December 21st, 2016

Spotlight on St. John’s, Fogo Island & Chateau Bay


As we announced in our last newsletter, we want to bring you more detailed information on each of the destinations our trip will arrive at. Here is the first installment, a more in depth spotlight on St. John’s, Fogo Island and Chateau Bay.

St. John’s

The capital and principal city of Newfoundland, St. John’s is the closest North American city to Europe and also one of the oldest. There exists an urban legend that the city was named by Basque sailors from Pasaia, San Juan in Guipuzkoa after their home town. Another version of this story tells that the city was named by the Genovese explorer Giovanni Caboto on arriving at this port on the feast day of St. John, 1497.

St. John’s has played an important role in major world events throughout the past five hundred years including at the Seven Years’ War and World War II. Despite the city’s participation in events of international, historical importance, the city has always maintained alongside its urban facet, a distinctly provincial character; built around the fishing industry and proud of its distinctive people and culture. St. John’s -like all of Newfoundland- didn’t officially incorporate as a part of Canada until 1949 and there are still today, people who regard the referendum that made that happen with great skepticism.

Today St. John’s is home to some of the most important museums in Canada and also a few of the most renowned restaurants in country. These restaurants base themselves proudly on the autochthonous cuisine of Newfoundland.
Water Street, near the docks is recognized as the oldest Street in North America and along with the colorful Jellybean Row nearby it displays a unique and landmarked architectural style. This part of downtown is full of stores, restaurants and bars and fills up with music, dancing and revelry every night.
Check out this video of the city prepared by the tourism bureau of Newfoundland.

Fogo Island

The largest of the offshore islands on Newfoundland, Fofo Island measures 254 kilometers squared and is home to approximately 2400 inhabitants. The island probably received its name from Portuguese fishermen (Fogo is Portuguese for fire.) sometime in the 16th Century. The island and its harbor Tilting – recognized as a Nationally Historic Site of Canada- were well known to the Basque sailors of the era too. Starting in the 18th Century the island became an enclave for Irish fishermen who built the first year-round settlement there. Many of the residents on the island today can trace their lineage back directly to these first Irish families who settled there. They maintain a distinctive dialect and culture which is also on display in the fishing structures and houses, many of which, though restored, date from this initial Irish-Canadian settlement.
The contemporary community of the island has a strong artistic bent. Surrounded by a picturesque landscape it is a center of film and other cultural production.

Chateau Bay

Chateau Bay, sits on the Labrador Peninsula across the Strait of Belle Isle from Newfoundland. The first mention of this bay and fishing settlement appears in the first detailed navigational rutter of Newfoundland “The Adventurous Voyages of Captain Martin de Hoyarsabal, Inhabitant of Cubiburu. Containing the Rules and Instructions Necessary for Good and Safe Navigation” written by the French-Basque sailor Martin de Hoyarçabal and first published in 1579.Archeological investigation has identified Chateau Bay as the location of at least two 16th Century shipwrecks believed to be of Basque origin. The “Maria” built in Mutriku and the “Magdalena” built in San Sebastian. In 1985 an archeological study was undertaken by Basque and Canadian institutions.
Two hundred years later the a military fort was built by the French here on land which was later taken by the English.

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