IT was in New Brunswick’s capital Fredericton that I tasted my first – and up to now, I may add my only – slice of celebrity.
'Ministers Island where, at low tide, you can walk or drive across the rock-strewn gravel path on the sea bed, which later becomes totally inaccessible as the famed Bay of Fundy tides – the highest in the world – begin their surge'
As we stood in Officers Square, in front of the guard barracks, the public address system announced that today the Fredericton Guard “will be inspected by Malcolm Handley”.
Now, why is it they are all over the pages at home but when I need a Royal there’s none to be found – where’s the Queen when I need her?
This may be a regular event for the Royal Canadian regiment, but for me this was a “first” and I suspect, having reviewed my stumbling performance, it could well be a last. I mastered the walking slowly while looking interested multi-task challenge; it was the “walking and talking hurdle” which proved my undoing. Just how often can you get away with asking a row of soldiers in scarlet tunics, white hats and loaded muskets: “And what do you do?” and “How long have you been in the Guard?”
Ah, well, back to the day job!
Back to the day job indeed, but not before I watched the rest of the ceremony with drums rolling, orders barking and muskets firing – great fun and certainly an unmissable event.
Then it was onto another of Fredericton’s institutions, The Lunar Rogue Pub with its excellent gastropub food including Bay of Fundy clams and its famed nachos. Then marvel at the collection of more than 200 whiskies. Owner Frank Scott has many more in his personal collection, I was assured. Hearing Frank speak of his favourite spirit, you can sense the pride, passion, joy and a near-encyclopaedic knowledge of this, his favourite subject.
The hostelry on King Street has become place of pilgrimage for serious whisky fans and has a growing reputation for an annual whisky festival attracting visitors from across Canada, the US and around the world, including Britain, mainland Europe and the Far East.
Fredericton, has so much to offer, including a newspaper, The Daily Gleaner and a brewery, Picaroons, and is a great place to spend a day or two. Follow the city’s St John’s River path in the company of an highly entertaining, period-dressed guide and listen to the city’s heritage unfold in a laconic, self-deprecating, narrative which reveals Fredericton’s chequered history and its apparent “affection” for civic fires. Intrigued? Ask the guide, not me.
The City Hall has an excellent display of tapestries depicting the city’s history and there is the Beaverbrook Art Gallery – given by Lord Beaverbrook, who also donated the Playhouse Theatre.
As with all great travel destinations the capital vies to be the jewel in the crown but there is much more to see and enjoy in New Brunswick. My first port of call was St John, with its lively harbourfront entertainment and superb museum and, after the history, you can enjoy a bit of the here and now aboard a Zephyr watercraft out into Passamaquoddy Bay for a high-speed, high-energy whale-watching adventure.
More sedate, yet equally entertaining, is a sail over Reversing Falls were the river travels against the current. You may also see a seal or two and even a dolphin pod as you explore St John’s Bay.
While driving across New Brunswick take a diversion to Kings Landing, where history is told in an historic fashion. The township, farm and inhabitants play their roles and invite you to join in - a snippet of gossip here, a stitch or two on a rugging frame, even a cup of tea and slice of cake – just become involved. One tip, look up your Anglo-Canadian history bring some “news from home”.
New Brunswick’s historic towns include St Andrews-by-the-Sea – known as the Culinary Capital of the Maritimes – with its charming waterfront pubs, restaurants, Sheriff Andrews House and a chance to stroll through the beautiful Kingsbrae Gardens.
Not far from St Andrews is Ministers Island where, at low tide, you can walk or drive across the rock-strewn gravel path on the sea bed, which later becomes totally inaccessible as the famed Bay of Fundy tides – the highest in the world – begin their surge.
On the island you can explore the home of Sir William Van Horne, the visionary force behind the Canadian Pacific Railway, the railroad linking sea to sea. He built this 50-room home, windmill, stables and many more buildings and, today, a dedicated, knowledgeable team give organised tours, helping preserve the home and memory of one of Canada’s engineering pioneers.
Then maybe book into the nearby Rossmount Inn – to stay an evening or two – or just dine. It is one of New Brunswick’s finest boutique hotels with views across to Passamaquoddy Bay, Ministers Island and a pathway up Chamcook Mountain.
Under the guidance of Chris and Graziella Aerni, it is, quite simply, a perfect place to spend time relaxing... and dining on chef Chris’ exquisitely prepared foods. This is fine dining at its best and great service too. Our waitress Jacky hailed from Blackpool, so there was some news sharing as well as food on the menu.
To explore more of New Brunswick’s cuisine drive to Shediac, lobster capital of the world. Board a Lobster Cruise and see a fresh crusrtacean plucked from the riverbed – by your captain and lobster expert for the day – and enjoy a masterclass in how to cook and eat superb seafood. Learning about seafood, tasting at its freshest, while cruising along the river, I imagine evenings don’t get much better than this.
At some point in your journey make your way to Cape Enrage. See its 140-year-old lighthouse and much more recent Cape House Kitchen, then travel along the coast to Hopewell Rocks, where you see the true scale of Fundy’s remarkable tides.
In one tide cycle a billion tonnes of water gush into the bay – more than the combined flow of all the world’s freshwater rivers. Its tides reach anything up to 53ft high. At low tide you can walk on the ocean floor and see the majestic rock formations shaped by time and tide, then make you way up to the park and watch the sheer enormity of the tide racing in – it is one of the most fascinating natural wonders on Earth.
Natural wonders, excellent food, intriguing history, welcoming people, New Brunswick has it all – and who knows, it may be your turn to inspect the guard. Prepare a few interesting questions, just in case.
Explore New Brunswick with a nine-night fly-drive from Frontier Canada, exploring Moncton, Fredericton, St-Andrews, Fundy National Park, Shediac – starting from £1,345 per person, based on two sharing. Price includes Air Canada scheduled flights from London, car hire, and nine nights’ accommodation. www.frontier-canada.co.uk; Tel: 020 877 68709.
New Brunswick Tourism – www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca
Fredricton Tourism – www.tourismfredricton.ca
Additional information – Lonely Planet: Canada www.lonelyplanet.com
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