2014 Sep 7 – Day 80 – St. John’s, NL (Special Edition)

Today we are in our hotel room doing nothing. It is cloudy, cool, raining and windy outside and we are feeling lazy.

For those of you who have been following my blog since the beginning of our trip (Day 1 – June 20) you may remember that I located my maternal grandparents graves when we were in Winnipeg (Day 7 – June 26).  My grandfather’s marker in the military section had no date of birth on it because he had served in WWI in the British forces (Scotland) so his full records would not have been available in Canada (although it is a bit surprising that no one thought to ask Aunty Anne – the eldest at 16 or 17 – what year her father had been born.  Of course back in 1936 it probably didn’t occur to anyone to ask a child such a thing.  And the girls may even have returned to Scotland by the time the marker was made).

Also my grandmother’s grave did not even have a marker.  John and I ordered a marker for Grandma and asked the memorial firm to request permission from the Commonwealth War Graves Commission to etch Grandpa’s year of birth on his marker (you cannot do anything to a military grave or marker without permission).

I have received photos of both of the markers now so I thought I would share them.

Young marker

******************************************************************************Speaking of cemeteries.  All over eastern Canada and the Maritime provinces the churches have cemeteries surrounding them for their members, many of the markers date back several hundred years.  And many churches here in Newfoundland have the same thing.  However cemeteries not located on church property ALSO are designated to a particular denomination and all are fenced.  Either page wire or wood usually.  On the outskirts of Roddickton we passed cemeteries for every major Christian denomination; side by side, each fenced separate from the others.  (I didn’t take photos unfortunately). I will need to ask where you get buried if you don’t attend church or belong to a different religion.

IMG_8730 IMG_8622 IMG_8623 IMG_8624Notice too, that the signs above have been paid for by a congregation member just like they donated the communion set or the baptismal font or a stained glass window.  This is a new one to me but obviously it is common practice.

We have been in Newfoundland since August 18 and I have noticed a few other things – other than cemeteries and the accent.  I love the way they turn T’s into D’s.  “How you goin’ dere?”  “Don’t go down dere, da road is turrible.”  As I mentioned in a previous blog we do hear a definite Celtic lilt.  The loop we did from  the TCHwy – after leaving Spaniard’s Bay – to Trepassey and up to St. John’s is called the Irish Loop.  At one time half of Newfoundland’s population was of Irish descent – they came here even before the great potato famine.  There are lots of Scots too.

If you drive the Trans-Canada Highway from Port aux Basque to St. John’s you will be on a nice wide road and freeway nearer the city.  The minute you digress north, south, east or west on a secondary or other road things change rapidly and drastically.  It is impossible to avoid the potholes, patches, bumps, dips, waves and worn edges.  Sections of bad roads will be many kilometers long with a short section of well-patched or smooth pavement.  Poor Poppy doesn’t know what to do sometimes.  You don’t have to go ‘off road’ to ‘off-road’ in Newfoundland.

IMG_8586 IMG_8591 IMG_8595 IMG_8597 IMG_8599 IMG_8600 IMG_8601 IMG_8895 IMG_8893 IMG_8894However the local folks tend to drive one of two ways: they either poke along several km/h below the limit (probably due to a bad experience with a pot hole at some point) or they fly like the wind – I mean 20-30km over the limit.  I can only assume the plan is to go so fast your tires and shocks don’t have time to notice the condition of the road they are driving on. I certainly would not want to hit some of the craters or washboard at 120 or 130 kmh!

But…they are polite drivers.  They will let you in or out of a driveway if there is a line of traffic.  They wave as they go by – although this may be due more to the uniqueness of Poppy than anything else.   Yesterday here in St. John’s we encountered a “Construction: right lane ends in 1 km” sign.  Now in BC all the drivers in the right lane would keep driving quickly in that lane until forced by the closed road to move to the left lane by inching in ahead of cars that are in the correct left lane.  Thus they get nearer the front of the line and can zoom ahead of everyone else at the end of the construction zone.  Not in Newfoundland.  As soon as drivers see the sign they move to the left lane – even though the right lane doesn’t end for a kilometer.  By the time we arrived at the closed lane we had a kilometer long line behind us and a vacant right lane beside us.  Everyone kept their place in the traffic flow to go through the closure area.  I was sincerely impressed!

One other thing that is distinct to this province is the stores.  Most of the little communities don’t even have stores.  You just drive to the nearest bigger place to get stuff.  The places with stores don’t have a ‘downtown.’  The different businesses are interspersed with the houses (many businesses are run from the house) stretching for quite a distance along the road.  Oftentimes there do not appear to be other streets in the little places.

Here in St. John’s the stores look like our stores at home and in the other provinces we have visited, but in Newfoundland most of the small community shops look like square box warehouses: no ‘design,’ no esthetic touches, with very few windows.

IMG_8634 IMG_8637 IMG_8641 IMG_8644 IMG_8645 IMG_8647 IMG_8648Now this makes sense to me in a place that has such harsh winters – windows loose a lot of heat after all.  And the Newfoundland people are hardy, practical folks and probably don’t see a need for fancying up a store.  Since I am a pragmatic, functional type I have no problem with this.  Many businesses, in my opinion, spend too much money on the appearance of things.  And at home, even though the store looks lovely more often than not you feel you are interrupting the staff if you want to ask something; assuming of course you can find the staff.  Not here.  In Newfoundland people greet you when you enter a restaurant or store, ask if they can help, show you where stuff is and thank you for coming as you leave.  They even take a few minutes to chat sometimes.  I really like Newfoundland and Newfoundlanders.

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