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Cover Story: Climbing High, Outdoor Rock Climbing in Atlantic Canada, by Morgan Leet
Photography by Greg Locke, at Spanky's Playground in Newfoundland and Labrador
Baby Overboard at Flatrock, Newfoundland and Labrador, photography by Greg Locke
When you think of the East Coast, the image of the endless blue ocean probably comes to mind. We’re blessed with beautiful beaches, oceanside retreats, and picture-perfect lighthouses; but what about the other side of our stunning nature? Venture beyond the coastlines, into the forest and mountains, and you’ll find... rocks. It might not sound particularly exciting at first, but there is actually a thriving, and growing, community of people in Atlantic Canada enjoying our outdoor rock climbing scene. The experience of going into nature, climbing high while your adrenaline pumps through you, often surrounded by outdoor enthusiasts, is becoming a staple East Coast experience.
With a spike in outdoor activities this year, it's no surprise that Atlantic Canadians were exploring every nook and cranny of our surroundings. Some of the best climbing around is within New Brunswick, where you have access to mountain ranges that aren't just great for hiking. Local New Brunswick rock climbing enthusiast Julija Rans started her rock climbing journey this year, and hasn't looked back (or down).
Julija tells [EDIT]ION that "the climbing community is an inclusive and supportive space for all. Climbing has truly helped me find my purpose and community again. It’s like solving a giant puzzle and you’re constantly getting better at seeing routes, gripping holds, and can see yourself growing stronger both physically and mentally." When she's not out exploring in her free time, you can find her at Fit Rocks, the indoor climbing gym in Saint John, training.
As for where to go, there is no shortage of climbing spots, and more being discovered regularly. "New Brunswick offers some of the best climbing in Atlantic Canada. There are crags located in Welsford, Saint John, Kennebecasis Valley, and Charlotte County. Red Rock Mountain is a newly developed Crag near Lake Utopia that I’m super excited to explore more of this summer," says Julija.
Newfoundland and Labrador also stands out for its incredible climbs with spectacular views, after all, it is called 'The Rock' for a reason. Greg Lock is a professional photographer who not only captures people climbing high on the jagged cliffs of Newfoundland and Labrador shores, but is an avid climber himself. "The most popular and with the most routes and boulders is at the town of Flatrock, 20 minutes north of St John’s. A short hike from your car you will find dozens of boulders and hundreds of routes for trad, sport and top ropes on Main Face, Spanky’s Playground, Blood Bath and UV Ray Wall. Flatrock has some of the toughest and most challenging routes and you are climbing with the crashing waves, seabirds and whales behind you." Greg tells [EDIT]ION. If you'd rather start out slow, Greg says that his favourite place to climb is German Face near Manuals in Conception Bay South, which is "ideal for teaching kids and beginners the fun of climbing out doors."
Like Julija said, the community is not only a growing one, but welcoming one. Whatever province you're in, check out the local indoor climbing gyms to get involved and find out more about where to go and try outdoor climbing.
Newfoundland and Labrador: Walnuts Climbing Centre
Follow Julija on Instagram for endless outdoor content as she explores her home province: @julijarans.Follow Greg Locke for his breathtaking photography skills and exciting adventures: @greg.locke.
Julija Rans climbing Red Rock Mountain in New Brunswick, photos by Erin Andrew (Instagram: @atlantic_andrew)
FlatrockFest 2013, Newfoundland and Labrador, photography by Greg Locke
UV Ray Wall, Newfoundland and Labrador, photography by Greg Locke
Alexa Cude loves all things photographic, demonstrated in her breathtaking work, which spans an array of projects that showcase her level of skill and creativity. These skills were built from her time at Nova Scotia Collage of Art and Design, where she completed a Bachelor of Fine Arts in photography and studied fine art, art history and fashion. Since then she has gained recognition for her clean aesthetic and broad experience, with a wide range of clients including Cadillac, Canada Goose, CBC, Kiehl’s, Bumble, and more.
[EDIT]ION’s Morgan Leet caught up with Alexa to learn more about her photographic journey.
[EDIT]ION: When did you first know you had a talent for photography?
Alexa Cude: My photography journey started at the age of nine on a mother-daughter trip to Spain and Morocco. On that trip I fell in love with portraiture and landscape photography, still two of my favourite areas to work in, but I wouldn’t say I felt that I had any special talent. Verbal communication has never been easy for me and even as a young child I struggled a lot with social anxiety. Learning the ins and outs of photography was a way for me to more easily communicate how I see and experience the world around me with my peers. The social media era we live in was just beginning when I was in public school, so sharing my photos on platforms like Facebook became a real communication method and allowed me to connect with peers who had similar interests. 22 years into my photography journey, I still feel like I’m learning every day, and I think a commitment to perpetual learning has allowed me to develop my photographic identity more than anything else.
[EDIT]ION: Did you always know you wanted to make it your career?
Alexa Cude: Definitely not! I grew up in a family with its fair share of academics and creatives, and my take away was that I didn’t want to wind up freelancing, self-employed or teaching because it seemed like a challenging path based on the adults in my life. So, for years and years I only considered photography as a hobby. An amazing teacher in my last year of high school encouraged me to be more open-minded about a fine arts education and I ended up applying to NSCAD University under her guidance. Initially, I had planned to study fashion design which I thought would be more likely to lead to traditional employment, but when I got to develop my own film and prints in a dark room for the first time, I was hooked. By the end of my first year I had declared a major in photography. Originally, I planned to pursue a masters and work as an artist within academic institutions and the grant system, but my Instagram presence allowed me the opportunity to move into commercial photography instead.
[EDIT]ION: What do you find unique, or love about, the Halifax art community?
Alexa Cude: I’ve had the pleasure of working with a variety of local, national and international clients. When it comes to being a visual media maker for hire though, I’ve found the small business owners of Halifax are eager to support young people in this field and give new talent a chance, in the hopes that more youth stay here rather than moving onto larger cities. On the flip side, I’ve experienced a lot of folks here who still want people in creative fields to subscribe to working for trade or exposure, but I think makers are pushing back against those demands more and more which will lead to a healthier creative community overall.
[EDIT]ION: You practice a wide range of photographic styles. What is your favorite to shoot?
Alexa Cude: Not having a niche is definitely intentional. When I started freelancing, I expected a niche would eventually make itself obvious and I would focus on one specific area of photography but as you pointed out, the opposite has happened. I am somewhat of a workaholic and don’t take much time away from photography, so I find working across different areas of the same medium is a way to keep myself interested and motivated. No two days of work are ever the same and that’s something I really value. As a freelancer, it’s also reassuring not to have all of your eggs in one basket, which has been particularly helpful in our current pandemic state of affairs. For example, most of my wedding work has been put on hold but businesses need visual and advertising assets more than ever, so I’ve been able to compensate for the loss of work in weddings by taking on more branding clients.
[EDIT]ION: What do you love to do outside of photography?
Alexa Cude: A lot of the things I love outside of photography are frequent themes in my work. Growing up in the Maritimes taught me a deep appreciation for nature and time spent outdoors, most of my days off are spent hiking with my dog, admittedly with a camera in tow to create personal work and portfolio content. Food and travel are two of my other loves and although I’m traveling less these days I’m really enjoying discovering more of Halifax’s growing food culture.
East Coast Glamping (ECG) is a luxurious outdoor adventure that promises little planning and a lot of fun. Offering safari-style bell tent and essential outdoor-living rentals, glampers can choose from various locations in the countryside and seaside near Halifax, and each spot is as breathtaking as the next. The idea is to experience a rustic escape, but with a chic, elegant and comfortable twist. Tents are equipped with off-the-ground beds, throw rugs, chairs, end tables and more.
“The neat element customers love about ECG is that we customize every package,” says Cyndi Sweeney, owner of ECG. “We have a lot of families that visit us, but we also host bachelorette parties, corporate events and other celebrations.”
And while the 2020 season was restricted to “the bubble experience,” Cyndi is quick to mention the benefits to this type of travel.
“Last summer, we were able to host people throughout Atlantic Canada that desperately wanted to escape their everyday and enjoy family time via slow travel like hikes, surfing, kayaking and enjoying starry nights.”
Since its opening in 2014 first time and seasoned glampers throughout the globe have raved about their experiences. “Moira C.” of Cape Breton Island writes:
"We are a family of five, and we were first-time glampers. We don't have enough camping time in the summer to make investing in gear worthwhile, but our kids really wanted to try it. We were thrilled to find ECG - it was the perfect solution! We only needed to bring our clothes and food. They provided everything else (and I mean, everything - no detail was overlooked!). The camp cots were cozy and the pods were comfy and luxurious. Cyndi was an absolute gem to work with; ECG experience was beyond anything we ever could have imagined or hoped for."
Another popular itinerary that ECG hopes to reopen very soon is their indoor glamping experience. It is a fantastic, unique getaway popular for children’s parties.
Wanting to offer more to glampers, Cyndi recently added a retail component to ECG’s website. Glampers can purchase camping apparel, essentials, and high-end tents – some can even accommodate a wood-burning stove.
“Our outdoor season is set to launch mid-June,” says Cyndi. “We are really excited and ready to be flexible to accommodate whatever season summer 2021 may bring us. No matter what, it will be a great time.”
Visit ECG’s website to learn more about their packages, tents for sale, locations and pop-up accommodations.
Facebook and Instagram: @EastCoastGlamping
Photography by @Phototypehfx
The hottest new bar in Atlantic Canada is the impeccably branded, speakeasy-themed Dear Friend in Downtown Dartmouth, Nova Scotia. Conceived and created by The Clever Barkeep (the premiere bartending, catering consulting company in the region). The Clever Barkeep has been redefining bartending and craft cocktail making as a bona fide art form. The duo behind The Clever Barkeep persona is Matt Boyle and Jeff Van Horne; two experts mixologists. They started with the goal of providing outstanding hospitality and premium beverages, growing into what is now their own cocktail bar, Dear Friend which boasts a stunning outdoor patio which offers epic sunset views.
A highlight of Dear Friend is, unsurprisingly, their delectable cocktails. You could spend the entire night tasting through their menu of signature cocktails, classic drinks, rare spirits and wines. It’s probably a good idea to mix some food into your night of mixology though, which is easy to do with their equally delicious ‘Bar Bites’ menu.
[EDIT]ION met with co-owner, and one-half of The Clever Barkeep, Matt Boyle, to learn more about how they are the buzz of the city.
[EDIT]ION: When did you fall in love with bartending?
Matt Boyle: I fell in love with bartending when I found craft cocktails in my mid twenties. I got a job at the Bicycle Thief in Halifax, which at the time was one of the only cocktail centric bar programs in the city. Once I discovered fresh ingredients and nuanced flavours, the fast-paced environment and flow state that I'd get while bartending, I was hooked!
[EDIT]ION: When did you join forces with Jeff Van Horne?
Matt Boyle: I met Jeff at the Bicycle Thief. He trained me and taught me all of the fundamentals. We quickly became close friends as well and never looked back! Jeff is one of the founding fathers of cocktails so-to-speak in Halifax. He's meticulous and a great trainer; and an even better business partner.
[EDIT]ION: Can you tell me about the different aspects of your business?
Matt Boyle: The Clever Barkeep was founded in 2016 as an off-site cocktail catering and consulting company. Throughout the years, our company has become a one-stop-shop for all things bartending. We do virtual classes, trainings, execute brand-centric events, off-site catering and bar and restaurant consulting. In 2018, we created a Cocktail Festival called Drink Atlantic, which celebrates cocktail culture throughout Atlantic Canada. The event brings bartenders from all over the world to Halifax to share their stories and for us to show them our melting pot of cocktail culture. In 2020, we opened our first cocktail bar, Dear Friend, in Downtown Dartmouth. It is a cozy 30 seat cocktail and wine bar with carefully curated small plates. We have a new business that we're launching in 2021 that hasn't been released publicly yet, but also has to do with cocktails. As you can see, we love bartending and we love cocktails.
[EDIT]ION: What do you make of the rise in specialty cocktails and mixology in Nova Scotia?
Matt Boyle: The community is very tight in Halifax. We are constantly sharing information and pushing each other to learn and share more. This all started over a decade ago with Jeff Van Horne, Jenner Cormier and Cooper Tardival; creating craft cocktails before it was "a thing". They were taking techniques and recipes from very old cocktail books; getting the craft back to its essence. This allowed for others to get inspired and curious about cocktails and then it spread like wildfire. Some of our bartenders have also competed internationally at globally recognized competitions, which gave Halifax some "shine" internationally. It has always been looked at as a "hot bed' for cocktails within Canada, but that is starting to spread internationally. Guests became enthralled around the same time that bartenders did and started to demand better tasting drinks. We still see these trends continuing as more people discover new bars and new drinks. I think overall, the city's attention to detail when crafting a drink, but also the hospitality that flows in our veins is the main reason for our rise. Nova Scotians are some of the most hospitable and courteous people in the World! And at the end of the day, that's the most important part of being a great bartender - leaving the guest with an incredibly hospitable experience.
[EDIT]ION: What are your and Jeffs's everyday roles like, working together?
Matt Boyle: A lot of our tasks overlap, but we both understand where our strengths lay. Jeff is a flavour wizard; ever-curious and an extremely hard worker. A certified sommelier, he is calculated and he manages the bar's prep program, scheduling, ordering and also he at the heart of our cocktail program. Jeff is also our lead trainer on consulting projects. I handle the day-to-day business ongoings, marketing efforts and strategy. I also design cocktails, help train and deal with the administration of the business. We come together with visions and try to bring the best out of each other. We always say that we are stronger as a unit than individually. It's really awesome working together on projects.
[EDIT]ION: What is the inspiration behind the name, Dear Friend?
Matt Boyle: Jeff and I have been Dear Friends for a long time. We wanted to create a space where people could meet a friend for a drink and a moment. Or where someone who came alone, could meet a new friend; whether it's one of our bartenders, or someone else who's sitting at the bar. We wanted to celebrate the idea of community and make everyone feel welcome, like a Friend.
[EDIT]ION: You have a really specific, and fun, the atmosphere at Dear Friend. Who came up with the design elements?
Matt Boyle: Jeff and I both designed the space. We wanted to create a bar where you would feel cozy and be "ok" with being close to another person. That meant thoughtful textures, warm colours and attention to detail with the fixtures. It was important to us to provide a variety of spaces to enjoy your time: whether seated at a table or at the bar, or standing at one of our standing bars, we wanted a space for every occasion. There's also a neat juxtaposition of sharp lines of the shelving and walls and the rounded edges of the tables and bar. There's a nice continuity to the room; we're super happy with it!
[EDIT]ION: What is your favorite cocktail?
Matt Boyle: The Burden of Proof: Buffalo Trace Bourbon, Oloroso Sherry, Punt e Mes Vermouth, Cranberry Reduction, Clove, Allspice and Chocolate Bitters.
Homeland Elegies – Ayad Akhtar
2020 | Little, Brown and Company | 368 pages | Fiction
Book Review by Mary Barlow
Pulitzer prize-winning author Ayad Akhtar returns with an autobiographical novel that is a beautiful example of an author truly writing 'what they know'. Ayad's life story submerses the reader into the mind of an American born of Pakistani immigrants, during the years leading up to, and after 9/11. The shifting political unrest during Akhtar's life frame the novel, but the heart of it lies in his relationships and career. Beginning at childhood, his immediate and extended family is a constant source of conflict and support, with his complex relationship with his father at the forefront. His father strives toward the 'American dream', becoming a well-respected cardiac doctor, even treating Donald Trump before he became president. His loyalty to America is a source of strain and conflict with his family and son. Ayad chooses a career as a writer and playwright, bringing him a life of financial opportunity, fame, love, and despair. The American dream 'stereotype' is humanized, and told through the eyes of a handsome and ambitious Muslim-American. The themes of religious tolerance and racism are unfortunately relevant in today's divided world. Relatable, intellectual, and encompassing, Akhtar's 2020 masterpiece will keep you engaged until the very last page.