What’s your ideal honeymoon? I’d ‘magine that most folks would prefer warm sandy beaches, fruity drinks with little umbrellas and a whole barrel full of nothing. The idea of a solid week or two plopped down in paradise with nothing but time is damn sure appealing, especially in our windswept and rain soaked Newfoundland falls, but for Mr. and Mrs. Collins, we had a little something more ambitious in mind.
We’ve recently returned from a 15 day trek of Europe, one that saw me and the wife jet-set from St. John’s to London, fly to Munich, train to Amsterdam, Bruges, Paris and back. All in all we soaked in five countries in little over two weeks. It was, to use the local speak, a lot of goin’.
And yes, as you’d imagine, it was anything but relaxing, but nevertheless the trip of a lifetime. We saw Big Ben (albeit covered in scaffolding), the Marienplatz, jumped on tourist-bait canal cruises, delved deep into the catacombs of Paris and drank enough perfectly brewed beers to make me weep at the sight of Coors Light. With each passing day immersed in new cultures, I found myself making a lengthy list of tourist takeaways. Being my first trip to Europe, I wasn’t exactly sure what to expect, especially in countries where speaking English wasn’t necessarily priority one.
To begin with, everyone was incredibly nice, almost impossibly so. We Newfoundlanders and Labradorians have the well earned reputation of opening our homes, hearts and wallets to weary travellers, but I daresay much of that kind nature comes from our European forefathers and sisters. On no less than three occasions were we stopped at random by locals who, with lovely foresight, saw that we were hopelessly lost and out of place tourists. That’s the stuff you can’t find in tourist guides.
Another standout? Transportation trumps anything and everything here at home. I know, we don’t have the population to sustain things like underground metro stations and cross-provincial local lines, but my god the convenience is undeniable. You can feasibly get just about anywhere in mainland Europe in hours just by hopping on a train. It’s one thing that escapes us with our island isolation, one thing we’re sorely lacking here.
Dunks & Dollops
And don’t you think for one second that the ease of commuting by train or bus or tram doesn’t equal more healthy locals. I’ve honestly never seen healthier folks in my life, and that comes from countries that triple fry their chips and dunk them in dollops of full-fat mayo, with chocolate shops on every corner.
With each mile logged and site soaked in, I thought about the rock, our shorelines and all her perfections and imperfections. It got me thinking about the uniqueness of place and how accessibility adds or subtracts from that uniqueness. Is Newfoundland more majestic because of her isolation? We’re not alone in our personal kindnesses, that’s been proven. We’re not the only folks on earth to lend a helping hand or aid a foolish tourist in need. And yes, we’re gorgeous – there’s few places on earth quite as picturesque – but that’s not exclusive. I couldn’t then and still can’t put my finger on exactly what makes Newfoundland and Labrador. It’s nothing you can write down or quantify in dainty descriptors.
All I know is there was a feeling I had upon landing, tired and sick and scrubbed out in the midnight hour in St. John’s, that summed up Newfoundland more than an article or expose ever could. Even with a once-in-a-lifetime trip in the rear-view, it’s hard to beat that Newfoundland feeling.
Dillon Collins, The Herald’s Staff Writer, can be reached by emailing [email protected]