Fascination with the Fraser

Jennifer Hewitt of video and editing business Clipsake has contributed this article. You can find the first article here.

As a new wife and soon to be Mom, I’ve spent the last year getting reaquainted with the Royal City which I previously called home in the early 2000s while attending Douglas College. Myself and my husband Simon relocated from Vancouver’s Mt. Pleasant neighbourhood in January 2016 and we’ve spent our time finding our new favourite places that have made New Westminster feel like home.

It can be difficult moving to a new community. The butcher, the baker, the sweet espresso maker you’ve come to know and love are all miles away. Your daily commute and your neighbours change all in one fell swoop. The way to thrive? Wander, explore and stay curious!

As the proper nerds that my husband and I are, we got to peering through our new city’s website and looking at plans past, present and future. We were most intrigued by the plans to continue the connections of the different communities along the waterfront. Those proposed connections included the proposed Q2Q bridge and the Waterfront Greenway connection which would effectively link Queensborough, the Quayside/Downtown and Sapperton. So here are some of my favourite places in these ‘hoods.

Queensborough

Favourite memory this year? Seeing the shocked look on a group of shoppers faces as they returned to their cars at Queensborough Landing to find a heavily pregnant woman being photographed while dancing, sans music, by the riverside.  

Viewing a space, a place, a community from different angles is one way to fall in love with a city. Since moving into the Brow of the Hill neighborhood, one of the first places Simon and I started exploring was across the river in Queensborough.

Walking the flat, meandering paths along the Fraser river, past lovely houses, big skies and light industrial lots provided a great backdrop for conversation (no huffing and puffing up hills). We also found looking across the Fraser at the Quay and our own neighborhood framed by mountains, bridges and sky a refreshing take on BC’s oldest city.

Rather than one continuous trail in Queensborough, you will find a series of pathways which encourage you to make make your own way through neighborhoods, railway tracks and roads…but that adds to the fun. Failing to find a detailed walking map of these pathways, I used this map from Let’s Go Biking for my first couple of explorations.

Also in this neighborhood, the popular Queensborough Landing shopping centre backs along a section of the Fraser River that houses log booms, river birds and great views of the Queensborough bridge, though I haven’t yet shopped here…. Instead it served as the spot where we took our maternity photographs, cementing it as a special place for us for years to come.

The River Market  / Westminster Pier Park

Favourite memory this year? Watching the Filipino senior dancers perform traditional dances before breaking into a modern dance set to Lady Gaga’s, ‘Poker Face’ during the Canada Day 2016 Multicultural Festival.

This area has changed dramatically in the 15 years since I last lived in New Westminster. The river that used to be a place to admire from up the hill is now a place filled with public art, spaces to gather and lots of quality places to eat, drink and be merry!

In fact, whether travelling abroad or in her own city, one of my favourite ways to explore is a bit Pac-Manesque…. nom nom nom. An ideal way to explore the Quay is starting at the west side of the Quay, stop in to meet the local brewmasters at Steel and Oak.

Get some exercise before calling into the River Market. If you are like me and are heavily pregnant, you might grab some of the amazing fried chicken from Re-up and sit comfortably while watching people bend and contort in amazing ways at the circus school.

Maybe finish with a gelato from Tre Galli Gelato Caffe (their pizza is also AMAZING) and get back outside where you could find people jogging, doing yoga and even playing volleyball while watching the tugs go by. Even if you aren’t into yoga, the sight of a crowd of people in bright tights bending and moving in the sunshine is a far cry from the abandoned feeling this place used to have not so long ago.

The vibrant River Market now gives people a reason to come down the hill (despite the inevitable uphill return 😉 thanks to the variety of shops and events that take place there. The recent Feast on the Fraser gave people the chance to get to know local chefs at Wild Rice Bistro. This was an event that turned strangers into life long accomplices in the destruction of  innocent carrots and tomatoes as the group attempted garnishes and learned to fillet a salmon.

Heading down to the hammocks and the reclining bench seats are perfect places to relax with a treat and a book. Finishing off your walk, don’t you dare fight the urge to take a photo with the largest public art installation from the 2014-2016 Vancouver Biennale 2014-2016. Tag your photos #wowwestminster to get in on the online record, or save these photos for years to come to show your nearest and dearest how dramatically different the waterfront looks once again.

Finally, cross to the wrong side of the tracks and go visit local bean buster, Old Crow Coffee to fortify you for the walk home!

Sapperton

Favourite memory this year? The popping of a dozen corks (sparkling juice of course 😉 at the launch of the Clipsake website in Glenbrook Ravine park under a perfectly sunny sky.

Checking out the other proposed connection to the trail along the Fraser (Sapperton Landing to Westminster Pier Park), the 1km stretch of Sapperton landing trail is a great place to head after taking in the view from up the hill in Glenbrook at The Castle Neighborhood Grill .

You get bonus points if you manage to completely perplex your English relatives as I’m wont to do by introducing them to the Castle breakfast yorkies. Nothing like the original yorkshire pudding, but so, so good.

At the Annual Sapperton Day Street Festival this year, I saw a performance by the Royal City Swing Dancers and I was hooked. These guys and gals will give you some comedy, music and yes, dancing on a Friday night in Sapperton if you’re up for it!

A trip to downton Sapperton is like a treat to yourself or to your nearest and dearest if you are in a generous mood. I recommend beginning your little stop with rich, dark Italian coffee and sweet treat from Fratellis. Then you will find it easy to hit up the trifecta of local love by visiting 3 boutiques all on one block that sell Canadian and local gifts, blooms and treats. In fact, it is almost dare worthy to say that I bet you can’t walk into  Bloom Bloom Room, Cadeaux and Banana Lab and leave without a smile and a treat.

The New Westminster Culture Crawl this year saw artists opening up the doors to their workshop and welcoming everyone to see the variety of art. Everything from quilting to metal works, photography to mixed media. 100 Braid Street Studios in Sapperton is one beautiful space for artists and events. Not to mention it is the last historical industrial buildings still in tact in New Westminster, though its future is in question.

Wandering down the busy Columbia street past Hume Park, you will find a stretch of The Central Valley Greenway that follows the Brunette River. This year, the river was thick with spawning salmon being watched by curious photographers, herons perched in trees and the occasional bear. Driving on this busy stretch of road between Lougheed and New Westminster, you would never guess that this natural wonder was taking place just behind the trees. For that reason, I encourages you to meander, wander and explore New Westminster to make it feel like home.