We stayed at the Delta Hotel, recently purchased and currently being upgraded by Marriott. It was a lovely stay--spacious room, nice breakfast, great staff-- all of the benefits of a top-rated hotel. But the best part, in Saint John, was its location. The hotel is situated in the heart of downtown, on top of a three-story shopping mall and connected by underground walkways or aboveground pedestrian bridges to the museum, the city market, the library, city hall, and dozens of restaurants, bars, snack bars and take-out food joints!
As a result, our truck stayed parked in the underground garage for four Cruise ship nights, never used as we enjoyed a healthful and invigorating exploration of the neighborhood on foot.
Since we were in the heart of downtown, there were plenty of plaques on the street and plenty of civic art to enjoy, including a wonderful array of people on and around a park bench, entitled Waiting People. Bob just joined in and was convinced he looked just like one of the sculptures.
A large part of the economy of St. John is tourism, and cruise boats make frequent calls throughout the season. The passengers stay long enough to watch the Many sculptors at work changing of the tides, because the Bay of Fundy is right there, and the Reversing Falls (at high tide the sea water flows upstream, overcoming the rapids that are clearly present at low tide) are a must-see for ship passengers.
Every year, Saint John is host to a sculpture symposium and exposition in which stone sculptors from many countries, selected on the basis of their proposals, spend a few weeks in the parking lot of the former Canadian Coast Guard base, located (naturally!) just down the street from our hotel. The sculptors are allowed to visit the local quarries which have yielded a rich variety of stones. Wielding hammer and chisel Each scuptor picks a couple of pieces of granite from stone which had been quarried long ago, when granite was a big industry here. They then have access to plenty of electic power and high-pressure water, which they use to power their tools and equipment to create wonderful things. The products are placed along a Sculpture Trail which starts in Maine and moves to Saint John, with new comunities being added each year along the way. Of course this is not a high-speed process, and only the citizens of Saint John truly get to see the sculptures grow from bare rock to finished works of art! Imagerie de l'heritiere
During our stay, we also enjoyed visiting the New Brunswick Museum tucked into the shopping center adjacent to our hotel. One had to walk down a long corridor and descend a flight of stairs to reach it, but that was nothing, and probably even more impressive when it is snowing outside. The museum contains a good collection of art by New Brunswick artists , plus some works from farther away. We were particularly delighted with Imagerie de l'heritiere, a gorgeous room-size installation in wood and stone with delicately matched earthen colors, by Marie Helene Allain, a woman from the eastern end of the province. It was impossible to capture the Closeup installation in a single photograph, so we were delighted on leaving to find a small volume describing and illustrating the installation, and even more delighted to hear the clerk say, "Oh, that's supposed to be a giveaway with your visit!"
The rest of the museum had a good display covering New Brunswick history and natural beauty, but the art installation dominated our reaction this day.
We love to visit libraries, and believe that the first requirement is functionality. Is the library full of visitors and readers, young and old? That's certainly true of the downtown library, because its position just across the hall Saint John main library from the museum guarantees a lot of curious and intelligent visitors.
In the opposite direction from the museum and library is the City Market, a delightful building crowded with stalls and shoppers and, at lunchtime, diners. We took advantage of fresh fruits and vegetables and soups and sandwiches in this lively shopping center.
Maybe it is because we have been in small towns and villages for weeks, but Saint John reminds us that a good-sized city can have gracious and impressive areas which should improve the lives of its citizens and visitors alike.