Travel Story 

New Brunswick: Big things in small places

Meridian Writers’ Group

FREDERICTON, New Brunswick–In most parts of Canada, Fredericton (pop. 47,000) would be described as a small town. In New Brunswick, it’s the capital. As I learned, though, small places can have big attractions.

Fredericton’s tree-lined streets of Victorian homes take you back to when people sat on their porches instead of in front of their TV sets. There is a bevy of historical buildings to visit, but my favourite stop was the Beaverbrook Gallery, opposite the legislative assembly. Entering, you meet the large-scale Santiago El Grande by Salvador Dali. It’s a standout in a gallery that boasts more than 2,000 pieces, including a big collection of work by such British painters as Gainsborough, Reynolds and Constable.

Another Fredericton surprise was a visit to the lieutenant governor’s manor. It has an open-door policy – 50,000 visitors a year ogle the elegant furnishings of the 1828 residence. Many of its visitors, like us, are served tea and cookies.

From Fredericton, we drove south to Harvey. With a population of 326, it’s a mere wink on the country road. We chatted with the mayor, who owns The Country Store, which has been around since 1861, and took pictures of the world’s second-largest fiddle, erected to honour internationally known fiddler Don Messer (1909-1973), who was born here and hosted a show on Canadian television for years.

(Harvey’s fiddle, 4.25 metres tall, is only the world’s second -largest fiddle because another Maritime village, Cavendish, P.E.I., has one measuring 7.3 metres.)

We nipped down back roads to find covered "kissing bridges," covered bridges à la The Bridges of Madison County . One of them, built in 1901 across the Saint John River at Hartland, is the longest in the world – 391 metres. In the days of horse-drawn buggies, that would have allowed for a good long smooch.

Continuing south, we wound down to St. Andrews by-the-Sea, which was impressive in another way. Its dazzling, scenic harbour, main street of pretty heritage facades and fairy tale—like Fairmont Algonquin Hotel, built in 1889, make it a movie set waiting to be discovered.

New Brunswick’s first and foremost seaside resort town, for well over a century St. Andrews by-the-Sea has catered to the wealthy and powerful. William Van Horne, for example, who oversaw the building of Canada’s first-cross-country railroad, had a summer home just offshore, on Minister’s Island. (You can arrange to tour Covenhoven, his 50-room "cottage.")

American president Franklin Delano Roosevelt also liked to holiday in New Brunswick. His 34-room vacation home on Campobello Island, in the Bay of Fundy south of St. Andrews, is open to visitors, still furnished as it was in FDR’s time.

Today, many extravagant summer homes in and around St. Andrews that were once private residences are gorgeous B & Bs and restaurants. We stayed at the Inn on the Hiram Walker Estate. Whiskey baron Walker’s French château-style, 1912 home has 13 guest rooms with canopy beds, antiques, fireplaces and soaker tubs. Innkeeper Elizabeth Cooney gives her guests afternoon sherry in the library – perfect for toasting the big things in this small place.

ACCESS

For information on travel in New Brunswick call Tourism New Brunswick toll-free at 1-800-561-0123 or visit its website at www.tourismnewbrunswick.ca .

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