We love doing the slide shows and videos to music but they do take a while to construct. So we’re posting on those places we just need to insert pictures while we’re working on our Academy Award winning movies. Here’s where we hold up the LAUGH sign and if you don’t laugh we’ll insert a laugh track. On to Halifax, the capital of Nova Scotia.
Steve and I are not “city people” and don’t go out of our way to visit cities but when we do we always find some interesting sights. Smaller cities are our favorites. Maybe that’s why we feel so comfortable in Halifax. It’s a compact and walkable city offering great sightseeing, history, restaurants and museums. Continuing to use the Provincial Parks we parked the DreamChaser at Laurie Park about a half hour outside of Halifax. This is a lovely wooded park on a lake. There are no hookups so it’s dry camping only. There were only a few sites large enough for our 35′ rig and none of them were close to a water source. This wasn’t a problem as we’d filled our tank before leaving Cape Breton. We’ve gotten used to dry camping, limiting our water use and we could run the generators to refresh our batteries. The bath house was spotless and well designed. This is a very popular park and was full the whole time we were there. So if you plan to go here in the summer, do make reservations. We spent a week in the area and three of those days were spent exploring Halifax.
As with most visits to cities we had to find a place to park the truck. At first this seemed to be a problem as street parking was for two hours or less and the open lots we saw were already full. Our first visit was to go to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic so I called them and asked where we could park an oversized vehicle. They directed us to some large open lots near the railroad station and Pier 21. Turns out this was better than if we’d found parking in the other open lots. There you pay by the hour all day and here you pay a maximum of 6 hours and can stay for 24 hours. It is a short walk to where the harbor boardwalk begins. Halifax has turned their harbor into a beautiful open space full of restaurants, bars, harbor cruises and the Maritime Museum. As we walked the boardwalk we picked up some tidbits of history such as learning about the founder of the Cunard Shipping lines, Portuguese explorers landing here in 1520, looked at the “drunken streetlight art, listened to a bagpiper, talked with representatives at the tourist bureau kiosk and picked up a discount coupon for a tour of the Alexander Keith Brewery.
The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is a must see museum. Plan at least an entire day to prowl through all of the exhibits and the two museum ships in the harbor. We decided to purchase the Nova Scotia Museum pass which gives you entry to all 27 museums. The break even point is at four museums so if you go to more than that you are ahead of paying individual entry fees. There is more here than we have time or space to write about but we’ll note a few highlights: the Acadia, a hydrographic charting and exploration ship, was celebrating it’s 100th year so the museum had a special exhibit about arctic exploration, the extensive model ship collection, the history of the Halifax Explosion in 1917 and the Titanic artifact display. Until the atomic bomb dropped on Hiroshima the Halifax Explosion was the largest man-made explosion yet we’d never heard about it. The cause was a collision in Halifax Harbor during WWI involving a munitions ship. The resulting explosion leveled two square miles of the city. To this day the city of Halifax sends a Christmas tree to Boston in memory of all the help they provided following the disaster. Just a few nights ago we were watching History Detectives on PBS and they had taken a picture frame thought to be made from railing salvaged by seaman on a cable ship sent to recover bodies from the Titanic. The final authenticating expert was from the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. He compared the artifact with one on display and identified who had made the frame.The frame had been made from a piece of the Grand Staircase aboard the Titanic. This is the second time we’ve seen items featured on the show. The museum was running a photo contest for the centennial of the Acadia. Steve and I entered. Although we didn’t win it was fun to participate. The special arctic exploration exhibit was called Cold Recall and used lecture manuscripts and lantern slides from Roald Amundsen’s Northwest Passage exploration in 1903-1906.
The Citadel is another must see landmark. It is operated by Parks Canada so if you have the annual pass there is no admission charge. You can walk up the steep hills from the waterfront or drive up. Not wanting to leave our good parking spot we walked. Whew! We hadn’t done that in a while. During the summer the Citadel is staffed by students from local military schools who dress in period uniforms of the 78th Highlanders Regiment and provide tours of the fort. Built on top of the hill overlooking the city to protect Halifax harbor the existing fort was never engaged in battle. As a result it provides one of the best archeology sites of the era. The time period of your visit is 1869. Much of the ritual changing of the guard and cannon firing is for the tourist trade. Go beyond that and take the tour, go to the uniform shop and try on the 35 pound wool uniforms and be sure to see the 50 minute movie Tides of Time in the theatre.
From there we walked back down the hill stopping at two beautiful old churches and the Old Burying Ground. St. Paul’s Church is the oldest Protestant church in Canada and the oldest surviving building in Halifax, c. 1750. A timber hurled almost two miles during the Halifax Explosion was imbedded in the wall of St. Paul’s and it remains there today. A docent was on hand to provide a tour. The Old Burying Ground was the original city cemetery started in 1749 when Halifax was founded. It was turned over to Saint Paul’s in 1793 and closed to further burials in 1843. Like many historical sites it deteriorated until a citizens group formed in the 1980s to restore and maintain it. What I found the most fascinating was to be standing looking at the grave of British Major General Robert Ross. Why? Well, he was the commander of the British forces who raided and burned Washington, DC in 1814. He was killed shortly afterwards in a raid on Baltimore. The second church was the Cathedral Church of All Saints. It is known for the beautiful woodwork and stained glass windows. In 1763 when it was built no local craftsman knew how to build the vaulted 7 story ceiling so they hired shipbuilders who knew how to construct a hull and built it upside down. If you’d like to see more about the above sites Google them. Each has a very interesting website.
By now we’d worked up quite a thirst. Time to use our discount coupon for the Alexander Keith’s Brewery. The Halifax site is the original brewery which has become incorporated into a shopping plaza. A modern brewery located elsewhere still produces beer. Tours are run frequently throughout the day and your ticket includes two beers if you are of legal drinking age or if you prefer, soft drinks. Costumed summer players escort you on a history tour of the brewery. Quite frankly, it is way over played until you get to the tavern where the players sing and dance while you imbibe. These young people were very talented.
Another day brought us back to the city to see Pier 21. This is the Canadian equivalent of Ellis Island. While immigration to the USA peaked between 1880-1920, Canadian immigration reached its high point following WWII. Both sites were closed as active immigration ports when ship transport was surpassed by air arrivals. Currently Pier 21 tells the story of immigrants processing through Halifax on their way to other locations. Soon an expansion of the museum will include all points of entry to Canada.
Remember we were going to take a sailing cruise aboard a schooner for our fourth anniversary but got rained out? We finally had time and good weather so spontaneously we decided to take a harbor cruise on the MAR. I wasn’t really dressed for being out on the water. Shorts and tee shirt were fine during the day but not for a sunset cruise. Fortunately the ship offered blankets. So I stayed wrapped up while Steve took photos. There’s nothing like gliding along on the water with the wind in your face. If we could learn to sail the RV just might get traded for a boat! Just as we returned to shore the most beautiful sunset appeared. What a great way to say goodbye to Halifax.