Road Trip: Halifax

My goodness, did I ever love Halifax!! I really wanted to stay for a longer stretch but I did manage to jam pack my weekend. And, I achieved my goal of eating seafood for every meal (if you count that bloody caesar I had with brunch as "seafood", which I do, because it includes clams!).

My trip started out as most do at the airport. I realized while waiting that it was my first trip on a plane where I wasn't leaving the country. It's so much better when you don't have to go through all that security! I'm taking this under consideration for my next planned trip. I flew into Halifax airport around lunch time and unfortunately didn't have the window seat. Oh well. I picked up my rental car and drove into Halifax. It was pouring rain and freezing cold, a typical November day. I was headed that way because one of my best friends has joined the Navy and is stationed in Halifax, so I stayed with her.

view of halifax harbour from outside stayner's wharf

After finding her place and getting quickly changed, we headed back out to the Historic Properties neighbourhood for some grub. I wanted something warm and cuddly, and somewhere we could sit for quite a while and catch up. We went to Stayner's Wharf. We each had a local cider and split the fishcakes as an appetizer. They were delightful with a curry flair and a zesty sauce for dipping. An interesting spin. After that I had a yummy Chicken and Shrimp Hot Pot noodle soup. As it turns out shrimp taste different in Nova Scotia. Different good!

We walked around the neighbourhood afterwards, and peeked in and out of some local shops like Christmas by the Sea  which had every sort of holiday ornament you could ever imagine. Even a Santa Claus praying over the baby jesus. Odd.

"Kneeling Santa"

The evening grew dark quickly, and the rain kept coming down. After discussing our plans for the whole weekend, and an inspiring trip to the DeSerres art supply store, we decided to have a night in with a bottle of red wine, loads of white paper, and some Christmas movies. Our friday night was spent giggling over making paper snowflakes (a veritable blizzard of them no less!), watching Rudolph, Elf and Charlie Brown's Christmas Special, and eating loads of pasta. It was very joyful and afterwards her apartment looked so festive.

Rocks at Peggy's Cove

Saturday morning was beautiful and sunny and we woke up fairly early to head out on our planned day trip. First up was Peggy's Cove. The cove is the biggest tourist draw in the area, and it really is beautiful.

Peggy's Cove
The day was a bit blustery and dark when we arrived, but the sun started to break through the clouds as we stood on the massive rocks.

I have to admit, I was a little bit scared. I kept thinking to myself "they just let people walk out here, all alone? People must die all the time!"

And then I saw this sign:

Don't fall on the rocks at Peggy's Cove or you will die.

Peggy's Cove is 43kms from downtown Halifax. It's a very old settlement of German fishermen, and their families. I was actually surprised at how small the community has remained, being the tourist destination that it is. Wikipedia lists the population at under 50 still. The lighthouse on Peggy's Cove was our first stop on the Lighthouse Trail scenic route along the coast from Halifax to Yarmouth.

a panoramic shot of Peggy's cove

After we narrowly avoided our deaths at the cove, we continued onwards along the trail to Mahone Bay. Mahone Bay's slogan is "Pretty as a Picture" and wow, is it ever. When we arrived however, it was snowing large heavy wet flakes, and was very dark. It looked beautiful, but my pictures are terrible! So here's a picture from the internet.
Mahone Bay
When you drive into the area the first thing you see are three churches, all lined up like soldiers along the bay. There's an Anglican, United and Lutheran church, and the view of of the bay of the three churches has become an iconic image for Nova Scotia, used often on tourist memorabilia and calendars and such. The shopping area is situated around the curve of the bay, and it was busy even in bad weather. The bay itself is apparently very busy with boats all summer and Mahone Bay is known for wooden boat building, its original industry.

Pretty, huh? We stopped for a bit and did some shopping at this great little boutique called the Teazer. I can't say what I bought just yet, because it's a gift, I think. Unless I decide to keep it. I'm still thinking on that one! We were getting hungry and it was getting late, so we continued onwards to our next destination, the equally picturesque Lunenburg.


Lunenburg is a world heritage site. It was established in 1753 as the first British Colonial Settlement in NS outside of Halifax. The settlers though were mostly from Germany, Switzerland and the Montbeliard region of France. The area became a trading post, farming town and fishing village. Today High Liner foods is there and the seafood industry still dominates. Perfect for a gal wanting to survive on a seafood-only diet while travelling! We walked around to explore the shops, and found a great vintage clothing and antique shop called Charlotte's Web. Though things were mostly out of my price range, they had fantastic real vintage corsets, hats and dresses from the 1920's, a selection of antique folk art crafts and loads of neat home decor items. Definitely worth a browse.

On the plane I flipped through the EnRoute magazine and it happened to have a feature on Lunenburg, and it highlighted the Salt Shaker Deli, so we went there. It was delicious! So So So good. I had a lobster roll on brioche, which was so good I wouldn't even share one bite. The lobster salad was tender and  the celery in it just the right size and still crisp. I basically inhaled it. Meanwhile Rose had the Tomato and Parmesean Soup, which was so good she ordered a second bowl. Not to be outdone, I decided to try their Smoked Seafood Chowder, which had the most incredible scallops in it. I shared one bite. We both paired our meals with a locally-made Propeller beverage; I had their cream soda and Rosie their root beer.

Afterwards we did some real-estate browsing, and a little bit of Christmas shopping before heading back to Halifax. Though a nap was in order, we decided to have a redbull instead and get ready to go out on the town. Though local favourites, east-coast punk legends the Mahones were playing (for only $10) we decided that deciding on only one thing to do wasn't nearly enough, and that we'd have to hit a number of spots that evening.

First up, we headed to a local dive bar and sang Karaoke. Rose sang Cher and then we sang a New Kids on the Block song together. It was a beautiful thing and drinks were cheap. Then we headed downtown and went to Tribeca, a cool-kids bar having a rock night. It was pretty fun but also was the sort of place where a drunk girl in a mini dress spills her drink on you and doesn't apologize, and we wanted to dance to actual dance music, so we headed out again after a round or two. We planned to go to the safe-bet for dancing The Dome, but  ended up walking past Reflections Cabaret (the gay bar, aka "Where Halifax Goes Dancing") and got talking to the bouncer. They were hosting a DJ idol night to determine who would be the house DJ that season, and who could resist that? So we headed in and were not disappointed to find a packed dance floor and pounding music to let loose to. Good times!

 On Sunday we slept in late and then had the hang-over brunch at Brooklyn Warehouse. I really, really liked the hang-over brunch. The meal included a tomato-based cocktail (I had the wasabi caesar) and coffee and the first thing they did was to bring a large bottle of ice water to the table. Plus the ambiance and food was great. I'd highly recommend it.

After brunch we walked downtown to the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia. I wanted to take in the Alex Colville  exhibition. I was generally surprised at how large the gallery was. It had a really interesting and diverse collection and numerous exhibitions ongoing at the same time so there was a lot to see.

I learned about Maud Lewis, who is a local hero of sorts. She is a famous Nova Scotian folk artist who created truly lovely and charmingly simple folk art. The gallery has a huge permanent exhibition of her works and even her home moved inside the gallery. I've since learned that she is widely forged and even her husband forged works of hers once she got popular!

I guess her style would be easy to forge and this certainly isn't limited to Maud  Lewis. You can find Maud Lewis stuff in just about every gift shop and store in the area. Funny how things like that are so regional.

I found a lot of the folk art at the NS Gallery really fun and interesting. One specific work that sticks out was a large wood carving of the Obama Family. It made me smile and I thought it was a pretty cool work. I giggled a lot in the folk arts section.

The gallery didn't have a huge contemporary section but did have some nice works, and the space was interesting too, it was spread over two buildings connected underground.

After the gallery I was hell-bent on fresh oysters, as they say  you should eat them in months ending in the letter "R". We went to the Five Fishermen Restaurant & Grill for their Oyster Happy hour and I was delighted to have two varieties of local raw oysters. Divine. I couldn't talk Rose into them though. Perhaps next time. I also ate their seafood cobb salad, which had the best scallops in it ever. Also a nice stilton cheese and avacado and was delicious.

I'm sure I'm forgetting some of what I saw and ate and did in  Halifax. I really enjoyed the city and wish I could have had more time to explore. I found it just large enough not to feel like a small town and just small enough not to feel too large and busy. I can't think of another way to say it, really. I hope to visit again soon.

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