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.

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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?

A Trip to Dalvay-by-the-Sea, PEI

I’m not one to really celebrate dates.  My husband and I never celebrated the anniversary of our first date, we don’t really do anything for Valentine’s Day.  We’re low maintenance kind of people.

Our wedding anniversary seems different, though.  I think it’s important to celebrate this commitment and reaffirm it each year.  We normally do this by taking a trip together. Since getting married three years ago, we’ve been to Iceland and the Magdalen Islands for our first and second anniversaries. This year, we decided to stay closer to home but still wanted to commemorate the event. So, we ventured over the Confederation Bridge for a weekend of sun and surf at Dalvay-by-the-Sea in beautiful Prince Edward Island.

Dalvay-by-the-Sea is a National Historic Site situated within one of PEI’s National Parks, with 25 guest rooms at the Inn and eight, three bedroom cottages on the grounds.  The house was built in 1895 as a summer home for Alexander MacDonald, a wealthy businessman with the Standard Oil Company.  It was built in the Queen Anne Revival style, known for it’s whimsical and exuberant features, asymmetrical lines, many gables, bright colours and wraparound verandas.  Local materials were used extensively: Island sandstone boulders cover the entire lower part of the exterior and three massive indoor fireplaces are made from quarried blocks of the same stone.

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Dalvay-by-the-Sea

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Loved curling up by that fireplace!
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Grand staircase
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Library/sitting room

The effect is a truly stunning structure.  Many of the rooms are very small, and there are no televisions, but that just encourages you to spend more time in the common spaces, which are the true charm of the Inn.  Curling up with a drink by one of the three roaring fires quickly became my favourite activity.  Also, don’t miss out on trying a delicious meal in MacMillan Dining Room, courtesy of Chef Chris Colburn.

If you think the Inn looks familiar and you’re an Anne of Green Gables fan, you might remember it as the White Sands Hotel from the Road to Avonlea series and the Anne of Green Gables movies produced in the 1990’s.

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One of the many carriages used by the MacDonald family

Staying at an Inn inside a National Park has some great advantages.  You’re super close to hiking trails, walking distances from beaches and there are even bicycle rentals right on site.  The Inn is also situated on a lake, and canoe and kayaks are available to take out for a spin.

As we were driving into Dalvay Friday night, the sun was setting just behind the sand dunes in the most gorgeous shades of pinks and oranges I’ve ever seen.  Unfortunately, I didn’t get any pictures of it, we were tired and just wanted to get out of the car.  You will have to take my word for it, it was stunning!  We checked in just in time to get settled and have a couple night caps by the fire in the main lobby.

Saturday morning we got up early, had a delicious breakfast at the Inn and headed out to hike Robinson’s Island, in the park.  The trail is an easy 5 km loop taking you through forest and along the shoreline, with a few beach access points along the way.  As we walked through the sun-filtered woods and explored the deserted beaches, I understood how these landscapes could inspire Lucy Maud Montgomery to pen her famous series.

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Pretty light
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Washed ashore
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Footsteps in the sand

The woods call to us with a hundred voices, but the sea has one only — a mighty voice that drowns our souls in its majestic music. The woods are human, but the sea is of the company of the archangels” – L M Montgomery, from Anne’s House of Dreams.

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A camper by the dunes
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Hanging with my homies

After our hike we made our way over to the PEI Preserve Company to buy some of the best preserves you can get anywhere.  Seriously, check out the Peach Salsa and Strawberry & Grand Marnier jam.  So good.

We had a lovely dinner at The Dunes Studio Gallery and Cafe, which is a really unique spot close to Brackley Beach. Not only do they serve great food, but you get to eat it surrounded by an incredibly eclectic collection of locally made arts and crafts.  There are so many interesting things to look at, you might find yourself spending hours strolling through the seemingly never-ending compound and gardens.

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Very unique fish bowls
Wood carvings on the grounds
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The Iron Throne, but with monkeys?

Back to the Inn for one more drink by the fire and a moonlight stroll along the beach pretty much brought us to the end of our Dalvay stay.  It’s a charming place and feels a little like going back in time.  The season is coming to a close for them very soon but if you can, you should definitely check this place out next season when they reopen!

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Goodnight, Dalvay!

A Kaleidoscope of Colours: The Atlantic Balloon Fiesta

The Atlantic Balloon Fiesta takes place is Sussex, New Brunswick, every year around this time.  With dozens of colourful hot air balloons launching twice daily, it’s truly a sight to behold.  I had never been so I thought I’d get up early this morning and check it out. Early is a bit of an understatement, as the morning balloon launch begins at 6:30 am, meaning I had to get up at 5 am to make it there from Saint John on time!

It was so worth getting up early on a Saturday though, and those who gathered to watch got lucky as conditions were nearly perfect.  Often the balloons aren’t able to launch due to strong winds or cloud cover.  Calm, early mornings are often your best bet to see them in the air.

It’s impossible not to smile when you see those beautiful big balloons going up into the air. Silhouetted against the blue sky, in a multitude of patterns and colours, it’s pure magic.  I can’t even imagine how excited the children in attendance must have been.  I know I felt like a kid.

The fiesta runs through Sunday but with the rain scheduled to come in, this evening at 5:30 pm might be your last chance to see them.  Hot air balloon rides are available, at a price of $180/person but I’m guessing most of the seats have already been sold.  There’s also a craft fair, live music, a carnival and several other events happening on site.

Here are a few pics from my fantastic morning at the fiesta:

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Beautiful morning for a hot air balloon launch!
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Filling up
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Getting there…
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First launch
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Second launch
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Perspectives
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They’re coming fast and furious now!
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Look up
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So magical!
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Love the rocket
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Rocket launch successful!
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Have a great trip!
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The sky’s the limit
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Bye, Tweety Bird!

Nothing Gold Can Stay: Exploring The Places of Our Youth

While visiting my hometown this past week to help my parents with the wild blueberry harvest, I took my camera out to explore some of the areas of my youth, mainly the fields around the old homestead that me and my friend Meranda used to frequent.

You see, we were kind of horse crazy in our early teen years, and Old Man Russell had a little farm just down the road.  He had cows and work horses and lots of cats.  He liked to sell and trade the horses often, so there was always a new resident to welcome.  We often walked down to feed the horses a carrot, clean out the barn for Russell and sometimes even go for a ride around the fields.  It was a pretty perfect setup for a couple of horse crazy young girls.

Russell died some years ago and the old homestead stands empty now, the house long ago torn down and the old barn now collapsed.  The vegetation has grown up so that it practically envelopes the abandoned buildings.  Where trails and pathways across brooks used to be, now only stands a wall of shrubs and trees.

I was struck by how different everything looked to the picture I had frozen in my memory. It’s funny how you expect things to stay exactly the way you remember them, frozen in time.  It’s just not the truth.  It reminds me of that Robert Frost poem, Nothing Gold Can Stay.

Nothing Gold Can Stay

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

Despite the fact that nothing gold can stay, there is still plenty of beauty here.  You just have look for it.

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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.

Surprising Finds in the Maritimes: New Maryland, site of the last fatal duel in NB

On a recent trip to Mount Carleton, my husband and I drove past a highway sign for New Maryland, New Brunswick.  The sign proudly states that New Maryland is the site of the last fatal duel in the province.  Being the curious person that I am, I couldn’t pass that up, so off we pulled into the village.

Unfortunately, once in New Maryland, I couldn’t find any monument or site dedicated to the duel.  Perhaps I missed something?  I scoured the internet for information on where I could go to commemorate this strange historical event.  I couldn’t find anything about a landmark in town but I did find the story of the duel online, on the New Maryland village website.

The story itself is fascinating, and really quite shocking. Of course, I realize that duels were once the way conflicts were dealt with and that they no doubt occurred here, but to be faced with such detailed facts of the story, made it seem much more real.

For those who are interested, I encourage you to go to the Village of New Maryland website and read the full account, as written by Connie Shanks, published in the Atlantic Advocate in 1991.

Here’s my ‘Coles Notes’ version:

It was really all a case of mistaken identity.  In 1821 in New Maryland, an attorney name George Frederick Street, mistakenly told the sheriff to arrest Jacob Smith Sr. instead of his son, Jacob Smith Jr.

Papa Smitty wasn’t on very good terms with Junior, and wasn’t too impressed with being dragged in on false charges, rightly so.  He got himself a lawyer, a fellow by the name of George Ludlow Wetmore.

Some lawyer-ey stuff went down in court and the two George’s (Street and Wetmore) went at it in a heated argument that included insults and possibly physical violence, outside the courtroom.  

Now, young Wetmore just couldn’t seem to let the whole thing go and had his good buddy John Winslow go to Street’s house the next morning and challenge him to a duel.  It was all terribly formal.  Street agreed and the plan was set.

Wetmore’s buddy Winslow tried to talk the two of them out of it, as any good buddy should, but pride being what it was between men in the 1800’s (or anytime, for that matter), both vehemently refused to offer an apology or take any blame in the matter.

The duel took place in the early morning of October 2nd, 1821, on Maryland Hill, four miles from Fredericton.  As dueling was at this point technically illegal, the families of both men had no idea what was about to go down.

 The two men faced each across the field, aimed and fired their pistols.  Both missed with their first shot.  Now, at this point, you’d think they’d quit while they were both ahead (and alive),  but damn it if Wetmore didn’t insist they tempt fate one more time!  

Murphy’s Law being what it is, Wetmore of course took the brunt of the damage in the second shot and quickly went down.  He was hit in the arm and the head with the same bullet.

Winslow ran to the farmhouse to get some help for his friend.  Street took off as soon he heard help coming and headed for the safety of Robbinstown, Maine.

Wetmore died from his wounds and Street surrendered in December that same year. There was a trial, but in the end no real charges were laid, presumably because both men were dumb enough to enter into a duel.  Street even went on to practice law again and become a judge of the Supreme Court.   He continued to insist that his actions on that fateful morning were justified.

The family of the fallen Wetmore carried on, one son became a judge of the Supreme Court and then later, premier of New Brunswick.

The story goes that the Streets and Wetmores never spoke again, becoming what I can only envision as the Capulets and Montagues of New Brunswick.

If anyone knows if there is actually a monument of some kind to the duel in New Maryland, please let me know.

If not, I would encourage the people of New Maryland to capitalize on this unique history! Your highway sign brings people in, but there should be some place they can go to learn more about the duel.

If you know of something that’s a Surprising Find in the Maritimes, I’d love to hear about it!