• Danik Bates

Tales from Newfoundland: Screeched in St John’s

Updated: May 7

I only had twenty-four hours in St John’s which I know isn’t long enough to see a small city but I am sure I will be back in Newfoundland and the city itself very soon. On arrival before checking into my accommodation at Hotel Jag (see below for my review), the first stop was to see the start and end of the Trans-Canadian Highway One, the longest road in Canada. I am a bit of a geography geek and have to admit, I studied road atlas books in the UK instead of reading books like Harry Potter or Dungeons and Dragons when I was a seven year old kid. Everyone thought I was loopy back then but by god, after looking at road maps all my life, who needs a GPS? I have traveled on parts of this highway and I hope to conquer it all one day but in Newfoundland, I have driven from St John’s all the way to Deer Lake, a total of 638km (396 miles) each way. Anyway, getting off track, the Highway starts and ends at a set of crossroads on East White Hills Road and Logy Bay Road (route 30).

Another landmark I did was the ‘Mile 0 monument of Terry Fox’ which is where one inspirational runner back in the early 1980s tried to run from St John’s to Victoria, BC. He was amputee due to losing one leg to cancer. I already saw the statue in Victoria and to see where he started his run, here on the Atlantic Ocean coastline, was a feeling I wouldn’t forget. Canada is so vast. I have been to most parts but either flown or drove parts.

After checking into my hotel, it was time to let my hair down as it was the last night in Newfoundland on my four week trip. George Street which was a block away from the Hotel Jag is known for its pedestrianised street with lots of restaurants and bars. What I love here is that there are quite a lot of bars playing live music, in the style of the old ways which have come over from Ireland and England. I think I did several bars that evening and it was one of the best night outs I have ever had in my life. The music, the locals, the food, the warm air outside. I can’t remember what time I got back into the hotel that night. It was truly amazing.

Then I also kissed a fish! Yes, I took part in the Newfoundland tradition of getting ‘screeched in’. It's a way of making outsiders to the island turning them into honorary Newfoundlanders. And I managed to do this at Christian’s Pub at number 23, George Street, the oldest bar on the street. This involves having a shot of screech (Newfoundland Rum), listening to a short recitation and then the kissing of a cod. The screeching starts with the leader of the ceremony introducing themselves and asking those around him if they would like to become a Newfoundlander. The response would be a ‘Yes b’y!’ Each person is then asked to introduce themselves and say where they are from. Then every person will hold their shot of Screech whilst the leader asks ‘Are ye a screecher?’ or ‘Is you a Newfoundlander?’ and the response has to be ‘Indeed I is, me ol’ cock! And long may yer big jib draw!’. This is translated into modern English ‘Yes I am, my old friend, and may your sails always catch wind’. Then it is time to kiss the cod on the lips. If anyone is coming to Newfoundland, get screeched! It's so much fun and I walked away now as an honorary Newfoundlander.

JAG Boutique Hotel

I decided to stay in the JAG Boutique Hotel for the final night of my trip to Newfoundland. There were a couple of reasons for this. Location, fantastic reviews I have read about the style and to be honest, instead of staying in Bed and Breakfasts and budget hotels, I wanted to spend the cash and have a bit of luxury. I got that with JAG and was so glad to stay here.

As said, location. It was the last night of my trip, I wanted to let my hair down after being on the road around the USA and Canada for the past month and when I heard about George Street, a long stretch of road going through the heart of the city with lots of restaurants and bars, I wanted to stay nearby and thankfully JAG was a five minute walk away from the western end of the street. I also hired a car for this part of the trip and the hotel is located a couple of minutes away from the main road out of town and a twenty minute drive to the airport (on a clear road).

Parking up outside the main entrance, the doorman happily took my luggage from the car to my room (I had pre-booked my stay the day before) and the other guy took my car to the secure parking. Walking in with my hands free I was welcomed by the very friendly front-of-house staff who were very informative and gave me the low-down on the hotel and the city. Walking into the lobby just before that I noticed there were a lot of memorabilia on rock music dotted around the place from huge pictures on the wall of famous rock bands/singers to a table which looks like a huge cassette. This is because the current owner of the Steele Hotels group (John), has a lot of memorabilia and rock-inspired art in his personal collection and has it all on display in the hotel. Going up to our room there was rock music playing in the elevator, none of that chilled-out lounge music going on here.

The design of the hotel was done by Ron Fougere who is an architect from a local firm and the outside walls of the building is coloured bold red which blends in well with the other colourful buildings nearby. For the inside there is plenty of glass to let the sunlight in and the rooms are minimally styled but still has the everyday needs to which a hotel stay has.

There are eighty-four rooms here but in the summer months especially (or any day there is a huge party on nearby George Street) the hotel fills up quite quickly so it’s best to reserve. All rooms have calming shades of cream and grey so I found this to be a huge influence for a relaxing stay here.

I opted for the standard room and thankfully as it was a hot day when I arrived, the room was fully air conditioned. There is a huge king-size bed with a wall-mounted headboard and I can honestly say, I had one of my best nights of sleep here. Other features of the room is the huge television screen with digital cable and high definition channels. Free WI-FI is included (as well as local calls) and I found the WIFI connection to be fast, clear and no interruptions from my room. Also there is a sofa, a desk to do some of ‘that’ important office work and a coffee machine, a snack basket as a well as a stocked up mini fridge (for a fee) to keep your stomach happy whilst working or wanting that midnight snack.

Another important factor is always the bathroom. If the shower works and has a lot of pressure, then the stay is a success and this is the case here at the JAG. Again, after a month on the road, this was the best bathroom I had on the trip. There is plenty of space to move about in the room and the hotel provides locally designed and manufactured bath products like shampoo. There are also bathrobes and hairdryers provided to make the stay even more pleasant.

After my nice sleep it was time for breakfast in the morning and I checked out the hotel restaurant. Despite feeling a bit sluggish from the night before with all the beers, a good hearty meal is what is needed and here there are a few options for breakfast but I had to go for a full breakfast which includes the usual eggs, bacon, sausages. When I checked into the hotel the previous evening, before hitting nearby George Street, I did have a drink in the bar (also the same room), which was a fantastic way to start the evening. Sat at the bar, received excellent service, drinks reasonably priced and I just loved checking out the artwork dotted around the place.

Overall, I really enjoyed my stay here at the JAG and it was a great way to finish off my trip. I am seriously hoping to be back in Newfoundland in the near future as I fell in love with the place and if so, I think another stay at the JAG has to be done. It had everything for me and the price I paid, well, I got our money’s worth that’s for sure. Worth every penny. To book a stay at the JAG, click here.

Check out my blog on the rest of Newfoundland here

Please note that while I was not working with any companies in the St John’s area, my review and experiences written about in this post are 100% genuine. I value my readers too much to lie to you. My blog would be nothing without you and your continued support! There maybe some links above which are affiliate and are at no additional cost to you. If my readers use them, I earn a commission to buy their products and remember, I only mentioned products and companies I use. The income from this keeps this website going. Thank you.

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