One of my favorite things about summer has come and gone; my yearly trip back to The Rock to visit friends and spend time in my favorite Canadian city.
St. John’s, Newfoundland for 11 years and they were some of the best years of my life. I moved there when I was only 19 and spent my whole adult life going to school, working, building lifelong friendships and basically, building a life there – until unforeseen circumstances force me to pack up my life and head back to the mainland.
I arrived in the city late afternoon after a 14-hout ferry crossing and two-hour drive. I had booked a hotel earlier on in my trip planning but a friend suggested I stay with her instead so that is what I did. And so the first day of my trip was spent unpacking and relaxing so I would be up early the next morning to pick up my rental car that would allow me to revisit all my old haunts.
“Get Stuffed” and stuffed I did get! The unique menu had two price lists – one for regular sized portions and the other for “get stuffed” portions. I ordered the jazzed up version of classic Macaroni and Cheese from the regular-sized list and could barely finish dessert. Both were delicious but I can’t imagine how large the “get stuffed” portions must be because the portion I ordered was more than I could handle. My friend was, of course, impressed with “my” car and it was a beautiful, warm evening – warm enough to cruise around town for a few house with the top down – and that is what we did for the remainder of the evening.
I planned to just stay at the house and read and catch up on emails the day I had to bring the car back to the rental agency because, well, I didn’t have a car to drive around in! A last minute invitation to join some friends on a trip around the Irish Loop saved me from the boredom and torture I would have suffered if I had to stay inside all day. The Irish Loop is a scenic drive encompassing the southern portion of the Avalon Peninsula. It winds along coastal areas and through barren lands and a dozen or so towns like Bay Bulls, Witless Bay, Cape Broyle, Cape Race, Trepassey and Ferryland.
George St. is Canada’s version of Bourbon St. or the Las Vegas Strip but not quite as long as those streets. In fact, it is only two city blocks long. The several dozen bars, pubs and clubs that are packed into those two city blocks cater to every possible taste. There are live music venues, dance clubs, a blues bar and Irish pubs. I chose O’Reilly’s, a famous Irish-Newfoundland pub where I spent many a night in my younger years, as home-base for my final night in the city.
Being on George Street brought on some bitter-sweet emotions. Sweet in the sense that I had so many good times there when I lived in St. John's. Bitter in the sense that the street was not like I remembered it. I heard some of my older friends express this sentiment to me in the past; they claimed these feelings come with age. When I frequented the street in my younger days, the days of Benders, Club Etomic, Peddler’s and The Attic, it was almost magical for lack of a better word to describe the many memorable (and sometimes foggy) nights I had on the street. While some of the old bars were still there (Turkey Joes, Trapper John’s, Christians, Lotties Place and Greensleeves), the newer ones didn’t peak my interest in the least. I was more interested in going to places that I was familiar with, places that reminded me of the good ol’ days. We paid our cover at O’Reilly’s, stuck around for a beer, got our wrists stamped and left to check out some of those old haunts. I made a beeline for one of my favorite watering holes, The Attic above Trapper John’s…only to discover that it had been transformed into a dance bar. I have so many fond memories of that place and by now on, that is all they will ever be. As I made my way up and down the street entering new and old venues, I couldn’t keep those old memories from flooding back. I entered new bars that took the place of old haunts and tried to remember the places as they were before. Club Etomik is now Dusk but it is was once a place that I spent many a night dancing until the wee hours of the morning until staff practically had to chase us out with brooms. A newer bar called The Rockhouse is now located where the old O’Reilly’s used to be. It is much different now but I remember what it once was. It's hard to believe so many people used to cram into that place. My favorite spot was always right in front of the stage where I danced to the music performed by popular local bands, such as The Navigators, as they performed lively sets full of Irish-Newfoundland favorites. How that upper balcony felt like it was going to collapse as every soul in that little place were on their feet dancing up a storm. The new O’Reilly’s is nice, I must say, but it doesn’t have the same feel as it did for me back in those days. Again, could be a part of the aging process. Christian’s really didn’t change much except the familiar faces that once worked the doors, served drinks and were practically fixtures at the place were no longer there. I spent many a late, late night (or late morning perhaps is a better way of putting it) at that place. Back then, if you knew the right people, you had certain privileges and one of those privileges was the ability to get into bars after hours. I don’t know how I used to do it because I certainly can’t handle the stuff very well now but I drank my first of many tequila shooters (among other strange concoctions that were mixed up and tested on me and my friends by a bartender we became very good friends with) at Christian’s. Many a morning, we’d all stumble onto the street to greet the morning sun and the street cleaners.
After I moved to Newfoundland many years ago, it became a tradition to go out on a bender before I left to spend summers with family in Nova Scotia so sticking with that tradition, I made my way across Newfoundland to catch the ferry in Port Aux Basques...with a raging hangover. And a few weeks after returning home, I received a letter in the mail from Marine Atlantic. Apparently, they softened up in their relations with customers who are fed up with the delays and poor service and decided to send out presents to make up for the delays of this past summer; a $200.00 travel voucher to be used towards crossings anytime in the next year. For me, that means my travel to Newfoundland next summer won’t cost a cent!