Newfoundland Jessica Pook takes a trip to Newfoundland, Canada’s most eastern province, and in St. John's discovers a characterful city that offers a warm welcome to everyone
here’s a sign in the window of Fogtown Barber that states "we are fully booked until further notice". This is, no doubt, partly because it oﬀers a great haircut, but the surge in business also follows the hiring of Serhii Firsikov, a Ukrainian who ﬂed his war-torn country in May for a new life in St. John’s, Newfoundland. The province was the ﬁrst in Canada to welcome Ukranian refugees and many, including Firsikov, have since settled and found employment in Canada’s easternmost province. Since his arrival, Firsikov has been welcomed into the community with a warmth that is commonly associated with Newfoundlanders and has been inundated with appointments and donations from locals looking for a tidy trim. Alas, a short back and sides isn’t my style, but having spent some time in St. John’s I have come to see for myself just how hospitable the locals are. Maybe it’s the Irish inﬂuence: St. John’s is the easternmost city in North America, closer to Dublin than to Vancouver. It’s estimated that at one time half of Newfoundland and Labrador's population had Irish roots due to the surge of immigrants from the Emerald Isle in the 18th and 19th centuries. Today, this cultural inﬂuence remains evident in the music scene and a distinct Gaelic twang. Although the Irish connection is strong, don’t expect a pint of Guinness in this part of the world – in Newfoundland they mostly drink iceberg beer!
Iceberg ahead It’s not uncommon between late May and early June to spot an iceberg as it makes its way from Greenland or Canada’s Arctic through iceberg alley and eventually south. These silent natural giants can be seen from vantage points such as Signal Hill or on a boat trip from a safe distance (we’ve all seen Titanic!) In the small ﬁshing village of Quidi Vidi they are making the most of these seasonal visitors by brewing beer made from iceberg water. The bottled lager is brewed using ice formed tens of thousands of years ago which started as compacted snow, meaning there are no minerals – which gives the golden beer a uniquely light taste. I take a swig, not sure what to expect, and am pleasantly surprised at how refreshingly crisp it is - and very cold. And icebergs aren’t the only giants roaming the seas here. Between May and September the world’s largest population of humpback whales return each year to Newfoundland and Labrador to feed on capelin, krill, and squid. They can often be seen breaching the waters just oﬀ the coastline.
Colourful and creative Nestled in a steep valley, Quidi Vidi itself could be easily mistaken for somewhere in Norway, complete as it is with colourful houses straddling the hillside and ﬁshing boats bobbing in the calm harbour. The small village is also home to Quidi Vidi Village Artisans Studios, a cooperative
My journey Newfoundland V9.indd 52
7/5/22 03:21 PM