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North America

Come From Away

Jonathan van Bilsen



June 7, 2024

Come From Away

A recent journey to the Avalon Peninsula, particularly the area around St. John's, Newfoundland, reinforced my conviction that Canada is truly unrivalled in its splendour. It was not my first visit to 'The Rock’; in fact, I have been there at least a dozen times over the past 35 years. Each time, I have been delighted to find that St. John's remains largely unchanged. Despite facing some tough times in the past, the city has experienced a resurgence, thanks in part to new offshore oil projects.

The people of St. John's exude a carefree, happy, and fun-loving spirit that I have rarely encountered elsewhere. The city has a cosmopolitan feel, with charming shops and restaurants popping up all over. Over the years, it has become a magnet for tourists seeking its unique blend of history and charm.

During my last visit, the weather was perfect - warm with clear, blue skies, enhancing the enjoyment of my trip. Despite having only four days, I packed in as much as possible.

One of my first stops was Signal Hill, located on the city's outskirts and holding significant historical importance. It was here that Marconi received the first wireless transmission from England in 1901. Rather than tackling the strenuous trek on foot, I opted to drive up. Exploring Cabot Tower, erected in 1897 to commemorate John Cabot's landing and Queen Victoria's Diamond Jubilee, offered spectacular views of the ocean crashing against the rocks.

Next, I ventured to Cape Spear, the eastern most point of North America. The Newfoundland government has done an excellent job preserving many historical sites, including the old and new lighthouses that are iconic landmarks. They must have served as a comforting sight for sailors in days gone by.

Cape Spear holds a significant place in Canadian history. As the eastern most point of North America, it has long been a strategic landmark for sailors navigating the treacherous waters of the Atlantic Ocean.

The area's history dates back centuries, with indigenous peoples inhabiting the region long before the arrival of European explorers. In 1497, John Cabot made landfall at Cape Spear during his voyage of discovery, marking the beginning of European exploration in North America.

Over the centuries, Cape Spear has served as a vital navigation point, and has witnessed numerous historic events, including the establishment of early settlements and the construction of lighthouses to guide ships safely along the coast. Today, visitors can explore the remnants of these historic structures, including the iconic Cape Spear Lighthouse, which stands as a testament to the area's rich maritime heritage.

My visit to Quidi Vidi left me somewhat disappointed. Once filled with colourful fishing shacks that inspired awe with their quaintness and vibrant hues, the area has succumbed to modern development, leaving only a few traditional huts along the shore. It is a reminder that progress can sometimes come at a cost.

Exploring 'Portugal Cove' and 'Placentia Bay', and stopping at quirky towns like 'Heart's Content', 'Heart's Desire', and 'Heart's Delight' provided memorable experiences. Lunch in 'Dildo' offered stunning photo opportunities, and visiting 'Come By Chance' was a unique experience, especially seeing the oil refinery.

Spending two days exploring 'Trinity and Conception Bays' made me realize there is still so much more to see in the area. The scenery alone is worth the trip.

No visit to Newfoundland would be complete without indulging in the region's culinary delights. From hearty fish and chips to fresh seafood straight from the ocean, every meal was a celebration of the island's maritime influence. The warmth and hospitality of the locals only added to the experience, making me feel like part of the family with each shared meal and friendly conversation.

As I bade farewell to the Avalon Peninsula, I could not help but feel a profound sense of gratitude for the opportunity to explore this extraordinary corner of the world. From its rugged coastline to its vibrant culture, Newfoundland had left an indelible mark on my heart, reminding me of the timeless beauty and boundless wonders that await those who dare to venture off the beaten path.

Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel TV show can be watched on RogersTV and YouTube. To follow Jonathan’s travel adventures visit

Jonathan van Bilsen’s photosNtravel TV show can be watched on RogersTV and YouTube. To follow Jonathan’s travel adventures visit

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