Imagine sitting at an outdoor restaurant across from a National Historic Site, listening to Harry Manx belt out some funky blues accompanied by his lap-slide guitar, and checking your email at the same time. Welcome to Fredericton, capitol of New Brunswick, the first city in Canada to provide wireless Internet hotspots throughout downtown.
For 15 years, Fredericton has hosted the Harvest Jazz & Blues Festival, renown internationally for its talent, breadth of music, and hospitality. Each year it showcases the hottest established talent and the most up and coming artists from the US, Canada and abroad playing everything from smooth jazz, Cajun, acoustic blues, jazz funk and electric blues. Recent headliners included the blues-rock band, The Fabulous Thunderbirds; blues acoustic duo, Kenny Neal and Billy Branch; Atlanta’s Original “P” with members of Parliament/Funkadelic; Cajun band, La Bande Feufolle, and internationally renowned jazz ensemble, The National Jazz Orchestra of France, from Paris.
Settled by the Loyalists in October 1783, who’d fought for England in the War of Independence, Fredericton’s done an amazing job of preserving an impressive array of architectural treasures including simple Loyalist homes, Gothic Revival churches, grandiose Victorian mansions and public buildings like the restored 1828 mansion of the Lt. Governor. Free Heritage Walking Tours are available at City Hall.
To understand life in Canada after the American Revolution, step back in time at near-by Kings Landing Historical Settlement, an outstanding interpretative living museum. Here you meet role-playing costumed guides who demonstrate the dynamics of sawmilling using hydro power to transport giant logs in a real working sawmill, learn how to prepare authentic period meals over an open fire, visit the flour mill and taste the results in the dining room at the King’s Head Inn serving first-rate luncheons. Enjoy a pint and a slice of divine Acadian sugar pie, brown custard wrapped in pastry. Don’t be surprised if your busboy barely comes up to table height, as staff is encouraged to bring their preschoolers, also in period costume, to make the experience more authentic. Our busy boy for the day was a charming three year-old.
Need more inducement? Tourists get a free three-day parking permit. Apply at City Hall.
While you’re there, stop in at the Beaverbrook Art Gallery for a stupendous experience. Thanks to the patronage of Canadian-born newspaper baron Lord Beaverbrook, Churchill’s Minister of Supply during WWII, the gallery actually owns three Salvador Dali oils. Mounted in a room just behind the entrance is Dali’s 1957 Santiago El Grande, a dream-like interpretation of Christ’s Ascension in which the warrior apostle Saint James of Compostella, patron saint of Spain, riding naked and bareback, charges toward Heaven, holding a crucifix and guided by an Angel. In the upper corner is the supplicant Christ, agonized hands beseeching forgiveness for man’s sins. The gallery contains many priceless works of art like the tapestry The Hunt of Maximilian, July. One of just nine editions, three other sets are owned by Bill Gates and another by the Louvre museum in Paris. Not bad for a gallery in a city of just 50,000 inhabitants.
In 2007, the festival runs September 11 to 16. For ticket and other information, visit www.harvestjazzandblues.com
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