Stepping Up to Signal Hill
*Have you read Playing in Pubs and Dungeons yet? You might want to visit it first.
Following my impromptu tour of the Masonic Lodge I go back to my plan for the day which is to walk up to Signal Hill. I’d just like to take a moment to reiterate the point that this is one of the many reasons not to plan every minute. If I had, I never would have wandered into the Masonic Lodge let alone spent a couple of hours talking to the owner, touring it, and being interviewed for a podcast. And don’t forget, finding a volunteer opportunity and getting transportation to it (thanks to fabulous singers Janet and Kelly-Ann). So now it’s time to step down off my soapbox and step up (and up, and up) to Signal Hill.
A bit about the history of Signal Hill; as its name implies, centuries before the advent of ship-to-shore radio, signalman perched on Signal Hill surveyed the ocean for ships headed toward the port of St. John’s. Flag signals flown on the hill communicated the names of arriving ships to those who the townspeople below. In 1901 Guglielmo Marconi (of dot-dot-dot, dash-dash-dash fame) received the first transatlantic wireless signal at Signal Hill. Before all of that, British and French soldiers battled to control this strategic location.
To get there I’m told to head east and just keep walking uphill. While there is a beautiful hiking trail leading up to Signal Hill, I’m warned not to attempt it during the winter as it surely means death. While not one to heed warnings of danger easily (if the sign says, “Welcome, come in!” there’s normally a little less adventure than if it says, “Danger, keep out!”), I had been cautioned by a few people so I decide to not die in St. John’s on my first full day here.
As I head out of the downtown area the scenery begins reminding me of my old cruise ship days only the ships are cargo ones. Still, the dock area seems a bit deserted. As I climb, I pass joggers (ok, they pass me) and I wonder about the mental health of these Newfies. The climb up, even on the road is a great workout and, as I climb, I get different views of St. John’s Harbor and the Atlantic Ocean.
Forty minutes and two sticks of licorice later I reach the top of Signal Hill. While the visitors center and Cabot Tower atop Signal Hill are closed this time of year, there are signs on top explaining much of the history for me to take a self-guided tour. The 360 degree views of the city, the harbor and the Atlantic Ocean are spectacular.
After a bit of time walking around each side enjoying the views, reading historical markers and generally contemplating life I head back down. While it may be forty minutes up, it’s only twenty minutes down and, before you know it, I’m back in town for a short nap before heading out to find some fish and chips for dinner.
When I look online to view people’s opinions on where to find the best fish and chips in town, the general answer seems to be The Duke of Duckworth. And a bonus is that it’s close to my B&B. I head on over, walk in the door and immediately notice that two strange men I had met the night before are sitting inside. Are you kidding me? I turn around and decide to find an alternate location (plans are meant to be changed). I walk further down Water Street and happen upon the YellowBelly Brewery and Public House. I peek at the menu and see that they have fish and chips (although they’re upscale ones made with panko breadcrumbs) so I decide to stay as the men don’t seem strange and the fish and chips sound good. The YellowBelly is an historic building (lots of them here in St. John’s) originally built in 1700. It was the end point of the big fire of 1894 which burnt down most of the city. While the building sustained a good amount of damage, the infrastructure remained (you can see evidence of this in a charred beam with the year 1894 carved into it in the lower level). While there I meet John from Halifax (he assures me he’s no Saint, so the city is definitely not named after him) who introduces me to George street where we stop in one of the many (and I mean many) pubs and listen to some authentic Irish music. More about George Street later this week.
Tomorrow, through ice and sleet and snow, I volunteer. Read about it in “Through Rain, Sleet and the Frosty Festival”