A Travellerspoint blog

On the Trail of Two Heroes

all seasons in one day 26 °C

When I was so much younger than I am today, I had an interest in electronics and radio. I made crystal set radios (that work without any power source),oddly shaped aerials, amplifiers, a malfunctioning power supply and the like. I read most of the magazines and several books devoted to these hobbies and in the course of doing so formed a vague admiration for a couple of 19th century inventors (but, oddly enough, when I had to do a school project about someone I admired, I wrote about that well-known Victorian inventor, Gandhi). I was more than a little surprised to find that both of the guys I admired when I was young have a pretty strong connection with Cape Breton Island, in Nova Scotia.

Alexander Graham Bell run aground (literally) on Cape Breton, and was so taken with the place that he established his estate, Beinn Bhreagh, just south of Baddeck and lived there for the last 30 years of his life. Here, he participated in the first manned flight of an aircraft in the British Commonwealth and developed some very fast hovercrafts, setting a watercraft speed record of 71 miles an hour (Lake Bras d'Or, being so big, would have helped). I was not able to look around Beinn Bhreagh, as it is closed to the public, but Parks Canada have built a shiny museum in Bell's honour in Baddeck.
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Alexander_Graham_Bell

Alexander Graham Bell Museum

Alexander Graham Bell Museum

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Not a Bell Telephone


There is a Bell Aliant telephone company - even if there is no connection with Bell, the least they could have done was put a Bell telephone outside the Bell Museum. Going in, there is a long time line setting out his various achievements, put into the context of world developments. One of the quotes was rather prophetic, albeit a bit early - he wrote a letter moaning to his wife that "the days of handwriting are gone forever; they belong to the 19th century". Yesterday, I went into two big stationery/office product shops - neither had any sort of writing pad, the type you use to write letters!

Something I didn't know about Bell (among the many things) was that he was very keen on phonetics, following in his dad's footsteps and given practical importance to him because Mabel, his wife, was deaf. She was actually his student, Using his method, visible speech, deaf people could communicate. I tried, but I coudn't work out how it works.
Visible Speech Alphabet

Visible Speech Alphabet

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Naturally, there was a fair amount of telephone related stuff - including the photophone, a very early version of a cell-phone, in that it transmitted speech without wires (using lightwaves) - they had it working but couldn't see it having practical significance. Another, his Liquid Transmitter, used water - for those who understand such things, here's a description I found of how it works:

The operating principle of a liquid transmitter is quite simple. A wire attached to the bottom of a parchment diaphragm is adjusted so that it just barely makes contact with the water, which is made electrically conductive with a small amount of acid. Words spoken above the diaphragm cause it to flex up and down, making the attached wire have more or less contact with the acidulated water, thereby changing the circuit resistance. The resulting current variations in the listening device reproduce the original sounds. Properly set up, a liquid transmitter can transmit remarkably clear conversations.

Cellphone, 1880 version

Cellphone, 1880 version

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The main event, however, looks to his association with the early days of flight. He must have been an annoying sort of husband - he had an idea that required objects of a particular shape - Mrs Bell came home one day to find all of the washbasins had been removed, welded together and were out on the lake. He was also a bit of a night owl - but apparently was not amused when Mrs Bell told him that she'd had a painting made of him, although he obviously got over it, because the painting took pride of place in his office.
Bell's Office

Bell's Office


He started with a kite so big that it would carry two men, Cygnet, which he flew on 6 December, 1907. I've seen photos of this as being in the museum, but didn't see it - maybe it was out flying? There was a group of kids outside the museum having fun with their kites. Bell made another kite, with an engine - Cygnet II - which would not lift off but was a stepping stone to making the Silver Dart, which he flew off the ice of the frozen lake at Baddeck on 23 February, 1909.

He had already moved on - a year earlier, he met a young American engineer called Baldwin, who became the son the Bells never had, and they started work on hydrofoil speedboats, which they called hydrodomes. This was their way to get powered flight - the hydrofoils would lift the hull, give it enough speed to allow it to fly. The first version was launched in 1911, but the HD-4 seems to have been the go. I don't know why, but he never actually rode in it, but Mabel did and enjoyed it "immensely". I don't think it actually flew, but it did set speed records. Unfortunately for the project (but a good thing for the rest of the world), World War 1 came to an end, and his funders were no longer interested. It seems criminal, but the hull just sat outside his house for decades - it is now in the museum, together with a replica of HD-4.
Flight Wing, Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site

Flight Wing, Alexander Graham Bell National Historic Site

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HD-4 Replica


large_WP_20140920_007.jpgHD-4 Original

HD-4 Original

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As for my second hero, I was warned by the ranger at the Bell Museum not to expect much. After doing the Cabot trail, I headed east to Sydney and then to a town on the coast called Glace Bay, where I followed a large number of signs, before I finally found my destination. It is here that the very first transatlantic radio signal was sent from west to east (a year earlier, one had been received at St John's, New Brunswick. The man in charge of both sites was this fellow:
Guglielmo_Marconi

Guglielmo_Marconi


To say there was not much going on would be to overstate the activity. At the best of times, little seems to happen here, but when I was there, the site had closed for the season. Oh well, seeing the coastline was worth it.
Marconi National Historic Site

Marconi National Historic Site

large_270_IMG_9456.jpgCoastline, Glace Bay

Coastline, Glace Bay


Not really - because all of my buggering about meant I missed something quite spectacular. In Halifax, there are a couple of forts built to defend against the French, who had their own fort, just down the coast a bit from Sydney, at Louisbourg. I knew I would not be able to get in because it was so late but I thought I'd at least be able to get a look at the outside. The first two photos are found on the internet, the third is mine, taken from as close as I could get:
Fortress of Louisbourg

Fortress of Louisbourg

Fortress of Louisbourg

Fortress of Louisbourg

Fortress of Louisbourg

Fortress of Louisbourg


There was not much going on in Louisbourg, but it was a long way to anywhere else, so I thought I had better eat - the only place that seemed to have people in it also looked kind of interesting and, being on the coast, I thought the fish would be good. Problem is, I ordered cod, which is not at all like the delicious blue cod we get back home. This was not entirely the restaurant's doing: I have been all scientific and tried it somewhere else - not much better. By the time I'd eaten it was well after dark - so I have no idea as to whether what looks like a great drive down the east coast of Lake Bras d'Or has any nice views. Apart from a quick Horton's stop, I just kept driving until I hit Antigonish, back on the mainland, where I stayed. After a very nice visit (in heavy rain) to the Tall and Small cafe, it was back to Halifax for me.
Grubstake Restaurant

Grubstake Restaurant

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Posted by NZBarry 14:29 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Cape Breton and Cabot Trail

sunny 28 °C

There was quite a bit of chatter in the hostel in Halifax about the Cape Breton Trail and how unmissable it is. Once I'd worked out it is a trail you drive, rather than walk, I was in. I rented a ridiculous looking car, a Kia Soul, which was OK, actually and off I went. Received wisdom was to drive up the main highway to Cape Breton Island as I was leaving at about 3:00 in the afternoon, but I eschewed that wisdom as I wanted to take the coastal route, up (NS 7), as I was convinced it would be more scenic. It was, but much slower - a three hour zoom up the main road was almost doubled - mind you, I saw lots to stop for and took several detours - I reckon it was worth it.
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I headed out through Dartmouth - the road is forced to run inland a bit, as there are all sorts of inlets and harbours that would interrupt its flow, and I'm afraid I've lost track of which particular harbours I stopped at.
Cabin, Porters Lake

Cabin, Porters Lake

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Sheet Harbour (?)

Sheet Harbour (?)

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Harbour between Sheet and Sherbrooke

Harbour between Sheet and Sherbrooke

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The road cuts inland at Sherbrooke - by then it was well and truly dark. I dithered with the idea of staying there, but everything seemed so quiet, I didn't even know if I'd find something to eat. The town itself looked like it is a museum - which later research shows it is: Sherbrooke Village is an open air museum made of 30 odd buildings set up to look like an old main street (something like it was during gold rush days, I imagine). Might explain why the place looked deserted. Anyway, I headed on through the dark to Port Hastings, the first place across the causeway to Cape Breton Island and stayed in a huge, nearly empty motel which faced back across the harbour. At just before 10, my only dining options were McDonalds or Subway. Should have left earlier. My first stop in the morning was Baddeck, which is the gateway town for the Cabot Trail - it is on the enormous inland sea or lake (jury seems to be out) called Lake Bras d'Or - it has multiple islands, ferries, bridges - I could have spent a couple of days just exploring the lake.

Sherbrooke

Sherbrooke

Port Hastings

Port Hastings

Little Narrows Ferry across Bras d'Or Lake

Little Narrows Ferry across Bras d'Or Lake

Little Narrows Presbyterian Church

Little Narrows Presbyterian Church

Baddeck Waterfront

Baddeck Waterfront

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I have a separate post about something I did at Baddeck - now I want to focus on the Cabot Trail. After hunting up and down the road for a petrol station (the one in town closed at noon), it was time to hit the trail. It basically runs up the east coast of the northern part of Cape Breton Island, cuts across through the forest (Cape Breton Highlands National Park) rather than going right to the top, then comes down the west coast to Margaree River, and then runs through to its start point. On the east, it is almost uninhabited for miles, until it hits Ingonosh (where things get weird, because the road crosses in and out of the National Park several times, but for about a maximum of a kilometre each time - I think I was a fool for paying the park fee). At Neil's Harbour, it heads west.
Start of Cabot Trail

Start of Cabot Trail

First contact with coast, Cabot Trail

First contact with coast, Cabot Trail

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Ingonish Church

Ingonish Church


Ingonish River

Ingonish River

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Neil's Harbour

Neil's Harbour


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There is a road which does go to the very top of Cape Breton, to a wee town called St Margaret, Bay St Lawrence Harbour and then finally to Meat Cover, where I found a closed restaurant and a very windy camping ground on top of a hill which, even in the wind, had a few hardy souls camping. By this time, I was once again in the dark so there are no more photos for the day. I had to head through the forest in the dark to my hostel at Pleasant Bay - luckily enough there was still a place to get some very average food for dinner.
Near Bay St Lawrence

Near Bay St Lawrence

Bay St Lawrence

Bay St Lawrence

large_IMG_9428.jpglarge_IMG_9429.jpglarge_IMG_9430.jpgCabot Trail, heading over pass to Pleasant Bay

Cabot Trail, heading over pass to Pleasant Bay

Pleasant Bay

Pleasant Bay

Harbour @ Pleasant Bay

Harbour @ Pleasant Bay

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There was nowhere to eat, so I did a quick look back through the forest to see if I missed anything in the dark (nope) then headed south, finally stopping in an odd town called Cheticamp for another average meal - the town was weird because it was so string out along the coast, with no real centre and large distances between each building.
Heading south, East Coast Cabot Trail

Heading south, East Coast Cabot Trail

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Chéticamp

Chéticamp

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Margaree

Margaree

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Church @ Margaree Harbour

Church @ Margaree Harbour

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It didn't really take long, and before I knew it, I was heading east from Margaree River, and came across a wonderful cafe, the Dancing Goat - I overheard my fellow guests saying how far they'd come for lunch - not quite from New Zealand, but clearly, people were prepared to put in some miles to come here. I, unfortunately, was still full from my mediocre breakfast, so could only fit in coffee and cake.
Dancing Goat cafe

Dancing Goat cafe

Posted by NZBarry 23:43 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Halifax: A Long Walk, South to North and Back

sunny 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.
Barrington Street

Barrington Street

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View of Harbour from Barrington

View of Harbour from Barrington

Government House

Government House


Government House (rear)

Government House (rear)


Old Burying Ground

Old Burying Ground


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St Paul's Anglican Church

St Paul's Anglican Church


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.
Le French Fix

Le French Fix

large_WP_20140927_037.jpglarge_WP_20141011_006.jpgArgyle Street

Argyle Street


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Auctionhouse Pub

Auctionhouse Pub


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.
Downtown Halifax

Downtown Halifax

Angus L. Macdonald Bridge

Angus L. Macdonald Bridge

Dartmouth

Dartmouth

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Halifax Harbour

Halifax Harbour

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Atlantic Fleet

Atlantic Fleet

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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).
Edna's

Edna's

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Maritime Command Museum

Maritime Command Museum

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Sunrise Manor

Sunrise Manor

Nook on Gottingen

Nook on Gottingen

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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.
Hydrostone Market

Hydrostone Market

Hydrostone Houses

Hydrostone Houses

Julien's Patisserie

Julien's Patisserie


Lion & Bright Cafe

Lion & Bright Cafe


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.
Army Museum, Citadel

Army Museum, Citadel

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Changing Guard

Changing Guard

New Guard

New Guard


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Town Clock

Town Clock


Town Clock

Town Clock


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).
St David's Church

St David's Church


Brunswick Street

Brunswick Street


Black Market Boutique

Black Market Boutique

Stubborn Goat pub

Stubborn Goat pub

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St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica

St. Mary's Cathedral Basilica

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Medjuck Architecture Building

Medjuck Architecture Building


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Holy Cross Cemetery

Holy Cross Cemetery

Posted by NZBarry 14:17 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Halifax: A Wander along the Waterfront

sunny 24 °C

My digs were very convenient for Dalhousie University, which is just a few blocks up my street (Morris). Going in the opposite direction, there are only about four blocks before you hit the waterfront. Almost next door is a Chinese restaurant, open very late, one I told myself I must go into, just to be neighbourly but never did. Down a block, on opposing sides of the road there's a brilliant magazine shop and a gift/sweet shop. Further down, there is the wonderful Morris East pizza restaurant (where I had my first meal in Halifax) and across the road, an extremely late night pizza and kabob shop, to which I might have had to make emergency recourse once or twice. Next block down, there is an OK sort of cafe, one I went into more for the name and because it was convenient than because it was a great experience. This is one block up from the waterfront. In between these shops, it is mostly housing, but none as interesting looking as the houses in the final block of Morris.
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Straight ahead, there is Georges Island - it is presently closed, but work is underway to restore Fort Charlotte, an important part of the defences against the French built in the mid 18th century. If you go right, you'll see the Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market, the Garrison Brewery and end up in the railway station. Although the premises for the market are pretty impressive, the market itself is not - just a few stalls selling produce, others food and the rest the normal sort of crap you find at markets. I guess the cruise boat passengers bought it (the boats tie up outside, and one day while I was there, the prediction was that there would be five of them).
Morris Street

Morris Street


Halifax Harbour

Halifax Harbour

Georges Island

Georges Island


Georges Island

Georges Island


Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market

Halifax Seaport Farmers' Market

large_WP_20141005_004.jpgPumpkin Carving @ Seaport Farmer's Market

Pumpkin Carving @ Seaport Farmer's Market

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Turning left is much more impressive - the waterfront is very accessible to pedestrians and there is plenty to see as you wander along - there are probably about 2 kilometres of boardwalk. I was there four times at least - mostly it was sunny, but one day the weather was a bit grim, so there were very few about.
Fishing @ Halifax Waterfront

Fishing @ Halifax Waterfront


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Halifax Waterfront

Halifax Waterfront


Pilot Boats

Pilot Boats

Climbing Challenge

Climbing Challenge


I did not try to go up that challenge - some seemed to just stroll up as easily as I walked the boardwalk, others found it impossible, and would slide back down again unless rescued by their friends at the top (who might get pulled down in the process). All very amusing. Nearby is an interesting enclave of shops (with condos built above them) - there's an exclusive cigar shop, an equally exclusive wine shop, some clothing shops, a most excellent Italian restaurant (Ristorante A Mano - I went in on a whim on a Friday night - the place was packed, but they found room for me at the bar, so I could enjoy my linguine frutti di mare) a not bad coffee shop, the Smiling Goat, and foodtrucks and musicians during the day.
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There are plenty of other restaurants along the way - most of the wharves have been turned over to their use - but the big event on the waterfront is probably the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. As expected, it has lots of maritime bits and bobs and models of ships but the top floor has been devoted to maritime disasters in the area: most will have heard of one of them - Halifax was the closest port to where the Titanic met its end, and about 150 of the passengers and crew are buried in Halifax cemeteries. Titanic is not actually the first White Star Line ship to sink near Halifax - the Atlantic was actually entering the harbour when it hit rocks and sank in 1873, with a loss of 530 lives. They had surprisingly few actual exhibits from the Titanic, but there were a rather poignant pair of shoes which belonged to an unknown four year old boy.
Shoes of Titanic Boy

Shoes of Titanic Boy

Goose Boat

Goose Boat

Parrot

Parrot


My favourite part of the museum was actually the Wm Robertson Chandlers Shop, which is presented as it was about a hundred years ago (apart from the girl doodling on her smart-phone).
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Outside, they had a couple of ships that could be explored. The K181 (HMCS Sackville) is Canada's oldest fighting warship and the last of her 123 corvettes built during WWII, credited with 2 U-Boat kills but unfortunately put out of action when her own depth charges blew up a nearby torpedo. Acadia is a very different sort of ship, a 100 year old survey vessel which saw action in both wars and as an occasional ice-breaker.
K181

K181

Acadia

Acadia


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Acadia Speaking Tube

Acadia Speaking Tube

Emergency Wheelhouse, Acadia

Emergency Wheelhouse, Acadia

Captain's Cabin, Acadia

Captain's Cabin, Acadia

First Mate's Cabin, Acadia

First Mate's Cabin, Acadia

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Among all the restaurants, there were also several brightly coloured kiosks selling food, tickets and souvenirs - it was such a long time since I'd had fish and chips (Vancouver!) that I couldn't resist.
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At the far end, and not really accessible by boardwalk, is the Canadian Atlantic Fleet - I took a ferry ride to the dark side, also known as Dartmouth (its a place that came in for a lot of cheek from my mates at the meetup group, even more when someone from Dartmouth attended).
Canada's Atlantic Fleet

Canada's Atlantic Fleet

Angus L McDonald Bridge

Angus L McDonald Bridge

Halifax Harbour

Halifax Harbour


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Posted by NZBarry 22:37 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

Train Across Canada: Montréal to Halifax

sunny 25 °C

Halifax is the end of the line when it comes to train travel in Canada. That's pretty much the only reason I ended up there, plus the fact they have a University which suited my needs (St John's, Newfoundland has one too, but no law school). There are freight trains still running north and south, but the last passenger service north to Cape Breton stopped in 1990 and south to Yarmouth in 1989. The latter is a bit of a pity, as they're trying really hard to keep a ferry running between Yarmouth and Portland, Maine but I found it very difficult to get there.

The train across from Montréal was of the same design as the ones I caught from Vancouver to Toronto, but much quieter - not many passengers and no onboard entertainment. As I left Montréal, I had two surprises: I ran into the German couple from the Winnipeg-Toronto train, and my train left on time. Even more surprising, it arrived on time. Once on the train, the announcement came over - people with reservations, but only people with reservations, can come and eat dinner. I was a bit confused about how people would have made reservations, since we had just got on: it turns out the dining car was so close to empty that everyone dining had a table to themselves. I had a delicious beef dish, washed down with a couple of fine ales - a very nice start to a pleasant journey. It was rather similar to what I had seen before, so much so that I have zero photos, but not boring. I could watch the world go by, watch a couple of episodes of Breaking Bad and finally finished The Alexandria Quartet, which is very dense, but having the ability to read it for an extended period made it very rewarding.
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I spent a whole month in Halifax, and pretty much had tears in my eyes when it came time to leave: I had a completely wonderful time. The weather helped - sunny most days, cloudy for a few but actual rain for just two. My first week or so was in the hostel on Barrington Street - a very relaxed space where it was easy to meet people - I even found myself wandering the streets in search of coffee and smoking furiously with a retired gent from back west at 3 in the morning. Next door is Bearly's House of Blues, where I went a couple of times - the first time because I was hungry and I'd heard they have great burgers (they do, plus a wonderful Belgian IPA). Despite what you might think from the size of the audience, the singer was pretty good. I went back the next night for another of the beers, and the place was packed - kareoke night. Surprisingly: not shit. Across the road was a very traditional English pub, Henery's House, where I had dinner a couple of times. I also meant to go to the underground games cafe but somehow run out of time.
Bearly's House of Blues

Bearly's House of Blues

large_WP_20140916_001.jpgHenry House

Henry House


I spent my last three weeks in a place called Novel Stay - short term furnished accommodation, with a proper kitchen and lounge (and what is the one thing I cook? Sausages, eggs and beans. A bit tragic, but I was seduced by the fact they were artisinal, hand-made sausages). I hardly saw a soul the whole time I was there, even though it had ten rooms and a "host" who supposedly came in every evening. I did have an odd encounter with a neighbour - she and some mates were celebrating the end of their degrees: she came over (this is another 3 in the morning thing) and declared that there would be two weeks of fall, then it would get so cold people would either lock themselves away for the winter or go out and kill people.

My first encounter with the law school was a bit off-putting: I misread a sign the Dean had put outside the building and thought I had to show Dalhousie ID just to get in. That's not what it said, and in a month of going in and out, I was never challenged so spent my days here
Sir James Dunn Law Library @ Dalhousie University

Sir James Dunn Law Library @ Dalhousie University


In the evenings, I'd relocate to what must be one of the ugliest libraries in the world
Killam Memorial Library @ Dalhousie

Killam Memorial Library @ Dalhousie


but once inside it was fine, and there was food and coffee available until midnight (not that I ever stayed there quite that late). Ordinarily, I'd also use the public library, for a change of pace and access to wifi, but central Halifax is currently without a library. It closed its main Memorial Library at the end of August, and the new ($60 million) one was not opening until late fall (no date yet - they want to be ready).
Old Halifax Library

Old Halifax Library


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Churchill statue @ Old Halifax Library

Churchill statue @ Old Halifax Library

New Halifax Library

New Halifax Library


It certainly looks impressive, although at least one person I spoke to thinks it is an eyesore. Apparently it is the first major building built in downtown Halifax for decades, and has several associated projects, as the Council sold vacant land to developers to help fund the project. I did find a public library I could use, but it was quite awkward to get to.

Architecturally, Dalhousie doesn't have much going on, although it physically merges with the University of King's College, which is the first Canadian University, and looks rather good.
University of King's College

University of King's College

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One of my first priorities was to find a regular coffee haunt, and after a couple of false starts, I had three. There was one right beside the hostel I thought might do but by my second visit, I had decided their coffee was dull. On campus, I took the advice of the library staff, but they also sent me on a false trail, to Second Cup. At least a week after I arrived, I just walked around the block and found one of the sweetest coffee shops I have ever experienced, Coburg Coffee. I'd pop in every afternoon and developed a terrible habit of eating grilled cheese sandwiches. One of the staff I only ever saw about three times, but every time she smiled at me as if we'd been friends for ages - in fact, she served my very last Halifax coffee, and it was her smile that almost had me in tears. There was another staff member, so tiny she can't even be seen behind the cash register even when she's standing up, but who had an enormous smile, one that made me glad to be alive.
Coburg Coffee

Coburg Coffee


I was also lucky to have a great place just around the corner from my house - I nearly didn't go in because it has such a lame name (Humani-T) but it became my lounge - I'd go in on my way to and from the uni for a coffee and a wicked ginger date slice and use their wifi or read, it was open till 10:30 most nights. It only took a couple of days and some of the guys working there knew what I'd be wanting. Nice as it was, in the last week they were gazumped by my third cafe, which also had a lame name - Just Us - but their coffee was fabulous (and came in proper sized cups as standard).

Wanting to meet people, I found a few groups on Meetup.com - there was one for Halifax singles of a particular age, but the one meetup I attended was strange - it was for a movie, a random romcom, but as soon as it finished, everyone just left. I got on far better with a group called Halifax Friends International - it met every Sunday night at Humani-T just to talk, and talk we did! One evening we hadn't done talking when the cafe closed, so we moved on to a pub. Good times, and I may have come away from one of those evenings just a wee bit smitten with another member.

I managed to hit two film festivals - the tail end of the Atlantic Film Festival, where I saw four movies over two nights - including the latest from David Cronenburg, Maps to the Stars and a very strange locally made movie, Roundabout. It has been panned a bit by critics, but I just loved God Help the Girl, made by Stuart Murdoch of Belle and Sebastian fame, about three lost kids who find each other and start a band, and also a vehicle for some songs Murdoch had written which were for female vocalists rather than Belle and Sebastian. I also went to the Japanese Film Festival at St Mary's University and saw every film in the festival: there were only two of them. The Consul-General himself came from Montreal, and gave a very strange introduction, talking about the great films they'd shown at Montreal and then saying "but they're not what we have for you". Instead, you'll be watching Hospitalité and Until the Break of Dawn. The first one was cute: this couple runs a printing shop and live above in a tiny space. They take on a new employee, who moves in, then moves his wife in, with whom the boss sleeps. This gives the employee power over the boss and how does he use it? He takes control of both workplace and home - the latter, by running it as a backpackers, with around 30 people crammed into every nook and cranny. The latter was pretty cool too - about a tsunagu, someone who can facilitate a meeting between a live person and a dead one - not like a seance, they actually get to sit down and talk to each other. Of course, there's more to it - the film focuses on three people who want to contact a dead person, why they do and what happens to them. Oh, and I saw Gone Girl.

On the way down to St Mary's, I was totally impressed by the great housing I saw, and they may have inspired me to paint my own house a bit more colourfully when I get home: I'm thinking purple (not that I seem to have captured any purple houses in a photo, but they exist). A lot were in a couple of blocks of Tower Road - built in the late Victorian period for merchants, who had a bit of cash to flash.
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This post is an overview - I have more to show you Halifax as I walked around it.

Posted by NZBarry 21:24 Archived in Canada Comments (0)

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