Posts Tagged ‘St. Andrews’

New Brunswick – Closed For the Season; Bar Harbor – Just Barely Open

October 20th, 2008 at 12:19 pm (AST) by Jake Richter

We already had an inkling on Friday as we drove into New Brunswick from PEI that we might have issues with places being open to visit, since the two New Brunswick Visitor Information Centers were closed for the season, and a number of parks and other attractions likewise sported “Closed / Ferme” signs.

The issue of everything being closed limited our options of what to see and do on Saturday as we left the Crowne Plaza in Moncton. We started off a a place in northeast Moncton called Magnetic Hill, so called because it features a spot where you can stop your car, put it in neutral, and then appear to have your car pulled uphill. It’s merely a visual illusion based on local topography, but it was amusing (but not interesting enough to do a second time). Magnetic Hill was also actually closed for the season, but that only meant they left the gate open and we didn’t have to pay a $5 fee (which probably would not have been worth it in retrospect). However, was we did find amazing was that a whole crop of amusements had been built up in the area, including a whole theme park, a historic village, and a waterpark – all centered around Magnetic Hill. And all closed for the season.

Our next stop was a place called Hopewell Rocks down along a rural coastal road (part of the so-called Fundy Trail, as in Bay of Fundy), where we had a deer trot in front of our mini-van briefly.

The Hopewell Rocks are tall rock formations of composite rock which are fully exposed during low tide, but during high tide only the tops show. The tops are referred to as the Flowerpots, because they look like large floating flowerpots, apparently, during high tide. The tidal variation between low tide and high tide here runs about 50 feet as the Bay of Fundy has thee highest tides in the world. What’s truly interesting about the Hopewell Rocks is that the bases of them have been carved into smooth organic shapes by the twice-daily large tides, in some cases forming natural holes, caverns, and arches through the rocks.

The Hopewell Rocks park area was also closed for the season, but with signs posted saying that anyone entering the area was doing so at their own risk. We were among over a dozen other people assuming our own risk as a result. We spent about an hour walking the beach (it was low tide) looking at the rock formations and looking for cool rocks and fossils. No luck on the fossils as the age of the area and the types of rocks were the wrong kind for fossils, but we found some spectacular pieces of quartz and basalt (at least we think that’s what it is).

We took the scenic route to Saint John for lunch, dining at Billy’s Seafood Company downtown. Sadly, the food lacked in distinct flavor, but the service was decent. Billy’s was adjacent to the Central Market – a large hall which was filled with small stands serving a variety of foods, fresh produce, trinkets, and other supplies. We spent an hour exploring the Central Market before making our way to St. Andrews in southern New Brunswick for the night.

Our hotel was the Fairmont Algonquin, and our travel agent had arranged a two-bedroom suite for us there, as our first choice, the Kingsbrae Arms Hotel, had already closed for the season. The Fairmont Algonquin was originally the Algonquin, one of of those summer resort properties you see in movies about the early and mid 1900s – it reminded me of the resort from the movie “Dirty Dancing”.

When we arrived it seemed rather busy for low season. Turns out we had arrived in the midst of the Indulge New Brunswick event, which feature culinary experiences over a two day period, ending with the Indulge Extravaganza, a three hour feast featuring tapas-size plates with delicacies prepared by some of New Brunswick’s best chefs, using local foods – salmon, scallops, cod, wild boar, and more, and accompanied by well over a hundred different wines brought in by local wine distributors, as well as a bunch of different ales and beers. Talk about serendipity, as they still had tickets available for the Extravaganza. We ended up getting three tickets, and leaving a very content Bas up in our suite watching TV and eating food from room service. It ended up being a very nice evening with an excellent variety of excellent food, and some pretty decent wines (the reds were all still a bit young).

We ended the evening watching Will Smith in Hancock on pay-per-view in our suite’s parlor. Pretty entertaining film, even though it got panned by the critics.

On Sunday, we brunched in our room on all the provender we had picked up along the way, intent on lightening our load because we didn’t think we could bring Canadian meats and other foods into the U.S. with us. We were wrong, apparently, as we were never asked about what we were bringing into the U.S. from Canada when we crossed over in St. Stephen, but perhaps that was because the U.S. immigration officer was distracted by our Nova Scotia license plates, our U.S. passports, and our Netherlands Antilles residency. It was a smooth process even so, and we were finally back on U.S. soil.

We had spent a very nice two weeks in Canada, and learned a lot about the local history, the people, the traditions, and also the geology. Well worth the time spent.

On the whole, we found the residents of the three provinces we visited to be very warm and welcoming, with the only exception to that being a few people in Cape Breton, Nova Scotia, a couple of whom worked at information centers. The people of the Canadian Maritimes reminded us of old-time New Englanders (not the recent transplants who appear to have less time and inclination to be friendly and welcoming).

The idea of the information centers in all three provinces was excellent, although we were disappointed to find all the ones in New Brunswick closed for the season by the time we got there.

It seems that while we were traveling at an excellent time to avoid small crowds, one week earlier in New Brunswick and PEI would probably have been better, as it appears that most everything that was closed had shut down right after Canadian Thanksgiving on October 13th.

We also greatly appreciated the fresh seafood we found everywhere. Although Krystyana tired of seafood quickly, Linda and I continued to enjoy it daily. The scallops were moist and tender, the mussels delightful, the lobster and fish fresh and delicious. Probably the best long-term seafood experience we have ever had.

Navigating was also relatively simple, as we picked up maps before our trip, and then in Nova Scotia, also picked up a provincial road atlas. Our Garmin nuvi GPS was a bit of a disappointment, however, as it frequently didn’t have our destinations built in as part of its programming, and we had to find ways to trick it into giving us the directions we needed. Apparently at one point we upset our GPS so much that it hung, and we had to reboot. Ever since then we think the GPS has been trying to mess with us, as the directions it gives are a bit obscure at times. Technological payback, perhaps?

Once we had made it to Maine mid-day yesterday, we continued down the scenic route to Bar Harbor, stopping at a small diner in Sullivan, Maine, about 45 minutes outside of Bar Harbor for lunch. The lunch spot was called Chester Pike’s Galley, and was in a rather nondescript building. We arrived at 1:30pm, just before their 2pm closing time, and had perhaps the best seafood stew we had ever eaten – cream, butter, a bit of seasoning, and chock full of scallops, lobster, and shrimp and nothing else. It had major umame. And the prices were incredibly reasonable. A bowl of the stew – enough to feed even my hearty appetite – was only about $7.95, the same price we paid for Linda’s sizable lobster salad. And beyond the excellent yet inexpensive home-cooked food, what we truly appreciated was the ambiance. The camaraderie of the staff felt like they were all a big family working together (not entirely true as most of the staff were actually just friends, but not related), and made us feel like were were in a family dining room. Very cozy and comfortable. One other nice feature of the restaurant was that each of the handful of tables in the main dining room had a glass top, under which people had stuck their business cards, newspaper articles, and other readable content. Much of it was advertising, but some were cards from fans, so we added our business card for The Traveling Richters along with a note expressing our appreciation of the seafood stew. If you ever end up anywhere near Bar Harbor and Sullivan, make a point to visit Chester Pike’s Galley, although it should be noted they are closing for the season this week as well and not reopening until around May.

We arrived in Bar Harbor well sated, checking into the Bar Harbor Grand hotel, into a cozy two bedroom unit (comfortable with three beds in two rooms, but only one bathroom), dropped off our growing pile of luggage and then walked down Main Street to explore Bar Harbor’s eclectic collection of shops, most of which were still open for the rest of the month before they too would close for the season. We ambled around for a few hours until I had to head back for a conference call (although the girls stayed out a bit longer doing more shopping).

Dinner was at Michelle’s Fine Dining, a petite restaurant with only eight tables located in the Ivy Manor Inn, but with some of the best food and service we had yet experienced on this trip. Sadly, a number of items on their menu were not available as it was the last night the restaurant would be open before closing for the season and reopening in April. We enjoyed steak tartare, a warm brie with fresh berries, and foie gras for our appetizers, and French onion soup, duckling, and peppered beef tournados for our main course, accompanied by appropriate glasses of wine. We all shared the signature dessert – Michelle’s famous “Bag of Chocolate”, literally a dark chocolate bag filled with white and milk chocolate mousse and fresh berries, topped with a raspberry coulis. Simply delightful. Michelle’s Fine Dining is highly recommended by The Traveling Richters.

We had a good night at the Bar Harbor Grand, although as our room was on the side of the property adjoining Main Street, we found ourselves woken up by the sound of passing vehicles around 7am. Earplugs recommended. For the price, it was a great find, and the hotel was very comfortable and convenient to the rest of Bar Harbor as we could walk around and did not need to drive to visit the pretty little downtown area.

Today we’re off to Freeport, Maine, the home of L.L. Bean and countless factory outlet shops and other types of shopping.

By the way, this is being submitted from a very nice coffee shop in Camden, Maine – Zoot Coffee. Great selection of loose leaf teas, coffees, snacks, and meals. Mind you, our GPS has been protesting our use of scenic Route 1 vehemently. It keeps wanting to send us to a major highway.

Anyhow, we’ll be spending two nights in Freeport, and then moving on to Linda’s parents place in New Hampshire on Wednesday. On Saturday we have a BonaireTalk gathering in Amesbury, Massachusetts, where we will be meeting Bonaire-loving friends from all over the U.S., and then spending the following week with my family in the Boston area. My parents are flying over from the Czech Republic, and my brother and his family recently moved to Wayland from San Diego. Should be an entertaining time.

However, as the exploratory part of our trip is nearing its end, there will likely be no or fewer posts about our continuing journey in New England unless something really interesting and cool comes up that we think needs to be shared here. But, don’t despair as we’re still working on several reviews and reports from our August trip to New York City and from Krystyana’s and my trip to Costa Rica in September, so expect to see some of those show up here in the coming week or so.