Our journey began with a train ride to Whitby to meet Matt’s aunt Donna. I followed the train route on the map I’d recently designed of Toronto’s Gardens and Conservatories, announcing the nearby parks to Matt with enthusiasm. Donna picked us up from the Whitby GO Station and we made our way onto the highway around 8:45am.
It rained on and off for first part of the drive, making me glad I wasn’t driving! It made for beautiful views though, with dramatic skies against lush green trees and the occasional silo next to an old farmhouse. Once we hit Quebec City we had beautiful mountains to admire against a wide open blue sky. With nightfall came a distance lightening show over the mountains and deep within the cumulonimbus clouds overhead.
We arrived in Moncton at half past midnight. It was dark, but the air smelled lovely! Even in downtown, it smelled like evergreen trees to me. “Thats what fresh air smells like!” Matt told me.
Day One: Pump House Brewery and Magnetic Hill
My first day in New Brunswick was spent driving around Moncton and surrounding areas with Matt showing me all the important places from his life there. We also took in some tourist sites too, such as Magnetic Hill that I thought was a total rip-off for $3/person. It didn’t have monetary value in my opinion.
I was surprised how small Moncton was! We stopped for lunch in the Pump House Brewery where I did some beer tastings, settling on the blueberry beer and sharing a radler with Matt. He got his favourite – the Cadian beer, with a mushroom burger and beer bread.
After lunch, we continued our “Tour de Matt”, walking around downtown Moncton. We stopped by the historic Lutz house and the memorial to the first eight European settlers of the area – one of which was Matt’s family, the Steifs. Funnily enough, the monument was also a Pokémon Go stop, so it was crowded by young people on their cellphones playing the game that had recently taken the world by storm.
We had dinner with Matt’s family back at Riverview, and then set back out to go to the family cottage at Cape Enrage on the Bay of Fundy. I saw my first moose on the way – it was pretty exciting!
We got there just in time to see the sun slip behind the clouds. We cheers with glasses of strawberry-rhubarb wine to the view. Matt got out his telescope and did some stargazing before it clouded in to look at Mars and the rings of Saturn. I saw my first ever shooting star! I was pretty excited.
It started to rain soon after nightfall, so we sat in the dark for a while listening to the pitter-patter outside. Once we retired, the ominous hum of mosquitoes kept us awake. By morning, I was covered in bites! Matt joked that it looked like I had chickenpox!
Day Two: Hopewell Rocks, Fundy Park, and Alma
Matt prepared a nice breakfast of baguette and granola with yogurt. It was a beautiful clear day, so we planned to go for a walk on the beach before heading into Fundy Park. However, when Matt went to do his morning budget he discovered his credit card had been victim to fraud, so spent the morning on the phone making various enquiries and arrangements.
I wandered down to the beach with my camera, following a footpath behind the cottage to a springy meadow of wild berries, moss, and flowers. I crossed the meadow to the gravel path and onto the beach. As the tide was out, Cape Enrage was an expanse of sand with snail trails patterning the sand, ridges from the water, and colourful pebbles. Steam with rising up from the small pools of water leftover from the tide.
After wandering about on the sands, I made my way towards the cliffs where the occasional dribble of shale would ring out like falling ice down the cliff-side. It was a magical yet eerie reminder of the impermanence of the world around us. The large rocks near the base of the cliffs were intriguing too – such as variety of textures and colours.
Matt met me on the rocks and we walked back up to the cottage together. We loaded up the car and headed to the Cape Enrage lighthouse. As we were pressed for time, we didn’t pay to go in, but parked just outside the lot to view the lighthouse from afar.
Next on our list was Fundy National Park. We made a quick pit stop at two trails, just to walk in for a couple minutes then go back into the car. It was a Fundy tease! Matt’s favourite hike is the Coastal Trial, but unfortunately we didn’t have time for that.
After our mini-hike, we drove into the tourist/fishing village of Alma for lunch. We shared a seafood platter at Fundy Take-out, which the locals raved about. It wasn’t the best seafood we’d had, but enjoyable nonetheless. We got a milkshake and a seafood platter of lobster, battered scallops, clam strips, shrimp, haddock, and fries, which we ate on a picnic bench outside.
On our way back into town, we stopped at the Hopewell Rocks to see them at high tide. Fortunately admission is good for 24 hours, so we made plans to come back at low tide. There was a nice walk down to the rocks though, and multiple wheelchair-users were enjoying the gravel path. We snapped a couple pics of the rocks, then headed over to the visitation for Matt’s grandmother.
The visitation was in his grandmother’s childhood home, before it was repurposed as the Bishop Funeral Home. I had not been to a visitation since I was a child, so it felt like a new experience. I met Matt’s extended family and friends of his grandmother. Coming from a small family, I was amazed at how many relatives Matt had – and all from the area too!
After the visitation, we went back to his parent’s house in Riverview where we took their two west highland terriers for an evening walk along Petitcodiac River and up through residential areas before settling back into the house. We then had a glass of wine with Matt’s sister on the patio before heading to bed. It had been a busy day!
Day Three: Funeral and Family Time
The funeral for Matt’s grandmother took place on Tuesday morning. We drove in as a family: Matt, his parents, his sister, and me. The service was at the Albert County Funeral Home, followed by tea and sandwiches. Matt really wanted to show me the Hopewell rocks at low tide, so we slipped out in our funeral attire to make our way down to the rocks.
The rocks were much more fun at low tide than high tide. I found hard to get a good photo with the position of the sun, but enjoyed walking along the ocean floor and under the rocks themselves. Amusement was added to the fact we were wearing suit and dress, mucking around in the wet sand.
We caught up with the funeral procession, taking wildflower lined country roads down to Waterside Cemetery. The cemetery once had a church with special meaning to Matt’s family, but had been struck by lightning in January a few years back and burned down to the ground. Now a plaque and charred hydro-lines remain.
Matt joined the other pallbearers to carry the coffin to its final resting place. The children and sisters threw roses onto the coffin and the grandchildren placed a metal rose by the gravestone as Matt played Amazing Grace on his harmonica. Even though I had never known Matt’s grandmother, I found it very moving.
After the ceremony, Matt and his parent’s gave me a tour of the cemetery, pointing out their favourite epitaph, written by a young man who had accidently shot himself while hunting. He had a good sense of humour even on his deathbed apparently.
After everyone had left, we made our way up to the family cottages on Cape Enrage. We went to one cottage for leftover sandwiches and veggie dip, then Matt walked me down to his old cottage by a small lake before heading back up his parent’s cottage for wine and cheese.
The fog started to roll in and as we made our way back up the hill, I noticed a large bird coming towards us. At first I thought it was a seagull, but as it neared I realized in was a bald eagle! It flew right over us, disappearing into the mist. It was magical!
Back up the hill, Matt and I hung-out on the deck for awhile, watching the fog roll in while listening to his dad’s bluegrass music coming through the living-room walls and the fog horn at the Cape Enrage Lighthouse. The bald eagle swooped overhead two more times before the darkness of night soaked up everything in sight.
Matt and I went for a nigh time walk along the beach, stopping to sit on a piece of driftwood to listen to the tide coming in. Soon we saw a flicker of light through the fog. We recognized it as a bonfire and made our way back up the hill to join his cousins around a blazing fire of foraged driftwood. We sat around the fire for quite sometime, talking and watching the flames, making it back to the cottage around midnight to sleep.
Leaving New Brunswick
We woke up with sun streaming in the windows, the Bay of Fundy in view with fog nestled on the treetops. We packed our bags and Matt made coffee, which I took out onto the porch to enjoy with a bouquet of flowers as Matt updated his budget. The fog soon covered the Bay, hiding all but the trees lining the cottage garden. I washed the dishes and Matt dried while listening to Tempo on CBC Radio 2, enjoying our domestic moment.
Ha Ha Cemetery & Mary’s Point
Come noon, we packed up the convertible and drove off down the road. The fog cleared once we neared the main road, revealing a beautiful summer day fit with blue skies and cheerful, fluffy clouds. We drove down to Mary’s Point, stopping in Ha Ha Cemetery along the way.
Ha Ha Cemetery was a beautiful cemetery – quiet, private, with both shade and sun, nestled in with trees and wildflowers. Apparently it had been a lost cemetery until it was discovered when someone was clearing bush one day. I thought it to be one of the most beautiful places of rest I’d ever been.
We drove past Mary’s Point at first. It had a Government of Canada sign out front that read “Shepody Wildlife Reserve”. We parked the car and walked down to the shore, but unfortunately there were no shorebirds in sight to enjoy. The tide was out, so the birds had plenty of land to search for food. Apparently it is best to come 2 hours before until 2 hours after high tide to get the best shorebird experience.
Matt took me down a variety of back roads, stopping at the church his parent’s had been married in. It was a gorgeous old building in Hillsborough, now serving as a storage locker, German bakery, and medical clinic. One of the fathers of confederation, one of Matt’s ancestors, is also buried in the cemetery next to the church, which gives the church an additional layer of interest.
We went to the neighbouring gas station where Matt used to get ice cream as a kid. They didn’t sell ice cream anymore, so we drove out to Momma T’s Ice Cream Shop. Matt was pleased to see they sold Northumberland ice cream, a co-op dairy. We each got two flavours of ice cream on a waffle cone, which they took their time scooping each order. However, each cone was gigantic (we ordered a small) and totalled only $6! It was an absolute bargain in comparison to Toronto where a single cone will set you back more.
We got back to Matt’s parent’s house in time to pack for the plane and have a quick shower. Matt’s mom packed us a lunch for the airport with local strawberries, green beans, and homemade egg salad sandwiches with sourdough bread. His parents took us to the airport where we sat in the cafeteria to eat our sandwiches before it was time to board the plane.
Getting through security at the Moncton airport was a breeze. We flew Porter, which is always a treat. The airline served us cocktails and Terra chips on the first leg of the trip. I wrote a couple postcards and Matt settled into his podcasts after he gave me the birds eye tour of Moncton out of the plane window before we rose up above the clouds, home to Toronto.