new brunswick

The second leg of our road trip begins. We made our getaway from New Hampshire on Sunday, July 1 – Canada Day – and most appropriately, Canada is our destination. Shooting up through Maine on I-95, we cross the border into New Brunswick at Woodstock and make our way along the Trans Canada Highway to the little town of Harvey, south of Fredericton.Shortly after 7 p.m. we pull into the driveway that leads to a lovely little house in the woods belonging to my good friend and fellow Van fan Corinne Wolpe.

Telltale sign you’ve made it to Canada:

Telltale sign you’re in New Brunswick:

The covered bridge is not unique to New Brunswick, but somewhere in the recesses of my memory is the factoid that there are more covered bridges here, per capita or per square mile, than anywhere else in the world. Maybe not as many covered bridges as there are Timmy’s, but New Brunswick has its fill.

I don’t think anyone would accuse Harvey of being the hub of New Brunswick, but it is our hub from which we are going to explore New Brunswick for the next six days. But first on the agenda, and not atypical for Van fans the world over, there’s the music. Sunday night and on into the holiday Monday, the stereo is turned on and Corinne’s new speakers are tested as we kick back for some caledonia Van.

We venture forth to the provincial capital, Fredericton, on Tuesday. The streets are quiet on this first day after the holiday, although after lunch at a local bistro, Bridget gives busking a shot on a street corner while I head off to the bank to exchange some US dollars and then join Corinne in the shops. In the end, we don’t stay long in town – there’s simply not enough there to attract and hold our attention in this government enclave.

Our trip to Saint John the next day holds out more promise. Our first stop is the reversing falls, where the tides of the Bay of Fundy rush up the St. John River, reversing the current and creating falls and thrills for those who venture forth by boat.

As we head into the city center, a cruise ship dominates the skyline, which means it’s a good day for busking down by the waterfront. As Bridget sets herself up for a few hours of fiddling for the tourists, Corinne and I wander over to the artisans’ outdoor market with its stalls of jewelry, crafts and fine art.

From there we wander across the street to the indoor city market, a beehive of activity full to the brim with stalls of fresh produce and assorted goods. A good time to pick up some fresh veg for dinner.

Elvis is in town …

Saving the fresh veg for tomorrow, we head into Harvey for dinner at the local pub, which doubles as the town restaurant. Harvey is distinctly not a “cute” town, but the Lougheed Pub has its charms …

… including another Elvis spotting

… and a poster on the wall reminding us that one of Canada’s musical icons, Don Messer, hails from these parts.

Back in September 1998, when Van put on shows in Newfoundland and Nova Scotia, our family set out on a family vacation to all four of Canada’s Atlantic Provinces that culminated in the two concerts. That year, our sightseeing through New Brunswick en route to the shows included Saint John’s reversing falls and a stop at Hopewell Cape, where the Petitcodiac River flows into the Bay of Fundy, to explore one of the neatest natural wonders going – the Hopewell Rocks, nicknamed the “Flower Pots.” Over the millennia of pounding by the tides, fissures in the coastal cliffs have carved away the rock, creating a shoreline of freestanding rocks that resemble pots of plants. At low tide, we can wander among the pots …

When high tide begins, we’re hustled off the shore, and from up on the cliff, we watch as the tide rolls in, rising one foot per hour. In short order, the beach is subsumed in water and beachcombers are replaced by kayakers, meandering among the rocks.

We could have stayed all afternoon until the water had risen to the rock tops, but instead we head north along the Petitcodiac toward Moncton to check out Magnetic Hill, which has beguiled me since childhood, when my parents, returning from a trip to New Brunswick, told me the story of this place where you drive to the bottom of a hill, release the car brakes, and your car travels backward up the hill. I just had to go see this magic hill, and so we did on our family trip in 1998. And a definite must in 2012!

I don’t know how it works; but what I do know is that it’s an optical illusion. It looks like you’re going up the hill backward, but really you’re heading downhill. I know that; I really do. I just can’t figure it out. Which of course means we have to do it again. And again. And then Bridget takes the wheel, and we do it again. And once more. We still can’t figure it out. All we can do is take a picture and head home. Apparently Bruce Springsteen is going to be playing Magnetic Hill next month. I bet he takes the car ride too. How could he not?

When we arrive back at Corinne’s after a day out sightseeing, there is always a dog or two to greet us. Her house in the woods is dubbed Little Village – a vacation home for dogs – where owners will leave their dogs for the day or for the week while the parents are off doing their thing. And what a lovely vacation it is for any dog who comes to stay. In and out access to the house, a big backyard to play in, a creek to really play in, and six acres of fenced-in woodland in which to run, and it all spells F-U-N. It’s the ultimate vacation for the dogs, and Bridget and I are always ready to do some serious belly rubbing and be rewarded with sloppy kisses. A slice of human and doggie heaven.

But as is the way of all vacations, ours at Little Village comes to an end on Saturday morning. We pack up the car, say goodbye to Corinne and her cats and dogs and point the car north, through Fredericton, wending our way northeast along the Miramichi River to the Acadian coast, arriving in the town of Miramichi in the middle of their Rock ‘n’ Roll Festival.

The music begins at night, but this afternoon is the big antique car parade. We’re pointed to the water’s edge and there in the parking lot, the cars are just waiting for the Go signal. It seems most everyone in town owns an old car, but there is a smattering of onlookers there to wave them on.

The car parade heads off in one direction and we head off in another, north through the countryside to the town of Bathurst and west along the coast to Campbellton, where we stop to rest for the day at La Maison McKenzie House – our first B&B on this long road trip of ours. The coastal drive from Bathurst to Campbellton, along New Brunswick’s north shore is a lovely route, and we’ve arrived in Campbellton in time to walk down to the Restigouche riverfront in time for sunset a stone’s throw from the bridge that will take us over the river and into Quebec ‘s Gaspe Peninsula in the morning.

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