Tuesday, August 10, 2010

My Excellent Newfoundland Adventure - Part 1

Last summer I had the opportunity to travel to Newfoundland as part of the NEHGS Research in Newfoundland Seminar.  I have always wanted to travel to Newfoundland to visit the place where my grandfather was born and raised and to research my Keough family history.  Somehow the trip never got past the planning stage as other activities or events intervened.  However, after reading a post about the NEHGS seminar, I contacted them, signed up for the program and rather spur-of-the moment put my trip together.  My first piece of advice to anyone thinking about traveling to Newfoundland to research their family history is DO IT!  My second piece of advice is to make sure you plan ahead in order to get the most out of your time and to keep the costs down. 

 I live in the United States and the first thing for any Americans to know is that airfare and car rentals are pricey.  The reason seems to be that Newfoundland is served by a limited number of airlines and car rental agencies and there are a finite number of rentals on the island.  July and August are the top tourist months in Newfoundland and there were a number of tourists/travelers from all over Canada as well as the United States.  Late summer through early fall provide long sunny days - in fact the weather was gorgeous while I was there in July/August 2009.  I was in Newfoundland (specifically the  St. John's and the Bonavista South regions) for approximately a month and only had two days of rain! 

 The people in both regions could not have been more friendly or helpful.  There are a wealth of research facilities in St. John's, the City is quite walker-friendly and public transportation (bus or taxi) can get you most anywhere you want to go safely, efficiently and inexpensively.  There are a tremendous number and variety of housing options (hotels, bed and breakfasts and, during the summer months, Memorial University's campus housing), and there are several excellent restaurants, pubs, and coffee shops.  Since I planned to stay in St. John's for three weeks (the weeklong seminar as well as additional research time) I decided to stay at MUN's campus housing. 

 If you want to save money and be close to several of the research facilities during the summer months, you really cannot do better than to stay in student housing.  I had a single room on the third floor of the dorm with a shared washroom and shower room down the hall.  Each room has a twin bed, desk, chair, drawers and area to hang clothes.  Laundry facilities are on each floor, access to the floor and the individual rooms is keyed for privacy and safety.  If you have a notebook computer, you will be able to access the internet with a MUN account (this worked throughout the entire campus).  The campus is well laid out and the University libraries were great places to spread out and work after the other research facilities closed for the day.

Queen Elizabeth II Library at MUN
houses the Centre for Newfoundland Studies

Student Housing at MUN Campus - A Real Bargain!

The Student Centre - a food court, bookstore, bus terminal and several student services

The best thing about staying on the MUN campus was the variety of travelers staying at the University - my first week choral groups from all over the World stayed there for a conference, my second week it was firefighters for advanced training, my third week it was police officers for various seminars, and one long weekend a wedding party booked one half of the floor for their wedding party guests.  Throughout my stay there were visiting summer students, teachers, researchers, families from Europe, and other independent travelers.  Whether I struck up a conversation with others on my floor, nodded to others in passing, or kept to myself, it was a safe and central location for my housing needs.

The room rate during Summer 2009 was $33 per night for a single room at Paton College!  (There are also double rooms available as well as an apartment style arrangement at Burton's Pond.)  The program is student run and the front desk is manned every day from 8:00 am to 8:00 pm (a student is assigned to be on-call from 8:00 pm to 8:00 am for late or early arrivals) to answer questions and provide assistance to guests.  Taxi service to and from St. John's Airport was $15-20 per trip.   If you want to save your money for meals, day trips, car rentals, photocopies, walking tours or pub-crawling, check out the MUN website to learn about their Summer housing program at MUN Summer Accomodations.  Staying at MUN really saved me money on my housing while I was in St. John's, money I put to good use at Tim Horton's and all along George Street.

Next time ~ a bit about the NEHGS Newfoundland 2009 Seminar.

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