Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada: Population = 297,943 (metro area = 390,096), elevation = 0 to 793 feet, average January low temp = 13.3, Average July high temp = 74.8, average rainy days = 164.7, annual snowfall = 87”, annual rainfall = 47.1”
We arrived in Halifax on a Friday afternoon, about 4:30. That was a mistake. We found ourselves caught up in long strings of traffic and swirling herds of pedestrians. The occasional street sign peeked from its hiding place just long enough to let us know where we weren’t. Halifax is not a huge city, but it is hard to drive through, especially downtown by the waterfront. Construction sites are everywhere, detouring lanes of traffic with barricades. Pedestrians have the right of way and abuse it heavily, crosswalk or not. One way streets go everywhere you don’t want to go. Stoplights are few so a new-to-the-city driver has to slow and examine the intersection for stop signs. And hope a pedestrian does not dart out.
Once we were safely installed in our seventh floor condo, we could relax and look out over the harbor. This is a deep water ocean harbor so everything from ocean liners to cargo ships are chugging by, passing through a soup of yachts, sailboats, fishing boats, and even schools of kayaks.
Our first foray into the city is along the boardwalk. To our right is a bustling farmer’s market with fresh vegetables, meats, cheeses, crafts, wines, and food. And a brewery. To our left, the boardwalk runs for over a mile. This is Halifax’s favorite walk. This weekend the weather is fine and the boardwalk is the best show in town. Have a fine meal at the swanky Bicycle Thief or grab a basket of poutine at Smoke’s. Have a cold pint on the deck at the Stubborn Goat or in the dining room at Gahan’s Brewery. Admire the yachts tied up at the piers. Don’t miss the ice cream at Cows!
Venturing further into the city, the most popular place to be on a warm Sunday afternoon is in the Public Garden. This is 16 acres of formal Victorian garden with ponds, streams, fountains, artistically arranged flower beds, a quaint little bandstand (with a jazz combo today), and a concession stand with more great ice cream.
Halifax is an old city, established by the British in 1749. There are rows of stately, beautifully maintained old houses, each adorned with a plaque noting its construction date. The salt air is not kind to stonework and the old government buildings, churches, and cemeteries look ancient. The oldest standing building in the city is St. Paul’s Church, built in 1750. St. Paul’s hosted the memorial service for the Titanic victims.
Guarding the old city and still towering above the new, stands the Citadel. This monument to military strategy was so invincible that nobody ever tried to invade it. Today it is still manned by soldiers in kilts, the traditional uniform of the British.
Halifax is deeply rooted in its British history and people. Stroll around its very walkable downtown and you will see lots of old dark wood pubs. Irish pubs with shepherd’s pie and beer. British pubs with fish and chips and beer. New pubs with great fusions of new and old. Try the poutine and the donair.
Halifax is a curious blend of old and new, traditional and modern. To explore it thoroughly would take a lot more time than we have. I’m not sure I would visit in the winter, but in the summer it is a great city.
Next up: Winter Harbor, Maine