day over 23. But after hitting the wrong button for him in the elevator and apologizing profusely because I knew he’d be stuck riding all the way to the top floor with me before reaching his destination, he simply reacted with “No worries, my darlin’.” It warmed my heart.
- Little Chloe sat behind us during our second day in St. John’s, along with her mom and a friend. They had been stuck since the Tuesday prior (it was now going on Monday) and Chloe’s dad, who was in Alberta, would miss his daughter’s 3rd birthday. So when the waitress came around with snapping sparkler atop a piece of birthday cake, we all sang Happy Birthday to wish her a day I know we’ll always remember.
- You would think that petting a Newfoundlander on the streets of Newfoundland would be a bit heavy handed (don’t worry, we were gentle), but we couldn’t resist when we saw sweet Sophie outside the first store on Lobby Lady’s list. Those eyes, that face… it had to be love… love!
- Margo St. John – there’s always one person who holds the secrets of the place you’re visiting. Sometimes it’s the cab driver, other times it’s your tour guide, in St. John’s it was Margo St. John. Of course that wasn’t her real name, it’s the stage name she sings under, but from her little gift shop in the hotel lobby she wove tales about the Great Seal Hunt of Newfoundland, the Great Fire of 1892 and the Curse of the Red Cross Ring, a must-read about a mass murder and suicide in the 1920’s. Like any good storyteller she shared a few of the details and, with an all knowing wink and smile, said we’d have to come back if we ever wanted to hear the “real story”.
What We Saw
- Cape Spear – the most Eastern point in Canada, we decided to take a road trip on the Monday night to check it out. Although dark and with the wind blowing like crazy over the open ocean, we made our way up the steps to touch the lighthouse. Then, all of a sudden, the sky opened up and unleashed a belligerent hailstorm upon us. I screamed at the top of my lungs “Abandon ship! Abandon ship!” and we all ran down the slippery stairs back to the car, where we sat completely soaked then proceeded to laugh our heads off.
- Signal Hill – while it was too foggy to see the spectacular view and the sea from this historic site that celebrates the rich communications and military history of St. John’s, we can always say we’ve been there. Picture proof is below.
- The local Superstore – Leave it up to our team to travel all the way to Newfoundland and end up at the local grocery store. Since we didn’t know how many more days we’d be landed in St. John’s – and the, ahem, clean unmentionables seemed to be running out – we had no other choice than to take a trip to stock up. I can honestly say you really don’t know your co-workers until your browse and buy new underwear and socks together.
What We Did
- Aside from the amazing people met and fun sites seen, I stepped out of my comfort zone enough to try asparagus (those who know me know my anti-vegetable stance and will appreciate this), good ole Newfinland fish (meaning cod) and chips, as well as – and this is the big ones folks – lobster. Growing up in an Italian family you’d think shellfish was as natural as picking a tomato right from the vine and eating it (which I don’t do either), but not for me. Although I can say it isn’t going to be on my favourites list, at least I tried it and can finally confirm that.
- I also took our rental car for a spin on the rolling streets of St. John’s, which was pretty cool. Heather and I wanted to hit The Tickle Trunk, a cute little shop filled with souvenirs, but I had one condition – I didn’t want to parallel park. Wouldn’t you know it, as I rounded the corner looking for a spot, one opened up that I could just drive into – which just happened to be in front of the shop! When we left a little while later I noticed we still had an hour on the meter, to which Heather commented “That’s okay, pay it forward”. Since we wanted to hit Tim’s on the way back to the hotel, which meant we had to find another parking spot, I was concerned because we were almost out of change. Wouldn’t you know it, when we approached the meter at the new spot we had pulled into just outside Tim’s there was almost exactly an hour left.
For some reason, stuff like that seemed to just happen in St. John’s… or could it be chalked up to the fact that no matter what happened, we had faith that everything would be okay?