We arrived in St. John’s yesterday to torrential rain.The tail-end of a hurricane, our cab driver told us as he delivered us to our B&B from the airport, possibly the only uncharming B&B in the city. (It looked great on its website and although the rooms are large and well-proportioned, its bed comfy, the towels plentiful and big, somehow the whole ambiance is utilitarian — at best.)  42 mm.of rain fell in the afternoon. We decided to do something indoors so chose the Rooms, the Province’s Museum, Art Gallery, and Archives, and only a few blocks from our digs. It was just wonderful –though I’d have been more comfortable if my waterproof Helly Hansen jacket had actually kept me dry: it didn’t. And if my water-repellent Roots boots had been, well, water-repellent. (This is the first time either has let me down. As I write, they are hung and balanced by the heater…)

In The Rooms

There was an exhibit, Natural Selection: An Evolving Idea of Canadian Landscape, and it was glorious. Some wonderful pieces — an Alex Colville, A.Y Jackson, Pegi Nichol (“Indian Boy at Hagwelgit Canyon”), and several John Hartman canvases, huge, which were completely new to me. “Fogo” — as moody and beautiful as anything I’ve seen in ages.

There were two exhibits which introduced me to the four aboriginal peoples of Newfoundland and Labrador (Innu, Inuit, Southern Inuit, Mi’kmaq) and those who arrived later (English, Irish, French, Scottish). The material culture was richly represented by clothing, tools, artefacts so resourceful and durable that you have to wonder about the nature of progress itself.  On a case of navigational tools, there was this note:

“From Memory to GPS: Traditionally, Aboriginal peoples found their way using memory, detailed geographic language and a deep knowledge of place names, landmarks, the position of stars and moon, and wind and river direction. In the 1990s, technology entered the picture for all navigators in the form of global positioning system devices (GPS)…”

When we picked up our rental car in Halifax, we had the option of including a GPS unit in the package. We declined. And we made our way around that province using maps, the views over the hills, down long roads, in the direction of sunsets (which of course we knew were west). We saw amazing sights and didn’t get lost once. So what would have a GPS have done for us apart from having us focus on a little machine on the dash?

(Oh, call me a curmudgeon.)

Last night it was raining so hard that we only ventured out to the corner cafe, the Hungry Heart, and had a delicious dinner in this room:

the Hungry Heart Cafe

Tonight we’ll walk down to George Street to hear some music and tomorrow we’ll explore some more — apparently this rain will have stopped by then…We pick up a rental car tomorrow in order to take off on Sunday to wander the Avalon peninsula…


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