Saturday, October 8, 2016

Halifax: Day One

The Canadians think Thanksgiving is in October and that it takes place on a Monday (I don't have the heart to tell them their wrong) which means that I have the lovely privilege of a three day weekend as the country gears up for its national holiday.

What makes this long weekend even better is that UPEI's International Relations Office organized a three day trip for exchange students (since none of us could go home to family and gigantic dinners) to Halifax, Nova Scotia! The city is the capital of Nova Scotia with a long and interesting history and lots of things to see and do. I'll try and cover my trip to Halifax as much as possible, starting with today's adventures.

Our group of about 30 students and our bus driver left UPEI at 8:00AM this morning. (I brought along my pillow,  and many of my friends found this a bit funny- I promptly blamed the weird habit on my older sister who taught me a disdain for hotel pillows from a young age). A bridge connects Prince Edward Island to New Brunswick and within 20 minutes we'd crossed the strait and entered the other province. Only an hour and a half after that, we crossed into Nova Scotia, bringing my total number of provinces visited up to four (my time spent sprinting across the Toronto airport lets me count Ontario). After a quick lunch at a roadside Tim Horton's we arrived in Halifax. Our bus took us to our hotel, but rather then disembarking and checking in, a tour guide hopped on board and we set off around the city.

First views of Halifax and first selfie of the trip!

One of the highlights of the tour was a stop at the Fairview Cemetery. In 1912, the White Star Line shipping company asked the city of Halifax to journey into the arctic ocean in hopes of recovering some of the victims of the Titanic's infamous sinking. As some time had passed since the tragedy, the seamen doubted they'd find anything, but they recovered 328 victims. Some of the bodies were buried at sea, others sent home to families in England and Ireland, and 150 buried in Halifax; 121 buried at Fairview. The graves, laid out in three rows that form the picture of a bow of a ship, were a somber experience and created an amazing link with history. One of the graves is of John Law Hume, one of the heroic musicians who refused to leave his post until the last possible moment, playing on in an attempt to prevent mass panic.

The three rows of graves curve into a bow of the ship. When the wreck of the Titanic was found, it was discovered that the graves lay in the same direction as the bow had fallen in the ocean. 

One of the best known true stories of the Titanic brought to solemn reality before my eyes

After the bus tour we arrived back at the hotel and began the check in process. Though most of our group was able to get into their rooms right away, housekeeping was still busy in four of the rooms leaving some to wait in the lobby for half an hour...go ahead and guess which set I fell into.

Anyway, after me and my roommates were finally able to check in, a group of five of us sat off for the MicMac Mall in Dartmouth. Dartmouth is a city separated from Halifax by a basin. The two cities are connected by a bridge, as well as a ferry and we decided to cross over via the ferry because that just sounded a lot more fun. It was a delightful, 10 minute experience, and I'm sure we entertained the locals with the massive amounts of photographs and selfies being taken on their commonplace mode of transport.
Our group of adventurers on the ferry (photo cred: Ishibashi Ririka) 

The mall was a mall, but I got some good deals on Bath and Body Works soap and stumbled upon the delicious Newfoundland Chocolate Company; Halifax location! Their artisan chocolate tastes wonderful but my true delight came from the cup of hot chocolate I purchased: 3/4 cup base of hot chocolate mix, a dipper full of melted hazelnut milk chocolate stirred in, covered in a blanket of freshly made whip cream, and all topped off with white chocolate shavings. It was as heavenly as it sounds.

We then headed back to the Dartmouth ferry port for a peaceful, twilight cruise across the basin. After our Titanic encounter earlier, there may have been some "king of the world" silliness going on.

The view of Halifax and its twinkling city lights from the ferry

Then we arrived in Halifax and began the arduous process of searching for a place to eat. You know how when you're in a group heading to dinner with no clear place in mind, no one wants to be the one to decide where you're going to eat because you don't want to seem like your placing your wishes above everyone else's? Yeah, that's how we ended up walking around downtown Halifax's restaurant scene for a good 30 minutes, stopping to look at menus, then moving on so as to spread the indecision around as thoroughly as possible. Finally, we ended up at a place called Flip Burger that had some wonderful burgers (very good quality meat) and where I tried poutine for the first time! The first bite was a bit daunting, the combination of cheese curds and french fries drenched in gravy doesn't sound all that appealing after all, but the flavors somehow work together and by my second bite I was a fan.

I really can't be faulted for thinking this looked disgusting

With another necessary Canadian experience tucked under my belt, our group headed back to the hotel, planned our our adventures for tomorrow, and I began work on this blog post. I hope my incessant typing hasn't annoyed my roommates too much ;D

P.S. We stumbled upon this random guillotine in the middle of downtown Halifax. 
We all, of course, took our turns serving time. 

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