15.09.2014 - 15.10.2014 24 °C
This is a bit of an extended walk - from the south of Halifax to the north end - which I didn't do all at once, or just once, It is quite long - you might want a cup of tea, but I wanted to get this done.
Although I was staying just off the main street, and its name is a fancy version of my own name (Barrington), I spent very little time on it. It has some interesting old buildings but is sorely in need of rejuvenation - several of the buildings are unoccupied - and there is not actually very much of interest on it. There's a nice bahn mi place and I found some great fried chicken in Stillwell Bar, but I also had the one dud meal of my time on this street. Of course, the Lieutenant-Governor lives there in the 210 year old, Georgian Government House, but I never received my invitation to visit.
The Old Burying Ground is pretty much opposite Government House, and dates back to 1752: it was closed to new residents in 1844. Apparently, Canada has a history of moving cemeteries away from such prominent spots, but this one is a National Historic Monument, so cannot be touched. There is a fairly pugnacious notice outside the Ground, explaining that Canadians are not Americans because of the service of men and women like those buried in this cemetery who died to prevent annexation by the Americans. I picked up a few interesting stories about the place: it was run but not owned by St Paul's Church. Because it was not church property, the church could not charge for burials, so it charged a whopping fee to ring the church bell for funerals. In the very early days, about a thousand people were killed by typhoid, more than the tiny town administration could deal with, so a law was passed, requiring every citizen who found a deceased person to take him or her to the burial ground, otherwise they'd be fined and sent to jail. But perhaps best of all, lying in this cemetery is the man who caused the White House to be a white house:
Major General Robert Ross, to quote his tombstone, "was killed at the commencement of an action which resulted in the defeat and flight of the troops of the United States near Baltimore, on the 12th Sept. 1814". His troops captured Washington, burning several public buildings including the President's mansion. The pale limestone building was so badly stained by smoke that it had to be painted white. Ross is remembered by Americans for inadvertently giving them a name for the White House, and through his use of rockets in battle, inspiring their national anthem.
A block up from Barrington is Argyle Street, centre of Halifax's bar scene - they all seemed a bit formulaic to me, so didn't actually go into any. Just off Argyle is one of the sweetest wee cafes in town, Le French Fix - the barista was delightful, and extremely precise and methodical in her movements. I'd take a break here, and read one of the stories in the Oxford Book of Detective Fiction. Quite a good collection, with a couple of oddities: in one, the detective basically gives up and asks us (the reader) to let him know if we find the culprit. In another, the detective solves what he thinks is the murder, only to find that he's the victim - that one ended abruptly.
On one of the walks, I took the ferry across to Dartmouth so that I could walk back across the Angus L McDonald (former law professor and Premier of Nova Scotia): I certainly hoped that PL Pratley (he designed it) knew what he was doing - I had a moment when I worried about the bit I was on falling off, as you do.
This put me at the beginning of Gottingen Street, which is a bit of a rough street - there is a fair amount of social housing (including the wonderful looking and named Sunrise Manor) - but has several bright spots which made it an interesting walk, such as a couple of performance venues, a great cafe (where they serve tea in a glass pitcher with a wee fire under it - I took a few surreptitious photos with my camera on my knee, but they're all a bit weird and perhaps dodgy).
At the far end of Gottingen Street, you'll find The Hydrostone - several people had mentioned it to me, and when I was looking for places to stay, they said their place was in The Hydrostone, as if that was a good thing, but I had no real idea what it was. Turns out hydrostone is an early brand name for concrete, concrete blocks in fact. It resulted from The Halifax Explosion - two ships, one carrying munitions, collided on 6 December 1917 in the nearby harbour, which set fire to the neighbourhood, killed 2000 people, injured another 10,000 and destroyed the housing (until the development of nuclear weapons, it was the biggest man-made explosion ever). So they had to rebuild and didn't want fire - I'd say that many have been rebuilt, others have been re-clad, so there aren't that many which are obviously concrete block. They also built a wee row of shops - the Hydrostone Market - which have been kept up very nicely. I, of course, had to pop in to Julian's Patisserie because walking is thirsty work. Coming back down Agricola Street, there wasn't much to see - a tiny microbrewery which makes such a great Belgian Pale Ale I had to buy some, and the Lion and Bright cafe, which has a dedicated workspace. I actually came back on Thanksgiving to work here, but way too many people beat me too it, so I went to my old friend, the Killan Memorial library.
Back in town is the Citadel - or Fort George - which was built in the 1740's as a defence against the French (there's another on an island in the harbour) and re-built three times since, but never actually attacked. They have guards, so there's a changing of the guards. They have big guns, so every noon they fire one - I happened to be strolling past when the did, and can confirm from direct person experience that when you stand under one of these babies when they go off, they're LOUD. There is also a nice (strategic) view across the top of Halifax.
Nearly home again, now. Just going to pop into Brunswick Street which has an interesting looking boutique (next door is Mary-Janes Smoke shop, to help you smoke weed but not tobacco) and the Stubborn Goat pub - on my last Sunday in town, a couple of people raved about it, but I didn't go in - I had three pubs two blocks away from my house which did me fine - even if one did faintly rip me off, by promising a 1 cent steak if you buy a drink - I was very happy to do so, but in the invisible print carried around in the waitress's head, it was i cent for the second steak. So I had two. Go up past St Mary's Cathedral Basilica, turn left at the Medjuck building, go past some cool houses and you're at mine (which was so not cool I took no photo).