Sunday, September 22, 2013

St John, New Brunswick

On a Fall Color Cruise our very good friends from California Judy and Chuck had a scheduled stop in St John and we arranged to meet with them after our drive down from Moncton. So the previous evening we set the alarm; we’re not known to be early risers! We reached Rockwood Park, parked the RV un-hitched the car and headed downtown to meet Judy and Chuck. The day was grey and foggy so we spent most of our visit over lunch. We were a little late arriving at the Britt, in the meantime Judy had filled the waitress (who was a ball of fun) in on her traveling friends; the meal was delicious and we passed the time easily catching up on California news.

Judy took us on a quick walk about on the way back to the ship and after we had said our goodbyes we returned to our RV to hook it up to the water, electricity, Wi-Fi and sewer. The town center was a mere 5 minute drive away from this beautiful 2,200 acre City Park which has a zoo, a golf course, an RV Park and is a walking, biking paradise of trails around 10 manmade lakes; enough to keep a walker/biker happy for a year. Adele was in paradise and was up and about walking at 8am every morning. One of the lakes had a large function oriented pavilion with a restaurant, as there seemed to be a wedding party there every day we never got to eat there.
The forecast for the following few days was for rain so we decided to visit the New Brunswick Museum which we found very interesting with three floors of different exhibits; one about whales where a docent gave a fascinating talk, others were the wood industry and ship building – which were a major employers for many decades. We watched a documentary on the hundreds of thousands of little sand pipers who summer in the muddy salt marshes of the Bay of Fundy and having doubled their weight feeding on sand lice and other bird delicacies fly home to South America – 4,000 miles non-stop. Thousands of United Empire Loyalists fled to Canada between the revolutionary war and the 1812 war setting up most of the port towns on Canada’s eastern coast and as one would expect the museum had an interesting loyalist exhibit from which we learned a lot there’s an abundance of loyalist history throughout the Maritimes. Back outside we discovered the day had very little rain.

We woke to a very foggy morning the next day but by 10am it had dissipated and turned into a warm sunny day; perfect we thought to take a city bus tour. The Queen Mary 2 had docked overnight and lots of people from the ship were on the tour; we had the funniest driver/guide with a wonderful sense of humor. While waiting in line for the bus Tom noticed a couple staring at him intensely and wondered “what’s going on?” Our first stop was at the reversing rapids and while there the man approached Tom and asked if he could take his photo explaining that Tom was his brother’s exact double! He turned out to be from Belfast in Northern Ireland. The reversing rapids are another Bay of Fundy phenomenon; as the tide comes in on the St. John River the rapids reverse and race upstream, then as the tide goes out the rapids flow with the river. This is caused by an underwater rock ledge which has a 30ft drop carved by the last ice age; the river is only navigable for a total of about 40 minutes every 24 hours at calm tide when the waters have leveled. The bus driver showed us a house whose chimney looked like a witch from a certain angle and told us that when he was growing up in St John right across the road from the witches house was the local Asylum (since demolished it’s now a park), the next building is still a funeral parlor and next is a grave yard – as you can imagine the driver had us in tears of laughter telling his childhood Halloween stories – imagine living as a child in that area. He also told us about the Irving (Irving Oil etc.) family who are very big benefactors to the city of St John and local charities. Several other successful businesses are located in St John including Moose Head beer.
St John is an old town which was named by Samuel Champlain who landed there on the feast of St John the Baptist in 1604. At the end of the Revolutionary war 14,000 United Empire Loyalists arrived to make St. John their home. St John also encouraged and was very welcoming to immigrants, 30,000 Irish landed there during the Irish potato famine in the 1840s; many more started the journey across the Atlantic but succumbed to illness and disease, of those who reached St John their health was so bad that they did not survive. Overall, the Irish immigrant stories are heart breaking and are commemorated by a large Celtic cross on Partridge Island where all immigrants arrived and were quarantined; many Irish are buried on the island.

Devastated by fire in 1877 when the two-thirds of the town was destroyed the town Fathers’ amended the building code mandating that all buildings be constructed of stone and with flat roofs. As a consequence the town was rebuilt in an even grander fashion than before. The downtown is on a hill; however, one can cheat by going into the shopping center then use escalators and cross bridges to go uphill. There’s a wonderful indoor market open 6 days a week which is accessible from the shopping area; reminded Tom of the English Market in his native Cork.
We had wonderful weather on our last day so we headed down town to take a walking tour of the places we saw from the bus. True to its loyalist heritage the major streets are King Street, Prince Street, Duke St, Queen Street, Prince William Street - you get the drift - how loyal was that? It did have a St Patrick Street! We enjoyed St John and Rockwood Park where we were parked; the park is on the Trans Canadian walking trail and naturally Adele thought that maybe she should walk to Vancouver and visit her brothers! 3,000 miles - how long would that take?

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