You Hung the Moon: Saint John’s First Moonlight Bazaar

My city, Saint John, New Brunswick, has been killing it this summer with all the cool, outdoor, community events. From HULA to Area 506, Festival of Sail to Third Shift and Quality Block Party, Uptown Saint John is quickly becoming the place to be.

Last Saturday night, the latest event was added, and this one might just take the cake. Or should I say, the moon? The first ever Moonlight Bazaar was held in the Grannan Lane area of Uptown, and for it this city literally hung the moon. A giant, inflatable moon, that is. The event also featured street vendors, food, performances, and a DJ.

The moon was a truly awesome attraction, and everyone wanted to get a picture of it and with it. According to organizers, it weighed 150 lbs and was 7 metres wide. It hung, suspended and glowing above a temporary lawn behind Port City Royal and drew a crowd of thousands over the course of the evening. Across the street, people strolled down the city’s newly revamped Grannan Alley, just another dirty Saint John alley not so long ago, now the epicentre of this city’s mojo.

The Moonlight Bazaar was just one in a long line of must-see events that Saint John is starting to get a reputation for. The kind of event that people kick themselves later for missing.

I can’t tell you how exciting it is to be living in Saint John at this time, as the city gathers momentum and pulses with energy. When I moved to this city over a decade ago, you would never have seen an event like this. Any night of the week, you could go Uptown and pick and choose your parking spot. Now you’re lucky to find one at all, even on a slow Tuesday night.

This Uptown revitalization is the work of many, many people. It takes a village, after all. Companies willing to invest in Saint John, developers, passionate citizens and creative types who all envision a bright future for this city.

I’m no business person. I know I’m not going to be opening up my own shop or organizing the next big event. But I am a citizen of this city and I’m strongly invested in its future. And I’ll use my voice to shout from the rooftops about what’s happening here.

A city, down on its luck for so long, taking back its destiny. Creating the kind of artful community that gathers under a giant moon and dances in the streets. Dances to celebrate the shedding of its former skin into something new; something fresh. Something inspired.

Here are a few shots I took during the Midnight Bazaar:

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#SaintAwesome Ambassador

This past week, I was invited to a very cool event put on by the good people at Discover Saint John.  The event was a delicious ice cream social, put on as a way to thank a few social media influencers who have really embraced the SaintAwesome hashtag and helped to promote the area on their social media accounts.

I was honoured to be one of the chosen guests.

The event was held at the beautiful and historic One Princess location: part Strong and Free shop and part Airbnb.  The Airbnb suites are beautiful done and have incredible views of the Saint John Harbour and cityscape.

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Views from the balcony at One Princess
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Views from the balcony at One Princess

It was wonderful to meet the team at Discover Saint John.  I so admire the work they do to bring our sweet little gem of a city to the world.  They are all lovely people who are as passionate about this city as I am.  I love that.

It was also great to meet other people in the community, some I’ve followed on social media for awhile.  It’s a reminder that when social media is used correctly, it can bring communities together toward a common goal.

The party was perfect, with a huge spread of sundae toppings and the cutest cookies I’ve ever seen made by The Cooling Rack Cookie Co.  We were gifted with our very own #SaintAwesome Ambassador t-shirts to proudly wear around town and were given a hint at some of the exciting events happening in the city this summer (it’s going to be amazing!).

Sal-Mon the #SaintAwesome Salmon
Adorable cookies from The Cooling Rack Cookie Co.

I want to thank Discover Saint John to inviting me to be a #SaintAwesome Ambassador, it’s a label I will wear with pride.  I believe that we have something truly special here in Saint John, and we should take every opportunity to share it with the world.


And, when our city does well, we all do well.

Surprising Finds in the Maritimes: Parlee Brook Ice Wall

If you are a Game of Thrones fan, then surely you are familiar with The Wall, the massive wall of ice that protects the Seven Kingdoms from the wildlings and White Walkers that live Beyond.  According to George R.R. Martin, it’s some 300 miles long, 700 feet tall and made of solid ice.

But, I bet you didn’t know that New Brunswick has it’s own version of The Wall, in the form of the Parlee Brook Amphitheatre.  The natural amphitheatre becomes encased in sheets of ice on three sides during winter.  And while it may not be GOT epic, when you’re standing at the bottom staring up at those massive ice walls, it’s pretty amazing.

Earlier this winter, Joel and I, our friend Mandy and her beagle Toby, decided to try to find NB’s elusive ice wall.  Armed with our hiking gear, we arrived at the Abbey (for directions, go to hikingnb.ca).  Just as we were arriving, the Saint John Outdoor Enthusiasts were gearing up to head into the amphitheatre.  They asked us if we had ice cleats.  We stared blankly back.  We did not have ice cleats.  “Do we really need them?” we asked.

Turns out, we really kinda did.  We survived the icy hike but we all fell on our asses at least once, too.  So yeah, ice cleats are highly recommended.  It’s probably not highly recommended for dogs either, with all the ice but we did see quite a few heading in with dogs and they didn’t seem to be having too much trouble.

This is an amazing winter adventure.  It’s not difficult, other than the ice.  If you prepare and have ice cleats to go over your boots, you should be fine.  You follow a dirt road in for the first few kilometers and veer off into the woods at the trail marker, following a frozen brook up into the amphitheatre.  And since winter doesn’t seem to be loosening its grip on us anytime soon, I’m sure there is plenty of ice still to be seen.  Just watch out for those White Walkers, would ya?

Here are some images from our hike earlier this winter:

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The Abbey, where the hike begins
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Winter Wonderland
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Following the brook into the amphitheatre
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The Outdoor Enthusiasts take a closer look at The Wall
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Good place for a break!

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Just part of The Wall
It’s massive
Looking back where we came from

 

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.

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 Little Good News: Area 506 Festival

This New Brunswick Day long weekend just got a little more New Brunswick-ey. Yesterday a new summer festival was announced, to take place July 29-31st in Saint John. The festival will focus on music, culture and goods and will allow New Brunswick to showcase all it has to offer.

Ray Gracewood, chair of Area 506, spoke on Information Morning Saint John, saying of the festival: “The idea being it’s a melting pot of everything New Brunswick has to offer and a celebration for the positive things going on in our province…each of these communities has a story to tell … whether that’s an event, a product, a celebrity, anything. It’s an opportunity for these towns to come together and show everybody what they’ve got”.

Musical performers will include NB’s own Matt Anderson, 1755 and the Bona Fide. Grace Potter, Big Sugar and July Talk are also scheduled to perform over the weekend.

While the festival will span across the city, the heart of it will take place on Long Wharf, in what promises to be a very unique venue: a shipping container village.

I’m really excited about this event.  I think it’s going to have a fresh, urban vibe to it, and I love that it will be a chance to celebrate NB.  Too often recently, we’ve been made to feel as if we’re a doomed province.  Most recently with Maclean’s magazine, who published a very unflattering article entitled, Can Anything Save New Brunswick.  Yes, you read that right. This festival will be a chance to respond in a big way.  It’s like saying: So you think we’re a dying province?  Well, we’re just going to throw a huge party celebrating how very wrong you are!

And it will be great for New Brunswickers to show off their NB pride, because I know there’s a lot of pride out there.  The festival will show us what is positive, and also what is possible.  Because if we don’t think that things are possible, they never will be.

You can buy earlybird weekend passes now for $59.  Once those run out, weekend passes will be $79 with single night tickets at $49.  Check out the event website here.  You can also follow them for updates on Twitter @area506fest and Facebook at Area 506.

So, let’s celebrate ourselves this New Brunswick Day weekend, my fellow NB’ers, and take pride in where we are and where we’re headed!

Music Culture Goods

 

Share Your Maritime Love: Nicole Boutilier and Colby Veinotte

Driven by a passion for adventure, photography, food and culture, Nicole Boutilier and Colby Veinotte started Explore the East as a way to share their adventures and highlight lesser known areas of the Maritimes.  They love to collaborate with other East Coast adventurers and they seek to prove that the Maritimes has just as stunning landscapes as any other part of the country.  They were happy to participate in our Share Your Maritime Love project and I’m so happy to have them here.  Here’s what they had to say:

Do you live in the Maritimes?  Where do you call home?

NicoleI was born and raised in a small rural community in Cape Breton called Gardiner Mines. I moved to Dartmouth to study photography at the NSCC Waterfront campus for 2 years but made my way back to the Cape shortly after graduating and I’ve been here since.

ColbyMahone Bay will always be my home, though I currently live in Halifax.

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Photo courtesy of Explore the East

What do you love most about life in the Maritimes?

Nicole – I love just about every aspect of life in the Maritimes. Of course the obvious… the incredibly breathtaking landscape and unspoiled natural beauty.  It doesn’t matter where you are in the Maritimes you are only minutes away from the ocean, mountains or all the awesome things in between.  As a photographer I couldn’t possibly dream up a more beautiful place to call home.  I also love the people, I dare say you will not find kinder, caring or more generous people then Maritimers.  It’s a place where your neighbour will always let you borrow a cup of sugar or lend a helping hand. Our laid-back and relaxed atmosphere combined with our great sense of community is incomparable to any place I’ve ever been.  And lastly I love all the fascinating history that we hold in every Maritime province, I never get tired of learning about our heritage and culture.

ColbyIt’s hard to narrow it down to just one answer.  First off I’d have to say the cuisine. Growing up with farmers and fisherman in the family makes it so easy to appreciate the food that ends up on our tables.  Second, the scenery of the Maritimes.  From the highlands of Cape Breton to the world’s highest tides of Fundy.  It’s only a few hours of driving to see some of the most diverse landscapes.  Most of all I love the people and the culture.  I’ve never met anyone as friendly as someone from the Maritimes.  Every person is as friendly as the next.

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Photo courtesy of Explore the East

What do you find most challenging about living/doing business here?

NicoleBeing from Cape Breton, there are definitely some obstacles that make growing a successful business and life here more difficult.  It’s unfortunate but the population is steadily on the decline and we have the obvious economic struggles.  Last year, Cape Breton had the biggest loss in population over any other region in the country.  I’ve seen half of my family move to other parts of Canada to find employment, and it always breaks my heart to see people leave this beautiful place.
Personally I feel like many Maritimers are stuck in their ways, not too keen on taking risks or change.  I believe the open-minded creative people are what’s keeping this island and other parts of the Maritimes going strong.  We need more people who are willing to do whatever it takes to make living here long-term possible.  I love seeing people going out on a limb and starting a new business.  During a time when the economy is struggling it’s so rad to see people taking a risk and following their dreams.  It would be great to see more people supporting our local businesses.  Even if it means stopping by a little cafe for your morning coffee over Tim Hortons every now and then.
Two of my biggest passions are photography, exploring and promoting the Maritimes. That is why Colby and I started Explore the East, we want to share how incredible this place is. We want to showcase not only the cool scenic places but also the small businesses that make this part of the country so special.  If you are dedicated and willing to put in the extra work anything is possible.  As Maritimers we don’t give up easily.

ColbyOne of the toughest things I find is the old-fashioned mind set people have.  People being set on their ways of thinking and not accepting change.
I also find that far too many people seem to give up and make the move out west for work. There is much that one can accomplish here with the will to work for it.  Especially with all the modern day resources available such as a myriad of social media platforms. Communicating and networking has never been so easy as it is today.

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Photo courtesy of Explore the East

What is your favourite places(s) in the Maritimes?  Why?

NicoleThis one is easy for me, Cape Breton.  One of my favourite places in particular is the Cheticamp area.  It’s where my grandfather is from, and where lots of great childhood memories were made.  It has always been our go-to spot for summer vacations.
I believe growing up in Cape Breton shaped me into the person I am today.  I grew up always being outdoors, and I’m sure that played a massive roll in my love and appreciation for the island.  It might sound a bit cliche but Cape Breton is in my blood and it will always hold a very special place in my heart.  We are surrounded by the ocean, mountains, and wildlife that are simply stunning.  We have endless hiking trails, beaches and little villages to explore.  We are home to some of the most artistically talented people in the world, so there is no shortage of inspiration.
The people are hard working, kind-hearted, strong and generous.  I love that when you walk down the street, everybody greets you even if you are an unfamiliar face.  I recently spent a weekend in the Highlands of Cape Breton exploring the Cabot Trail.  As I was driving through the little communities I noticed that every person walking or every vehicle I drove by, would wave and greet me.  I had dinner with some local folks and they couldn’t have been nicer.  I felt like I was eating dinner with people I had known my entire life, even though we had just met.  It’s the small gestures of kindness and big hearts that make Cape Breton, along with the rest of the Maritimes, so special.

ColbyI would have to say my hometown and surrounding area.  I’ve had so many great memories in Lunenburg and Mahone Bay and continue to make more with every visit.

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Photo courtesy of Explore the East

What do you think we can do to build a better Maritimes?

Nicole I’ll say it again the Maritimes are one of the most beautiful parts of Canada.  From the Bay of Fundy’s rising tides, to the sandy beaches of Prince Edward Island, to the mountains surrounding Margaree Valley.  While it’s scenic beauty may be the first thing that springs to mind when you think of the Maritimes (with good reason!), it’s the people who call it home that are really at the heart of it’s beauty.  Many musicians, photophraphers, writers, sculptors, painters and other artists have created works of art that mirror the beauty of the land.  It is through their creations that we are able to experience the Maritimes for what they truly are.  It is for this reason that it hurts so much to see the provincial governments cutting funding to the arts.  It is unreasonable to remove the funding for an arts program and then to expect the artists to remain in the Maritimes.  Tax credits, grants, and scholarships are relied upon by many in the arts community.  We need incentives, not only to keep our artists here, at home, but also to attract foreign artists to the Maritimes.  The Maritimes has no shortage of artists, but unless we’re able to give them a reason to stay, the art community has a serious risk of facing an upcoming departure of talent.  And I’m positive this is also relatable to many other industries and fields of work beyond just the arts.  If the government isn’t going to support us, we have to take it upon ourselves to make a change.  Support each other, and do whatever we can to keep Maritimers here.  Shop local, support our artists, small businesses and keep promoting that we are just as great as Western Canada or anywhere else in the world.

ColbyWe need to realize that the Maritimes are just as important as Canada’s other more-celebrated provinces.  We’re still growing in some areas but we are well on our way. We need to learn from our Canadian counterparts that social networking and similar platforms are just as important as other tools in the workplace.  Collaborating and working locally can only do good for the economy. We also need to remember the beauty of our own provinces.  We have few landscapes that are publicized, but Peggy’s Cove is just the tip of the iceberg.  There is so much more to discover and share.

Thanks so much for participating in our Share Your Maritime Love project, guys!

If you would like follow along with Nicole and Colby as they Explore the East, you can visit their Instagram account here.