Travelling to New Brunswick: New Brunswick is fuelled by a quirky joie de vivre. Back: The BCBusiness Guide to World Travel
New Brunswick travel offers eastern charm in the form of beautiful beaches and fresh seafood.
I’m wilting in the blistering sun on a bather-packed beach in late spring in northeastern New Brunswick, trying to remain cool for the cute, ray-worshipping bikini girl checking me out from her gold-coloured towel. The 28-degree temperature and my jeans-and-dress-shirt outfit aren’t helping the cause, but any remaining appeal is shattered when my companions arrive for a chat. Press trips often attract a few unconventional journos, but on this swift east-coast junket I’m joined by a smorgasbord of eclectic international hacks from Japan, Mexico and Australia. And then there are the Germans. Within minutes of our predictably brief beach visit, Martin and Stephan have stripped down to their saggy underwear for an impromptu dip and are standing either side of me, looking as pasty as a pair of milk bottles. Alarmed, beach girl promptly severs her gaze as the Underpants brothers grab their waistbands and gallop for the waves. Staring at my lost love one last time, I trudge back to the air-conditioned minivan, followed by my dripping cohorts, one of whom strips off and arranges his sopping undies on the hood to dry. Deep down – very deep down – I must be jealous of their complete lack of embarrassment.
Without the breathtaking cliffs and rolling bucolic vistas of its Newfoundland and PEI siblings, New Brunswick is nevertheless fuelled by the same quirky joie de vivre. Much of this character is attributable to the earthy French Acadian culture that twists through the province like blue streaks in a ripe cheese. In fact, it’s the food that keeps everyone together here, whether it’s heaps of insulating winter fare or platters of twitching nosh plucked straight from the Atlantic. As someone whose childhood experience of seafood extended as far as ropey fish sticks, I’ve never been a big fan of aquatic dining. But on this trip, avoiding seafood is about as easy as avoiding breathing: you can do it for a while, but it’s not recommended. Soon, I’m happily tucking into steaming prawn omelettes, delectable scallop lunches and mid- afternoon snacks of fresh crab. And just when I feel as though I’m about to sprout gills, it’s time to hit the lobster. Food involving effort is rarely worth it – give me soup and a funnel any day – but as we clamber aboard a boat for a crustacean-cracking lesson, I’m prepared to be converted. While our gregarious captain deftly illustrates how to dig out bubbly orange “caviar” and green glow-in-the-dark liver, my own clumsy efforts quickly have me covered head-to-toe in fishy juice. When I overhear that lobster is an aphrodisiac, though, I consider returning to the beach with my new cologne to test the theory. But as with all press trips, there’s no turning back and we have to keep moving to the tune of the relentless itinerary. Soon, we’re winding farther south toward Moncton for what I hope is some big-city action. Arriving groggy at night and dropping our bags at the hotel, we stroll brick-paved Main Street looking like a convention of visiting realtors and attracting pointed snorts from some of the half-baked patio drinkers we pass along the way. Colonizing some outdoor tables at the Pump House pub, we huddle together, bonded by a faintly unwelcoming downtown that has all the appeal of a paint-peeled strip mall. After a couple of beers, I even feel warmth for the crazy underpants boys. All that goes out the window a few minutes later, of course, when I catch the eye of a girl at the next table. Those German lads had better not be planning a striptease singalong anytime soon.