Recently I found a message from Trip Advisor in my mail box alerting travellers to their choice for the top ten “cities on the rise” in the world which we should consider putting on our ‘bucket lists’. My curiosity tweaked, I took the time to check this out and to my surprise and delight Halifax, Nova Scotia placed fourth on their list! What on earth does my city of birth offer that would put them in the world’s lime light, I wondered? According to Trip Advisor (TA) this honour is based on the following three things:
- Military history
- Culinary delights
Ironically, before my daughter embarked on her short visit to Halifax last week, she wondered what sights and activities I would recommend for the two days that she, my son-in-law and grandson were going to be there. Not having much time to come up with some place she had never seen, I sent her TA’s recommendations along with the above article. When I met up with them, she asked me if I knew where York Redoubt was located. I was temporarily stymied! I had heard of it but knew little about it or just where it was located. However, thanks to Google Maps and the GPS, we found this National Historic Park site in Purcell’s Cove about 14 miles outside of Halifax.
What we found there was another eye-opener, especially for me. How could I have not seen this place when I spent the better part of ten years living in Halifax as a child and teenager? Not only does this military site have one fantastic view of Halifax’s outer harbour, but it also has an easy to understand description of the role this place has played over the three centuries it has protected the city, beginning with the wars between Britain and France in 1793 when the fort was begun, up to 1956 when it was closed and designated as a historic site. Its hey day culminated in its success at guarding the harbour and the city from German U-boats during World War II.
The boys…my grandson and his dad…enjoyed scouting out the premises. There were the cannons of all sizes with some large enough to shoot balls weighing up to 24 pounds to ogle over. Moreover, there were 27 buildings to explore, including a Martello Tower*, numerous magazines for storage of ammunition…many below ground, supplies rooms, and even a cookhouse. The park is definitely large with trails providing peaceful walks through the forest which are never far from a spectacular view of the harbour with McNab’s Island* in the distance. Another plus to our visit was, save for a few other folks, we had this beautiful spot almost to ourselves.
Our second stop was to Hydrostone Market in the north end of Halifax. This area suffered huge loses on December 6, 1917 when the Norwegian ship SS Imo collided with the Mont Blanc, a French cargo ship laden with high explosives, setting off an explosion that devastated the entire north end of the city, causing thousands of deaths and injuries. With the help from other communities across Canada and our neighbours to the south from Boston, the area was rebuilt with houses made of hydrostone, a compressed cement which would withstand any further fires or calamities. Today these houses make up the Hydrostone Market, an upscale and trendy place with homes, shops and restaurants neatly laid out along boulevards shaded by stately trees and community gardens.
At this point the boys, preferring to head back to their hotel for a swim in the pool, decided to leave us girls to explore this place on our own…a good idea. Right there and then, we headed to Julien’s Pattisserie, Bakery and Cafe, the cutest little Parisian cafe outside of Paris. We were in seventh heaven as we sat outside on the ivied covered patio sipping our cappuccino and savouring our yummy desserts.
Following this indulgence, we couldn’t resist popping into some of the quaint shops lining the boulevard where, of course, we found lots of unusual art and crafts….many locally made… to drool over. I found some all natural face cream to help keep my ever encroaching wrinkles at bay, while my daughter just had to have a lovely amethyst necklace.
Later that night for dinner, with no specific place in mind, we set out to peruse some of Halifax’s culinary delights. Since my son-in-law does not eat fish, any restaurants specialising in that were quickly eliminated. That wasn’t a problem since it did help to narrow down the many choices we faced. With a nine year old to consider, we agreed to look for an Italian offering where we could find pizza. After a short search, we found just what we were looking for at Bishop’s Landing on the harbour front at Ristorante a Mano. We were truly impressed with this place which offered great Italian food, good service, and reasonable prices. The four of us, which included craft beer for the adults, ate there for about $100.00.
The entertainment scene was TA’s third category included in their survey of ‘cities on the rise’. We didn’t have time to take in any of the many opportunities that no doubt were available even on a Tuesday night because we were all tired from our long drives and sight-seeing. Nevertheless, Halifax has gained a reputation for drawing talent from all over Canada and the world for all music genres… from rap to opera and jazz…to name a few. Every night you can catch local Maritime music at many of the pubs and restaurants in the downtown core.
For me this time in my home city was very special as it gave me and my little family some quality time together in a place which is seemingly gaining much attention from other parts of Canada and the world. Who would have thought that the city which I could hardly wait to escape from, back in the ’60’s when I was a young girl anxious to see the rest of the world, has now become one of the world’s most interesting cities to visit! Wonders never cease!
*Martello Tower – constructed in 1793 and one of five Martello Towers built to protect Halifax over the past three centuries. Round in structure with thick walls, they were built to mount the cannons and to house their large heavy balls.
*McNab’s Island – The largest island at the entrance to Halifax Harbour is now part of the National Parks system hosting picnics and historical tours in the summer months.