Photo Exploration of North End Saint John

I know, I’ve been a bit MIA lately.  Sometimes, you just need a little break, ya know?

It’s not that we haven’t been on some amazing adventures.  And if you follow me on Instagram (link in sidebar), than you know that we’ve been to Parlee Brook Amphitheatre and Fundy National Park this winter, both amazing experiences.  But it’s spring now, and with it comes some nicer temperatures for getting outside and exploring with a camera.

If you are not familiar with the IGers brand of Instagram accounts, it’s a worldwide network designed to bring amateur photographers together.  They organize regular InstaMeets, where you can get together with other members of your community, take some photos and hopefully make a few friends along the way.  We’re very lucky to have our own IGers account here in the city of Saint John, as they are not often given out to cities with a population of less than 100, 000.  But co-moderator Monique Gionet wrote to Instagramers.com with an essay on why we deserve our own account.  I don’t know what she said in that essay, but she won them over.

Yesterday, as part of Worldwide Instagram Meet #15, me and a few other Saint John IGers (@igerssaintjohn) took to the streets of old north end Saint John to spread some love and make some art.

It was such a fun experience.  Talking to people I’ve only known online and who are as passionate about photography and this city as I am was wonderful.  And there was so much to explore in the north end.  Places I didn’t even know existed, like Victoria Square and Nicolle Community Centre.  And the people we met on the streets were so friendly!  From people shouting hello to us from second story windows, to people on the streets who stopped to chat, there is a real sense of community here.  And I think people were happy to see that their often forgotten neighbourhood was getting a little bit of attention.

This neighbourhood has many challenges, that’s for certain.  There were so many more boarded up buildings than I imagined there would be.  But there’s so much potential here, if people would just take a closer look.

Here’s my photo exploration of Saint John North, as part of #wwim15:

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I want to thank Monique and Bryn for organizing such a wonderful event.  I can’t wait for the next meet!

If you’d like to see more photos from our meet and you’re on Instagram, search for the hashtag #wwim15sj.

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A Few of My Favourite Maritime Instagramers: 2017 Edition

It’s been about a year since my last A Few of My Favourite Maritime Instagramers post, where I presented some of my favourite IGers and the beautiful work they’re doing to highlight our spectacular corner of the world.

Some people say that Instagram is the last vestige of niceness left on the internet.  And while I think social networks are what you make them, I can’t disagree that Instagram is one of the friendliest and most positive apps.  It’s a place where you scroll through beautiful image after beautiful image and people seem to support each other, instead of trying to break them down.  But don’t let the light attitude fool you, some of these folks work incredibly hard, and produce awe-inspiring images to prove it.

In the past year I’ve increased my follow list substantially and I’ve got some new favourites to share with y’all.

Here’s a few of my favourites from this past year:


Al Douglas (@alexdouglas) – Al is the dude to follow if you want to know what’s new and hot in the food and beverage scene on Prince Edward Island.  And then there’s his incredible landscape photos of the island; so pretty you’ll want to get in your car and head for the Confederation Bridge right now.  You’re welcome.

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Strong winds and a sky on fire.

A post shared by Al Douglas (@alexgdouglas) on

Dave Culligan (@dave.culligan) – If you haven’t heard of Dave Culligan and his 365 video project, where you been, yo?  Dave is more than 200 days into his 365 project, and I promise you that watching his daily one minute videos will never fail to improve your mood.  His joie de vivre is infectious and will help you to appreciate all that life has to offer, even when a little rain must fall.

Hilary Hendsbee (@hilaryhendsbee) – Hilary is my kind of gal.  An explorer and adventurer, avid camper and hiker, Hilary and her trusty Tiguan go all the places you always wanted to go but never seem to have the time (and a few you’ve never heard of!). Her photographic style is stunning and reveals the wildness right in our own backyards.

Brinton Photography (@brintonphotography) – Using a commercial drone, photographer Gary Brinton captures some of the most stunning landscape photography I have ever seen. His work puts a whole new perspective on the beauty of this region, that we so often take for granted.

Gillian Barfoot (@eyegillian) – Gillian is a New Brunswick based photographer with a special knack for turning ordinary objects into fascinating subjects.  She’s been on fire with her photography so far this year and I can’t wait to see what she’s got in store next. But no pressure!

Chillin With Bernie (@chillinwithbernie) – There are a number of young Halifax photographers currently taking Instagram by storm, but perhaps none more so than Bernie, aka Chillin With Bernie.  His photos have an edgy, stylistic vibe and deftly display the intimate relationship between subject and environment.

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😍😍😍

A post shared by BERNIE • HALIFAX (@chillinwithbernie) on

Jon Billings (@jonbillings) – Jon is a photographer based on the island of Grand Manan, where the highest tides in the world relentlessly batter this small spit of land whilst creating some of the most majestic landscapes you’ll ever see.  But don’t just take my word for it, go check out Jon’s feed.

Explore the East (@exploreeast) – Explore the East has been featured on the blog before, but their work is so good, I had to include them here.  The Instagram account was started by Nicole Boutilier and Colby Veinotte as a way to share their adventures and highlight lesser known areas of the region.  They not only feature their photos, but those of other Instagramers as well.  It’s a wonderfully collaborative page, focused on highlighting the best of the East Coast.

Do you know of a great Maritime Instagramer doing great work?  Let me know in the comments section!

2016: Year in Review

Christmas is right around the corner and I’d like to take this opportunity to thank all of my readers for following along on my Maritime adventures this past year.  I hope you all enjoy some time with loved ones over the holidays!

Now is the time to reflect on the passing year and to look forward to what’s next.  Joel and I went on some great adventures in 2016.

There was cliffside camping on Turtle Mountain.  That was an incredible experience. Long hike.  We almost got eaten by bears.  Totally worth it.

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Cliffside camping on Turtle Mountain
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Panoramic views

We also camped overnight at Cape Split, on the Nova Scotia side of the Bay of Fundy.  We shared the trail with a lot more hikers than we’re used to but when you arrive on the edge of that cliff overlooking the Minas Basin, it’s easy to see the appeal.  It was definitely one of the highlights of our year.

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Those views, though.
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More cliffside camping

We combined our Cape Split adventure with a road trip around the western half of Nova Scotia, with stops in Yarmouth, Cape Sable Island (the most southerly point of NS), historic Lunenburg, stunning Blue Rocks and Halifax.  Although we squeezed as much as we could into the trip, there are so many more places I wished we could have stopped. Next time, I guess.

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Walking The Hawk Beach
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Lunenburg waterfront
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Gloomy Maritime charm in Blue Rocks, NS

Also in 2016, we finally made it up to Mount Carleton Provincial Park, where we got to hike and stand on top of the highest peak in the Maritimes.  They say you can see 10 million trees from the peak, and I’d say that is probably true.

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Heading for the peak
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On top of Mount Carleton

We even managed to make a trip to Prince Edward Island, to beautiful Dalvay by the Sea. Such a lovely place.

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Dalvay by the Sea
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Dalvay Beach

Closer to home, we explored the new addition to the Fundy Trail Parkway in the spring, toured Ministers Island in the winter, Kingsbrae Gardens in the summer, and checked out Walton Glen Gorge in the fall, among so many others.  This truly is the province of all season adventure.

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Gorgeous displays at Kingsbrae Gardens
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Ministers Island
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Long Beach, now accessible by Fundy Trail
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Walton Glen Gorge in Fall

As for what 2017 holds in store, I’ve already declared it to be The Year of the Park.

With all National Parks, Historic Sites and Marine Conservation Areas offering free admission in 2017 to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday, this will be the perfect year to take advantage of the best this country has to offer in the way of outdoor adventure.  We already have plans to camp in Fundy National Park for the first time in winter, as the park is open as part of the birthday celebrations.  I would encourage you all to take advantage of this incredible opportunity to experience the wildness that makes this country so great.

Again, thanks for reading and I’ll see you on the trails in 2017!

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The Trump Factor: Warding Against Hate Across the Border

It’s been kind of a crazy week.  To put it mildly.

In my last post, I implored the American people to kick Trump and his hateful rhetoric to the curb.  So sure was I, that they would do the right thing, and do it decisively that I never even bothered to think what would happen if I was wrong.

And I was sooo wrong.  I watched stunned, as so many across North America did, as Donald Trump became President of the United States.  President.  Of the United States.

Now, some Americans might wonder why Canadians care so much about the outcome of their election.  It’s simple for all the reasons I stated in my previous post.  What happens in the U.S. almost certainly will have impacts on the lives of Canadians, in direct and indirect ways.

Some people are calling Trump’s win Whitelash, or white supremacy’s last stand in America.  And when I see how women and minorities are being targeted and assaulted post election, it’s hard to disagree with that.  It’s like every hateful thought anyone has ever had has been validated and normalized.  I’m afraid these behaviours will seep across our border, into our neck of the woods. We’ve fought so hard to become a more accepting and inclusive society, we must not step backwards.  My Canada includes all races and cultures. My Canada is kind.  My Canada supports all its citizens.

Sometimes it feels like Canada is an island of hope in a sea of hate and ignorance.  Not that we don’t have racism and discrimination in this country, we most certainly do.  But we decided during our last federal election what kind of country we wanted to be; one in which the persecuted of the world could escape to and be safe.  We must be vigilant in protecting these ideals.

Experts say that white America feels threatened, like they are losing their country.  And I’m sure there are people who feel that way here.  But where did this idea come from?  A place cannot be owned by any one group of people.  It can’t be owned by anyone.

We belong to this place, this place doesn’t belong to us.

We are its stewards; its caretakers only.  Canada doesn’t belong to us, and it never did.

As if Trump’s win this week wasn’t enough to send you over the edge, Leonard Cohen passed away, at the age of 82.  The Canadian singer/songwriter/poet extraordinaire, who gave us such iconic classics as the much-covered Hallelujah, among so many others.

It’s a melancholy song that perfectly matches many of our feelings this past week.  So much so, that SNL decided to have Kate MacKinnon open with it, in character as Hillary Clinton.  It was a powerful and cathartic moment.

We can take some comfort from the last verse of the song, with its themes of resilience and hope for the future:

I did my best, it wasn’t much
I couldn’t feel, so I tried to touch
I’ve told the truth, I didn’t come to fool you
And even though
It all went wrong
I’ll stand before the Lord of Song
With nothing on my tongue but Hallelujah

 

 

Dear America:  It’s Time to Decide Who You Want to Be

Dear America,

We need to talk.

Your 2016 election day is quickly approaching and we want you to know that no one is watching more closely from outside your borders than us Canadians. Most of us feel like we have a real stake in the outcome of this election. And that’s because we do. The economic well being of our two countries is inextricably linked. I’m no expert but I know that Canada relies heavily on our unique trade deals and the Maritimes, in particular, where I’m from, relies heavily on American tourism dollars.

But it’s not just about the money. We care about what happens to you. America is kind of like Canada’s mischievous brother, always getting into trouble wherever he goes and grabbing all the attention. Canada is like the good sibling: The one that causes no trouble, and sometimes feels overshadowed.

But we are family, none-the-less. With every tragedy that strikes within your borders, we grieve alongside you. Every mass shooting; every terrorist attack. We’ve watched, horrified, as the recent string of police shootings and their chaotic aftermath unfolded. Unable to look away but wanting to understand. Many of us feel frustrated, as we know you do too, because we know there is a better way.

But never have we been so confused as we have watching the events of this Presidential election unfold. How a dangerous, narcissistic asshat like Donald Trump even became the Republican nominee is incomprehensible to many of us. The epitome of negativity and chaos, Trump’s rhetoric is frighteningly close to that of another historical leader – you know who –  the one who started a World War and tried to exterminate an entire population of people.

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Don’t get us wrong. Canadians have had our share of troubles with elections that turn nasty.  Our last federal election had its share of moments. We had to choose between some very opposing views.  One anti-immigration and borderline racist, the other bright, sunny and all-inclusive.  We had to decide what kind of country we wanted to be: One that reached out its hand to fellow global citizens in need, or pushed them away to protect ourselves from our own irrational fears.

But even Stephen Harper can’t hold a candle to Trump. His racist and sexist statements, his lack of respect for President Obama and the other candidates, and his complete inability to admit when he’s wrong, has been well documented and doesn’t even bear repeating. But perhaps his most frightening strategy of all is his attempt to instill distrust in the electoral system. The system is rigged he says, and he hasn’t decided whether he will indeed concede defeat, if (and hopefully when) that time comes. This is dangerous territory, indeed.

The only way to show the world what kind of country you truly want to be is to go to the polls on Tuesday and send a message that Trump’s kind of thinking will not be tolerated, and to do so in such a resounding way that even Trump will be forced to accept the results.

We believe that you will do what needs to be done.

We are your neighbours, friends and family. And if Trump wins, we’ll be here to welcome you, but we hope it doesn’t come to that. Your country is already great, and it could be even greater, but Trump is not the one to take you there.

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We’ll be watching closely on Tuesday, and we’ll be sending all our love and positive vibes from the Great White North. So please, Make America Great Again, and send Trump packing.  For all of our sakes.

A Decade in Saint John: My Best Of List

Since posting that I’m celebrating my 10 year anniversary of moving to Saint John, its become clear that my schedule is not going allow me to write a separate post for each of my favourite places in Saint John as I’d hoped .  If you follow me on Instagram, I’ve been posting a few photos of my favourite places in Saint John over there (link on sidebar).

Since time is pressing and October is almost done, I decided that a single post with all of my Port City Best Of’s would be more efficient.

So here are my Best Of Saint John:

Best Place to Find Outdoor Adventure

Rockwood Park – with over 55 trails and endless activities to choose from, you can disappear into the wilderness, right inside the city.

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Best Place to Catch Live Music/Eat Your Body Weight in Wings

Peppers Pub – showcasing the best in local and come-from -away talent.  Wing nights are Thursday.  Get there early.

Best Place to Watch a Sunset

Brothers Cove/RKYC – any night of the week in the summer, you can find people drawn to this beautiful spot to watch the sun disappear over the Kennebecasis River in fantastic fashion.

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Best Views of the City

Fort Howe – panoramic views of the city and harbour.  Also, get a selfie with the famous Saint John sign!

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Best Place to People Watch

King’s Square – pack a lunch and park yourself on one of the benches around the King’s Square Bandstand and watch the people go by.

Best Place to Catch an Amazing Show

Imperial Theatre – a theatre circa 1913, restored in incredible detail.  I don’t know what I love more: The shows or the setting.

Best Place for a Fancy Meal

East Coast Bistro – Chefs Tim Muehlbauer and Kim Steele serve up locally sourced food with a distinctively Maritime twist.  You won’t be disappointed.

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Best Place for Bargain Meal

Thai Pho – owners Julia and Dave Park welcome you to Thai Pho as if it was their home. They take great care to serve delicious Thai and Vietnamese food at a great price.

Best Place to Score Killer Style

Exchange on Germain – selling mid to high-end consignment items, I find something great every time I open the doors.

Best Place for a Cocktail

Port City Royal – house mixologist Eric Scouten was named one of 10 Mixologists Putting Canada on the Map, by destinationcanada.com.

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Best Place to Get a Coffee

Java Moose – I’m going to say specifically in the Saint John City Market, this iconic Saint John coffee company is much loved by locals and visitors alike.

Best Place for a Romantic Getaway

Chipman Hill Suites – with numerous beautiful buildings around historic Uptown Saint John, you can have a romantic getaway right in the heart of the city.

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Best Place for a Walk on the Beach

Bayshore Beach – while most people will tell you that New River Beach is the nicest beach around (and I wouldn’t disagree), Bayshore Beach on the city’s west side allows you to stroll along the famous Bay of Fundy ocean floor in much closer proximity.

A Decade in Saint John: A Month-Long Celebration

A decade ago this October, I packed up a truck-load of all my worldly possessions and drove into Saint John as this city’s newest resident.  I was moving to the Port City to take my first real, grown-up job as a Cytotechnologist at the Saint John Regional Hospital.

Driving into town for the first time, I missed the exit I was supposed to take and ended up driving over the Harbour Bridge.  Classic rookie mistake.  It did, however, give me a chance to see a bit of my new home town.  I remember thinking as I passed through, what is this place?  With the audacity to have its own Hollywood sign and a major highway straight through its centre?

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I think I loved it, right then and there.

It makes sense that I would love it here, really.  Growing up in rural Nova Scotia, I’ve seen so many communities struggle just to stay alive, in much the same way that Saint John has struggled.  Just as people like to root for the underdog, I like to root for the undervalued and unappreciated places in the Maritimes.

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When I first took the job in Saint John, people tried to tell me not to move.  It seemed that Saint John inspired a rather apathetic response in Maritimers, at best.  Why are you moving there? was a common question I received as I prepared to move my entire life there.  That is, except for a couple I met at the restaurant where I worked, who lived in Saint John. They boasted about the beauty of their city and its friendly people.  After chatting with them for a few minutes, I decided that there was hope for my new city, after all.  As it turns out, they were right.

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I haven’t regretted a moment that I’ve spent here.

In many ways, I feel as though I’ve found myself here.  I met the love of my life here and we married three years ago.  We bought a home, set up a busy, satisfying life here.  I have a rewarding career and enough hobbies to keep me busy 24 hours a day.  In the past couple of years I’ve unexpectedly discovered a new purpose: to use my passion and love for the region to spread the word about all the inspiring people and remarkable things that are happening here. Because this place deserves to be seen as more than the Armpit of the Maritimes.  It deserves to be a destination in its own right.

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If you saw the recent CBC documentary about Saint John, City on Fire, then you’ll understand that it’s an exciting time to live in Saint John.  There is a momentum building in the city, and it makes you want to get involved.  To be a part of the movement.  To prove that a community can take control of its own destiny, and decide for themselves who they’re going to be.  We don’t (and shouldn’t) have to wait for government to bail us out.  We can build a better community, all by ourselves, for ourselves.

To celebrate 10 years in the Port City, I’ll be bringing you posts of all my favourite places in the area, all month long.  Those most visited, and those I couldn’t live without.

So, after a decade in Saint John, the only real question left to answer is this: Can I offically call myself a Saint Johner now?