Halifax is one of Eastern Canada’s most important cities and I dare baptise it, “The Boston of Canada.” You may disagree, but I am the one writing the story here. The city possesses a well-established institution, Dalhousie University, which is a source of pride for Haligonians and one of our country’s finest schools. Its port has been a strategic asset as much to the Dominion of Canada fending off the Gringos as to Canadians living in Dubai who have their Christmas trees shipped off from there. It’s just not a Holy Night if you are gathered around an air-conditioned living room with a palm tree full of sashes pretending to be Miss Universe. MoneySense classified the capital of Nova Scotia as the fourth best place to live in Canada for the year 2012 and I hope to show you why in the next few paragraphs.
|Maman with a highland lobster|
When I visited in 2005, I found the downtown area one of the cleanest I had seen. The buildings had a special Colgate smile with extra whitening to them. Either the citizens had a great civic pride in their structures or they had more capital to dispense on cleaning and maintenance services. Even the glamorous Sparks Street Mall in downtown Ottawa has something to be envious of. The National Capital Commission does make it up to us in different ways I suppose. I found scattered throughout the city centre plenty of people-sized Lobsters statues – and no, they were not edible – painted in different colours, much like Toronto did years ago with a moose on every street corner. You are welcome taxpayers! Can’t you tell that Canadians are outdoors people and proud of our unique wildlife? I never tire of saying this, but we do have nature’s best and biggest natural playground. The downtown is small compared to other cities, yet there are great restaurants, ferry rides, bus tours, hotels and breweries.
My favourite sight without a doubt was Fort George – named after King George II - that sits on Citadel Hill, like the protector of the city and port down below. This fortification had originally been erected to defend protestant settlers from the fiendish French, astute Acadian and mighty Micmac raids. In the summers, university students participate in re-enacting bits of our history wearing the traditional thick wool red coats from the British colonial times with a slight twist – you guessed it, kilts! I wouldn’t mind getting paid for wearing a kilt the entire summer. It's a free flowing cooling system. The 78th Regiment of Foot and Pipe Band Highlanders run and hide the highland way (note the Braveheart reference)… although the constant bagpiping must routinely give away their strategic position. Bagpipe music served as a WMI (weapon of mass irritation) to the opposing military units. That's how we beat the Americans in the War of 1812. For those of you who are not history buffs like yours truly, I still recommend the visit as the view down onto the bay is quite spectacular.
Another pretty area is the public gardens, just down the hill from the citadel and next to the Alexander Keith’s brewery. Did I not say that we do produce incredible quantities of alcoholic beverages in this country? There seems to be a brewery in every story of my East Coast experience. I am not much of a botanist but nature has a soothing power on me personally - much more than tall concrete structures - especially when the public park is so quiet. Halifax is somewhat of a hidden treasure, as there is hardly the same quantity of tourists than other Canadian cities that usually take away anything special from the local atmosphere. This is not a cheap shot aimed at tourists but we can certainly agree that the more people are around, more garbage mysteriously is summoned from nowhere and pushing and shoving dictate your every movement. It is rather unfortunate but people prioritize themselves as “numero uno” and ruin the experience for the more passive visitors. Anyway, there are several wonderful species of flowers, plants and trees which I cannot name but trust me… they are amazing! These grounds are maintained by the city, so enjoy and please don’t pick flowers before asking the municipal government unless you want to anger the Haligonian Gods.
|Hop aboard the beer bus|
While I was choosing my schools to pursue undergraduate studies, the East never crossed my mind even though the Bickfords have quite the history there. I usually consider Ontario as home, having spent memorable moments in Etobicoke, Grimsby, Kingston, Ottawa, and Toronto when I was growing up. My father had briefly visited Halifax during his childhood and returned there less than a handful of times. Once he left the Maritimes, something about this land still had a special meaning to him. Funny how land has a way of becoming part of you. In a way, I was surprised that he identified himself as a Maritimer and other aspects of their lifestyle. I guess it is not so odd that a young English and Welsh lad, growing up on the East Coast and then travelling around the world the rest of his life still finds an affinity with the East. After all, my brother and I spent most of our childhood in Latin America and still found a home in Ontario. Guess we have more in common with my father than we thought!