Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Saint John. People. Places. Pets.

Last week I spent a few days in Saint John. An attractive, historic city, the first in Canada to be incorporated in 1785.

It was my introduction to the Maritimes; my husband and I lived there for a year until we were moved to Moncton. During that brief time I came to appreciate its history, architecture and culture, and made many friends with whom I still maintain contact.

I arrived in heavy rain just in time to enjoy one of the ‘Summer Sounds’ concerts at the Church of Saint Andrew and Saint David. Performed by the Saint John String Quartet it included music by Bach, Mozart, Harry Somers and Gershwin.

A lovely beginning to my visit. As we left I met one of my former yoga students; an added pleasure to catch up with her. One day I met this sweet cat sitting in front of the church. This church was one where I rented space for my yoga classes when I lived there. As was Trinity Anglican Church just a little further down Germain Street.

A short drive across town I visited Harvey, the amiable partner of my late friend Wendy, in whose honour I offer my current series of Yoga for Breast Cancer classes. Harvey is always fun to talk with, humorous, occasionally controversial, and takes great photographs. He stayed behind the camera but Simba, Ginger and Comet were happy to be photographed.

A detour to Cedarcrest Garden Centre where I bought more plants for our garden.

In the old part of the city Germain Street is special, not just because of the gracious old houses, but because many of my friends are close. I stayed with my good friends, Haleen and Jonathan Franklin in their century home. One friend lives across the street, another a couple of blocks away and two others work nearby.

Within an easy walk are several of my favourite shops, art galleries and fine craft stores. Anne McShane at The Feel Good Store always gives me a warm return welcome. 

Trinity Galleries shows an eclectic mix of art, Handworks has some of the most innovative and exquisite silver jewellery. Its window was swimming with fish made from recycled tin by Alanna Baird in St Andrews. The Peter Buckland Gallery for me is one of the two best art galleries between Saint John and Portland, Maine. The other is in Blue Hill, Maine.

Debra, another yoga teacher, and I met for a chai latte at Java Moose, a favoured Saint John bistro. We’re planning a special event, which I’ll tell about later.

Since going to El Salvador with Beth Kelly-Hatt, also a former yoga student, on a Habitat for Humanity build she led, we’ve kept in touch and met this time at Magnolia Café  a recent addition to the downtown bistro scene. Beth owns Aquila, a tour company that advocates responsible travel and that also brings many cruise ships to visit Saint John every year.

Leaving Magnolia I found at Scheherazade  a book based on the life and loves of Hector Berlioz, just one dollar. Then stocked up on Indian food from Chilli and Olive Grocers.

 Happily my friend Judith lives opposite the Franklins; we spent an evening chatting, tea cups in hand, while Wags supervised us.

Saint John City Market is a must. Built in 1876 its hand- hewn roof resembles the inverted keel of a ship. I always buy the wonderful Middle Eastern bread made by Habib Kilisli who also sells home-made delights such as Baklava, hummus and stuffed vine leaves; all of which he presses you to sample. The market is open six days a week, but Habib is only there on Saturdays.

Haleen and Jonathan are keen gardeners and very involved with one of the city’s four Community gardens. This one by Lily Lake has 96 plots plus three raised beds for wheelchair gardeners.

Their own small but very lovely home garden, actually a flourishing courtyard, brims with plants, shrubs and ground cover.

During my visit they celebrated a wedding anniversary. So we celebrated together at Taco Pica, a Guatemalan restaurant, also located on Germain Street. You can understand why I enjoy this downtown area so much.

 All too soon time to pack plants and belongings in the car, drive to Moncton, and create a new garden bed.

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