Halifax, Nova Scotia

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June 27th 2017
Published: June 27th 2017
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I had always wanted to visit Canada so when, on Thursday 22 June, we arrived in Nova Scotia and we were greeted by pleasant, friendly, smiling and very helpful folk, I knew I had made the right decision.

What a contrast this place is after New York!

On the flight, I got to sit all by myself. That is, I was in a single seat near a window – I don’t recall that every happening to me before. For a good while before we landed in Halifax, I could see a swathe of endless green below me. A forest covered the land which seemed to go on forever. Where the green ended, there was water – lakes and sea, Mother Nature in all her glory!

The city of Halifax is not exactly beautiful, in my opinion, although it certainly has some lovely parts. It has worked it charms on me anyway. Back on 6 December 1917 a huge explosion happened in the harbour as the result of two ships colliding. One of those ships, the SS Mont-Blanc, had been laden with high explosives. It was the largest ever man-made explosion to have occurred prior to the development of nuclear bombs. Much of the northern part of the city was completed flattened and about 2000 people were killed. Many of the original buildings on that side of the city were destroyed and today the downtown area has lots of modern buildings. If you haven’t guessed by now, I am not much of a fan of modern rectangular shaped tower blocks that are often, to my eye at least, very unappealing and aesthetically boring.

However, one walk along the waterfront as the sun was setting on our first evening in town and I was hooked. The air was warm, the colours around us muted and the gentle noises of the lapping waves, sea gulls and happy people promenading had me smiling and glad to be in Halifax.

That night, thanks to the very deep silence that settled around our hotel, I slept for 10 hours.

On Friday, Mark and I spent 4 pleasant hours riding bikes on a tour with our guide Becca (from I ❤️ bikes - thoroughly recommended!). She took us to various places in this city starting with the harbour. We were told that this is the second deepest harbour in the world. We also visited Young Ave (a beautiful tree lined avenue which still has grand painted wooden mansions along it), Point Pleasant Park (75 hectares of forest with about 39 kms of paths and walkways) and the Prince of Wales Tower, Citadel Hill, Dalhousie University (one of six in the city), Agricola Street, the very new and very beautiful public library (an example of a great modern structure). We had lunch at a lovely spot, Dee Dee’s, where the ice cream dessert pleased me greatly!

On Saturday, we enjoyed a six-hour tour from Halifax to Lunenburg and Mahone Bay. Our driver and guide Paul was very friendly and funny. The tour proved leisurely and a really good idea because we left a city shrouded in dense fog and drove towards a clearer and warmer day in Lunenburg. This town is a Unesco World Heritage site and its very old pastel and brightly painted wooden buildings (the oldest dates from 1754) are lovely. It is an historic fishing village with some good eating spots and nice shops including yarn shops. I have visited about 5 of them since arriving in Canada and am very envious. The variety of yarns they have on offer is something to see.

Mahone Bay was smaller but equally picturesque and again, there was a surfeit of gorgeous shops selling all manner of tempting things. I did a little shopping in Mahone Bay and yes, there was a yarn shop there too!

We try to eat fish every day as that is the speciality of the area. The fine restaurant of Five Fishermen was our “big night out” on Friday and we loved the oysters and lobster that we ate. As an interesting aside, the restaurant occupies a building which had originally been a schoolhouse. It was once owned by Anna Leonowens who was the Anna on whom the story of “The King and I” is based. As we were dining there, I was transfixed by a very striking portrait of someone I thought was a man. In fact, it was a portrait of Anna!

On Saturday night, I was really craving a little something sweet after dinner and we decided on the Halifax Distillery Co which has been running for about a year in its current location. Not only was the rum yummy, the rum cake we ordered was heavenly. I have purchased a box ostensibly as a gift for someone but I fear I may not be able to stop myself from eating it all before returning to Australia. It is so good!

On Sunday, Mark and I visited the markets (one in Halifax and one in Dartmouth, 12 minutes by ferry across the harbour).

While in Dartmouth we also toured two historic houses, the Quaker House (the oldest original house in the area) and Evergreen House. The guides we had were excellent and the tours well worth the admission price ($5.00 each for both tours). I found yet another yarn shop on Dartmouth’s main drag but had to leave. It was breaking my heart to see all the gorgeous yarns and not be able to buy any!

In the afternoon, we visited the Halifax Citadel Historic Site for a step back in time to 1869 – the guides there are all dressed as members of the 78th Highlanders and Royal Artillery. Every day the Noon Gun is fired but sadly, we have yet to hear it as we are always out of earshot! Later, we walked back to Agricola Street which is a happening street in the northern part of town. We had a less than excellent Italian meal but Mark found a gem of a craft beer place after we got talking to the people sitting next to us in the restaurant. (As a postscript, we finally heard the cannon on our last day as we waited for the airport bus - it scared the daylights out of me).

People here are exceptionally friendly. It is very easy to strike up a conversation with most folks and they are always really interested to find out that we have come from so far away to visit their city.

Monday, we visited the maritime museum which was a fascinating place to find out more about the tragic explosion of 1917. Stories of actual people, some who survived the event against the odds and some who didn’t, made the event more real for us. The museum also has an extensive exhibition on the sinking of the Titanic. When the fateful event happened, Halifax was the closest port and ships set out from the city to rescue anyone they could. In reality, they ended up bringing back 208 of the dead and eventually 150 of those were buried in Halifax. Probably the most poignant of the exhibits was a pair of leather shoes belonging to a little boy who was unknown until 2007. DNA testing done in that year showed them to have belonged to a child called Sidney Leslie Goodwin from England. His whole family perished along with him but his was the only body recovered.

In the afternoon, a cheerful driver, Greg, took Mark, myself and three other people to Peggy’s Cove, an absolutely beautiful spot on the coast about 45 kms from Halifax. The drive itself was gorgeous as we passed many picture postcard inlets and bays and also popped into Prospect Bay (which was equally lovely but more isolated than Peggy’s Cove). There, I finally got to sample a lobster roll and I have to say it was delicious. We returned that night to The Bicycle Thief for our second meal at this good Italian restaurant on the water and watched the light turn from intense orangey yellow to blushing pink and finally become an inky indigo. The shimmering lights were pretty in the clear night as we farewelled our lovely stay in the city of Halifax.

Additional photos below
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11th July 2017
Peggy's Cove

Oh Canada!
So Glad you have both enjoyed Canada. Your blog of Halifax brought back many memories of our 6 months stay there in 2005 when Andrew was on Sabbatical at Dalhousie Uni. We visited Peggy's cove twice once in the August and once in Dec when it was windy and freezing! We also went to Lunenburg and Mahone Bay and other gorgeous little coastal villages nearby and also went to Prince Edward Island of Anne of Green Gables fame. We had a brief 3 day stay in Toronto and went to Niagra falls but sadly didn't get to Montreal - perhaps one day...Very, very cold here (July in Melb is always horrid) and Andrew and I have had the flu ( despite flu shots) and have both had Asthma. Infact, I am writing this from by sick bed. Enjoy the rest of your trip. Jxx
12th July 2017
Peggy's Cove

Hi Josie
I really loved Halifax and the little of Nova Scotia we saw. I would love to go and spend more time there. Maybe one day and next time with a car! Hope you guys are all well. Love to you all xx

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