Day 71 – 18th September (St John)

Woke up to some pretty wet weather and temperatures in the low teens. Wind had dropped right back, though.

Last night’s meal had left us too stuffed for breakfast, so we set off to find the Discover St John office. Slavishly following Google Maps got us nowhere – it just led to a wasteland on the waterfront.

We found a suitable café and got coffee and a cookie under our belts, having had a brief walk around. We couldn’t find any other tourist bureaux, so I phoned the number pertaining to Discover St. John. The ensuing conversation showed that we hadn’t walked far enough down Water Street, so back we went, and entered the extraordinary Container Village.

We found our man amongst this motley collection – about 22 years old and tremendous value. He was bored out of his skull, so appreciated the opportunity to pass his extensive knowledge on to a couple of ignorant but enthusiastic Brits.

He provided us with some details of self guided walks, so off we set.

There is a lot of history to this place. About half the town was destroyed by a huge fire in 1877, so much of what we see now has been built since then. However, it was incorporated in 1785 as Canada’s first city, so much had happened before then.

The site was actually discovered by Samuel de Champlain, (the founder of Québec), in 1604, but had been turned into a settlement from around 1783 by troops loyal to the British crown fleeing the American War of Independence.

Some interesting buildings on the way.

Used to be Bank of Nova Scotia – you can just see the remnants of the name
This was the original Post Office

However, we hit the jackpot when we stopped outside the White House, 71 Sydney Street. It was the home of Lt. Colonel Walter White, hence the name, from 1891 to 1952. He was Mayor of St John from 1902 to 1906, and again from 1930 to 1935.

As we were discussing where to go next, a couple of young ladies overheard us, and as they were maids in this house, offered to show us around. This was too good to resist.

Wonderful conservatory

It is still used as a hotel today – it has about 10 rooms – and is owned by a well-known local philanthropist, Susan Fullerton.

What a bit of luck. We were also able to pass on some information to these two ladies from our tourist leaflet, which they did not know and were very pleased to receive. Result all round.

We carried on our way.

King’s Square. The paths are laid out in the pattern of the Union flag
Trinity Church
Street art
See below

We walked back to the hotel and strolled along the boardwalk outside of it. There were some interesting storyboards along the way.

Next stop – the Reversing Falls.

This was a short drive away, and proved to be fascinating.

The site of this phenomenon is at the junction of the St John River and the Bay of Fundy. The latter has the highest tides in the world, because of its wide, deep mouth and its narrow, shallow end. At a big spring tide, it can rise over 50 feet.

At the Bay’s low tide, the St John River is the higher of the two, so the net flow is from the river into the Bay. Left to right as seen in the video below – River on the left, Bay on the right.

As the Bay tide rises, the two flows equalise, so a period of flat calm pertains.

This lasts about 15 minutes, then as the Bay tide rises on the right, the flow goes from right to left. The volumes of water are absolutely mind-boggling.

We witnessed all this from an onsite restaurant, where we sampled a poutine. This is a national dish, apparently. Cheese curds, chips and gravy. We at least added some chicken to ours. Just weird, but we thought we’d try it as it’s our last full day in Canada. It was OK.

Eating at the restaurant gives you access to the skywalk above it, so you can look down on the rapids below and watch a (very interesting) video about the geology of the falls.

Further up the St John River after the tide reverse
Downtown St John

We then visited the Falls View Park on the other side of the St John River, carefully avoiding as far as possible the truly ghastly pulp mill.

The higher level of the Bay of Fundy waters is still driving back the flow of the St John River. This can extend up to 90 km up the river, such is the enormous volume of water produced by the Bay tide

There were a few interesting storyboards, particularly about the bridge construction.

Once again, we turned an unpromising day into a real cracker. Well, we think so anyway.

Back to the room to prepare for our next destination across the border into the USA. Hopefully all will go smoothly, and you can join us on The Other Side.

4 responses to “Day 71 – 18th September (St John)”

  1. What an amazing place! I loved the container village and the street art. We will hike round some of the Bay of Fundy, so may learn something about the tides there also.

    1. Yes, we really made the best of it today. The videos don’t really show the Reversing Falls that well, but it was a fascinating phenomenon. Your tour will surely emphasise the impact the tides have here. Look forward to seeing your report on that.

  2. wow those tides look amazing we go to wells next to the sea alot where there is a 8ft tide every day and sometimes we have got caught ih it ans had to wade back waist deep in water but this surpasses it by 50ft i wonder if it possible to swim in it or would it be too dangerous
    the containers looked good
    the poutine sounded a bit odd never mind american food tomorrow

    1. Far too dangerous to swim in it. The currents and volumes of water are treacherous.

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