Reed Travel Features
BONAVISTA, Newfoundland -- The legendary journey of John Cabot,
who in 1497 set sail from Bristol, England, bound for Asia but was
destined to land in the New World, will be celebrated here and in
towns throughout Newfoundland and Labrador this summer.
The 500th anniversary of the voyage of Cabot aboard the Matthew
will kick off 46 days of celebration with the June 24 arrival of a
replica of the ship here.
The ship will be escorted by a flotilla of hundreds as it enters
the harbor where, 500 years ago, Cabot declared, "O! buona vista."
(Cabot was a Genoan named Giovanni Caboto; it was his English
patrons who dubbed him John Cabot.)
In all, the ship will call at 17 ports along the Newfoundland
and Labrador coasts, touching off scores of celebrations lasting
through Aug. 9.
"In each port of call, there will be the landfall ceremonies
with a historical reenactment, an entertainment component and
fireworks," said Gillian Marx, marketing coordinator for Cabot 500
Celebrations, which is operated by the Newfoundland Department of
Tour-ism, Culture and Recreation.
The festivities will kick off for real on June 12, when both St.
John's and Bonavista will hold a symposium examining the voyage.
Organizers have promised the event will be "thought-provoking,
informative, lighthearted and controversial."
The five-day program will focus on three themes: the Cabot
voyages to America, the North Atlantic world in the 15th and 16th
centuries and the lasting impact of the European arrival.
Native-American leaders have been invited to offer their
perspective on the impact of the European migration.
Besides all the activities planned for the anniversary
celebrations, the Newfoundland and Labrador region is rich in
"It's outdoor, soft adventure and wildlife," Marx said of
regional tour offerings.
"It's very pristine land. We have approximately 10,000 miles of
coastline and a total of 500,000 people in this province."
Another big attraction is the annual "iceberg parade" off the
coast, during which 'bergs towering 250 feet above the water and
weighing up to 300 million tons melt slowly away on their float
south to the Gulf Stream.
The parade, which is as unpredictable as nature itself, usually
starts in March, peaks in June or July and ends in the fall.
Marx said that perhaps the biggest tourism draw in the region is
the mix of European cultures that have anchored themselves
"The lifestyle has very much sustained itself in terms of
culture and heritage," Marx said. "We're celebrating 500 years, and
there are still portions of West Country [the East Coast of
Newfoundland, named for the West Country of England] where you hear
Elizabethan English, and the Irish accent you find on the southeast
coast is thicker than you'll hear in Ireland."
On top of that, there is a sizable French-speaking population on
the west coast, she said.
"The dialects in Newfoundland alone are a story," she pointed
out, illustrating this with a saying locals use to poke fun at
their own pronunciation: "People drop their 'h' in 'Olyrood and
they pick it up in Havondale."
Going back even further than the English, Irish and French
cultures are the remnants of a Norse presence.
"On the tip of the great northern peninsula [at L'Anse aux
Meadows] is a Viking settlement that's almost 1,000 years old,"
Sounds like another great reason to throw a party.
For more information about the Cabot celebration, contact (800)