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Publié le by NmNomador

How Housesitting Helped Me Find My New Favourite Neighbourhood

Housesitting is a great way to immerse yourself into foreign culture, but how about discovering a new part of your home city?

I hadn’t expected to move back to St. John’s, Canada after having spent a year living in Berlin, but visa woes and lack of funding forced me back to the city I had previously lived in for 10 years. I wasn’t thrilled about it; in fact, I was downright miserable. I picked up some housesitting gigs to keep me afloat financially, and funny enough, I started seeing the city through new eyes.

St. John’s has a population of about 150,000 people, and while I’ve spent most of the past decade living downtown near the waterfront, I’ve never really experienced that friendly “neighbourhood vibe” like I had in Berlin. In such a small city (both geographically and population-wise), it’s hard to pinpoint those distinct neighbourhoods that have a unique feel.

But in Berlin’s Prenzlauer Berg, I had immediately fit into the neighbourhood’s hipster, family-friendly environment. There, I had a neighbourhood coffee shop and a wine bar where the owner knew my name. That kind of thing simply doesn’t exist in most of St. John’s. Or at least that’s what I thought.

In the past year, I’ve lived in four different parts of the city. But it was my last housesit – in a neighbourhood known as Georgetown – where I finally got back to that community feeling I so missed from Berlin. Here’s how.

I asked my hosts for recommendations

I didn’t know much about Georgetown before I started housesitting there. It’s part of the downtown core, but far enough from the restaurants and shops to give it a real homey feeling. So I asked my hosts for some recommendations on what to do. (Granted, these folks had an incredibly amazing house—I didn’t mind spending most of my time there!)

One of the things my hosts recommended was karaoke on Fridays and Saturdays at a nearby dive bar, the Georgetown Pub. There I discovered a mishmash of local talent from scruffy hipsters to fun-loving seniors, all belting out tunes in a tiny one-room pub with low ceilings. There was even a pool table with jigsaw puzzles. The patrons there clearly all knew one another well.

I ended up going back to the pub a few times over the course of three weeks, and was never once disappointed. Plus the prices were much better than the bars downtown!

I made solid plans to explore

It’s all too easy to fall into that comfortable rut of coming home after work and flaking out on the couch with snacks. My three-week housesit was nearly up before I realized I hadn’t checked out some of the neighbourhood hotspots, like the Georgetown Bakery and the Georgetown Café. People literally line up around the block every morning for the bakery’s famous bagels.

I also made a vow to make a Saturday morning trip to the nearby St. John’s Farmer’s Market. (It’s kind of shameful I had never been before, actually.) It was all too tempting to sleep in, but instead I forced myself out of bed and hit the market for some goodies. I ended up picking up homemade breads and buns, some handcrafted soap, and even some local smoked cheddar—things you certainly can’t get at an average supermarket in St. John’s.

I got out and explored on foot

My hosts had a sweet husky dog named Nora, and it was my job to take her out on a nice long walk everyday. I mostly stuck to the Georgetown area, roaming up and down the streets and exploring a new part of the neighbourhood each day. I frequented nearby Bannerman Park for lazy evenings lounging in the grass in the sun--something I had never done before while living in St. John’s.

What I loved the most about these walks was that I seemed to discover a beautiful new heritage home everyday. St. John’s, being one of the oldest cities in North America, has plenty of stunning old homes that look like they belong in Victorian England. The majority of these heritage homes are concentrated in the Georgetown area.

Being a housesitter in a town where I had lived for 10 years allowed me to discover parts of St. John’s I never even knew existed. It gave me new appreciation for my city (and bagels, and dive bars), and made me feel more at home there than I’d felt in a long time. If you’re thinking about housesitting but don’t know where to start, why not start right in your own home town? You might be surprised by what you’ll find.

Author Bio

Candice Walsh

Candice Walsh is a travel writer and blogger based in St. John's, Newfoundland. She's also the communications coordinator for the St. John's International Women's Film Festival. You can read more about her adventures on FreeCandie.com

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