Top 6 Sites to Visit in St John, NB
The Love Boat
Exciting & New,
We’re Expecting You…
Remember that corny 70’s, through 80’s TV-sitcom/drama series…with “your ship’s Captain” Stubing; “your cruise director”, Julie; the friendly, “your bartender”; Isaac; “your yeoman purser” … Gopher; and the Doc (“your Ship’s Doc!”). Well, I hated that show almost as much as Aaron Spelling’s Fantasy Island! Always made we loathe the idea of wanting to take a cruise anywhere. Oh, yes over the years, my wife and I have rolled the idea around – we just haven’t been bitten by the bug…Hey, her mother and father once took a voyage from Saint John, NB, down the US-eastern seaboard on the famous QE2, upon its inaugural mooring in Saint John well over a decade ago now. And my oldest brother and his wife took a cruise last year in the sunny Caribbean. I can still recall bumping into him in the spring in the parking lot of Sears (he was tightly concealing a fist-sized crumpled-up bag). I asked: “What’s in the bag?” Sheepishly, he uttered, “Nothing.” Then he confessed, stuttering: “Ah oh, I bought a swim suit for our upcoming cruise.” When I asked to see it, he refused, said he had to hurry off. I was convinced his being so sea-worthy, liberal, and adventurist that for sure he was concealing a male thong! Well, I never did find out what was in that little bag!
Hey, but it’s obvious despite my un-enthusiasm, people just love to take cruises…to the south seas, to the Mediterranean, to the Caribbean, to the Arctic Ocean, to Alaska, and even to little old Saint John, NB – Canada’s first and oldest city! Yup, the cruise industry is big tourism business for Canada’s first incorporated city. Has been ever since the late-1980’s when a lone cruise ship was serendipitously detoured into the local harbour to avoid a mid-Atlantic summer hurricane. Turns out the greeting was so great that local citizens formed ‘a meet-and-greet committee’, and then the entire city got on-board and built it into the regional Bay of Fundy and Martime Canadian attraction it is today. Every summer, major cruise ship lines bill the little port city as a bogga-boat-load of adventure.
And I have to admit: all those throngs of invading American and European cruise ship visitors sure bring along a festive spirited atmosphere into this dusty old Loyalist port city. Yep, from June until mid-October it seems a never-ending, armada of the cruise ships invade Saint John Harbour early each morning before 9am, and depart just before 9pm most days of the week. It presents a fascinating skyline when I’m driving from the city’s west-end each morning to work, as I’m gazing over the Harbour Bridge to see three, and sometimes four gargantuan floating hotels, all moored up at the two cruise ship terminals, or berthed along Pugsley Wharf.
I always imagine… What if I was one of those passengers looking for the ‘Top 6 Things’ to do, upon disembarking and arrival into this quaint coastal port, just what would a Saint Johner suggest as the best sites to cruise in-and-about on a walk-about town?
Well, to show that I admire the conviviality of friendly encounters with tourists, I’d like to offer free of charge these top 6 activities to do!
Trust me, they’ll offer a unique perspective; provide some adventure and carefree, leisurely vacation ease-of-presence and mind, as well as deliver some great discoveries, awesome visual vantage points, and deal some unique intellectual, artsy, and wonderful taste and site sensations. And all are sure to provide memories you’ll cherish and reflect on well after your return home to the humdrum, commitment and confines of your everyday life.
Walking up Prince William or Water streets, ask a local for the whereabouts of, or find your own way to (it’s easy to find)…
Scheherazade – Previously Loved Booked & Music … Venture into Scheherazade Books
There’s the cliché: “Walking a mile in another man’s shoes.” Well, the same can be said of reading another man’s personal literature! Take the living library legacy of the late-Trevor Peters. The proprietors were the fortunate recipients of some hundreds of books (from the thousand of books) from the amassed library of one private man’s collections of great literature over his lifespan. “A daughter called us once to offer us an opportunity to pick from the personal library of her deceased father,” the proprietor once informed me. And though I never met the man myself, through the foresight of the proprietors of Scheherazade – Previously Loved Books and Music, I’ve discovered some fascinating reads, which have opened my mind and unconstricted my heart in this 21st Century age of stoic cynicism and conservative malaise, which western economies and cultures have been brain-washed in. From simply re-purchasing one man’s interest in social value-ism, I’ve rediscovered the importance of striving towards more self-effacing values of humanitarianism. Yes, this revelation and re-invented self came about from re-reading the leftover legacy of one man’s library of interesting literature (such great literature as Island by Auldus Huxley; and Has Man a Future by Bertrand Russell and many, many more). From simply browsing the previous loved books of many others, you too may re-ignite some inner hidden core value. I know I surmised: “I would’ve liked to have met and discussed the values and views of this late-Trevor Peters fellow.”
Jorgen Klausen’s Framing & Gallery
Why, I still remember how the proprietor once recollected an amusing anecdote when a conservative, southern Georgian fellow and cruise ship visitor came into his store to inspect “the nudes in the windah!” Apparently, Saint John with all its stodgy Loyalist heritage “ain’t” that conservative after all!
Saunter a little further down Prince William Street into the JavaMoose coffee shop. Saint John’s unique boutique coffee shop and roasters which originally percolated as a local coffee roaster into a burgeoning locally-owned enterprise, and series of boutique coffee outlets. This lightweight contender with moose-size ambitions is now giving competitor coffee heavyweights (like Canadian-owned corporate giant, Tim Horton’s; and US-originating mega, Starbucks) a tough to resist, high-quality coffee alternative and uniquely local and regional experience — with such offerings like their Explorer-blend and their exquisite dark-roasted, Foghorn-blend; or with their creative specialty lattes, espressos and cappuccinos. Foghorn-blend is dark as a Maritime coalmine in colour; with a texture slick as a quart of motor-oil. Last summer, my wife thoughtfully bought a decorative Saint John City Market tin, packed it with local and regional treats, and a one-pound bag of Foghorn beans for mailing to a relative in Ottawa. Well, the aroma was so pungent that her cousin’s two (teenage and college-aged) sons, upon first getting “a whiff of it” after receiving it via Canada Post told their mother, “Yeh, Mom someone sent you a parcel. And we think it smells like pot!”
Now let me explain: Imagine if you could drink a stout-Scottish ale, but hot! And smell a rich Scottish pipe tobacco. Well that’s Foghorn — an alarming aroma! It easily cuts across a vast terrain to the core of your senses. But it’s wwwaaaaayyyyy healthier for you! It’s a low-to-no caffeine, full-bodied java. Aptly named Foghorn – seeing as Saint John is proudly the 3rd foggiest city in the world. As you drink a ‘moose-size’ cuppa this Joe, ponder another Saint John first attributed to its fog: Scottish immigrant, Robert Foulis invented the world’s first steam-operated Foghorn, constructed on Partridge Island in 1859 (www.lighthousedigest.com/Digest/StoryPage.cfm?StoryKey=2178). Perhaps you might hear it on your cruise past the island upon entering or exiting Saint John Harbour.
Beatty & The Bistro
Take the long walk up King Street hill… Oh, go ahead take a break mid-ways… Then finish the rest of the haul-up-the-hill. Turn right. And go across to the Admiral Beatty Complex (just south of King Square). Then decide to take your lunch at Beatty & The Bistro (the entrance is on the west-side of the building, along the Charlotte Street side) to experience and savour the professionally prepared, lunch menu of regional renowned chef, former CBC-radio show and culinary host Helen Buck. Ask for her favourite (BIG BOWL) of chowder. Or ask for her fantastic made-for-a-man, sandmich, the Bistro’s famous clubhouse sandwich on Helen’s homemade crusty bread – “And that’s real thick turkey in between that blanket of dough, bacon, lettuce, tomato addiction.” For dessert maybe ask Helen if she has any of her Louisiana-style Pudding with Whiskey Sauce – which once garnered her culinary praise in the New York Times!
St John County Court House
After your lunch, venture out and walk the circumference of King Square to the eastern-side, past the oldest fire station museum in Canada. Walk a little further down Sidney Street into the old sandstone, St. John County Court House building (www.new-brunswick.net/Saint_John/courthouse.html). It was built in 1829, designed by Saint John architect, John Cunningham. The front wall of the building is constructed of massive sandstone (freestone) blocks, imported from Great Britain. The courthouse is famous for its free-standing spiral stairway. Walk in-and-up the circular stone stairway, which spirals up three storeys. Hey, don’t worry: it was tested as solid-and-safe back in 1829, when as legend has it Cunningham gathered 49 shackled prisoners from the local jail to ascend the entire stairway to assure the safety of the three solid blocks of stone, which interlock in such a manner so as to not require central support. Explore this national heritage site of one hundred tons of stone quarried and brought in from Scotland to Saint John to build this stairway. The staircase also showcases a finely wrought iron railing with geometric sequence of overlapping ovals following a neo-classical English tradition of the 18th Century architecture. And although there are no live inmates in the vicinity now, it can still offer a great vantage point for scenic photos of friends, or of family members all ascending the stairway, while peering back below for that award winning photo!
Saint John City Market
Next stroll back across through King Square into the Saint John City Market (www.sjcitymarket.ca), located on the west-end of the square. Walk down through the historic and fascinating architecture of the market, stttttrreeeettttccchhiinnnng your head back to see the constructed pattern of an inverted ship’s hull. Stop. No, Full Stop! And take a moment: close your eyes and just listen. Listen to the chatter, to the sidewalk dialogue of tourists talking with local patrons and proprietors. Eyes still closed brrrreeeaaaattthhhe-iiiinnnnn the depth of the atmosphere surrounding you — the market aromas! Now open your eyes. And look at the world around you in the “here-&-now”. Drink in this presence of place-and-space. The colours. The fabrics. The ornaments. The treat-and-sweets. The artwork. The city’s character. Take it all in now as you continue on, now spellbound within your own unique adventure as you discover this distant foreign land. Your experience will be no less captivating than an authentic cinema-graphic Hollywood epic adventure. Now within your storied, once in a lifetime existance of the ocean of your life’s adventure to Saint John, you will have a narrative of experiences which will last you well beyond your walk back down to, and along Prince William or Water streets — as you languorously prolong your saunter back to the ‘love boat’.
An Extra Bonus
Photogs be awake and aware of the historic and unique 19th Century architecture along Prince William Street. Pay particular attention to the stone faces and gargoyles on the sandstone and granite facades, on the building walls, or overhanging the doorways of the buildings nearest the Prince William Street and the Princess Street intersection. They’ll provide photo opportunities well worth some framed and obsessive focus time – sure to delight your arrested eyes, and maybe win an award in some future far-off photo contest months, or even years from now.