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Haligonian sojourn

I’ve been in Canada for two weeks now, and I think I’ve performed a fair amount of tourist duties. The weekend before last, Pete and his housemate took me to Peggy’s Cove, which is maybe an hour’s drive from where they live – which in turn is at least half an hour from Dartmouth and longer from Halifax.

The weather that day was mild and calm – not sunny like it’s been most of the time, but quiet enough to ensure a sedate sea. The knuckled granite formations are pretty impressive. The lighthouse is a lighthouse – about three storeys high. The village is modest: a seemingly random scattering of wooden houses painted in pastel shades. The place is fairly dominated by the restaurant near the lighthouse and its large carpark. We wandered over the rocks for a bit and I took some photos; then, with not much else to do, we headed back home.

The following Monday, the housemate, Vince, took me up to the Citadel – a fort overlooking Halifax and the bay. Again, the weather wasn’t as bright as last week or the middle of this week, but it wasn’t bad. It was very breezy, and I regretted not taking my jacket with me.

The Citadel was built and rebuilt at various points throughout the 18th and 19th centuries and formed part of British North America’s defenses against the USA, and later Canada’s defenses against Germany. It was never actually attacked, though. Ironically, the worst incident of that kind happened early in the 20th century when two ships collided at the port, one of them carrying munitions. The resulting explosion laid waste to much of the city and killed hundreds.

Tuesday was ridiculously hot and I spent it at the house looking at travel stuff on the internet and playing Civilization IV. Ditto Wednesday. On Thursday, I managed to get myself out of bed early and went into Halifax with Vince as he went to work.

I went first to the rail/bus station and got a handful of tickets that’ll take me from here to Montreal with numerous stops. The tickets are flexible in terms of when you use them, so I could spend a night in each place. What I intend to do is stop in Quebec City for a while, before heading on to Montreal. After another few days there I’ll go on to Ottawa, then Toronto, with a day trip from this latter to Niagara Falls. I have a plane ticket from Toronto City Airport (which isn’t the main one) back to Halifax for 19 October (with a small airline called Porter Airlines. Apparently, they cater to business travellers and their planes are pretty swish. The ticket was cheaper than Air Canada by a massive six pounds).

After getting the bus tickets I went to the Museum of Art. The ticket to get in there was half price ($6) because they had a couple of floors in the second building closed. On the ground floor of the first building there’s the Maud Lewis gallery. It’s full of Maud Lewis work, strangely enough. She was a Nova Scotian ‘folk artist’ – which I think means her work is naive; the kind of thing where, if a child did it you’d think it was excellent, but when an adult does it you think, Well, it’s kind of pretty, but – meh.

Above that was some native art. Again this tended toward the naive, but with much more authority and even a sense of humour – like the bright paintings of loons and shamans with wide, staring eyes. Downstairs was modern art, including a giant, spherical sculpture made of chairs. That was impressive. From the basement level you can go up and access the other building – which is separated from its partner by a small court. Here, are a cluster of small galleries containing traditional art – by which I mean paintings from the 18th to 20th centuries – all with a Haligonian (I like that word) theme: Haligonian landscapes, portraits of Haligonian personages, et cetera.

The Art Museum is near the waterfront, so from there I walked down to the water (but not into the water) and wandered eastward to Pier 21 – another notable Haligonian (look – how often do you get use a word like ‘Haligonian’ in context? I’m making hay) location. Then I walked back and up to the other end of the waterfront; and then I walked back again and got a cup of tea and a bite to eat. In the afternoon, I went into the Maritime Museum, before finally catching the ferry across to Dartmouth – using a battered bus ticket Pete had provided me with – and meeting said host at the public library that’s part of the same complex as the ferry terminal.

All these touristy-type things are pleasant but modest – much like Halifax itself. I’m certainly glad to have had the chance to explore the city. It’s big enough that there are a range of things to go and do and see, but not big enough to be overwhelming. It also doesn’t seem at all crowded, and – at least in the downtown area – the streets themselves aren’t especially big or busy. All of which (actually, don’t forget a dash of that famous Canadian laidback attitude) makes Halifax seem like a much smaller town than it is.

On Friday evening (after a very rainy day that saw me drinking tea, reading and going to see The Kingdom (which I thought was very good)), we went to see an ice hockey game. Can you feel the Canadianness? It was a junior league game between the Halifax Mooseheads and the Lewiston Maineiacs. It was surprisingly enjoyable.

Whenever I’ve seen ice hockey on TV it hasn’t appealed to me much (not that much in the way of sport ever appeals to me) – it seems too fast and violent and the puck is all but invisible. In real life, however, you get a much better feel for the ebb and flow of the game. It’s still fast and violent, but such episodes are interspersed with slower interludes of players moving up and down the rink and trying to find the right pass.

On the minus side, any time the puck is in play and the clock is counting down, there is music and advertising blasting out over the PA. The music includes that very North American, and incredibly naff organ music that they have at sports events. The very small plus side to the minus side is that they played a minute of Metallica’s ‘For Whom the Bell Tolls’ before the second period.

Halifax (I’m not going to use their infantile team name again) won 3-2. Which was nice. For the home crowd.

I’m actually now on my four leg trip across eastern Canada, but I’ll write about that in future posts.

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