Monday, June 27, 2011

Our day at the Bay

Twenty days.


So much has been going on at home with the end of school and birthdays and sports teams and playing outside and gardening and getting better at keeping the house clean and ensuring there is good food around to eat that something had to get pushed aside to make room for all of the above and the thing that has been pushed aside is blogging.

I'm not going to promise that this outright negligence won't continue because I've recently discovered Netflix. However, I have also recently finished watching Season 1 of Community so I will likely find myself with a bit more time in the evening. Although my deck is looking pretty inviting at the moment so again... no promises.

Before our trip to New Brunswick is but a distant memory, I have to tell you about our day at the Bay of Fundy before I move onto other subjects (ooh, that sounds distinctly like a promise of another post forthcoming).

We had initially planned to spend our Fundy day at the Hopewell Rocks because that's pretty much THE place to go in New Brunswick if you're going to Fundy. However, the tides were not really in our favour. We wanted to see high and low tides and low tide was going to be at something like 9:00 am and then at 4:20 pm. Both were inconvenient times when you have kids who need annoying things like food and sleep. If we were going to go to Hopewell Rocks we had to be there for low tide in order to walk on the floor of the ocean. If we missed low tide, we felt we would miss the main event there. So, on the recommendation of a local and friend of John's, we decided to go to a provincial park on a different part of the Bay called New River Beach. Turns out it is known locally as the best beach in New Brunswick for collecting shells and sea glass. Also, there's a great little seafood restaurant just down the road. AND St. Stephen's is a mere 45 minutes away and St. Stephen's happens to be home to Ganong Chocolates AND the Ganong Chocolate Museum has all-you-can-eat-chocolate with your admission AND I'm not even kidding.

So we felt we'd made the right choice TO BE SURE.

We took the scenic route to New River Beach from the cottage where we were staying, driving along the River Valley Route (the one that is marked with a fiddlehead in case you need to know). Although it took a little longer than it would have on a larger highway, I'm so glad took this route. Driving this route is like driving into a tourism commercial for Atlantic Canada. The views were incredible, there were lots of typical Maritime churches perched on grassy knolls (yes, knolls), Atlantic farmhouses straight out of a coffee-table book, fascinating bogs and the meandering Saint John River. Again, New Brunswick is not to be missed.

We arrived at the park, left our cars, looked at each other and said "OH, so THAT'S what the locals are talking about!" Turns out the temperature really is about 10 degrees colder at the ocean. Note to self: bring parkas next time. We shivered through our picnic lunch while swatting away more blackflies. I was wondering at this point if this was going to be an ABJECT FAIL until we walked down to the beach.

The initial walk down to the beach

Where we then spent two hours or more before finally pulling ourselves away to gorge ourselves on chocolate.

The beach was incredible. The Bay of Fundy is incredible. The smells, the crashing waves, the water creeping up the beach, the giant clams, the gorgeous stones, the horizon. Just.... everything.

This was at high tide, when we first arrived at the beach.

A bigger view of the same. Keep this one in mind for the low tide photos below.

Yes, the water was FREEZING. But, hey, we were at the ocean and there was no way we weren't going in.

Of course, we weren't going in for long.

Emily and I found a ridiculous number of giant clams, many of the shells were still inhabited. We picked up a bunch and brought them back to the group so the rest of the kids could have a look and feel.

And then the chocolates. Pretty much the only reason to go to St. Stephen's unless you really want to do some cross-border shopping. I could have thrown a stone and hit Maine.

After filling ourselves silly with chocolates, we drove back to New River Beach to catch low tide.

And to say we were wowed by what we saw would be an understatement of MAJOR PROPORTIONS. I have never seen anything like it IN MY LIFE. The difference between high and low tide was unbelievable. The Bay of Fundy has the highest tides in the world. If you ever have the chance, you have to see this. John and I said that someday we're going to go back there, bring a full picnic and just watch the change happen because it must be incredible to see tide come in.
Low tide. Isn't it unbelievable?

This is looking back at the area that I had a photo of above that I told you to keep in mind.

Fun had by all, even the littlest ones.

We walked all over the area that had previously been under a heck of a lot of sea water and found lots of shells and sea glass and more beautiful stones.

We finally started to get hungry and headed over to the little restaurant down the road, The Bay Breeze Restaurant, where I ate lobster salad (lobster just caught) and John had fish and chips and Hope had a hot dog (of course). I can't remember what Emily chose but I'm sure it was good.

We drove back through Saint John making me want to return there and explore that city. We tumbled into bed still talking about the incredible things we saw and the amazing day we had.

Tuesday, June 07, 2011

Fredericton: Yes, it's worth going... mainly for the art

We're home.

The kids were UNBELIEVABLY good on the long drive back, which we did over two days instead of the luxurious three we did on the way out. We stopped only once each day which is absolutely remarkable given that we had three kids with us under the age of 7 and an adult with a tiny bladder.

I'm looking at you, John.

Our trip was, overall, amazing. We had a great time. I was very tired by the end because Henry forgot how to sleep and learned how to whine while we were there. Apart from the supreme lack of sleep I had to endure, it was the adventure I was hoping for for our family.

The cottage we rented was perfect for our two families. It never felt cramped, even when we were all inside. There was a big wrap-around veranda that extended the living space as did the bunkhouse a.k.a. "the playhouse".

The cottage was in a group of cottages all of which sat on an old farm that we had fun exploring on our first full day there. The area was littered with old apple trees, blessedly all in blossom. We also found a lot of old farm machinery, much of it now being used as lawn decor. There was evidence of a long-ago perennial garden that has been completely taken over by shrub. It was fun to imagine what the farm once looked like and who looked after those forgotten sedums.

The cottage was about a 40-minute drive to Fredericton so we tended to break up our day trips in the area with days in between at the cottage. The only time we didn't do this was on the last day and I lived to regret it. Henry was reaching what I thought was his pinnacle of whinyness (hah! I hadn't seen anything yet!) and I thought that leaving the cottage might help. It didn't. Hindsight. 20-20.

So, when I last updated the blog we had spent a great day exploring New Brunswick's history. The next day we stayed at the cottage and the kids actually swam in the lake. I swatted black flies. It became a passion of mine.

On Wednesday we went into Fredericton to see what there was to see. Before you answer: "NOT MUCH... IT'S FREDERICTON!" I have to say that I was pleasantly surprised. Yes, it's a sleepy town but the waterfront area is charming and the Garrison District is also fun to look around. Also, AMAZING yarn shop called Yarns on York. If you knit and you're in Fredericton, you know what I'm talking about. I bought myself the most beautiful skein of handpainted yarn which will become a stunning scarf.... someday.

My only complaint about Fredericton is that I wish that some of the usual summer stuff was going on there given that Congress was in town (and the reason we were there) - changing of the guard, the old officers' quarters open, etc - but it's not summer yet so we weren't too surprised. Still... with 6000 academics in town, you'd think you'd get something going on down there. Nerds and dorks like that sort of thing, you know. I should know, I would count myself as both a nerd and a dork.

We did manage to stop for ice cream at the lighthouse by the river. From there we walked to the Beaverbrook Art Gallery. Both Pam and I were keen to see it after reading rave reviews. It was everything we read and more and (gasp!) even the kids loved it. Of course, it didn't hurt that they were made honorary security guards by a very nice staff person who outfitted them with security badge stickers and instructions about how to be a great security guard (no touching, shouting, running and making sure other people obey these rules too). Seriously, it was brilliant and worked like a charm. These people have it going on.

We really loved the collection. It ranges from modern (currently a Dali exhibit as well as a very cool portraiture exhibit featuring video, photography and paintings) to Masterpieces (some dating back to the 18th century). The gallery isn't huge which I really appreciated. The staff, as I mentioned, is great with kids, including the security guards who accompanied us to each room (not surprisingly since we did have 4 kids plus one baby with us). If you're in Fredericton, I suggest making a stop at the Beaverbrook the top of your priority list. You will not be sorry.

That pretty much covers our day in Fredericton. Next post: A day at the Bay of Fundy!