Wednesday, June 17, 2009

St. John, New Brunswick

Saint John is located on the eastern side of the Bay of Fundy. This seaport community was an Indian trading post in the early 1600’s. One hundred and some years later it became a place for settlers loyal to the King of England during the Revolutionary War. Today St. John is considered the gateway to New Brunswick; the second largest port in Atlantic Canada and a favorite stop on a Canada-New England cruise.

The area, with its quaint shops, museums, and historical buildings is easy to explore by foot and an enjoyable way to spend the day. To protect the character of the buildings in this central core of the city, Saint John has created the twenty-block Trinity Royal Preservation Area. The “Prince William’s Walk” takes you through some of the most charming streets within this area. You can pick up a map of this self guided tour at the Saint John Visitor’s Bureau.

The Old City Market which first opened in 1876 is still a bustling place for locals and tourists to shop. It sells a variety of goods… a combination farmer’s market, fish market, bakery, etc. While here with my son we were offered a taste of a local snack; dried seaweed! Although it was salty and crunchy, I’ll definitely stick with potato chips whenever I get a case of the munchies!

No visitor to this area should miss seeing the spectacle of the Reversing Falls; a natural happening which occurs when the highest tides in the world force the St. John River to reverse its flow. The St. John River joins the Bay of Fundy at a narrow rocky point. As the forceful tide in the Fundy rises, the St. John River loses the battle and is pushed back, which causes the river current to flow upstream, in defiance of the laws of nature! A good vantage point from which to view the Falls is Fallsview Park, not far from the Reversing Falls Information Centre. A twelve-minute film presentation explaining the phenomenon of the Reversing Falls can be viewed in the Reversing Falls Roof Top Theatre on the observation deck. It’s interesting to watch, but a lot more exciting to experience…how about by a jet boat tour! This wild and thrilling ride allows you to climb, jump, and cross the rapids, but prepare to get soaked!
Rockwood Park and the small but lovely Cherry Brook Zoo are wonderful places for families to spend the day while in port. This 35-acre woodland is home to many species of exotic and endangered animals, from zebra to emu and the elusive wildebeest. There are also magnificent members of the cat family, including Siberian tigers and African lions. Several primates also call Cherry Brook Zoo home, including the highly endangered Golden Lion Tamarin.

Another way of seeing the sights is through the two hour guided bus tour offered by Saint John Transit. This year tours will begin on June 22, 2009 and end October 3, 2009. They are offered twice daily, at 9:45am and 12:45pm. The cost for adults is $18 Canadian and $6 Canadian for kids (under 6 was free). Meet at Barbour’s General Store, located at the foot of King Street in Market Slip. This excursion visits all I’ve mentioned above and much more.

On our 5 night Canada-New England cruise, my son and I chose a ship excursion called “St. Martins and The Bay of Fundy.” He picked this over the jet boat tour because of the promise of shell collecting on the beach and time to explore the Sea Caves which had been carved out of the sandstone by the Bay of Fundy tides. The bus ride was amusing as the guide entertained us with folklore and stories of life in the small fishing village. On the way we did stop for a look at the Reversing Falls. After watching the jet boats I made a mental note that on our next visit, this was something we had to try! When we arrived at the caves, thankfully it was low tide making the caves accessible…sort of! From the beach you’re separated from the caves by a river. Okay, that’s an exaggeration- it’s a small and very muddy stream! Regardless, it was wide enough, yucky, and you could either wade through or cross over by balancing on a plank that made a bridge of sorts. But the plank was wobbly and slippery from the mud and seaweed. Boys being well, boys do not think about these things, and my son dashed off without a second thought about how his clumsy mother was going to get across! I’m embarrassed to say I did not make it across dry. As a matter of fact, it was days before my sneakers dried out. But it was fun…and quite funny! Lunch was included at the restaurant on the beach and the chowder served was delicious. Returning to St. John, we still had lots of time to walk around on our own before retuning to our Royal Caribbean ship.

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