Saint John – the “Saint” in the New Brunswick city is spelled out, and the “John” is singular and non-possessive – was to be a quick first stop on our driving tour of Atlantic Canada. Instead, it became the only stop. With the remnants of Hurricane Fiona slamming into Nova Scotia the day we’d hoped to arrive, we headed back stateside and watched the news with horror.
But our one day in Saint John was delightful. As we stood on the corner across from our hotel, debating whether to head to the City Market, the Jewish Museum, or simply wander the Uptown district, not one, but two kind people offered to give us directions.
We’re not lost, we explained, just indecisive.
I was struck by the number of Syrian restaurants in Saint John – not vaguely “Mediterranean” or generically “Middle Eastern,” but specifically Syrian – and by the number of women wearing hijab. That inspired me to do a little googling, which confirmed that this small city has welcomed more Syrian refugees per capita than almost anywhere else in Canada. (And far more, needless to say, than anywhere in the U.S.)
Less consequential and arguably less admirable, but also noticeable: Saint John punches far above its weight in the use of Edison bulbs, which seemed to be everywhere. Their warm, retro glow suits the Port City’s vaguely steampunk esthetic.
And, of course, there’s the city’s street art. A small sampling follows.
Sending heartfelt sympathy to all the Canadians affected by this weekend’s devastating storm.