A Trip to Kingsbrae Garden

Kingsbrae Garden is a flower lovers dream.  Even for non-gardeners, stepping through the gates of Kingsbrae Garden into these lush grounds feels like entering the Garden of Eden, perhaps even heaven.

Sprawled over 27 acres, Kingsbrae Garden is located in the beautiful town of St. Andrews-by-the-Sea.  The gardens contain over 2500 species of perennials as well as numerous types of trees and shrubs. There’s also a nature walk through the Acadian Forest, a sculpture garden, a windmill and animals to entertain the kids.

I had never visited the gardens before but after seeing a stunning shot of the entrance taken by a friend, I knew I had to drop by for a visit.

I was absolutely stunned by the size of the Kingsbrae Garden.  As Donald would say, it’s huuugge.  You really need several hours to fully explore the grounds and see everything. All I kept thinking while I was walking around and marveling at everything was how much work it must be to maintain this perfectly manicured tribute to nature.  There are so many interesting things to examine, and so many flowers bursting with colour.  I’m sure it’s a full time job for a whole staff of green thumbs.

I would say that the flower trees at the entrance and the sculpture garden were two of my favourite areas, but literally everything is worth seeing.  Kudos to those who work so hard to maintain such a wonderful addition to our province, for tourists and locals alike. It’s truly something that everyone can enjoy.

Below are some photos from my visit.

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A stunning entrance
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How beautiful is this?
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Entry Garden
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Looking back at the Visitors’s Centre
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Entering the Perennial Garden
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Perennial Garden
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This place is the bee’s knees!
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Perfectly manicured Knot & Rose Garden
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Alpaca’s hangin’ out
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And goats
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There’s a windmill.  A WINDMILL.
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A nature photographers dream
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Whimsical sculptures abound

 

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Heath & Heather Garden
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Sculpture Garden
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Sculpture Garden
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Big red chair overlooking the Cafe

If you’ve ever wondered if Kingsbrae Garden is worth a visit, or if you haven’t been there lately, please go!  For anyone who likes to take photos or who is a gardener, this place is amazing.  I couldn’t stop taking pictures and every one was as beautiful as the last.

For more information on Kingsbrae Garden, visit their website kingsbraegarden.com.

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Canada Day ’16: Love is Louder

With Canada Day just a couple days away, we Canadians have so much to be thankful for and proud of, every single year.  But I have to say that this particular year has made me more proud than ever to call this country my home.

With Donald Trump spewing all sorts of venomous hatred on a daily basis to the south and Brexit across the pond, with the anti-immigration and xenophobic rhetoric of the Ukip party, it feels like Canada is being surrounded by insanity.

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Dangerously toxic rhetoric of the Pro-Leave camp in the UK

Credited in no small part to Justin Trudeau’s sunny ways leadership, Canada has welcomed more than 25,000 Syrian refugees over the past year.  Some provinces, including my own, have significantly increased their population size.  In fact, since they started arriving last year, New Brunswick has settled more Syrian refugees per capita than any other province, by about double the national average (CBC).

And for the most part, Canadians have not only allowed these people into our country, we have welcomed them.  There were crowds at airports, holding signs of welcome, there were groups of people whose sole job was to make our new residents comfortable and to make their transition as easy as possible.

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And our newest residents have already started improving the communities they live in. Stories poured out of Alberta when the wildfires devastated Fort MacMurray earlier this year, of refugees coming together in support, and giving what little they had to their neighbours and new friends who had lost their homes to the fire.  Because they understand what it means to lose everything, and they wanted to help.

We live in a scary time.  A time when there’s no way to know where or when terror will strike next.  A time when even a night out dancing or going to the movies can end in a living nightmare.

Fear is a natural response.  Fear usually keeps us safe; it keeps us from doing stupid shit, like jumping off a cliff (for most people). But sometimes fear holds us back.  Sometimes it clouds our judgement, and closes our minds and hearts to the truth.

The truth is that our differences do make us stronger, not weaker, and they will help lead this country into the future.

Multiculturism

We were afraid, but we didn’t let fear win.  We refused to let thousands of people suffer a horrible fate, through absolutely no fault of their own.

We are Canadian.  We welcome all.

I’m so proud to call myself Canadian, more than ever before.

And we have to believe that love is louder than all this noise.

 

There’s Nothing New Under the Sun (Except Absolutely Everything)

Earlier today I posted this photo and caption on Instagram:

It got me thinking about this concept.  If there really is nothing new under the sun and we’re all destined to repeat the same tedious and mind-numbing cycles over and over again, why do we even bother?

Why do we get up in the morning?  Why even step outside the door?

Why do we bother to travel and explore the world, if it’s all been seen before?

And that got me thinking about that Barenaked Ladies song, “It’s All Been Done”.  Here it is, because I know you’re all singing it in your heads now:

I understand it can be frustrating, when you’re trying to be original and create something truly unique, only to find that it’s been done already.  So, what’s a gal to do?

I say, do it anyway.

Whatever it is, it hasn’t been done by you.  That story hasn’t been told by you.  And so really, it hasn’t been told at all.

This is not permission to plagiarize someone else’s work, please do not misunderstand me.  But we have to give ourselves permission to be creative, even in this exceedingly ‘it’s all been done’ time we live in.

Elizabeth Gilbert wrote a great book about living a creative life, called Big Magic.  In it, she discusses the difference between originality and authenticity.  She says, “These days, I’m far more moved by authenticity.  Attempts at originality can often feel forced and precious, but authenticity has quiet resonance that never fails to stir me.  Just say what you want to say, then, and say it will all your heart.  Share whatever you are driven to share.  If it’s authentic enough, believe me – it will feel original“.  Smart lady.

The same concept applies when exploring the world.  If it’s the first time you’ve been somewhere, explore it like you’re the first to set foot there.  Because, to you, it is the first time and it feels the same anyway.  I can tell you that the sense of wonder I feel when I hike a new forest path or visit a new-to-me place is not in the least diminished by the knowledge that thousands of people have been there before me.

So, let’s take the sage advice of the folks at The North Face and Never Stop Exploring.  

never stop exploring

Because yes, there is nothing new under the sun.

Except absolutely everything.

 

 

A Tale of Two Winters: A Photo Comparison

I don’t know about y’all, but looking at the bare grass on my front lawn and thinking about what it looked like this time last year is sort of freaking me out.  Because this week we’ve had a couple days where we broke records for February daytime high temperatures and last year at this time it felt like we were in some sort of frozen, never-ending hell of snowmageddon.  I guess it just goes to show you how very different winter in the Maritimes can be from year to year.

As un-Canadian as it may be to say this, winter is not my favourite season (shocking, I know).  I find the short days and the long hours of darkness challenging.  Always having to wear snow boots and tracking snow and ice through the house (and then stepping in puddles of cold water in your sock feet, ahh!).  Shuffling like an old lady across the parking lot so you don’t fall and break a hip (don’t laugh, it happened to people last year!). I try to make the most of it and I do enjoy an afternoon’s snowshoe or a morning of skiing, but for me, winter gets old pretty fast.

This winter, we’ve gotten off pretty lucky so far, at least here in the Saint John area. Mother Nature makes no promises however, and we could get slammed everyday from now until April (and maybe even after that).  In fact, snow is in the forecast for tomorrow. For now, I’ll take more of what we’ve been getting.  Thanks, El Nino!

I put together a few comparison shots, so that we can all take a little stroll down memory lane of the winter-from-hell and thank our lucky stars that it’s 2016 and not 2015.

Top: February 21, 2015 Bottom: February 2, 2016

 

Left: February 7, 2015 Right: February 4, 2016

 

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Left: February 7, 2015 Right: February 4, 2016

 

Top: February 7, 2015 Bottom: February 4, 2016

 

Left: February 28, 2015 Right: February 4, 2016

Good luck out there, Winter Warriors!

How do you survive the winter months?

 

Making Sense of Insensible Acts

I think we’re all still reeling from the horrific events that took place in Paris last night.  I know that I am.  Images and sounds that we can’t get out of our heads.  Innocent people enjoying their Friday evening, only to discover the worst of humanity.

Much like the stages of grief, I believe there is a natural process that we go through as we watch traumatic events like this unfold (which are becoming far too frequent):

 1.  The first stage is disbelief – what did that last tweet just say?  Bombings in the heart of Paris?  This can’t possibly be true!  We scour the internet for any morsel of information that we can glean, in an attempt to disprove our worst fears.

2.  When it’s been confirmed that this is indeed happening, there is an immediate coming together in solidarity.  Social media feeds were filled with messages of love and support for the people of Paris, even as events were still unfolding.  And with our advanced level of connectivity, we are easily able to follow events in real time, which is both a blessing a curse.  It provides us with the most up-to-the-minute information but can also lead to a lot of misinformation and increased anxiety on the part of people who can’t seem to disconnect themselves from the story.

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The World lights up for Paris

3.  We get really angry – there are a lot of emotions involved in seeing your fellow world citizens being gunned down in public and fleeing for their lives.  The most intense of these can be anger.  And that anger wants to be directed somewhere, which leads into the next stage…

4.  We look for someone to blame – this is completely natural.  In order to make sense of something that really makes no sense at all, we need to find someone or something to blame.  Somewhere to place our anger and disgust, our sorrow and grief.  The problem is when we start to place blame where it doesn’t belong.  When we condemn a group of people based on the acts of a very few.  Don’t get me wrong, the people who commit these acts are heinous people and worthy of appropriate punishment but let us place the blame where it properly belongs.  We don’t want to look back on this time in history and feel shame at how we conducted ourselves.  Let’s be on the right side of this history that’s unfolding.

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This was trending the morning after the attacks

5.  We get depressed and feel the world is going to crap – this also is natural.  Some very bad things are indeed happening in the world, and not just in Paris.  It can be overwhelming when we try to take it all in.  But we must resist the urge to give up on the world.  We must look for those helpers that Mister Rogers told us to look for, because in them, we will find our salvation.  When you realize how many more people were willing to open their doors to strangers, rush headlong into danger and work around the clock to assist the injured than the few who perpetrated this evil, you realize that darkness can never win.  Because evil is desperately outnumbered.  And this is how we must fight terrorism, with undying light and hope.  And what better place to lead the charge than the City of Light?

look for the helpers

The Magdalen Islands: Charm and Awe, Part 2

Our second day on the Magdalen Islands was all about working off that incredibly decadent seafood risotto and maple syrup souffle we had at La Table des Roy the night before.  And work it off we did.

Our first stop of the day was to explore the beautiful red cliff views at Le Gros Cap (you can never have too many cliff views).

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After that we drove down to the other end of highway 199.  We strolled around the marina among the quaint shops and cafes at the historical site of La Grave.


We then hiked to the top of the hill at Butte Les Desmoiselles for a panaromic view of the area.  It was starting to cloud over at that point.  Then back down the hill for lunch at the quirky and charming Cafe de la Grave.


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We needed a little rest after all this exploring so we made our way back to our room at the Auberge Madeli.  The Auberge Madeli is a very comfortable and modern hotel with a great location, almost a stone’s throw from the CTMA ferry terminal.  It’s located on Cap aux Meules, the most populated island in the archipelago and was a great home base for us on our travels around the islands.

After a little rest, we checked out Parc des Buck but as these are mostly forest trails and didn’t really have the sea views we were craving we quickly jumped in the car and ended south again, this time in search of the very southern tip of the island, Sandy Hook. We parked the car, climbed over the sand dunes and stood in awe of the miles of white sand beach that lay in front of us.  We started out, determined to make it to the end of Sandy Hook, where the islands meet the sea.  We walked for what seemed like forever.  I hate to say that there is such a thing as too much of a beach walk but I think we found it. After walking 6km we finally made it to the end of the sand dunes.  There is a nice view of Entry Island from here, as this is the closest point to it from the archipelago.
  
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After hiking the 6km back to the car, we were hungry and tired and really quite sandy so we booted back to Cap aux Meules and settled on Les Pas Perdus for dinner, which seems like a hot spot for locals and tourists alike.  I was really happy because I got to have a gluten free burger, hard to come by on the islands.  And after almost 20km(!) of walking that day, a burger and fries was well deserved.

That pretty much wrapped up our trip to the Magdalen Islands.  After dinner, it was time to return to the hotel and pack up for an early call at the ferry terminal the next morning.  If we had had more time on the islands, I would have made the short ferry trip over to Entry Island.  I would have loved to hike Big Hill and see Sandy Hook from that perspective.  There are some other things we would have liked to do as well, like the stairs at the Cap aux Meules port.  I don’t mind leaving a few things undone however, I feel it encourages a return trip.  And the Maggies are definitely worth a return trip.

A few parting thoughts on our trip:

  • We didn’t have to pay an entrance fee to any of the parks, beaches or attractions that we visited.  I absolutely love that and think other provinces should take note.  It encourages visitors to explore the islands freely and at their own pace.
  • Speaking a least some french is helpful but not required.  Most Madelinots speak at least a little english and are very friendly and welcoming.  Thankfully my husband’s french is very good, so we got along just fine.
  • The Maggies are the kind of place that encourages you to go further – we were determined to venture to the furthest edges of the archipelago that we could reach.  It’s a wonderful place for those with an adventurous spirit.
  • If you haven’t made a trip to the Magdalen Islands yet, what are you waiting for?  I would encourage anyone from the Maritimes and beyond to visit this paradise-like gem a least once.  You won’t believe the surreal landscape you find yourself in, and you won’t ever want to leave.  Thank you to everyone who made our trip such an memorable experience.
A keepsake of our trip by artist Marie Marto

The Magdalen Islands: Charm and Awe, Part 1

Yes, I’m aware that the Magdalen Islands (also known by its proper french name: Iles de la Madeleine) is not part of the Maritime provinces.  Geographically located in the Maritimes but technically part of Quebec, this little hidden gem of an archipelago is close enough for me.  The powers that be in Quebec seem to think so too, because the islands are classified as part of their Quebec Maritime region.

The Maggies charm and awe from the very first moment you glimpse Entry Island from the CTMA ferry: with those treeless, grassy hills, those towering red cliffs and those tiny, colourful houses dotting the countryside.  It sets the tone for the rest of the islands.

First glimpse of Entry Island. The only island in the archipelago not connected.
Those cliffs and grassy knolls…
Coming into the Cap aux Meules harbour
Our arrival is so well timed at sunset.

With our home base on Cap Aux Meules, we decided to take our first day to drive east on highway 199, which stretches from tip to tip of the archipelago.  It was an incredible drive. Between each towering, green island lay kilometres of sandy dunes, with white sand beaches and crashing waves just beyond.  I wanted to stop the car every other minute to get out and take pictures.  It was a wonder we made it to the end at all.

Lots of long, flat stretches between islands.
Colourful houses.

We drove all the way to the east end of the 199, finding most restaurants closed for the season. However, local artisan Marie Marto was still open and we bought a couple of her pieces to take home.

We also hiked across the (very windy) beach to Boudreau Island (actually more of a peninsula) where we trekked through wildflower meadows and stood cliff side, overlooking the Atlantic Ocean in all its ferocity.  The views were certainly worth the struggle crossing the beach against the wind.  A benefit of coming in September is that we had the whole island to ourselves.  I didn’t want to leave that place.

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Entering Boudreau Island.
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Hiking across wildflower meadows.
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Lots of cliffs.
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A WOW moment.
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A place to take a break…and never leave.
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Lots of great views on this hike.
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The wind fought us all the way across this beach but it was worth it.

A great first day was capped off with drinks at local microbrewery A l’abri de la Tempete and a delicious meal at La Table des Roy.  We can’t wait to see what the Maggies have in store for us today.