Tag Archives: Canada

An ode to friendship … or today would be a good day to be in Fredericton

It’s been a few weeks since I did a Monday travel post. I have often reflected on well-known and well-loved places I have visited around the world. But today I’m thinking I’d love to be spending the day in a place most of you might never have heard of. It’s probably never going to make it on to any list of the world’s top 10 cities to visit. But as well as being what I think would just be a lovely town to live in, it also happens to be where one of my oldest friends lives, which bumps it up pretty high on my list of places to re-visit.

2005-02-12 Christ Church Cathedral
Christ Church Cathedral, Fredericton NB

What do I love about Fredericton?

Fredericton is the capital of New Brunswick, Canada’s only bilingual province. It has a population around the 60,000 mark, so a similar size to Wagga Wagga. A university town, located on the picturesque Saint John River, it’s a pretty place all year round, but particularly so to this Aussie during winter when it is transformed into the kind of magical snow-covered place we don’t ever get to see around here. 2005-02-12 House Charlotte St

Fredericton is the first place I ever put on skis (cross country) and got to experience the unique combination of exhilaration and serenity found in gliding across pristine white powder in the crisp pinecone scented air – all while still in the middle of town. 2005-02-12 Skiing Melinda

It’s also the only place where I have ever “walked on water” as the river was frozen solid for the winter. 2005-02-13 Panorama 1

The town itself has some lovely restaurants, cool cafes, quirky bookshops, and a thriving community market, as well as being known for its annual Jazz and Blues festival. 2005-02-11 St John River

Most of all, I love visiting Fredericton because there I get to see my closest friend from high school. I hope you too have stayed in touch with a friend from your childhood, because there is something uniquely special about it. Whether it’s the fact that we know each other’s embarrassing and awkward growing up stories, or that we shared some of those rebellions of our teenage years, or the fact that we were there for each other when we were only ourselves beginning to figure out who we were, it’s a bond for life. I love that no matter how different the paths our lives have taken us in are, or how long we go without catching up, or how far apart we live (google tells me it’s 17,556km from Adelaide to Fredericton!) we can always sit down and chat for hours about anything and everything. 2005-02-10 Home

What have I learned from Fredericton?

From the town itself I have learned that I really had no idea what winter was before I went to eastern Canada! And that sometimes the coolest places to visit don’t have the brightest lights and biggest signs, but have all the things that make a great place to live every day. 2005-02-10 Snowflakes

From a friendship that has now passed its twenty-fifth year, I have learned to treasure the memories of who we once were, to delight in whatever moments we get to share as we currently are, and to listen to the promptings of long shared dreams of who we might yet become. It is my Fredericton friend whose questions of me as a young teenager challenged me to own one of the biggest decisions of my life and publicly commit to following Jesus; and it was another question from the same friend two decades later that started me thinking about giving up a job I loved – and was very comfortable in! – to embark upon my current study adventure which may yet lead me to even more unexpected places. Thank you, my Fredericton friend! And may all of us know the joy of visiting the lesser-known places where we re-connect with those who know us the best. 2005-02-10 C falling

Capturing the Moment or Today would be a good day to be on Vancouver Island

I have quite a few friends living in Canada, so I’ve made the trek north to visit them a number of times over the last few years. Today I’m reflecting on my short visit to Vancouver Island, off the west coast of British Columbia, a place I wish I could go back to spend a little more time, and a place where I was reminded of the importance of appreciating the moments of travel, and not focusing too much on trying to somehow preserve them for later.

View from Island

What did I love about Vancouver Island?

The island is accessed by ferry from Vancouver or Seattle in an hour or two.

View from Ferry

Although I visited towards the end of summer, there were still snow-capped mountains visible in the distance.

Mountain view from Ferry

The capital city of B.C., Victoria, is located on a harbour on the island.

Inner Harbour at night
Inner Harbour at night

As a bit of a political geek, I always love visiting the legislature buildings of cities that I travel to and learning about their history and politics.

B.C. Parliament Buildings
B.C. Parliament Buildings

B.C.’s Parliament building is beautiful both day and night.

BC Parliament Building night

There are some obvious similarities and parallels to the Australian parliamentary system, although at the provincial level, there is only one house of parliament rather than two.

Parliament chamber

Canada also has a first-past-the-post and non-compulsory voting, which seems to make for a more varied make-up of members of the parliament.

Inside the Parliament Rotunda
Inside the Parliament Rotunda

There are some beautiful Victorian-era homes on the island, including Craigdarroch Castle which was one of the filming locations for the 1994 movie Little Women.

Craigdarroch Castle

One of Vancouver Island’s best known attractions is the Butchart Gardens, a group of privately owned and amazingly well kept floral gardens.

Butchart Gardens sign

I have to admit at first it didn’t sound like the most exciting place to visit, but when even my father (not at all renown for his appreciation of flowers and the like!) commented on how much he enjoyed it, I knew I had to make a stop there.

Butchart sunken garden
The Sunken Garden

The variety of flowers, fountains, statues etc is impressive, but there was also a great vibe with various live music at picnic spots.

The Sturgeon Fountain
The Sturgeon Fountain
What did I learn from Vancouver Island?

Canadians well deserve their reputation as friendly and helpful people, so it is always a great place to visit. It’s nice to be able to visit a place relatively unprepared, and know that the locals will help you out and point you in the right direction as you need.

It's pretty spot on!

My strongest memory from my time on the Island, however, comes from the Butchart Gardens. The Gardens are huge, with such a variety of natural delights to see. My photos don’t do them justice, and this post includes almost every single photo I have from there, because shortly after I entered the gardens, the battery on my camera died. I was so frustrated at the time, surrounded by all this beauty with no way to capture it.

Flower

Of course, that is not true at all. It is captured in my memory. And a photo can never fully capture any moment anyway. I was reminded while there how easy it can be with all our modern technology to focus on the documentation of an experience rather than the experience itself. How often am I looking at amazing places, historical or natural, through the lens of a camera? It is great to have the pictures to reflect on later, but it is also so important to just enjoy where you are right then and there.

Entering the Japanese Garden (the last photo I took before my battery died!)
Entering the Japanese Garden (the last photo I took before my battery died!)

Spending a few hours in that place, with no pressure to capture it, but simply the opportunity to enjoy it in the moment, was a great reminder to me to make sure wherever I go that I soak up the moment more than I worry about capturing it for posterity. I will never be able to capture all I see and feel and taste and smell anyway, so I want to make sure I’m most focused on the place, and the person, that is right in front of me. And that is a lesson I have tried to continue to apply in all my travels since.