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Trip Report Scheduling Led Us to Moncton NB, Interest May Bring Us Back

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If you happen to be considering a trip to PEI and wish to get there using public transportation, as far as I could tell, there’s only one direct way of doing it. Acadian Bus Lines has 2-3 buses daily from Moncton, New Brunswick that stop in Borden, Summerside and finally Charlottetown on PEI. That’s it, that’s all, folks. Even if you’re going from Halifax-PEI by bus, a transfer in Amherst NS or Moncton will be necessary.

So after a lovely 4 days of cycling and exploring central PEI, we took the 5pm bus this past Friday to Moncton in order to catch the 5pm VIA Rail “Ocean” sleeper train on Saturday back to Montreal. The overnight in Moncton was not born out of interest especially, but rather had more to do with scheduling. 1) The 7:45am bus out of Charlottetown on Saturday seemed awfully early and 2) the 2pm bus on Saturday would not have arrived in Moncton on time to make the train.

The landscape of New Brunswick is noticeably different from PEI, with coniferous trees all of a sudden dominating (apparently courtesy of Irving company) and no matter how hard I tried, I could not make the soil on the southern side of the Northumberland Strait that rich red colour of PEI. Arriving in Moncton at 8pm, we quickly checked in at the reasonably-priced, Victorian-style-charm B&B, the Bonaccord House ($65 +tax/night), located about a 10-minute walk from the busy-ness of Main Street. Ah, the joys of NOT staying in tourist central-town.

One thing I appreciated about Moncton right off the bat was the relative compactness of the town. One could WALK to cafés, restaurants, grocery stores, market, museums and Riverfront Park easily from our B&B. While the city feels almost emptied of people moving even a block or two off of the Main Street with businesses and homes more spread out on nearby major streets such as St. George Street or Mountain Street, we did appreciate that there were some lovely wooden “Victorian”-style homes peppering the side streets. I also enjoyed how restaurants, such as Archibald Café and Calactus Café where we ate for Friday supper and Saturday lunch respectively, had converted Victorian homes into restaurants, using the former “front porch” as outdoor seating.

The factor that quickly endeared us Montrealers to and piqued our curiosity about Moncton however was to be surrounded for the first time by Shiac, the variety of French spoken in that area of New Brunswick. The cadence, liaisons, accent and even vocabulary (or anglicisms used!) were really quite different from what we’re used to from Québécois in the Montréal area and certainly also from the European French-speakers. We found the rhythm of speech of Monctonian francophones quite melodic and pleasant to the ear; both of us perpetually wanted to eavesdrop as we sat at Archibald Café or strolled past the fun-loving, charming, energetic hubbub of sidewalk restaurants, bars and cafés on Main Street and nearby “ruelles” on Friday night. At the same time, we were surprised (it’s rare that either of us does not understand francophones in our midst in Montreal) how little of the conversations we could actually follow! Both of us felt like we wished we had time to communicate at greater length with francophone Monctonians in order to have a mastery of understanding of their variety of the French language. Finally, the degree of bilingualism throughout Moncton surprised and pleased us, noticing wherever we went that servers throughout the downtown would flip-flop between languages in a manner much like Montrealers do (but with the different local New Brunswick accent). In grossly simplified terms, Moncton offered a fascinating linguistic dynamic that struck me as being something between Ottawa and Montreal in terms of bilingualism, but with a unique Acadian flavour.

Other activities:
•Moncton Market. We enjoyed the buzz of the farmer’s-ish market, selling local produce, lunches, home-baked pastries and more. Hours: Saturday 10am-2pm

•Tidal Bore. Since my expectations were kept adequately low, I found the whole experience amusing in a very “camp” way. When we arrived, about 15-20 people were sitting on bleachers or standing on the oval lookout watching the Petitcodiac River (which is attached to the Bay of Fundy) waiting for the “big moment”, the arrival of the tide! A guide talked about the science and history of tide-viewing in Moncton/Bay of Fundy. Eyes were all vigilantly looking left in anticipation! And here it comes!

In truth, it’s two or three fairly gentle-looking waves that plod steadily forward at a certain time. For the time being, not much to look at perhaps, but in my opinion, still a fascinating natural phenomenon. What was impressive to me, however, was that the about 10 feet high muddy shores of the riverbed present at 10:45 leading up to grass had been completely submerged when we came back, with the water at the level of the grass when we returned after lunch at around 1:30. We also enjoyed walking along the Riverfront Park (Parc Riverain) after the “big moment” had passed.

Apparently, however, the arrival of the tides was once a deafening roar prior to the building of a causeway. Recently, however, they told us something about a dam and the causeway being replaced by a bridge, and there is hope that this will restore the tides to their former glory. I didn’t follow entirely, but apparently they say the tides in Moncton are becoming more impressive since some change was made to the dam or the causeway about 5 months ago, so the tour guides were quite hopeful.

Be warned that schedules listed on Fisheries and Oceans Canada’s website for the arrival of the tides may be off by 15-20 minutes in either direction. For example, the tide was listed to arrive at 11:00 am this past Saturday, but actually came in at 10:45am; good thing we arrived about 25 minutes early!

All in all, I enjoyed my short visit to Moncton, which has further expanded my understanding of Canada and North America. My curiosity has most definitely been piqued and I’m glad my life happened to bring me there

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