Canada Day in Halifax

The CSS Acadia, a former research ship and only Royal Canadian Navy vessel still afloat to survive both world wars, is anchored at the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic on the Halifax waterfront.

Halifax is Canada's largest port city on the Atlantic. It's been repelling and welcoming visitors since 1749, and yet still small enough to be friendly. The navy and 2 universities contribute to a pub-centred nightlife. As cities go, it has a modest downtown. Safe, modern and walkable, with historic stone buildings squeezed between restaurants and office towers. A good Nova Scotia intro.

For 2017 the aircraft carrier U.S.S Dwight D. Eisenhower  made a courtesy visit to Halifax. The ship is so big it has its own zip code!

The Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 — Canada's newest national museum — occupies the building where a new life began for thousands of immigrants, including Alumni Volunteer George Zwaagstra from Holland in the 1950's. It's the Canadian equivalent of New York City's Ellis Island. 

Families can trace their roots, see the creative attempts of immigrants trying to smuggle in their favourite foods ("walking delis"), prepare a suitcase for their immigrant ship and see the photo that inspired one of the pages in Canadian passports.

A boardwalk leads along the waterfront where crowds end up congregating on Canada Day. A sculpture of light standards appeared to indicate that Dali was employed by the city works department.

For a cultural touch, the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia displays a limited collection of paintings and folk art. Nice to see a number of Group of Seven works, with several made by Lismer during his time spent in the province. 

Pub grub isn't everything in Halifax. Stories Restaurant is a prime example. Chef Scott Vail has been labouring over a hot stove for 19 years, and as our servers Eleanor and Katie said "[His] Food is a joy." The intimate 2-room restaurant is in the heritage Halliburton Hotel. Dessert could have been a painting by Norval Morrisseau. "Refined east coast plates in fancy digs" but super casual. 

The walk back to our hotel, the Delta Halifax, took us past magnificent Government House, the Lieutenant Governor's residence, which also happens to be the oldest official residence in the country.

Our dinner was actually one night before Canada Day. Next morning, July 1, I was up and at 'em to catch the morning light. I love surprises. The street behind our hotel could have been an A.Y. Jackson painting. And a navy vessel seemed like a model placed on a highway ramp.

The city began to awaken in time for the traditional parade. Bands were in town from NATO allies Germany and the USA doing double duty for a music competition and the parade.

We nearly missed the parade, but ultimately managed to catch the drums, pipes and swirl of the kilts, after which everyone climbed the National Historic Site of Citadel Hill (Fort George) for some 19th century military demonstrations.

We wandered off the hill and into the Museum of Natural History where children were naturally very much in the present as they raced between exhibits. 

Down at the harbour, the free-for-the-day Maritime Museum of the Atlantic was a throbbing affair. Exhibits ranged from the tragedy of the 1917 explosion (the biggest non-nuclear explosion before the Second World War) to remembrances of the Titanic and the golden age of cruising. By telegraphing my name I managed to earn a Certificate of Proficiency in Morse Code at one of the displays, modestly accepted with a grain of salt water.

We sampled hors d'oeuvres over drinks at our hotel's Harbour City Grill, then made our way over to the cluster of eateries on and around Argyle Street for an early evening munch at Bistro Le Coq where we'd had a few beers once before

The town was in party mode. Spotting 3 women dressed in matching whites as we made our way back to the harbour, I asked for a photograph. What's a party without beautiful women?

Fireworks too — over the harbour for everyone to view from dock or boat! It was a fine evening.

Happy 150th in 2017, Canada!

Photos, text and design 

© Gary Crallé 2017 

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