Right said Fredericton

There were several reasons I wanted to stop off in Fredericton during my trip across Canada; I’d initially wanted to stay in all ten provinces (although ultimately never made it to Newfoundland and Labrador), and also because Facebook often automatically tags posts made from Barnstaple as being in the North Devon which is a Fredericton suburb, rather than part of the English county. If I was going to stop off somewhere in New Brunswick, I might as well actually post something from there for the age old reason of just because I could.

I also intended to visit King’s Landing (no, not that King’s Landing) which is a historical settlement which recreated life in 1800s Canada and which I thought would be a great place to learn about Canada’s history. Unfortunately this hadn’t yet opened for the season, but in the end I ended up staying there as another friend from Australia is now living there and catching up with him was on my list of reasons to actually travel across Canada in the first place. The fact he actually lives in Devon was an added bonus.

SAM_4884Although the recent floods which Fredericton had suffered from had receded, the fact that my first evening there was still rather wet meant that the brief tour Dan and his girlfriend Amy had wanted to give me was cut short at Picaroons, the local brewery where they went to refill their reusable 64 fl.oz jugs which, much to my immature amusement, are called Growlers.

The next morning we toured the city properly however, with the added bonus of being able to cycle, and I even managed to navigate Canada’s Great Trail app enough to get the “Explorer” achievement award for exploring the trail in a second province. We stopped off for ice cream (although their favourite place had also not yet opened for the summer) by the banks of the mighty St. John river and enjoyed the serenity as Dan and Amy gave me an overview of exactly how high the floods had been, with detritus still visible in some places showing where it had been washed up.

SAM_4856For a better experience of nature in its own environment, we also went for a walk in he nearby Mactaquac Provincial Park. Although this was a great way to see some local scenery, including Eagles soaring above us, unfortunately the flies and mosquitoes reminded us that nature being a force of balance also includes enjoyment/annoyance as well.

Although Fredericton is not a big place and has few of the amenities on offer in a city even such as Halifax – most likely the reason someone joked I would be staying in “No-Funswick” – it is still a particular highlight of my visit based on another of its reputations, that of New Brunswick kitchen parties. Rather than being a specifically organised event these, I was told, were the impromptu gatherings which occured when friends and neighbours dropped in on each other and everyone congregates in the room with the most abundant food and drink.

Although I never experienced one of these for myself, even with such a short stay it was easy to see how these would occur. On my first day a couple of Dan’s friends were longboarding around the area and so popped into the kitchen for no other reason than to say hi and joined us on our trip to Mactaquac. More than just this, a neighbour also came over to introduce herself when seeing us in the front garden (Dan and his housemates hadn’t been living there that long, and I fully understood his explanation of why you wouldn’t want to spend anymore time than neccesary outside during the winter), called over another couple of neighbours who were walking past, and were even kind enough to give them some Tomato plant cuttings when they saw the work they had been doing to organise the lawn and growing beds.

Although his wasn’t the first I’d seen of Canadian hospitality on his trip, it did show that the reputation for being social and having such a sense of community wasn’t an exaggeration. From what I saw, that’s just daily life in New Brunswick.

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Sydney side shows

Arriving into Sydney was a bit of a weird one for me. Not only did it herald the final leg of my east coast tour, but when seeing the Sydney Opera House whilst driving over the Harbour Bridge, it was the first time that, despite having been here so long, I was in the presence of a singularly iconic Australian landmark. And when going to see it up close, I used it to shelter from the rain with a friend from back home.

A familiar skyline. And dark clouds.

A familiar skyline. And dark clouds.

Although Simon and I know each other not just from living in West Somerset but also as we both went to university in Aberystwyth, thus making him the friend I am most used to seeing in different countries, after two months on the road it was still somewhat surreal visiting an internationally famous monument halfway round the world and still seeing someone so familiar. Considering he came to Australia before me, but chose to work in Sydney before going backpacking, I had always known I’d see him there (as quite frankly it would be rude not to) but it’s still a day that stands out somewhat. And this from a period in my life when everyday is pretty much different from the last anyway.

Having been in contact with him throughout my way south I’d heard about the storms Sydney had been having, and by watching the lightning through the Harbour Bridge, it was obvious they hadn’t left in their entirety. They may not be quite as iconic, but luckily Sydney has a number of museums and galleries that allowed me to carry on my sightseeing in the dry:

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A nice break from the city. When you can’t see it.

The classical looking Art Gallery of New South Wales isn’t normally one that would be top of my list, but as it was not only free, but also right there when the steaming rain started falling, it was rather convenient. Historical landscapes and portraits might not be my thing, but there was also an exhibition of asian art and artefacts that I did enjoy, but generally more my kind of art was the Museum of Contemporary Art. I also chose to visit the Powerhouse Museum, which focuses on science and Technology, from the earliest of steam trains to the marvels of space exploration. The Chinese garden was also well worth visiting, which as the name suggests is open to the elements, but luckily it wasn’t raining for my entire time in the city.

Located on the other side of Darling Harbour is the Sydney Aquarium which I also visited, and was more my kind of wet. Thanks to being lucky/knowing some really kind people, I also had the added bonus of getting in for free. Once inside I finally got to see some Platypus, as well as a whole host of other weird and wonderful creatures, including crabs, lobsters, and not one, but two underwater tunnels. The first takes you under the tank which houses the aquarium’s two manatees (which are actually different from dugongs), and the second being more stereotypically Australian with the chance to see sharks swimming around you, albeit in a safe environment.

Before I arrived I was told by many people that they weren’t that impressed with Sydney, it was just like any other city with nothing (other than the Opera House) that stands out, but I have to say I enjoyed my three days here. Perhaps it was because I didn’t stay for too long, and although I didn’t get out to Manly or Bondi, my time was just enough time to see the city centre which I enjoyed more than I thought I would, even despite the setbacks.

Afterall, I can’t blame Sydney for losing my debit card. That one was my own fault.