Who ever goes to the Canadian province of New Brunswick? Who even knows where it is? Yes, I know, somewhere around Nova Scotia. Or Maine?
Driving North to Prince Edward Island with some friends at the end of August, we had to traverse New Brunswick. We didn’t give it much more thought than that, and knew virtually nothing before our departure.
Our experiences in New Brunswick proved that the unexpected can sometimes be the best part of a trip. Sometimes we just do too much planning. We didn’t even have reservations for the overnight stop we thought would be necessary. At about 3 on the first afternoon, we decided we could make it as far as Saint John, so we stopped at the Tourist Information Center, and made some calls. The Holiday Inn Express seemed to have the best rate/locale combination, so we booked two rooms.
Not expecting much, we found a brand new mid-rise building, in a harbor city, with lovely views of the Bay of Fundy. The rooms were large, spotless, well-appointed and full of the right things: down pillows, very comfortable bed, lots of toiletries, (which even had large print on the labels, so I could see them without my glasses – a first!), good range of TV programming, excellent reading lights, a refrigerator, a microwave, an ironing board and a brand new iron. The staff was welcoming and friendly, there was an indoor pool, and a gym, and breakfast was included in the very fair price.
We were even more surprised to learn that there were several good restaurants to be recommended in this neat, clean city. There were also several art galleries in one old section of the downtown area. We chose to eat at a restaurant called Opera, which had quite an exhausted group of waiters. (The entire place had just been cleared out, after 30 people had an early dinner, in time to attend the first ever performance of Cirque de Soleil in Saint John.) In spite of this they managed to serve us well. The menu for the evening included fresh pea and mint soup, and crab cakes with caper and apple chutney (a new combination to me,) in addition to a long list of “small plates” and “larger plates.” A small meal was all I wanted, and the wines by the glass were very interesting, so it suited me very well. We were told that another restaurant called Sebastian’s or an Indian one called Thandi would also be equally good choices. We checked them out from the street and the menus looked mighty tasty. We also window-shopped the antique stores and the art galleries and decided we’d better come back in the morning.
The fog was coming in as we drove back to our hotel, which just added to the intrigue of this little known city.
The next day we discovered how good the New Brunswick Museum at Market Square really was. Our friend, who’s in the know, said it was the finest small collection of marine paintings he has seen, all in excellent condition.
Prior to this we made an earlier discovery, namely the great (included) breakfast at the Holiday Inn Express: cereal, bananas, oranges, apples, hard boiled eggs, toast, bagels, muffins, special hot cinnamon buns, coffee, tea, juices, hot chocolate. I probably missed something but I’m sure you get the idea.
We also spent a while at the library upstairs in the Market Square, which was as impressive as the museum. This is truly a town that wants more exploring. We missed several things of note, I’m sure. One of them was the “reversing falls.” Now this place is on the Bay of Fundy, and apparently, when the very high tides come in (or is it when they go out?) there is a waterfall up the bay that goes backward. We were not there at the correct time of day to see it happen, a good excuse to go back.
As we drove north through Sussex and Moncton to Sackville and thence to Cape Tormentine and the bridge to Prince Edward Island, we got more and more hungry for lunch.
We had just about given up hope when we came to the huge new bridge (well, it’s ten years old, but still new to many people) – so we stopped at the Tourist Information Center to see what to do.
It turned out to be the Cape Jourimain National Wildlife Area, interesting enough in itself, but more about that later. The best part was the restaurant, which we quickly learned was far from your typical roadside high calorie, low food group stuff. Here was a shiny stainless steel kitchen, with a container of fresh herbs on the counter, a wonderful casual arrangement of flowers from a garden, and three local ladies doling out homemade food!! The (home made) soup of the day was delicious, the whole grain bread on my fresh made tuna sandwich was also home made, and all the veggies were likewise home grown. It may not sound like much, but, oh, did that food taste good to us weary travelers, who had only that giant breakfast to keep us going!
The Nature Center itself features green technology, including dry composting toilets, a greywater dispersal system, a rainwater collection system to reduce groundwater consumption, geothermal heat pumps to heat and cool the buildings, and a solar water heating system to provide hot water to the kitchen. All of this was very well explained with exhibits, and proved that a lot can be done to conserve and reuse energy. There are of course, all sorts of programs for school children as well as curious tourists. This is another real find in New Brunswick. Don’t miss it if you drive to Prince Edward Island.
There is a lot more that we saw in New Brunswick, so you’ll be hearing about it in an upcoming column. There is also a lot that we missed, so I guess we’ll have to go back again, always fun to contemplate.