Hello again everyone and welcome to this post, one of a series about a 2014 trip to the Maritime Provinces of Canada which consisted mostly of a road trip with my dear friend Lynne in Betsy, the very old but extremely loveable campervan / RV. As always I shall start off by informing the reader that if they wish to read the entire story they can begin it here.
If you have read the post before you will know that the previous evening we had attended the excellent military tattoo in Halifax, Nova Scotia and had consumed perhaps a little too much alcohol afterwards so we did not rise too early on the morning of the 3rd of July. If you want to know what happened next (or didn’t) then please read on.
The day started in an unusual fashion even by my standards and that is saying something as you wouldn’t believe some of the places I have woken up after a night out!
No, everything was fine. I was in Betsy with Lynne with no obvious injuries and my wallet intact and eventually we both got up. Some time thereafter we received a visit from one of the lovely campground staff asking us if we would mind terribly moving to another pitch as there was a hurricane coming! What? It is not exactly the kind of thing you hear every day but it wasn’t some sort of practical joke and Hurricane Arthur was indeed heading right for us.
The problem was that we were on a lovely pitch amongst some trees and, having worked on Betsy’s roof when we were re-furbing her, I knew that we wouldn’t stand a chance against a falling conifer so we shifted ourselves as requested and had a bit of an O Group which, as I explained in a previous post, is military jargon for a planning meeting.
Because we had looped round the Southwestern portion of the Province we were almost back to where we had started and could have driven back to Lynne’s Father’s home in about an hour but we decided to sit it out as Arthur wasn’t due to arrive for a couple of days. We followed reports on the radio and we knew that if it looked like it was going to be really horrendous we could bolt back to base to ride it out.
We had started late and were both just a little bit delicate so there was no point in going out making like tourists that day and we decided to go to the pub instead which is SOP (more miltary-speak, Standard Operational Procedure) for Fergy in such circumstances. A hair of the dog that had bitten me was in order. Here is where we went and what I thought of it.
Great Irish (?) pub.
“I am not generally a great fan of theme pubs be they Irish, Scottish or Outer Mongolian as I think they lack authenticity for the most part. Occasionally, however, I’ll find one that I do like and this piece concerns Ceilidh’s pub in Dartmouth which is excellent.
I still haven’t worked out if it is meant to be Scottish or Irish themed or perhaps a bit of both but that doesn’t detract from it at all. If you don’t know, the word ceilidh (sometimes abbreviated to ceili) is just about interchangeable in the Irish and Scots languages and means a dance or party. This is appropriate as they seem to have live music on just about every night with musical policy tending towards Celtic / folk in keeping with the style of the place.
Although we did not actually eat there, the food looked excellent and there appears to be a daily special. A quick look at the attached Facebook page suggests that they actually post each day’s offering up so you can check before you visit.
We had discovered this place more or less by accident as it was the nearest bar to our campsite and so we decided to give it a try.
We were greeted by the customary friendly server, something of a trait in Nova Scotia, and chose from a wide selection of beers both local and imported. We returned a couple of times and were always welcomed the same way, indeed the locals proved to be as friendly as the staff.
One evening I even ended up playing a short “troubadour” gig in there. The booked band had been double-booked somehow and were out of town and so I mentioned that I had a guitar in the RV and would they like me to do a bit. “Go right ahead” was the immediate answer and so the good folk of Dartmouth were treated (if that is the right word, subjected may be better) to an impromptu Fergy session. It was great fun. “
Whilst researching this post and I know it doesn’t look like I research too much usually, I found this interesting article about what was happening a couple of hundred miles to the Southwest of us, there are some great images in it. Inbound hurricane and we are on the beer, I love it.
I don’t know if I am jinxed but two years previously I had been sitting in another bar in the Philippines when a 6.9 earthquake struck. Maybe I should stop going to bars.
We got back fairly late and it was back into the galley again as we hadn’t eaten that evening. It was obviously a leisurely affair as my images show that the starter went “to the pass” at 2311 and the main showed up at 0158. Oh dear. Chef’s Special that night was Nova Scotian line-caught, home smoked mackerel with a duo of salads followed by griddled gammon steaks served with roast peppers and sweet potato mash. It sounds posh in restaurant language but, as you can see, it was fairly basic.
We were turning into a right dissolute pair and Betsy’s hold was going to have to be re-filled soon as supplies of Strongbow were disappearing rapidly.
I have no idea when we got to bed but I suspect it was late as we didn’t rise too early again the next day and, as this day was a whole lot of nothing, I think we shall pass straight on to
4th July, 2014.
As you have read, we didn’t do anything the previous day and we thought we had better make at least a token effort today so when we finally made it into Dartmouth at about 1600 we thought we would go and have a look at the Quaker House but before we get there, let me tell you about Dartmouth itself.
A bit overshadowed by Halifax.
“Today Dartmouth is effectively a dormitory town for Halifax which lies across the Bedford Basin as the two are connected now by two bridges (built in 1955 and 1977) and the rather fun passenger ferry. This linking of the two communities has led to a fairly rapid expansion since the mid 50’s although Dartmouth remains very much the “junior partner” with a mere 67,000 residents compared to about 300,000 in Halifax.
Despite it’s relatively small size it was a city in it’s own right until 1996 when it was absorbed in a Governmental re-structuring into what is officially now the Halifax Regional Municipality, which I must say I find to be a bit of a mouthful.
The indigenous Mi’qmak people had been here for many years, calling the place Boonamoogwaddy, which is another mouthful. Halifax had been founded in 1749 and the story of Dartmouth really starts the next year when 151 brave souls disembarked from the Alderney and began to make a new life for themselves. A defensive fortification was built the same year and the whole place was named for the 1st Earl of Dartmouth.
Initially a sawmill and farming community it developed in the 18th and 19th centuries to include shipbuilding and ropeworks. Many of the settlers were of the Quaker faith and also became heavily involved in the whaling industry which was booming at that time. It was eventually incorporated as a town in 1873.
Whilst there is far more to do over in Halifax it is worth spending some time in this quite relaxed place as there are a few interesting things to do not least of which is to go and visit some of the many lovely lakes within the city perimeters.”
I mentioned the Quakers so let’s go and have a look at a typical Quaker House.
A fascinating piece of history.
This piece concerns the rather grandly named Dartmouth Heritage Museum which seems to be locally known more prosaically as the Quaker House for that is what it was.
The history of the Quaker House and the wider Quaker society in this area arises out of the American War of Independence when the people of that particular religious sect were mostly based in the area of Nantucket in what is present day Massachussetts. Most of them were involved in one way or another with the whaling trade as seamen, shipwrights, sailmakers, chandlers, coopers and so on.
At that time privateering (Government licensed piracy) and blockades effectively wiped out the previously successful whaling fleet. A British tax on American whale oil did not help matters and so many Quakers decided to head North to Nova Scotia, the first of them arriving in 1785.
Notably industrious, the Quakers set about getting the new fleet to sea and within a short time had a hugely successful and lucrative industry set up again. This in turn led to a bit of a boomtown of which this house is merely a small example but it didn’t last long. Within about ten years, a very lucrative offer from the UK led to many of them travelling to Milford Haven in the UK to work from there.
Although I detest whaling as a trade, I appreciate that it is a hard one and with men at sea for over two years at a time it must have been hard on them and their families. Apart from the separation from family and loved ones, the seas they whaled were notoriously dangerous and the very act of destroying those magnificent creatures was undoubtedly dangerous.
What the Quaker House represents therefore is a remembrance of what was effectively a very short period in the history of this area but it is still fascinating. As is the way with so many places like this in Nova Scotia, there are re-enactors here in costume and this is where the place really comes alive.
Certainly you could wander round yourself although it wouldn’t take you too long but when the costumed young people take you on a tour and tell you the full history with a few little anecdotes, then it becomes a lot more real. It is a delight to listen to them as they really seem genuinely interested in showing the place off and do it very well.
I should mention, in the interest of fair reporting, that many of the artefacts are not actually original to the premises but representative of the period. The building was actually used as a dwelling house until well into my lifetime and many of the originals had long since been disposed of by then. This really didn’t seem to matter and we had a wonderful time.
I think my favourite story of them all was that whilst renovating the premises builders found four different single shoes in the wall. We were told that this is to fool the Devil, if you don’t mind! Apparently, if Beelzebub found a single shoe then he would be so busy looking for the other one that he would leave you alone. That made me smile.
I have to say that at $2 per adult for a guided tour like that, I thought it represented excellent value and I would commend the Dartmouth Historical Society for saving the building from destruction. It will not take more than an hour to go round it and it is well worth doing.”
We had decided to do another “tourist” thing and so we jumped on the lovely little ferry again and over we went to Halifax. Guess what we did next? I’ll bet that regular readers will say that we went to the pub and you’d be right but only partially so. Let me explain.
Get it at source.
It will come as no surprise to regular readers of my pages here that I like the odd drink and so a suggested trip to the Alexander Keith Brewery in Halifax sounded right up my street. I should say that I am generally a cider drinker but I had developed a taste for the “red ales” which appear to be quite popular in the Maritime Provinces of Canada and Keith’s offering was as good as any and better than most. What an opportunity then to go and see where it is actually produced.
We had gone to the ticket office in late afternoon and booked ourself onto a tour starting in about an hour. Because of the very nature of the place they can only accommodate a limited number of people at a time, as I shall explain shortly.
We decided to repair to the ‘brewery tap’ of the place, an excellent hostelry called the Red Stag Tavern which I will tell you all about after our tour.
“When the time came, we assembled in a small area within the complex, for that is what it is. It now houses shops, restaurants and all sorts of things but this was originally all the Keith’s Brewery.
We were greeted by a young lady in period dress who insisted that from that point on we were all ‘in character” and were not to talk about modern things and so on. She obviously had her script well learnt and gave us a brief history of the original Mr. Keith arriving in Canada, setting up his brewery etc. and then ushered us into the delightful room you can see in the image. I believe it may have been a boardroom in previous times.
Once seated, she left us alone and the ‘mirror’ above the fireplace sparked into very 21st century life with a video / hologram of the late Mr. Keith telling us more about the history of the place. When that finished, she reappeared and ushered us through to another area, this time obviously connected with the brewing process. I have to say that the vats were absolutely gleaming.
At that point a young man, again in period dress, had taken over the tour, playing the part of a brewer from perhaps the 18th century. He explained the whole process to us in simple layman’s terms that even a dullard like me could understand.
When he had finished his piece we were escorted into another room, the bar, where there were samples of the various brews available. If memory serves, I opted for a seasonal honey ale which was gorgeous but the fun didn’t end there. Once we were all suitably supplied, the young lady and young man from earlier, joined by another young lady (again in period dress) decided we were going to have a bit of a singsong where we were all invited to join in.
Well, I needed no second bidding as I do this semi-professionally. I did notice one of the young ladies giving me slightly funny looks as they were singing three part harmonies and I was singing a fourth part above both the females. OK, so my voice never broke properly. In fairness, they were very good and encouraged us all (myself included!) to join in the choruses although I may have been the only one there that knew most of them.
After a few songs, we were ushered out through the inevitable giftshop and back into what is now the fancy shopping centre which was by this time closing down for the night. The tour is not a particularly cheap thing to do but I did find it hugely enjoyable, the young people ‘in role’ were excellent and really brought a fairly simple brewing process to life, imbuing into it a sense of history, and I recommend it.
Now let me tell you all about the Red Stag which we went straight back to obviously.
As you’d expect, an excellent pub.
Although we had been given a couple of small glasses of beer during the tour, that had merely served to whet my appetite and so we adjourned to the adjacent Red Stag Tavern which I mentioned above is brewery tap which is simply a bar at a brewery. This one is called the Red Stag because that is the logo of the company’s products.
It is a fairly sizeable bar and, as you would expect, it is really rather good. I suppose it is a bit of a showpiece for them. Service is excellent and all the staff (both genders) wear kilts / skirts in the Nova Scotia tartan. In typical Nova Scotian fashion, they are extremely friendly and efficient.
You can buy one of the kilts as well as a host of other more conventional souvenirs. I did and I really rather like it albeit I am not sure I have the legs to carry it off!
The beer is excellently kept and there is a full selection of Keith’s offerings including some limited run seasonal brews that I didn’t see anywhere else. There are also a range of imported beers available. I must confess I did have to sample a few different ones whilst I was there.
Although we didn’t eat, there is a full range of food available and most people there seemed to be dining. Lynne decided on a plate of sweet potato (yam) fries and I did try a couple which were very tasty. The website suggests that there is live music there on a Friday night although we were there earlier in the week.
This really is rather a pleasant pub in a city that seems very well supplied with them and I do recommend it.”
Since writing this piece, I have found out that the Red Stag has sadly closed down now. I do not know if this is virus related or not but it is surprising as it seemed one of the busier places in town.
It is a strange phenomenon that the more I drink the thirstier I seem to get and this was the case here. Lovely as the Red Stag was, we decided to go looking for somewhere else to try out and this is where I am going to do something very unusual and file a completely negative report, probably the only one of this whole series.
Avoid like the plague.
“I have to say firstly that I found bars and restaurants all over the Maritime Provinces to be wonderful places with generally exemplary service. It is a shame, therefore, that one establishment in Halifax let the side down so badly.
The venue in question is the Waterfront Warehouse which is, as the name suggests, a converted warehouse right on the waterfront. It is rather a large building with an extensive deck area on the waterfront side and this is where most people seemed to be seated.
We had walked in from the road into what appeared to be the front bar. There was nobody behind the counter so we took a seat at the bar and waited to be served. Then we waited some more. When we had done that, we waited. My patience had lasted for over ten minutes when we got up and walked out.
It was not that the staff did not know we was there as I saw several of them looking in our direction as they went about their business. I am quite tall and noticeable and they could not have failed to see me. If this bar was not in use at least one of them could have told us and we would have happily moved elsewhere.
A very poor performance and I suggest you avoid this place at all costs.”
I am glad that is over as it leaves a bad taste in the mouth because everything else (Immigration Department excluded, see my first post in this series for explanation) in the Maritimes was so enjoyable but I believe in honest reporting.
Of course, the appalling Waterfront was not a problem as there is no shortage of very fine watering holes to pick from in Halifax and we didn’t have far to go to find one. Before I tell you about the I have to share this image of a chalkboard outside it which did make me smile. Excuse me chaps, could you amend it to include Northern Irishmen please?
Another fine pub.
“I mentioned above how I am not generally speaking a fan of the “Irish” pubs that have seemed to proliferate globally in recent years but credit where it is due as the Old Triangle is rather well done and a great place to have a drink.
If you are wondering about the name, it comes from an Irish song of the same title which features in the Brendan Behan play “The Quare Fellow” and has been covered by just about every Irish singer since, notably and brilliantly, the late and much lamented Ronnie Drew of the Dubliners.
When we visited, the place was absolutely full to the gunwales, it was very busy. That didn’t seem to present a problem to the staff who managed to be not only very efficient but had time to be friendly in the way I had come to associate with Nova Scotians generally.
The bar seems to specialise in beers from the Popeller brewery rather than the more common Keith’s offerings and also has imported Irish brews (Smithwick’s and Harp). Well, I can get those at home and so I opted for the local red ale which I had developed rather a fondness for. It was well-kept and served.
Like most bars in Canada, there is a full menu although we did not eat there. There is a reasonably authentic Irish feel about the place with hurley sticks and Gaelic jerseys on the walls and it is very clean and tidy. They boast live music seven nights a week as well.
The Irish influence probably comes from the fact it was founded in 2000 by three Irishmen so I suppose it makes sense. Although it is one of a chain of four in the Maritime Provinces it does not really feel like that.”
We took a wander down to the water again and I think we were considering another drink when we came upon the local TV weatherman who was fortuitously doing his live piece to camera so we listened in, talk about getting it straight from the horse’s mouth! He was reporting that Arthur was heading straight for us and not far off. He was advising people to stay indoors, not drive unless necessary, all the usual precautions and so we thought we would take his advice and headed back to the campground.
I would like to say that we battened down the hatches but there was nothing to do really except ensure we had not left anything outside. It wasn’t like a tent where you could double-guy it. We were sitting in the path of a hurricane on an exposed piece of ground in a high sided vehicle.
There was nothing to do but have a drink (obviously) and wait to see what happened. If you want to see what happened then stay tuned and spread the word.