Summer in Saint John

I can feel it in the air.

Summer is starting to wind down.  You can feel the slightest bite in the early morning air, the days are getting shorter and the occasional brown leaf flutters across the driveway after a late summer storm.  Soon it will be all sweaters and boots and pumpkin spiced lattes.  But for now it’s still summer in the city.  That most coveted time when a sweater is not (always) required to have drinks on the boardwalk.  That time when the Bay of Fundy fog is sometimes even a welcome, cooling blanket.  And it seems like we’re in for a late summer heat wave so it’s a perfect weekend to head to the boardwalk or to one of the many beaches around Saint John.

From Canada Day celebrations to Buskers on the Bay, to late night drinks with friends, summer is a wonderful time in Uptown Saint John.  I feel like Uptown really is the heart of soul of this city.  It’s where we gather for celebrations small and large and it’s the place visitors gravitate towards, and for good reason.  From the lively boardwalk patios to the somber Loyalist Burial Grounds; from the charming brownstone homes on Germain Street to the stunning view down Princess Street when the sun is dipping low. You could almost imagine that those lazy days of summer will go on forever.  Until they’re over.  The wind will shift ever so slightly and suddenly it will be fall.  And that’s not so bad, really.  We’ve got a lovely September and October to look forward to.  And I do love to wear tights.  But first a few more beautiful summer weekends in Saint John, please.

Here are some shots from my summer in Saint John:


  

IMG_0567

IMG_0561

  


  


  

Tourist At Home: Hopewell Rocks Edition

Sometimes you live in a place your whole life, with natural wonders right under your nose and yet you never visit them.  I lived in Nova Scotia for 26 years and have never been to the Cabot Trail (it’s on my list!).  My husband has lived in New Brunswick his whole life and has never been to Hopewell Rocks.  I hadn’t seen it either.  We decided to go this weekend.

For those who might not know, Hopewell Rocks is an attraction along the Bay of Fundy that perhaps best showcases the magnitude and effects of the world’s highest tides. When the tide is out, visitors are able to walk on the ocean floor among sandstone rock formations, molded by many centuries of the tide’s forces.  When the tide comes in, visitors (watching safely from an observation deck), can watch the waters rise 14 metres, erasing their earlier footsteps.  The entrance fee for the park actually allows visitors to come back the next day to see both low and high tides.

I was a little worried when we arrived at Hopewell Cape and saw how full the parking lot was.  Uh oh, I thought, have we willingly entered a tourist trap?  There certainly were droves of tourists.  Inspection of some of the license plates in the parking lot showed visitors from all over Canada and the U.S.  I needn’t have worried, however, because once you make it down the metal stairwell to the beach (don’t stop to take pictures on the stairs, people!), the space really opens up with over 2km of beach.  I couldn’t believe how far it went.  Every time you rounded the corner into a cove, you found there was another just behind it.  There are plenty of nooks in the rocks to explore and Joel had a fun time playing in the mud barefoot (free mud bath!).

After fully exploring the beach and all the cool rock formations along the way, I have to say that Hopewell Rocks is pretty impressive and definitely worth the trip if you have not been.  It gives you a deeper appreciation for the Bay of Fundy and just how powerful those tides really are.  It was also great to see that the place is so busy and popular with visitors!  I’d love to come back sometime to do the kayaking.

Here are some pictures from our at-home tourist excursion to Hopewell Rocks:

IMG_0719
Pit stop in Alma. Tide’s out! Perfect timing.
IMG_0721
Flowerpot Rocks
IMG_0725
Checking out some of the nooks and crannies carved out by the Bay
IMG_0726
Flowerpot Rocks, the Stairs of Tedium and lots of tourists
IMG_0729
Me under a Flowerpot. The water line is much higher than my head.
IMG_0732
Joel playing in the mud
IMG_0735
Muddy feet!
IMG_0738
A keyhole to the sea
IMG_0740
That is clearly a face
IMG_0741
More rock formations…
IMG_0742
…and another…
IMG_0744
One last look from the observation deck

If you would like more information on Hopewell Rocks, please visit thehopewellrocks.ca.

New Brunswick Is Not A Drive-Through Province

Happy New Brunswick Day!  I love seeing so many photos of people enjoying this beautiful long weekend outdoors.  It gives me a feeling of nostalgia for my childhood, when summers meant nothing but running free, fresh air and the smell of sunscreen.

I’ve heard it said that New Brunswick is primarily used by tourists as a highway to Nova Scotia or PEI but I say that NB is NOT a drive-through province but a destination in its own right.  Here’s some reasons why:

Culturally Unique – We are the only province in Canada with 2 official languages.  And while this sometimes creates friction in our province, it also makes us culturally unique and attractive to visitors.  I think we need to embrace and celebrate our unique culture; it’s one of the things that makes us stand out among Canadian provinces.

L'Acadie

Hiking – NB has some terrific hiking.  From the challenging and breathtaking Fundy Foot Path to Seek the Highest Peak at Mount Carleton and everything in between, we’ve got those nature lovers covered.  For more info on hiking in NB, visit nbhiking.ca.

IMG_0528

Beach Love – From our beaches along the Bay of Fundy to the Mac Daddy of them all, Parlee Beach on the Northumberland Strait, there are plenty of places to get your summer beach day on.

IMG_0320

‘Dem Bay of Fundy Views – From the uber-charming St. Andrews by-the-Sea to Hopewell Rocks, no visit to NB is complete without exploring this stunning shoreline and everything this natural wonder has to offer.

IMG_0534

City Buzz and Country Charm – We’ve got the best of both worlds.  Whether you are looking for a night on the town or a quiet cottage in the woods, we’ve got them both. You can even sleep in a treehouse in Miramichi, which I think looks really fun.

IMG_0702
East Coast Hospitality – Just like Nova Scotia and PEI, we’ve got that east coast hospitality thing down.  We love sharing our beautiful province with visitors and we’re more than willing to help you make the most of it.

I swear, I’m not getting paid to say this stuff.  I’m just passionate about this province and I think it deserves to take its place as a premier tourist destination on the east coast, alongside NS and PEI.  If you would like more information on tourism in New Brunswick, please visit tourismnewbrunswick.ca.

I’ll leave you with a video that was released by the government of NB for New Brunswick Day, entitled, Why Do You Love New Brunswick?

These have been some of the reasons I love NB, what are yours?

New River Beach Provincial Park

Just a 30 minute drive from Saint John is the New River Beach Provincial Park.  I had not been there before and it had been quite a few years since Joel had.  We had beautiful weather a couple Saturdays ago so Joel and I decided to grab our backpacks, a picnic lunch and some sunscreen and headed out to hike the nature trail.

IMG_0526

I’m so glad we did.

The New River Beach Nature Trail highlights everything I love most about living along the Bay of Fundy.  The salty sea air, the cool bay breeze, sandy beaches and magical forest paths.  I find there is something so peaceful about a walk in the woods.  When you combine that with the soothing sounds and sights of the ocean and you have complete bliss.

The trail is made up of two main loops that meet in the centre, like a figure 8.  It’s well maintained with lots of boardwalk and follows the coast most of the way, offering really stunning views of the Bay of Fundy and the New River Island Nature Preserve.

IMG_0528

IMG_0531

IMG_0532

IMG_0534

There are lots of places to stop and take a break along the way with several lookouts and wooden benches built along the trail.

IMG_0530

IMG_0538

IMG_0544

On the way back, you hike through a bog where you can see carnivorous Pitcher plants.  The trail was pretty soggy with all the recent rain we’d had but it’s probably dried out quite a bit since then.  It’s an easy trail with perhaps some moderate sections further out.  We hiked the whole trail and the footstep counter on my phone said that it was 7 km in total.  Plus when you’re finished hiking, you can walk over and soak up the sun at New River Beach.

The weather looks great this weekend, ideal for checking this trail out.  If you would like more information about hiking trails in New Brunswick, check out hikingnb.ca.  It’s a wonderful resource for all things hiking in New Brunswick.

Happy Trails!

Victoria Day Long Weekend in Shediac, NB

For the Victoria Day long weekend me, Joel and some friends ventured to the beach in Grand Barachois, just outside of Shediac, NB (thanks for organizing, Sara!).  We rented Chalets Lombard Beach Cottages (there are 6 in total).  We were greeted warmly by owner Judy when we arrived and she quickly set us up in our cottage.  We were blown away by the fantastic view just in front of the cottages of the sand dune and Northumberland Strait just beyond.

The cottages are set up great for families.  All 6 are identical with three small bedrooms, a bath and kitchen, all furnished with everything you need for a weekend getaway (you do have to bring your own linens).  The cottages are located at the very end of the road leading into a campground, so there is little traffic and plenty of space for young ones to run around unfettered.  There is also a little play set there that the little ones really seemed to enjoy playing on, even when one of our beach days got rained out.  Each cottage has its own picnic table and fire pit and there are two BBQs to share between the cottages.  Our only complaints with the cottages were that a BBQ for each cottage would be more convenient and there were some minor issues with some cottages not getting enough hot water vs too much.

We spent the glorious Saturday afternoon exploring Gagnon Beach, which is a wonderful beach with soft, fine sand.  It was great to feel the sand between my toes and the warm of the sun again.  It felt like summer.  We waded through the tide pools, flew kites, hunted for shells and found hermit crabs to show the kids.  It was heaven along the Northumberland Strait.  When we returned to the cottages, in true Maritime fashion, we had a feast of lobster and then sat around the campfire and enjoyed some time spent together and a few tasty beverages.

Our second day was not nearly so nice, but we made the most of it.  The kids didn’t seem to care as they were happy to run around the yard in their rubber boots most of the day.  Joel and I slipped into Shediac to get a quick snap with the world’s largest lobster and Joel was super excited to get some bread and chocolate croissants from La Boulangerie Francaise.  Later on that evening, the rain finally stopped and we enjoyed a gorgeous sunset and one more campfire before turning in.

We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend and highly recommend Chalets Lombard Beach Cottages, especially for groups or families who want to have a reunion/get together.  Here are some images from our weekend:

IMG_0295
View of the sand dune and Northumberland Strait from the cottages.
IMG_0293
Our cottage. Each is exactly the same.
IMG_0355
Chalets Lombard Beach Cottages
IMG_0309
Great day for kite flying!
IMG_0320
Ahhh, this is heaven.
IMG_0299
Looking back at the cottages from the beach.
IMG_0335
A quick walk on the beach before the rain came in
IMG_0337
Rainy day visit to the giant lobster in Shediac!
IMG_0338
Photo op with the big guy and his fisherman friend
IMG_0344
Lucked out finding the home base of La Boulangerie Francaise
IMG_0343
So many yummies!
IMG_0345
Last night and the skies are clearing, making for a gorgeous sunset

If you would like to know more about Chalets Lombard Beach Cottages, here’s some info:

http://www.cottagesincanada.com/chaletslombardbeachcottages

SJ Burger Week: AKA My Birthday Week & The Best Week Ever

Remember when I said that the Saint John restaurant scene is really hot right now?  Well, this week is one of the reasons why.  It’s the 2nd annual Uptown Burger Week and it falls on the same week as my birthday.  What luck!

Whoever thought up Burger Week is a genius.  Chefs in the Uptown area create original burger menus for this week only.  Unique burgers you won’t find anywhere else, like The Poutine Burger (Britt’s) and the Baloney Burger (Port City Royal).  There is truly something for everyone: beef, turkey, veggie, lamb, chicken, and fish options are available.  You can even get a Dessert Burger that looks to-die-for (East Coast Bistro).  People come out in droves to try these unique burgers.  I don’t know what the actual sales numbers are, but I do know that during Burger Week, my Twitter feed is so loaded with photos of delicious burgers that it makes you salivate just rolling through your feed.

Now, I can’t try every burger offered during Burger Week.  Partly because I’m wheat-challenged and partly because I don’t want to have a heart attack this week but I do make a point of getting out for at least one.  This year we went to Britt’s and tried out their competing burgers: The Poutine Burger and the Mecklenburger.  The Poutine Burger is topped with, you guessed it, poutine (why is this not already a thing?).  The Mecklenburger has Guiness carmelized onions, candied bourbon bacon, swiss cheese and house-made bbq sauce (yum!).  Two chefs at Britt’s created them and they’re going head-to-head to see who sells more.  They’re both winners in my book: well done, guys!  And there is still time to get out there and try more burgers people, Burger Week runs through Sunday.  The hardest part is picking which burger to try…

Other reasons this is the best week ever: it’s my birthday and I got some new hiking boots for when we tackle Cape Chignecto later this summer (thanks, River and Trail Outdoor Co!).  Also, we had our first couple +20 degree days this week and it was glorious!  Lawns are turning green, trees are budding, spring is here and the burgers are fantastic.  Like I said, best week ever.

IMG_0288
Poutine Burger on left, Mecklenburger on right. Britt’s Pub.
IMG_0283
Beautiful evening for a walk.
IMG_0290
New hiking boots from River and Trail Outdoor Co. HBD to me!

Why Your Opinion of Saint John Needs Updating

Those of us who call Saint John, NB home have heard them all: The Dirty John, The Big Flush, The Armpit of the Maritimes, etc.  While perhaps these names may have been warranted at one time, if you still think these terms apply, you’re not looking deep enough.  We may be a city of contrasts but we are a city of change as well.  To borrow a term from our illustrious mayor, we are a Renaissance City.  Here’s some reasons why:

1.  Incredible Hiking/Green Space – we’ve got not one amazing park within city limits but two: Rockwood Park on the city’s north side is a place where you can feel like you’ve completely escaped from civilization, when in fact you are practically a stone’s throw from Costco.  You can hike or bike in here for hours, sometimes without seeing anyone.  The Irving Nature Park on the city’s west side is a wonderland of beaches, wooded trails, marshland and stunning coastal views.

SAMSUNG
Hiking in Rockwood Park

2.  Amazing Scenery – yeah, we’ve got our own Hollywood sign, and it doesn’t really matter whether you’re parked at the top of Fort Howe behind it in the evening summer light, watching the cruise ships drift lazily out of port or whether your standing on a cliff’s edge at Irving Nature Park, overlooking the Bay of Fundy.  Or maybe you’re watching the sky turn pink over the sailboats at one of my favorite spots in the city, the Royal Kennebecasis Yacht Club (RKYC).  I dare you to stand in front of one of these views and not be moved.  And if you’re not moved then I’m sorry, but we can’t be friends.

SAMSUNG
Sunset at RKYC

3.  Great Eats – Saint John’s restaurant scene is like, so hot right now.  What are you in the mood for: Local/organic? Maritime fare? Sushi? Thai? Indian? Middle Eastern? Italian?  I can name at least one fantastic restaurant in every one of these categories and more.  And now I’m hungry.

4.  Our Mayor is Cooler Than Your Mayor – he’s young, he’s hip, he’s social media savvy and he’s a total Star Wars geek.  Mayor Norton for the win.

IMG_0212

5.  Beach Access/Water Fun – no matter where you are in Saint John and surrounding areas, you are never far from beach access.  Whether bordering the mighty Bay of Fundy (enter at your own risk, it’s flippin’ cold!) or the stunning Kennebecasis River (marginally warmer), there’s always a place to cool off in the summer.  Not to mention all the great boating/canoeing/kayaking opportunities there are.

SAMSUNG
Saints Rest Beach, Irving Nature Park

6.  Culture/History – Saint John is filled with history and beautiful architecture.  It is Canada’s oldest incorporated city, after all.  Just take a stroll around Uptown and you’ll see what I mean.  Wanna take in some theatre?  While we’re no Broadway, the Imperial Theatre at King’s Square is one of my absolute favourite places on Earth.  An evening spent here is always a good bet.

SAMSUNG

SAMSUNG

7.  Friendly People – I’ve lived in each of the Maritime provinces at one point or another in my life so I know that Maritimers are the friendliest people you’ll find anywhere.  However, my husband is a native Saint Johner, so I might be a wee bit biased here.  Saint Johners are so polite and friendly, in fact, that when the Harbour Bridge construction was under way for weeks on end and commuters were backed up for kilometers, there was not one chainsaw-wielding road rage incident, that I’m aware of.  People calmly took turns and inched slowly homeward.

Despite all these wonderful reasons to love SJ, there are always drawbacks, no matter where you live.  If you are going to call Saint John home, there are a few things you’re going to have to accept:

1.  The Deer – make nice with them because they’re everywhere, even in the city centre.  Accept that they are going to eat your flowers and shit on your lawn.  It’s a little bit of country inside the city.  And for the love of God, please don’t feed them.

SAMSUNG
A doe and a couple fawns in Millidgeville

2.  The Fog  – if you want to live Uptown (our Downtown, and yes, we do have Uptown Funk – thanks, Mark Ronson), you’re going to have to accept that it’s going to be about 8-10 degrees cooler in the summer than pretty much everywhere else.  The upside?  While everyone else in the Maritimes is sweating their butts off in August, you’ll be quite comfortable.

SAMSUNG
A rare, non-foggy summer day in King’s Square

3.  Industry – yes, we are an industry town.  That means that the west side often smells like the Pulp and Paper Mill and the east side is dominated by the mini steel-city that is the Irving Oil Refinery.  While these industries may not be some of our most beautiful features, they provide employment for many New Brunswickers and they do a lot for our city and the province.  They really are an integral part of the fabric of this city.  They have helped shape it’s form and will help shape it’s future.  And that future is exciting, even if it is not without it’s challenges.

What are your reasons for loving Saint John?

Record Setting Winter: One Last Look Back

Well, spring has officially arrived, even though it doesn’t much look like it with the feet of snow we still have.  But the temperatures are above zero today and the snow is melting here in Saint John so it feels like we might actually make it out of this alive.  We feel for those parts of the Maritimes recovering from another winter blast last night.  We swear it gets better.  This winter was certainly one to remember.  Saint John broke its record of 424cm from the 1962-1963 winter and Charlottetown broke its recently held record of 451.3cm from just last winter.  And there is no indication that the snow is finished yet, although the melting snow is promising.  While I think everyone want to see green grass, this historic winter warrants one last look back.  Here are some images Joel and I took from the winter that was 2014/2015.

IMG_0004
It started off dry and cold.
IMG_0078
And then the snow started…and didn’t stop.

IMG_0089

IMG_0083

IMG_0157
If you can’t see the Stop sign, does it still apply?

IMG_0158

IMG_0192-0

IMG_0185

IMG_0191-0

IMG_0205
That’s an interesting way to park at the movie theatre.
IMG_0112
Fort Kickass under construction.

IMG_0201

IMG_0122
Fort Kickass at the height of its glory.

IMG_0118

IMG_0117

IMG_0202

Sunday Snowshoe to the Midland Ice Caves

The best way to survive a Maritime winter is to try to find some enjoyment in it.  That means getting outside and spending a (hopefully) not too cold day doing some winter activity.  This Sunday started out sunny and eventually went overcast but the temperature was comfortable at around -5 Celsius.  So we hopped in the car and headed for the Midland Ice Caves.

Joel and I usually try to make the hike into the Ice Caves at least once a winter and we decided that today was as good a day as any.  One of the truly wonderful things about living in the Maritimes, and New Brunswick in particular, is all the great hiking you can find close by.

IMG_0159
Making our way to Midland.

Apparently many others had the same idea.  When Joel first took me into the Ice Caves several years ago, there was hardly anyone else around and there was very little signage.  People have caught on now and the trail is heavily traveled and the way is well marked with signage.  I can’t blame them.  A trip to the Ice Caves is great family fun. Kids bring their crazy carpets and sometimes the family dog comes too.

The Caves are a good hike across a field, up a hill, and into the woods following a snowmobile trail.

IMG_0161
It’s a long climb all the way to the top of the tree line.
IMG_0166
Starting to regret all those hours binge watching Netflix instead of going to the gym.
IMG_0170
Getting closer!
IMG_0171
Last part of the hike into the caves.

Snowshoes are helpful but not really required, since the trail, at least from the top of the hill, is well groomed.

IMG_0165-0

Once there, it’s a steep climb down to the base of the caves, made easier by the use of a rope strung from tree to tree.

IMG_0176

The caves are not really caves at all, but are formed by water running over the edge of a cliff, creating a thick sheet of ice that walls in a small ledge.  Nevertheless, they’re quite impressive.

IMG_0173

IMG_0180

Several entrances are usually hacked out so that you can get inside.  The ice glows greenly from the inside and is layered in sheets.  Careful walking inside as it’s a sheet of ice from top to bottom!

IMG_0177

IMG_0185
Looks a bit otherworldly in here.
IMG_0187
View from the other side of the cave.

We set up a hammock at the top of the hill leading down to the caves and enjoyed a nice rest and a snack before starting the long hike back to the car.

IMG_0191-0
A place to relax with a great view.

We felt we earned a treat, so when we got home we had a delicious hot chocolate and a piece of cheesecake.  If I always get this kind of reward, I’ll make the hike to the Ice Caves every day!

IMG_0193UPDATE: As an update to this post, I would like to remind everyone that is heading out to the Midland Ice Caves to give the right of way to the snowmobilers while on the snowmobile trail.  The snowmobilers pay to maintain this trail so please move off the trail when you hear or see one coming through.  Be safe and have fun!

Remember that time we got 170 cm of snow in two weeks? Yeah, I’m trying to block it out too.

Wow, it’s been quite a couple of weeks around here.  Four snow storms, 170 cm of the white stuff and one state of emergency later, and we’re in a hell of a mess.  Boy, when Mother Nature decides to flex her muscles, she really shows us who’s boss.  I’m starting to feel a little walled in by all the snow around our house.

IMG_0079

IMG_0080

Parking lots are treacherous, there’s limited parking Uptown, the snow banks are so high you can’t see around them and most streets are reduced to one lane in each direction, if you’re lucky.

IMG_0082
The Boardwalk patios are buried.
IMG_0084
These guys don’t seem to mind the snow.
IMG_0091
The beach volleyball site is mocking me.

True to form though, Saint Johner’s are taking the whole ordeal in stride.  We are Maritimer’s after all, we’re used to bad weather.  Remember the Ice Storm of ’13, when some people lost power for two weeks?  That was no picnic either.  But it’s going to take a whole lot more than a few bad storms to keep us from our Costco runs and Chop Chop specials!

This video came out just before the fourth storm hit us and showcases what I love most about Maritimers: their wonderful sense of humour.  When life gives you lemons, make a joke out of it.  I ❤ you, Saint John.