This blog post has been sponsored by Uptown Saint John and Envision Saint John but I chose the locations to visit and the opinions are entirely my own.
There’s something to be said about “getting away from it all.” Even when life is good, we all wear certain hats in life that come with responsibility. My usual proverbial hats are mother, wife, entrepreneur, and translator – and although I wear all of them happily, I was ready to take them off temporarily and just be me. What I needed was a girls’ weekend with my friend Lori. Where we were headed was uptown Saint John, New Brunswick.
I’ve always found that physical distance from my responsibilities helps me feel more relaxed and more like myself, but the distance doesn’t have to be far. I live in Halifax and Saint John is only a 3.5 hour drive. It’s a drive I’ve done many times as a native Saint Johner, but this weekend was special. I couldn’t quite put my finger on why, but after a few days of reflection, I figured it out. We’ll circle back to that, but first let’s talk about what we got up to!
We rolled into town on a Friday at noon, just in time to hit up Thandi for lunch. As an Indian food lover, I’ve eaten there before and I was happy to catch them on butter chicken day! A great start to the weekend. After lunch, we walked two minutes around the corner to Refresh Wellness Studio for some rest and relaxation. Lori got a manicure while I got a massage. And because it’s Saint John, the owner was a very kind person who looked so familiar…it turns out we had mutual acquaintances growing up and we think we’ve met before. This became a theme as the weekend continued, running into familiar faces wherever we went.
For all the time I’ve spent in Saint John, I haven’t spent much time in the shops in recent years, due in part to the pandemic and in part to having kids in tow. Being able to hit up boutiques in the afternoon was such a treat. We started at Lordon , which sells clothing, accessories and more! It was a beautiful space with a cool aesthetic that seems to attract shoppers young and old, based on who came through the door while we were there. Next we headed to In Pursuit boutique which was practically next door. There were two big standouts in this shop: first, the wallpaper was spectacular! Second, the sizing was inclusive up to size 22, which is a rarity! We made a few purchases in each shop.
I knew where we’d eat dinner as soon as the trip was in the works: East Coast Bistro . Among my family and their friends, ECB (as it’s known to the locals) is their favourite – and it didn’t disappoint. I got the duck, which was excellent, and yet it was the pistachio cheesecake that really stole the show! After dinner, we took the long way home, which is to say that we walked around the block. I wanted to take Lori to Hopscotch Whiskey Bar – a very cool spot I’d visited in the past. On our way there, we walked past O’Leary’s Irish Pub and we were lured in by the live music, so we sat down to check out the band. After that, we headed back to our hotel, Delta Hotels by Marriott Saint John where we were staying and finished our first day by relaxing in the hotel hot tub. The perfect first day!
There’s fun you can predict, and some that is so spontaneous that you didn’t see it coming. Saturday proved to have both kinds in store for us. After a leisurely breakfast at the hotel, we visited the famous Saint John City Market (a personal favourite of mine) then wandered into the streets of uptown Saint John to visit the shops and galleries. We had a fabulous time at Urban Shoe Myth trying on shoes, smelling candles and admiring jewelry. Afterwards, I wanted to check out Hats On the Square because I was curious to see a store that was mostly hats. We could not have predicted having so much fun when Susie, the store owner, picked out various hats she thought would suit us and we tried them all on. We had such a ball that it was practically lunchtime when we finally emerged. We visited a few more shops along the way and then headed to Marci’s Salads for lunch.
“Are we crashing a party?” This was the second incident of spontaneous fun. We walked into Trinity Galleries to find a small group of people enjoying charcuterie, wine, art and each other’s company. As it turns out, we were more than welcome and were promptly handed a glass of wine. I’ve always loved Trinity Galleries and I even own art from there, but this unexpected encounter took it to the next level! And since we love galleries, we also visited Handworks and Spicer Merrifield Gallery, then into Tuck, a local furniture/interior decorating store which is an absolute must-see. We grabbed a London Fog across the street at The Art Warehouse – a cool art-based coffee shop – before visiting two more shops that I’d never visited. The first was Heroes’ Beacon Comic and Games . Lori’s boyfriend is an avid comic lover and she was very impressed with the variety! The second was Juniper, where I even spotted some Haligonian favourites like Twig & Feather and The Cure Skincare. Overall, a fabulous afternoon.
Now back to the kind of fun that you can predict. Since Saint John is my hometown, Lori and I met up with my sister, my three cousins and a friend for dinner at Port City Royal (https://www.portcityroyal.com/), a boutique restaurant known for their cocktails and their three-course tasting menu. I predicted a fun evening and we certainly had our share of laughs. After dinner, we walked down the street to Woodchucks Axe Throwing (https://www.woodchucksaxethrowing.ca/) where I learned the hard way (or perhaps the funny way?) that I was not a natural! Lori hit the bullseye on the first try, and the rest of the girls can be best described as better than me but worse than Lori. There were two people in the lane beside us and it occurred to me that it might be a fun date night if you didn’t get stuck next to seven loud women having the time of their lives – namely, us! I highly recommend this spot. Everywhere I looked, people were laughing and smiling.
Sunday morning was cold but magical. The cold weather meant that the city was relatively quiet, so we explored uptown Saint John and practically had the place to ourselves. There are a few different self-guided walking tours featuring art and history throughout uptown Saint John, and we used the map as a guide. The architecture in Saint John is NEXT LEVEL and despite the cold, Lori and I were smitten with the buildings. I’ll let the photos do the talking! Finally, we had lunch at Britt’s Pub and Eatery, another favourite among locals with lots of character and great options.
This is the end of the itinerary but not quite the end of my post, because I want to circle back to why this past weekend was special for me. The first reason is that we stayed in uptown Saint John, giving us full flexibility to walk wherever we wanted whenever we wanted. We never got in a car once, and it made for an incredibly relaxing trip. The second is that I had carved out time to really explore the city. At the risk of sounding cheesy, there were times when I felt like I was discovering uptown Saint John for the first time. The third is that I was living in the moment. I wasn’t on a schedule so I was free to say yes to that glass of wine at the gallery or chat with a friendly business owner. I was free to spend time with a dear friend and tell the long version of my many stories. I think I do a good job of living in the moment day to day but the weekend made me realize just how hard that can be when you’re stretched thin, trying to be everything to everyone. I had taken off all of my proverbial hats and underneath them was me – just me. And boy, did it feel great. And what did I get up to? I tried on hats!
About Uptown Saint John: https://uptownsj.com/
Be sure to check out the retail and restaurant map (https://uptownsj.com/maps/) for more
information about the shops, retailers and services located with Uptown Saint John’s business
improvement district. They also offer Uptown Saint John Gift Cards
(https://mydowntowngiftcards.ca/product/uptown-saint-john-gift-card/ ) which can be used at most of these businesses.
About Saint John & the Towns by the Bay: https://www.discoversaintjohn.com/
For more information on things to do, places to stay and all things related to planning your uptown visit, or any Saint John region bay-cation, be sure to visit www.SJTownsByTheBay.com, Envision Saint John’s visitor information website.