Those of us who call the Maritimes home know just how beautiful it is here: swallowed up by the chilly Atlantic Ocean, home to the world’s highest tides. From the deep green forests of NB, to the red sand soils of PEI, it’s all so photogenic.
Instragram is full of pictures of our stunning Maritimes. One thing I really enjoy about the app is how it encourages you to take note of what’s around you. To look at the little details, like the way the snow falls in perfect little spheres or the way the evening light filters through the forest trees . There are some Maritime instagramers who are really killing it. They promote our region with their incredible photography and they inspire me to get out and explore the region too.
The following is a list of some of my favourite Maritime Instagramers. It’s by no means exhaustive. If you know of a great Maritime Instagramer that I should be following, please pass their name/handle along!
My Favourite Maritime Instagramers:
Colin Swift (@colinscamera) – In Colin’s bio he says, “It’s beautiful, look around” and that he certainly does. He sets up regular Insta-meets and his explorations around the Maritimes result in some of the most stunning photos I’ve seen on Instagram, or anywhere for that matter.
2. Melinda Foster (@Melinda.Foster) – Melinda takes stunning nature and wildlife photos of southern NB. I am continually impressed by the patience that she must possess in order to get some of her shots. I love her photos because they show the wildness of NB in an up close and personal way that we city dwellers don’t often get to see.
3. Jordan (@fundysnapper) – Jordan takes striking photos around my favourite city on the Bay of Fundy: Saint John. His streetscapes show off the history and architecture the city is so well known for, in it’s very best light.
4. Amy Stackhouse (@amystackhouse) – Amy takes photos around Nova Scotia and I really love her attention to detail in her photography. Her shots are always so interesting and I find myself drawn into them and pausing to study all the exquisite details in each one.
5. Jordy Smits (@JORDY_SMITS) – In his bio, Jordy says he is a self taught photographer from The Netherlands currently based on the east coast of Canada. He does mostly night shots and his photos have a surreal and dream-like quality that I love. It’s a different take on the Maritime landscapes that are so familiar to us in the day.
8. Andrew Ryan Munn (@PORTCITYMUNN) – Many of Andrew’s photos feature one of my personal favourite Maritime locales: The Bay of Fundy. His photos display the raw power of the Bay as well as its calmer, gentler side at sunset.
9. Nick Jay (@JAYPROGRAMMER) – Nick is a photographer from PEI and his shots of the Island’s landscapes makes me miss PEI’s breezy and beachy vibe.
Well, here we are. 2016. Another year stretched out before us. Another blank slate ready to be scratched upon with indelible ink. So far, 2016 is looking pretty good. I spent New Year’s Eve in Moncton at Casino New Brunswick for a concert featuring two great Canadian bands: I Mother Earth and Our Lady Peace. One thing that’s cool about concerts is that you end up sharing these cool little moments with strangers around you. For a few short moments of time, you share a common goal. The power of music is that it reveals the connections between us. So, thank you to the crew we came with as well as those we met along the way, like cool dude in the Bill Fucking Murray t-shirt who held up a lighter during the show (no one does that anymore!). Or the girl in the hipster glasses and awesome outfit in line at the bar who struck up a conversation with me that continued randomly throughout the evening. These are the kind of unexpected meetings that make a night memorable.
Seeing as we’ve flipped the page on another year and started with a blank slate, it’s appropriate to think about what we wish to accomplish in the coming year. Even if we don’t come close to reaching our goals, they give us focus and something to work towards.
Here are some of my personal goals for 2016:
1. Continue to spread the word about Maritime Love and help others do the same. I’m currently working on a project that will feature people on the blog who have chosen to make (or continue to make) the Maritimes their home, why they love it here and what they think is needed to make it even better. More on that project in the coming weeks.
2. Spend more time outdoors, especially this winter. The winter season has traditionally been hard for me because I end up feeling cooped up but I know it doesn’t have to be that way. If you have the proper gear, you can face almost any weather challenge. So, with my new cold weather gear on order, I’m committing to doing more walking, snowshoe hiking, skating, sledding and skiing in an effort to #makewinterfun.
3. Explore even more of what the region has to offer. There is still so much I haven’t seen. A few of the places I plan to visit this year:
Mount Carleton – well known as the highest peak in the Maritimes, this would be a great hike to accomplish this year.
Ministers Island – this destination has been on my radar since a very cool promotional video on the Charlotte coastal region was released. You reach the island during the summer months by driving over the sea bed at low tide. Once there, you can explore the estate of Sir William Van Horne, former president of the Canadian Pacific Railway. You have to make sure you drive back over before the tide comes up or you’ll be trapped! Sounds like a great adventure to me.
Cape Chignecto Provincial Park – my husband and I had planned to do this 52km loop hike along the Bay of Fundy coast last year but the timing just didn’t work out. This would be an ambitious goal for me as I’ve never done a multi-day hike but I would love to accomplish it.
Cape Breton and the Cabot Trail – I’ve never been to Cape Breton. I don’t even know how I can call myself a Maritimer without having seen it, so this year I’m going. I just can’t decide if it would be better to go in the summer while the weather is warm or wait until the leaves change to brilliant colours. Any advice on what I should see/do while I’m there would be greatly appreciated!
Those are my main goals for 2016! Do you have goals you’d like to reach this year? Let me know, I’d love to hear from you!
It’s New Year’s Eve Eve and everyone seems to be reflecting on the year (almost) passed. I know you’ll probably already have read a bazillion year in review posts and articles but you haven’t read one from me yet, so hold on to your hats. Actually, it’s not going to be that exciting, but I’m going to write it anyway.
People love reading year in review stuff. We eat that shit up. It’s partly because we’re nosy as a species and want to know what everyone else has been up to and partly because we get real reflective about this time of year and we like to look back at all the shit we did/read/talked about over the past 365 days.
This year, I started a blog. Or, to be more precise, I started regularly writing in my already-created blog. It’s been a wild ride. I’ve had over 12,000 views and almost 10,000 visitors from all over the world. I even had a post go viral-ish (by Maritime standards) with 3,500 views in a single day. Even for well established blogs, that’s crazy stats. I would like to thank everyone who read, liked, shared and commented on any of my posts in 2015. Here’s to many more in 2016!
I’m recapping my blogging year with my top 5 posts of 2015. Thanks for reading, see you in the new year!
My Top Posts of 2015:
5. Maritime Growing Season: The Wild Blueberry Harvest (August)
A tale of family love and the blueberry chain gang.
I have a confession to make: Christmas Eve is my favourite day of the year. I like it better than Christmas Day. To me, the true magic of the season lies in the anticipation and lead up to the big day rather than the big day itself. I love the peaceful stillness that fills the house after everyone has gone to bed on Christmas Eve. But there’s also an undercurrent of excitement, a quiet hum of anticipation for the coming morning. It’s unlike any other night of the year. And in my house growing up, my mother would often cook our turkey on Christmas Eve, so that when you went to bed, the house smelled oh, so wonderful. To this day, the smell of a cooked turkey brings back memories of sleepless nights impatiently waiting to see what Santa brought for me.
When I was a kid, in that little two room schoolhouse I told you about, we had Christmas concerts, just like any other school. One year I got this crazy idea to memorize the entire ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas poem and recite it at the school Christmas concert. I don’t know what possessed my little 8 year old self to tackle such a challenge, but tackle it I did. I spent weeks learning the poem, going over and over it in my mind. The idea was to recite the poem for a couple younger school kids, as if I was telling them the story by the fireplace. My teacher would prompt me if I forgot my line.
When the day of the concert came, I was a nervous wreck. My stomach was in knots as the time ticked closer to my performance. When my big moment arrived, I froze. I couldn’t do it. I had a major case of stage fright. My teacher and the crowd tried to cajole me into performing, but I was having none of it. No way, no how. I was not going on that stage.
My parents were none too pleased with me and I was disappointed in myself. I think I realized that my rather tenuous short-term memory was not going to survive all those faces staring expectantly at me. But I also regretted not at least attempting it, which goes to show the old adage is true: you only regret the things you didn’t do in life.
We don’t often get do-overs in this life, so I’m going to take mine now. So here I am, reciting (from memory) the now infamous poem ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas by Clement Clarke Moore, for my 8 year old self. Better late than never!
I wish you all joy and happiness in the coming week! Merry Christmas!
Or a wedding does, more specifically (congrats, Christy and Kris!). But it was a glorious excuse to visit one of my favourite cities in the Maritimes, Halifax. Halifax was my home for 7 years when I was a student studying my undergrad at Dalhousie University and then at the School of Health Sciences. When driving over the bridge (either of them) into Halifax, it feels simultaneously like coming home and a new adventure. I always want to know: what has changed since I’ve been gone? What’s new?
Halifax has a youthful spirit and energy unlike any other city in the Maritimes. This is no doubt thanks to the large population of college students that flood the city every year between September to April to attend one of three universities and numerous colleges in the HRM area. It also might have something to do with its reputation as a party town. It’s been said many times but Halifax really does have one of the highest bars per capita ratios in Canada.
Not much time for that on this visit though. We were on a tight schedule of visiting and sightseeing. After a lovely evening’s drive from Saint John to Halifax, we stopped for a quick drink at one of our favourite watering holes near our friend’s place in Dartmouth, Finbar’s Irish Pub.
The next day, after a quick breakfast with more friends at Nena’s Breakfast House, Joel and I set off to make Joel’s first trek to Peggy’s Cove. It was foggy and misty when we arrived but that didn’t at all damper the charm of this iconic Maritime landmark. Somehow, the essence and spirit of the Maritimes is captured in this one spot, where land and sea meet with steadfast ferocity. I could have stayed and taken pictures for hours.
Our next stop along “the loop” was my friend Michelle’s hammock shop in Seabright, called The Bay Hammock Company. I had been anxious to visit the shop and see how she’d been doing. I was enchanted by the charm of the shop and all the colourful handmade hammocks. It is so wonderful to see an old friend using her considerable artistic talents in such a creative and productive way. The rope for the hammocks is made onsite using century-old machinery and that rope is weaved by hand into a variety of wonderfully shaped and sized hammocks. Please visit their website if you would like to learn more (www.bayhammocks.ca). The shop also features the work of local artists and has plenty of nautical themed gifts to bring home. Plus they’ve made the largest hammock in Canada, which sits in their yard and makes you feel really small when you climb up on it.
Our last stop of the weekend was the Best Western Plus at Chocolate Lake where we celebrated with the happy couple in a beautiful spot overlooking the lake. Congrats again, guys!
I’ll leave you with a song that we used to sing in school and that never fails to remind me of the rocky shores around Halifax. Farewell, Nova Scotia, my love. Until we meet again!
For the Victoria Day long weekend me, Joel and some friends ventured to the beach in Grand Barachois, just outside of Shediac, NB (thanks for organizing, Sara!). We rented Chalets Lombard Beach Cottages (there are 6 in total). We were greeted warmly by owner Judy when we arrived and she quickly set us up in our cottage. We were blown away by the fantastic view just in front of the cottages of the sand dune and Northumberland Strait just beyond.
The cottages are set up great for families. All 6 are identical with three small bedrooms, a bath and kitchen, all furnished with everything you need for a weekend getaway (you do have to bring your own linens). The cottages are located at the very end of the road leading into a campground, so there is little traffic and plenty of space for young ones to run around unfettered. There is also a little play set there that the little ones really seemed to enjoy playing on, even when one of our beach days got rained out. Each cottage has its own picnic table and fire pit and there are two BBQs to share between the cottages. Our only complaints with the cottages were that a BBQ for each cottage would be more convenient and there were some minor issues with some cottages not getting enough hot water vs too much.
We spent the glorious Saturday afternoon exploring Gagnon Beach, which is a wonderful beach with soft, fine sand. It was great to feel the sand between my toes and the warm of the sun again. It felt like summer. We waded through the tide pools, flew kites, hunted for shells and found hermit crabs to show the kids. It was heaven along the Northumberland Strait. When we returned to the cottages, in true Maritime fashion, we had a feast of lobster and then sat around the campfire and enjoyed some time spent together and a few tasty beverages.
Our second day was not nearly so nice, but we made the most of it. The kids didn’t seem to care as they were happy to run around the yard in their rubber boots most of the day. Joel and I slipped into Shediac to get a quick snap with the world’s largest lobster and Joel was super excited to get some bread and chocolate croissants from La Boulangerie Francaise. Later on that evening, the rain finally stopped and we enjoyed a gorgeous sunset and one more campfire before turning in.
We thoroughly enjoyed our weekend and highly recommend Chalets Lombard Beach Cottages, especially for groups or families who want to have a reunion/get together. Here are some images from our weekend:
If you would like to know more about Chalets Lombard Beach Cottages, here’s some info:
As much as I love the Maritimes, it’s always fun to see new places. Travel expands our minds and enriches our lives. Sometimes, though, you just can’t make the trip. I say that when you can’t make the trip, bring the trip to you!
I’ve always wanted to go to the Kentucky Derby. When I was a kid, my friends and I were pretty horse crazy. I got this book for Christmas one year and in the back it had a list of all the winners of the Kentucky Derby and the Triple Crown, up to the year of publication. I poured over that list and practically had it memorized. These animals absolutely amazed me, and still do. Their speed and grace, their pure power. I wonder, what must it be like to be the jockey on the back of one of these animals in the starting gate waiting for the start gun…the anticipation, the raw, tenuously contained energy. Now that I’m an adult and know a little more about all the wonderful traditions involved in the event (The mint juleps! The hats! The infield party!), I want to go even more.
One day I may make it to the Kentucky Derby but for now, I decided to bring the Kentucky Derby to the Maritimes. We turned it into a fundraiser for the local SPCA and had a donation bucket set up. Five dollar fun bets were placed on the horses with the intention that if no one bet on the winning horse, all the money was to go to the SPCA. In the end, favourite American Pharaoh managed to squeak out a win over Firing Line and several people got a little piece of the pot, some of who generously donated some of their winnings back to the SPCA. It was a beautiful day and a great way to spend time with friends and raise a little money for a great cause. As for American Pharaoh’s Triple Crown possibilities, only time will tell. I’ll be watching and hoping for history to be made, for the first time in my lifetime.
Those of us who call Saint John, NB home have heard them all: The Dirty John, The Big Flush, The Armpit of the Maritimes, etc. While perhaps these names may have been warranted at one time, if you still think these terms apply, you’re not looking deep enough. We may be a city of contrasts but we are a city of change as well. To borrow a term from our illustrious mayor, we are a Renaissance City. Here’s some reasons why:
1. Incredible Hiking/Green Space – we’ve got not one amazing park within city limits but two: Rockwood Park on the city’s north side is a place where you can feel like you’ve completely escaped from civilization, when in fact you are practically a stone’s throw from Costco. You can hike or bike in here for hours, sometimes without seeing anyone. The Irving Nature Park on the city’s west side is a wonderland of beaches, wooded trails, marshland and stunning coastal views.
2. Amazing Scenery – yeah, we’ve got our own Hollywood sign, and it doesn’t really matter whether you’re parked at the top of Fort Howe behind it in the evening summer light, watching the cruise ships drift lazily out of port or whether your standing on a cliff’s edge at Irving Nature Park, overlooking the Bay of Fundy. Or maybe you’re watching the sky turn pink over the sailboats at one of my favorite spots in the city, the Royal Kennebecasis Yacht Club (RKYC). I dare you to stand in front of one of these views and not be moved. And if you’re not moved then I’m sorry, but we can’t be friends.
3. Great Eats – Saint John’s restaurant scene is like, so hot right now. What are you in the mood for: Local/organic? Maritime fare? Sushi? Thai? Indian? Middle Eastern? Italian? I can name at least one fantastic restaurant in every one of these categories and more. And now I’m hungry.
4. Our Mayor is Cooler Than Your Mayor – he’s young, he’s hip, he’s social media savvy and he’s a total Star Wars geek. Mayor Norton for the win.
5. Beach Access/Water Fun – no matter where you are in Saint John and surrounding areas, you are never far from beach access. Whether bordering the mighty Bay of Fundy (enter at your own risk, it’s flippin’ cold!) or the stunning Kennebecasis River (marginally warmer), there’s always a place to cool off in the summer. Not to mention all the great boating/canoeing/kayaking opportunities there are.
6. Culture/History – Saint John is filled with history and beautiful architecture. It is Canada’s oldest incorporated city, after all. Just take a stroll around Uptown and you’ll see what I mean. Wanna take in some theatre? While we’re no Broadway, the Imperial Theatre at King’s Square is one of my absolute favourite places on Earth. An evening spent here is always a good bet.
7. Friendly People – I’ve lived in each of the Maritime provinces at one point or another in my life so I know that Maritimers are the friendliest people you’ll find anywhere. However, my husband is a native Saint Johner, so I might be a wee bit biased here. Saint Johners are so polite and friendly, in fact, that when the Harbour Bridge construction was under way for weeks on end and commuters were backed up for kilometers, there was not one chainsaw-wielding road rage incident, that I’m aware of. People calmly took turns and inched slowly homeward.
Despite all these wonderful reasons to love SJ, there are always drawbacks, no matter where you live. If you are going to call Saint John home, there are a few things you’re going to have to accept:
1. The Deer – make nice with them because they’re everywhere, even in the city centre. Accept that they are going to eat your flowers and shit on your lawn. It’s a little bit of country inside the city. And for the love of God, please don’t feed them.
2. The Fog – if you want to live Uptown (our Downtown, and yes, we do have Uptown Funk – thanks, Mark Ronson), you’re going to have to accept that it’s going to be about 8-10 degrees cooler in the summer than pretty much everywhere else. The upside? While everyone else in the Maritimes is sweating their butts off in August, you’ll be quite comfortable.
3. Industry – yes, we are an industry town. That means that the west side often smells like the Pulp and Paper Mill and the east side is dominated by the mini steel-city that is the Irving Oil Refinery. While these industries may not be some of our most beautiful features, they provide employment for many New Brunswickers and they do a lot for our city and the province. They really are an integral part of the fabric of this city. They have helped shape it’s form and will help shape it’s future. And that future is exciting, even if it is not without it’s challenges.
I was born and raised in rural Nova Scotia. In a tiny village you’d be hard pressed to find on any map. I went to one of those rural schoolhouses, the kind from a Lucy Maud Montgomery novel. The same one that both my maternal grandparents were taught in. The same one that some of their parents were taught in. Originally a one-room schoolhouse, a second room was later built, stacked on top of the first. Grades primary, 1, 2 and 3 were taught downstairs; grades 4, 5 and 6 were taught upstairs. We had two teachers for all seven grades and a music teacher who drove in from the next town a couple times a week to teach music class. There was a little playground outside, with two swing sets, monkey bars, a slide and a couple of teeter-totters. We had gym class outside when we could and when the weather was poor, we moved our desks to the side of the room so we could have gym inside.
The school was pretty busy at one time, but in my time there weren’t as many kids around. Enrollment was down. People weren’t having as many kids anymore and a lot of people were moving to larger towns and cities to find work. Until grade 3, I was the only member of my class (I won all the year-end awards!). After I graduated grade 4, they shut the school down to save money and bused us an hour into the next town to go to school. It was hard for me to adjust to such a “big” school and a new curriculum with so many kids I didn’t know. I struggled to find my place that school year.
Some of my favourite childhood memories are from my time at that little schoolhouse: epic King of the Mountain contests, making a lifelong friend with one trip around the schoolyard, reading challenges where each book represented a paper scoop on a paper cone on the wall, biking to and from school in the warm spring sun. There is something so pure and idyllic about being taught within your community, with other kids from that same community, by members of the community. I think it really fosters community spirit and pride, something that seems to be missing from the mega-schools so many of our kids are being educated in today.
It feels special to be a part of something that no longer exists. People seem genuinely surprised when I tell them I was taught in a two-room schoolhouse. As if I also used to ride unicorns across rainbows. Our school is now used to train local firefighters but I know so many stand unused, doting the countryside like abandoned sentinels of our youth. Someday ours may be gone, torn down because no one wants to pay for the upkeep of the building. I hope to never see that day.
If you have a story about a rural schoolhouse you attended, I’d love to hear about it!