"Where the skies are oyster grey and houses resemble flavored jellybeans" is how one Instagrammer described Newfoundland and Labrador, and it's easy to see why. While the skies above are often grey and foreboding with the threat of the imminent winter, the houses are a "anarchy of colour", ranging from reds to yellows to greens and blues. This colour scheme seems to be very popular in this area of the world, as it is also done in Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, PEI, Nunavut, Greenland and Iceland and I personally love it!
Newfoundland and Labrador is almost unanimously agreed to be the first place Europeans touched North American soil around the year 1000 CE. They believe Lief Erikson, the famous Norse Viking, touched down in three places: Helluland (Baffin Island), Markland (Labrador) and Vinland (Newfoundland). There are other unconfirmed reports of earlier European contact, but Erikson's arrival was the first semi-permanent settlement made by Europeans.
When Europeans finally arrived in the 1496, they soon discovered the area had the best cod fishing in the North Atlantic. The British, French and Spanish clashed several times in this area fighting for the cod, which quickly became a prized commodity in the Old World.
With the expansion of the British Empire and the victory at the Plains of Abraham in Quebec City in 1759, the once prosperous New France fell under British control. Seeing their culture before them torn apart, French pirates and privateers rowed north from Quebec City, up the St. Lawrence River and to Newfoundland where they proceeded to attack and raid British settlements. Nevertheless, the island remained in British hands for several centuries.
In 1869 during Canada's second election Newfoundland considered joining confederation but decided not to. By this time they had become the "Dominion of Newfoundland".
80 years later Newfoundland would fall into unsolvable economic problems. Being independent from Canada during the First World War, it had greatly drained its resources, had struggled to finance itself a railway and was struck heavily with falling fish prices. In 1933 it was obvious the Dominion of Newfoundland would be no more and the legislature voluntarily voted itself out of existence. For 15 years it sat in limbo, unsure if it should form its own independent government, rejoin England or join Canada. On June 3rd, 1948 they had their first referendum to decide the future of their province, but no majority decision was made. A month later on July 22nd, 1948, they did a second referendum and winning 53.2% to 47.7% was the decision to join Canada. On March 31st, 1949 Newfoundland became Canada's 10th province.
Some believe the vote was fixed as documents in 1980 from both the Canadian and British governments revealed both parties wanted Newfoundland to join Canada, with some claiming Newfoundland was used by the British to pay off wartime debts. This is amplified by the rumors that after the second referendum was finished, the ballots were burnt so there would be no second count.
In 2001 Newfoundland officially changed its name to Newfoundland and Labrador.
Newfoundland and Labrador is the final province of our cross Canada series and is the only province I've never officially stepped foot on. After seeing these pictures however, I think I need to put this place high on my bucket list. From jellybean like houses or futuristic architecture, from crashing waves and roaming icebergs, Newfoundland and Labrador is the perfect place to end our series.
The above cover image of this article was taken by Shawn Hudson, an incredible photographer from Newfoundland who is currently living in Nova Scotia. If the last few articles have wet your appetite for more things Maritime, he's the guy to follow!
With that, I'd like to thank you for an amazing 7 weeks of this journey, from Vancouver to St. John's. I hope you learned a bit about my country (I know I learned a ton!) and I hope I inspired you to make the trek up here to visit the place I call home.
Without further adieu, I'd like to introduce you to part 13 of 13, "Instagramming Canada - Newfoundland and Labrador"!
And, as always, a big thank you to my sweetheart Jessica Nuttall for proof reading a countless number of my articles. I couldn't do any of this without you. I love you.
Are you looking to explore Ontario and Quebec? I recommend:
Several months ago Ford Canada approached me to review their 2017 Ford Explorer. I wanted to see how it handled grid roads, so I took it to a variety of ghost towns, abandoned houses and empty villages around Saskatchewan. I had a lot of fun with the article, and I guess Ford liked it too because a few months later they invited me to go out to the Sunshine Coast to try out a few other vehicles.
There were a few differences between this trip and the one I did around Saskatchewan. The first difference was that this was in the wooded forests of British Columbia and not the flat prairie of Saskatchewan. Instead of having the vehicle for a week, this would be a 2-day trip from Vancouver to the Painted Boat Resort and back again. Also, instead of traveling solo, I'd be travelling with several lifestyle and travel bloggers from across Western Canada – including the 2015 Saskatchewanderer Ashlyn George from The Lost Girl's Guide to Finding the World.
The vehicle we got on the way up to the resort was the same red Ford Explorer I tried out earlier this year. This worked out great for me as I was already very familiar with the vehicle and its quirks. On the way back Ashlyn drove a white 2017 Ford Edge.
"Have you ever been to Medicine Hat?" Abby Czibere from the Visitor Centre asks. I feel bad when I tell her no, unless you count stopping to fill up and grab fast food. In short order, I realize that's a big mistake as there's a vibrant food and arts scene and beautiful riverside parks to explore in this city of 65,000 people.
The Hat (the city's nickname; its residents are Hatters) has experienced a renaissance in recent years thanks to innovative entrepreneurs. Trendy eateries, indie coffee shops, and craft breweries have opened, attracting like-minded businesses, while enticing young people to stick around after college. Even the museums add to the up and coming feeling with their unique exhibits and events. Smell the smells of war at Esplanade Arts and Heritage Centre, or attend a concert in a massive kiln at MedAlta Potteries (Tongue on the Post Music Festival).
The Island of the Dolls is in Xochimilco, a borough south of Mexico City. While it would be faster to take a car from Mexico City to Xochimilco, the traffic is dense and the roads are very congested. Instead, if you're going there, I'd recommend taking metro, which is easy and the cheapest in the world. What you gain in comfort, however, you lose in speed, as the train ride takes about 2 hours.
Mexico City and Xochimilco both sit in the Valley of Mexico. Until about a millennium ago, the whole region around Mexico City was surrounded by a massive body of water. Over the centuries due to both climate change and interference by humans, most of this water has dried up, for the exception of Xochimilco. With networks of canals crisscrossing the borough, car transportation is difficult and water transportation is essential. I'm sure there were motorized boats somewhere in the waters of Xochimilco, but I never saw any. Instead, canoes and rafts are common on the water. However, the most popular vessel is a trajinera – a colourful gonadal-like boat that is pushed along the water with a wooden pole.
Xochimilco is known worldwide for their Floating Gardens market, which are essentially canoes floating down the canals, selling wares to tourists on trajineras. These include things like food, drinks, silver rings, trinkets, ponchos and sombreros. Occasionally other trajineras full of Mariachi bands will approach tourists and offer to play beside them on the water.