Saturday, September 3, 2011

Semi-Frugal Minibreak Hits and Misses

I'm back from the Great Frozen North!  Of course, this time of year, it was just foggy not frozen.  Fun Fact: Did you know that Saint John New Brunswick is nicknamed The Fog City?  Their Roller Derby team is called The Fog City Rollers, and apparently (according to the hotel desk clerk) it's the foggiest city in Canada, although some other sites that I looked at said St. John Newfoundland and Labrador is foggier.  Either way, one night it was foggy enough that I could not see clearly more than six feet in front of myself.  Thankfully, we were walking, not driving.
Hits: Frugal minifridge and microwave in hotel room!  I'd checked the weather before we left, and I also knew a hurricane was coming, so I upgraded us to a slightly nicer-than-our-usual hotel room since we'd probably be spending some time there.  One night, because it was soggy out and we wanted to watch the tropical storm coverage, we went to the grocery store and bought a lovely assortment of dinner items there.  Then we went to the liquor store and bought beer.  In total, we probably saved about $50 on dinner (food and drink was very expensive in NB), and had a lovely, low-key evening.
Minifridge after frugal dinner in hotel--there was
much more food, but I am a hungry girl
Misses: There's not a ton to do in Saint John.  It's a lovely city, but it's more of a stop on a tour of the Maritime Provinces than it is a destination.  On our first day there, we went to the New Brunswick Museum, which was great, but after that, we didn't have much else to do.  A lot of the sights and activities were outdoorsy, and the weather made them unfun/ impossible to do, but honestly, I'm content to just hang out and be low-key, so we were both pretty happy regardless.
You're obliged to take a picture of a moose every time you visit Canada
Hits: Natural Beauty. Even though there's not a ton to do, we still managed to keep ourselves entertained.  One of the biggest draws to Saint John is their unique tidal phenomena.  The Bay of Fundy drops 26 feet at low tide, which is the largest tidal drop of any body of water.  It also has a current opposite of that of the Saint John River, so when the two meet, it creates these mini-rapids and whirlpools.  It's pretty rad.  Note: Two years ago, Bf and I went to Niagara Falls and stayed on the Canadian side of the falls, so technically, this trip to NB was our second trip to Canada to look at water.  Since looking at water is free--bonus!

Reversing Falls look much more impressive in person--I promise

Hits:  Market!  The Saint John City Market is the oldest market in Canada, it's beautiful and it's full of yummy goodies.  We had a frugal and delicious lunch there AND bought a groovy souvenir from a very nice lady.  The ceiling of the market was designed to look like the inverted keel of a ship, which is a nod to the city's maritime history and status as one of the world's former shipbuilding centers.

Hits: Exotic Candy.  One of my favorite things to do in a different country is sample as many different kinds of candy bars as I can find.  This makes me sophisticated and well-rounded.  Double bonus, candy bars are cheap and delicious.  Even though I grew up 30 minutes from Canada and have sampled her candy wares many a time, it's still a treat to gorge myself on Coffee Crisp for a weekend--and I did.  I also bought a giant bag of Toblerone at the duty free store, because you pretty much have to do that when crossing a border.

Hits: Side Trips!  On our way to Saint John, it was about an eight hour drive, we stopped in Portland Maine for the night.  The following morning, we visited The Desert of Maine, which is a delightful roadside attraction that is an actual desert in Maine, which is totally weird.

Of course there's a camel, it's a desert!
Fun fact: The Desert of Maine has been in operation as a tourist attraction since the 1930s, once upon a time they did have an actual camel with the idea that the camel would be a petting zoo type creature.  Apparently they did not get the memo that camels are jerks because our tour guide said, "That camel was not nice at all."  I think it got donated to a zoo or something.

On the way home, we took the scenic shore drive and stopped at the Easternmost Point in the United States.
Easternmost Lighthouse is at West Quoddy Head--it's fun to say
And on the way to the easternmost point in the US, we saw this:
Easternmost Gift Shop!
That sign seriously made my day, and we bought a whale carved out of driftwood there.

Hits: Hotel Breakfast.  I mentioned above that I picked a nicer-than-usual hotel room, and another reason I picked it is because it got rave reviews for the breakfast, which is included in the price of the room.  Those reviewers were spot on, because that breakfast was AMAZING.  We stuffed ourselves each morning, and skimped on lunch, which saved us even more money, and I snagged a bagel and an apple for the road (border patrol confiscated my apple, which makes me feel a little bit bad-ass).  I think that the excellent breakfast is something that Holiday Inn Express is known for, but maybe it was just this one.  Either way, two frugal thumbs up.

Overall: Semifrugal minibreak was a success!  We saved where we could, kept ourselves entertained, and returned to the US rested and refreshed (if a bit sick of driving).  Next time you visit the Maritime Provinces--bring an umbrella!


  1. Yesssss Canadian chocolate bars (that's what we call them, not candy bars) are the greatest. My friend just moved to the US and I was shocked - shocked! - to hear that you guys don't have coffee crisp or caramilk or chocolate smarties. You poor people! Also, apparently, Oreo cookies are different in canada vs the US.

    Glad you had a fun time in my ex-area! Next time you should hit up Halifax and say hi to my mom. Plus, there's way more to do in Halifax than saint John.

  2. Oh Annabelle, we wanted to go to Halifax--badly, but it either took 18 hours of driving + ferry time, or cost something like $1000 to fly in. Halifax is not frugal, but I WILL go there someday as that's where my favorite band of all time: SLOAN are from.

    Maybe next year!

  3. Also, you are correct, chocolate in the US is totally behind the times. We're only now moving into the aerated chocolate phase of candy making-- I saw an ad for bubbly Hershey's the other day. You can buy Aero here, but not the mint kind, and they're typically in the "international" section of the grocery store where they cost waaaaaaaaaaaay too much. What the hell, America?

  4. You don't have Mint Aero??? Oh, the humanity.

  5. I think, overall, Holiday Inn Expresses do have excellent breakfasts. I was forced to live in one for over a week in college (long story) and gained 3 or 4 pounds just from the breakfast! My dad has the card to get the points, so I always try to stay there. They are super clean, quite nice, and have a great breakfast - what more could you want?!