Thursday, October 13, 2016

Halifax: Day Two

This was a day that started early and ended late.

My group of friends and I were determined to cram as much into our one full day in Halifax as possible, starting with an early morning trip to the Citadel. The Citadel is an old fort built in 1749 that helped defend Halifax and its surrounding harbor from attacks by the French. When planning out our day's itinerary, I figured an hour would be more than enough time to tour the grounds-- boy, was I wrong. We ended up spending more than two hours at the Citadel and only left because we had to press on to other sites. There are numerous old stone buildings within the walls of the Citadel, practically all of which are open to to explore. Stairs take you to the top of the fort's walls allowing amazing views of the city's harbor. Men and women, dressed in historic uniform, patrol the area, offering information to curious visitors. There are also interactive stations scattered around the citadel, including one where you can dress-up like an 18th century soldier (see embarrassing picture below)! In the middle of all of this is a large two story building in which is housed a museum that depicts Canada's, and more specifically Nova Scotia's, involvement in WWI, WWII and the Korean War.
Me in soldier attire, ready to do battle. 

The museum's room on WWI and Canada's place in it.

After a requisite stop in the gift store, we finally forced ourselves away and headed downtown to tour some of Halifax's historic churches. But, silly us, we had forgotten it was Sunday and ended up just peaking our heads in the doors of St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica (built 1899) and St. Paul's Church (built 1750), admired the architecture and the parishioners, then backed back out into the street. Lucky for us, right across from St. Paul's we stumbled upon a beautiful memorial to fallen Canadian soldiers and the historic city hall.

St. Mary's Basilica

From there we headed to lunch at a restaurant called Bluenose II, recommended by our tour guide from the day before for their excellent sea food. I didn't order any seafood but a couple friends ordered the chowder and said it was delicious, but I was more than happy with my sandwich and yummy sweet potato fries.

After lunch, our real adventure of the day began. Seven of us from our UPEI group decided to book a tour to the small, rural community of Peggy's Cove. The Cove, about an hour outside of Halifax, is famous for being one of the most beautiful spots in Nova Scotia and attracts thousands of tourists every year with its rustic village and rocky shores.

A panorama of Peggy's Cove that can't do justice to its beauty.

From the first few minutes into our journey, I knew it was going to be a success. Somehow, we had locked into an expansive and talkative bus driver who informed us of many different facts throughout our drive (Did you know that on every Canadian McDonald's "M" sign, there is a maple leaf?). He was also a purveyor of groan-worthy jokes that kept us all entertained.

When we arrived at Peggy's Cove our driver reminded us to get back at the bus by 3:20 or be left behind, and also gave us one last warning to not walk on the black rocks  as they are slick and accidental deaths have occurred to less cautionary tourists. Aside from these rocks closest to the sea, visitors are free to climb and explore all about on the smooth rock formations (it reminded me of Elephant Rocks in Missouri, but, you know, with an ocean). I had a lot of fun clambering about, inching to the rock's ledge and simply enjoying the ocean breeze. Atop these rock formation stands Peggy's point light house which is still in use today and purportedly one of the most photographed lighthouses in Canada (don't worry, I got a selfie).

That little figure is me! I didn't even know this picture was being taken but I'm so glad it exists! 
Photo cred: Ishibashi Ririka 

This is almost our whole group! 
Photo Cred: Ishibashi Ririka

At 3:16, my friends and I re-boarded the bus and prepared to leave. However, our driver did a head count and discovered that two people from our tour group of 30 were still missing. He waited until 3:23 then shut the doors and started the engine! We looked for the stragglers as we continued out of Peggy's Cove but, alas, they never showed. He informed us it costs about $100 to get a taxi back to Halifax and I was grateful my friends and I had the sense to be punctual!

After we arrived back in Halifax (and after some more dad jokes from our driver) we headed only a few yards over form the bus station to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. By this time, it was already 4:30 and we only had an hour until the museum was set to close at 5:30, so we had to rush through it a bit. Still, I'm very glad we took the time to tour the facility. Not only did it have a talking parrot cawing loudly at visitors at various intervals, but there were exhibits on polar exploration, the Canadian navy's role in war, the days of sailing ships and figureheads, various ship wrecks, deep sea diving, and artifacts recovered from the Titanic. We were there until the very last minute and as we left, I heard the museum staff commenting that the parrot (I forget his name) was very tired after a long day's work and more than ready for bed- and so was I!

I'm (almost) on a boat

Channeling my inner figurehead.

Still, we were determined to press on and we all began the trek across town to the Public Gardens, a 16 acre Victorian era garden free to the public. After we arrived we began to stroll along one of the gardens paths, snapping pictures and admiring the plants. However, only a few minutes into our walk, one of the staff members came up to us and informed us the garden was closing! Our bus driver had told us the Gardens were open until dusk and it seemed to us there was still plenty of daylight until then, but, alas, we had to leave. Still, we planned to return early the next morning in order to fully appreciate the beautiful grounds.
The gate to the Public Gardens.
Doesn't it look tantalizingly pretty?

We ended the day with dinner at Durty Nelly's, an Irish pub. Irish music was playing in the background of the dimly lit pub, creating a cozy atmosphere for us to talk and visit in. I ordered the fish and chips, and it was the best I've ever had, the haddock was fresh and delicious and seemed to just melt in my mouth!

Finally, we trooped back to the hotel and though I had intended to go immediately to sleep, I got distracted with the Presidential Debate. My roommates, who are all from countries other than the US, kept laughing at my frustrated sighs and snorts and I became increasingly fond of the idea of grabbing Justin Trudeau from the Canadians and taking him back to the states.

Anyway. Though exhausting, it was an amazing day in Halifax and I wouldn't change a second of it!

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