OK. You’re new to St. John’s and need help getting around, so you ask for directions. People on this island are only more than happy to help. But beware. If you’re anything like me, growing up in Ottawa everything was either East, West, North or South and highways were referred to by their number (416, 417, Highway 16, you get the idea.) Growing up, to get from my house to downtown I go north on the 416, east on 417 and I’m downtown. However, I have come to realize that this is not how it works here in St. John’s.
For example, Highway 1 or the Trans-Canada Highway (TCH) is rarely referred to as such. It’s usually called the Outer Ring Road. That one I got a handle on. But there is also Highway 2. I’m still not sure what that is actually called: Pitts Memorial? The Arterial? I still don’t know. Then there is Prince Phillip Drive…or Columbus Drive…Or MacDonald Drive. It’s actually all the same road straight through town, but changes names three times. I think it may also sometimes be called The Parkway. And what’s the deal with Empire Avenue? I’ve seen that street in about four different places.
I am by no means saying that one is better than the other, simply that the direction styles are different.
Oh one more thing: you need to learn landmarks and fast. I once asked for directions after dropping someone off after work. “How do I get home from here?” I asked. They replied “just go up the hill and turn right at the old funeral home.” So I proceeded up the hill looking for an old or abandoned funeral home. No such luck. I finally managed to find a street I thought I knew and found my way home in a mere half hour. It turns out the “old funeral home” was torn down years ago and replaced by something completely different.
I’ve come to learn it is not that people in St. John’s don’t know directions and highway numbers, but simply that this capital city still has a small town feel. Charming and confusing at the same time.