Hello again averyone and welcome to the next episode of a series of posts concerning my 2014 trip round the Maritime Provinces of Canada with my dear frind Lynne in a very old Glendale campervan / RV called Betsy.
Regular readers will know that on 5th July we had literally “weathered the storm”, in this case the Grade 2 Hurricane Arthur, which had marauded it’s way across Nova Scotia and New Brunswick causing huge damage to the infrastructure, particularly the power grid which was out for ten days in some parts.
With the storm gone and things back to comparative normality, what were we going to do today, the 6th? A look round Halifax seemed favourite as we had not yet explored it. If you want to join us then please read on.
Jumping ahead slightly, the problem with the power was so badly handled that the Governors of those Provinces later ordered reviews into the emergency planning and response of their respective power companies which roundly, and rightly, condemned them as it was a shambles. We must just have been lucky as we did not encounter any power outages which was fortunate as Betsy had no leisure battery and we were dependent, to a great extent, on campground power.
I am always conscious of the needs of my dear readers and so I am issuing another fair warning that this was a long day with lots to see so this will be a long post and you may wish to take appropriate precautions. Anna, get hubby to make you a coffee!
OK, that is a bit of an “insider joke” and leads me to my first digression before I have even stepped out the door of the ‘van! Anna is a regular reader and excellent travel blogger who I have never met personally but with whom I correspond regularly, having “met” ages ago on the excellent Virtual Tourist website and bumped into again here. I have linked to her pages in earlier posts, which is nothing more or less than a blatant invitation to visit my other pages!
Anna had been to NS almost exactly a year previously to visit distant cousins She is a Croat Australian, married to a Peruvian and living in just outside Perth, a city I know well. We worked out from comparing blogs that we had stood in many of exactly the same spots to take exactly the same images of exactly the same wonderful sights. I wonder how many millions of others have done the same thing.
Other readers of this series come from places as diverse as Qatar, China and Mexico and I thank them all. I seem to have gathered a proper little United Nations around this trip and it brought home to me how powerful both the internet and writing, if used properly, can be. Right Fergy, enough of this half-arsed philosophy, the dear reader is here to learn about the trip to Halifax, not listen to you wittering on. Your name is Fergy, not Aristotle!
We travelled a route we were getting used to now, out of the wonderful Shubie campground, catch the 55 ‘bus and ask the driver for the free ferry transfer then onto the lovely little Alderney – Halifax boat for the 15 minute trip to the capital and we hadn’t even accomplished that when we found our first point of interest. In the ferry terminal they had set up a farmer’s / artisan market which we had a quick look round.
I have spoken in an earlier post about the proliferation of farmer’s markets and individual producers all over the region (remember the mackerel?) and this was a great example, certainly as good as, if not better than, the “official” Halifax Farmer’s Market which we shall visit in a later post.
Although the ferry terminal is in Dartmouth, it is officially known as the Alderney Ferry which does not refer directly to the small UK Channel Island of that name but rather the ship which brought the first settlers to this part of the “New World”. More of them later.
It didn’t really matter what direction we chose to walk in as the relatively compact central area is jam-packed full of interesting places, as we shall see and the first we came upon was the Celtic Cross. Here is what I wrote.
Always remember your heritage.
“I believe it would be true to say that of the Celtic races, so much involved in the development of Nova Scotia, that the Scots would play the predominant role albeit not an exclusive one. Halifax in particular has a long history of Irish immigration and this piece deals with a memorial to these people.
It is the Celtic cross in granite which stands in a small and well-tended park at the junctions of George and Water Streets in the downtown area. In English and Gaelic it records the arrival of the first Irish immigrants here in 1749.
It was erected in 2000 by the Charitable Irish Society of Halifax, itself a very historic body founded in 1786 and still in existence and very active. Appropriately, it was dedicated on St. Patrick’s Day.
Whilst I do not suggest that the visitor to Halifax make a specific detour just to see this, if they are passing then it is worth a brief pause to remember those who left their homes, most never to return, in hope of finding a better life and assisting in the building of the excellent city that Halifax now undoubtedly is.”
The next stopping point was the Boer War Memorial.
I didn’t even know.
Readers of my other pages will know that I have an interest in military history (all periods) and I knew a bit about the Boer / South African War which spanned three years in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
I knew the UK had been heavily involved in, and indeed suffered appalling casualties in the Boer War, but it was only when I visited Canada for the first time that I realised the extent of Canadian involvement in that conflict. It seems they too suffered pretty seriously a long way from home and this memorial is dedicated to them.
I certainly don’t want to get into the morality of this or, indeed, any other war. I merely post this as something interesting which the visitor may want to have a look at.
It is in the grounds of the Provincial House, which we shall visit in a moment, on Hollis street in the middle of “downtown”. Built to the design of Hamilton MacCarthy it is a rather grand structure, a lot grander than many of the simple obelisks erected for the fallen after the First World War which was to happen all too soon thereafter. Perhaps by then people had lost the taste for war and who can blame them?
The cornerstone was laid in 1901 by the Prince of Wales (later King Goerge V) accompanied by the Princess of Wales on a tour that was the first time they had visited Canada as a couple.
There are four panels on the plinth depicting the departure from Halifax (a major seaport), the Battle of Witpoort, the Battle of Paaderburg, which was the largest Canadian engagement of the war and the Siege of Mafeking. It is worth spending a minute or two examining these panels as they really are very well executed.
Atop the whole thing is a Canadian soldier, resplendent in the dress of the time (including long puttees) and with his rifle held high above his head. Again, this main character is very well executed. It is an excellently done piece of sculpture whatever your views on warfare and, if you are visiting Provincial House (which you should if it is open) it is well worth stopping off to examine this.”
I mentioned that the Memorial is in the grounds of Province House so let’s go and visit there next.
A fascinating seat of Government.
“To be honest, my friend Lynne and I were just wandering about the middle of Halifax with a vague idea to go to the citadel (we’ll get there soon) and had not really planned to visit here at all. I had spied the Boer War memorial and decided to go and have a look and Lynne was looking round and asked if I wanted to go in and look inside. Well, a hugely historical Governmental building, I didn’t need any second bidding and so in we went.
We didn’t even get past the door before the two security guards had engaged us in conversation. Not any sort of interrogation, you understand, just a friendly chat. We made it as far as the desk and the member of staff there suggested the best way of seeing the place, also suggesting that there was a video presentation starting shortly upstairs which we might enjoy.
We had a brief perusal of the impressive staircase and upstairs hallway whilst waiting to go in and were treated to a very professional video presentation about the history of the building and Nova Scotia in general.
As you would expect from the Provincial seat of Government of an industrialised nation, the place is very well-maintained. It is obviously a delightfully and attractively period building but with all the modern appurtenances (TV cameras, well-equipped media room, accessible toilets and so on) but it in no way detracts from the natural charm of the place.
We made our way towards the well-signed theatre where we took our seats and were treated to an excellent professional video performance dealing partly with the building, partly with Nova Scotia in particular and with Canada more generally. All very well done, lasting about 20 – 25 minutes in total and well worth the time.
After that we were fairly well free to explore the building at will. Obviously, there were private offices but not too many and you could more or less wander where you wanted. I found it absolutely enchanting, both architecturally and historically. I do not wish to sound over-fulsome but I literally felt the history pouring out of every knot in every wooden panel.
So what about the building itself? Well, it opened in 1819 (building having started in 1811) and was originally the legislature building as well as being the major Court for Nova Scotia. Don’t forget, this is decades before Canada became a country.
Perhaps the most famous trial in the Court, which is now the parliamentary library (a stunning room for a bibliophile like me), was that against Joseph Howe, sometime politician, sometime journalist, who published an article in his newspaper accusing the police and local authorities of the theft of public monies. His speech in his own defence lasted approximately six hours and cited numerous incidents of malfeasance by those in public office.
After the trial, the jury was exhorted by the judge to find him guilty (eh?) but they found him not guilty a scant ten minutes later. Joseph Howe or “Uncle Joe” as he is now affectionately known, is credited with establishing the concept of freedom of the press in Canada in this very room. In the first edition of his newspaper, the Nova Scotian, published after the trial, Howe famously wrote, “The press is free”. I find that worth visiting Province House for if for nothing else.
I’ll tell you how open this place was and I will include another image here. This is not in the slightest way meant to be disrespectful to a people I vaguely knew before I visited and have come to love in the last few months. We were in what is the chamber where things are debated, home of NS democracy and obviously they were off on a long holiday for the summer in the way of politicians everywhere.
The concept of doing a VT flag photo at the Speaker’s Chair seemed beyond possibility but the guard told us to go right ahead. For crying out loud, if I tried to do that in the Houses of Parliament in London, I’d be at least given a good kicking if not shot! This is Canada for you, end of story, and I thank them for it because they were so unfailingly welcoming. The result, as you can see is Madam Speaker, the Rt. Hon. Lynne! Where’s your gavel, Madam Speaker? “Order, order”.
There are numerous other rooms available for viewing, many of which have huge historical significance for Canada and it is absolutely worth visiting. Obviously, by the nature of the place, it is a functioning Governmental building so you may only have limited access, especially in light of the more recent horrors in Canada.
On a military note, I did notice that there was a delightful portrait (I believe in oils, I am no expert) of a chap called William Hall, a very upstanding looking gentleman in civvies and with his medals on. Hall died in 1904 and was the first “black” man (their term not mine and undoubtedly appropriate at the time he won it) to win the Victoria Cross.
For anyone reading this who does not understand the VC, it is the highest honour for valour you can receive in the British or Commonwealth Forces. It simply doesn’t get any higher than the VC. I was to see a real example later in the day, which thrilled me.
Very senior officers will salute a VC holder of any rank first (not actually required in Queens Reg.s but they will), different from the CMH in the States where it is required. A VC is a really big deal.
I could bore you with a thousand things to look at in this building but I won’t. It is just a complete treasure trove of rooms and artefacts to see and experience, it really is that good. If you have the great good fortune to visit Nova Scotia, and I hope you do as I had a wonderful time there, the attached website is where it is run from. Go and have a look. Seriously, it is well worth it and, if you are on a tight budget, it is totally free.
Let’s move on, shall we? Lots more to see yet. Just opposite the front of Province House was a statue to “Joe” Howe and it made sense to me now because I had heard the story inside. The rather fine relief on the plinth shows Howe in declamatory pose defending himself at his sham trial.
A short walk took us to Grand Parade Square where we found the War Memorial and we stopped to pay our respects as always.
Lest we forget.
“I have mentioned on numerous othe posts here that I have an interest in military history and I always make a point of visiting war memorials and military graves wherever I travel. I make no apology for this, it is in no way a morbid fascination.
During the course of a fairly aimless wander through downtown Halifax one day we came upon the monument pictured and we had to stop and have a look. It is a memorial to those from this area who gave their lives in two World Wars and also in Korea.
I had always known that Canada, as part of an international force, had been involved in Korea but it was only when I visited the country that I began to appreciate the scale of the casualties they had suffered. Almost every World War 1 / World War 2 memorial seems to have a later addition commemorating that particular conflict. Whilst obviously nowhere on the scale of the World Wars, it seems to have inflicted a notable amount of casualties on Canada.
As for the memorial itself, the central figure represents the Lady of Peace. It was originally dedicated in 1929 and it has obviously been re-dedicated on further occasions to honour those lost in subsequent wars. Let’s hope we don’t have to do it any more.”
A short distance away we came to another memorial.
Another sad reminder.
“I have noted on many pages here my interest in military graves and memorials and I feel it is right and proper we honour the ultimate sacrifices made. However, there is another group of people, not military but civilian, who also are called upon sometimes to make those awful sacrifices. Police officers, firefighters, paramedics, coastguard etc. etc. and I apologise to any group I may have missed.
These are men and women that put themselves “in harm’s way”, as I believe the phrase is, to keep us safe closer to home and I believe it is equally correct that those people are honoured. So it was then that when I saw the memorial pictured that I had to go and investigate a bit.
I had initially thought it was another military monument but a closer look revealed that it commemorated fallen police officers and others and I should like to add a little personal perspective here.
In the early 20th century many of my paternal grandfather’s siblings emigrated to the “colonies” in search of a better life with the result that my extended family is now scattered across Australia, New Zealand and Canada as well as our native UK.
I remember as a small boy being told stories by my late Father of one of my great-uncles who had gone to Canada and become a “mountie”, in Ottowa I believe. He was a “proper “mountie” in that his duties involved him riding a horse about the city rather than actually doing the investigative work that the RCMP are now known for.
Apparently his “party piece” used to involve him jumping his horse over picnic tables in a large park whilst people were sitting at them, obviously idiocy runs in the family! Something about this always resonated with me and whilst I can claim no personal association with that fine organisation, I have always felt an affinity with it somehow.
Closer examination of the monument slightly confused me as there were RCMP officers, local Police Department officers, Correctional Department officers (prison wardens as we would say in UK) and Game Wardens from the Department of Lands and Forests commemorated. Frankly, it didn’t worry me as it just seemed to be a case of good guys vs. bad guys and this was where the good guys were remembered.
Even whilst writing this piece in November 2014 I discovered an internet article about another four names on the memorial since I had visited, a senior police officer (younger than me) who had died of a heart attack and three RCMP officers who had been gunned down by a lone and apparently paranoid gunman at his cannabis farm in Moncton, New Brunswick.
The shooting had happened (unknown to me as it was not reported much in the UK) less than a month before I stood in this place. These were the three officers I mentioned as being commemorated at the military tattoo. Whilst I appreciated the place for what it was at the time, it really brought it home to me writing this piece a few months later.
As I have a habit of saying on my various pages here, “Lest we forget” and I hope that if and when the reader visits, as they should, that there are no more of the blank plates inscribed.
I have mentioned that both these memorials were in Grand Parade Square, so let’s have a look round there now.
A grand parade indeed.
“Right in the centre of Halifax, bounded by Duke, Prince, Argyle and Barrington Streets and right in the centre of downtown” there is a delightful area known as Grand Parade.
Whilst it has a long and illustrious history as a military parade ground going back to the mid 18th century, today it is a very pleasant and well-maintained recreational space which seems to serve as a place of respite for Haligonians, especially at lunchtimes.
Apparently it was originally a parade ground for the troops based in the local “citadel” just up the hill from it (yes, we’ll get there soon) and occupies a very honoured place amongst locals. It is a lovely public space and has a cenotaph to fallen servicemen and another to fallen law enforcement officers (see above).
I have to say that whichever particular local authority is responsible for this facility does an excellent job, it is immaculate. The presence of Addirondak (sp?) chairs, benches and even benches with chess tables inlaid, adds greatly to the atmosphere of the place.
This particular style of furniture is so prevalent in Nova Scotia and I do find particularly attractive, not to mention comfortable. I have spent many a happy hour sitting in such furniture in the sun with a glass in hand.
Whilst I am in the fortunate position of having a few $$$ to spend when I travel, this place is ideal for the budget traveller. Just go and get yourself a little cheap something to eat in a local supermarket and sit here watching the world go by for a perfect picnic. I tell you, there are a whole lot worse ways to spend an afternoon”.
Apologies for my inclusion of another one of my usually failed attempts to be “arty”, I could not resist it.
At one end of Grand Parade is the impressive building you can see below, so let me tell you about it.
A fine, if contentious, building.
“If you are in the area of the Grand Parade in downtown Halifax, you really cannot fail to notice the rather magnificent structure at the North End which currently serves as the City Hall (of which more later).
I am no student of architecture but through the medium of the internet I have discovered that it is of the late Victorian eclectic style (second Empire influenced). Now I have not a clue what all that might mean but I do know that, to my untutored eye, it is rather pleasing to look at.
In the title of this piece I mentioned that it was contentious, so what is all that about? Well, until the late 19th century this prime piece of land in downtown Halifax was home to the Dalhousie University who naturally had no intention of giving it up when the local Government decided it wanted to use the site for municipal purposes.
Eventually the then Prime Minister, Sir William Young, managed to broker a deal whereby the City would provide a larger parcel of land elsewhere in the City to allow for much-needed expansion of the University and the City would take over this site. Everyone was happy. Dalhousie moved to their new, larger campus and the demolition men came along and removed the old building which was replaced by the structure you see today.
It was built to the design of Edward Elliott between 1877 and 1890 and opened in that year. We did not attempt to go into the building so I am not sure what the access policy is if you are not on official business, I was just admiring the architecture.
One other small thing of note about the building is that, if you look closely at the image I have posted here it shows the clock at about 1250 hours which was just about right. However, there is another clockface on the Northern aspect (Duke Street) which is permanently at 0904.
This is not a failure of the municipal horologist but rather it commemorates the simply appalling Halifax explosion of 1917 when a munitions ship blew up in the harbour and just about obliterated half the city. It is said that this was the largest non-natural explosion in the world until the atomic bombs in Hiroshima and Nagasaki almost three decades later. A sad but appropriate reminder I feel.
I’ll deal more fully with the explosion in the next post when we visit a Museum which houses an exhibition on the subject.
I mentioned contention in the title and it did not end with the origins of the building. As recently as the late 1990’s there was a move to have the building re-named “Halifax Regional Hall”. This has to do with some sort of centralisation programme within Nova Scotia which I heard about but don’t fully understand so won’t comment on, especially as it touches on politics.
As far as I can understand it, there are officially no cities in Nova Scotia any more and the prospective name change was to reflect this. The local people, however, soon got up in arms (not literally obviously) and the building still remains officially the “City Hall”. Personally, I think that sounds much better.
As I say, I don’t know the access policy for the casual visitor but the City Hall is certainly worth a look and a photo from the outside.
From a fairly old building now we move to a visit to a much more modern one, or should I say a re-visit as we had been there before?
Fancy a game?
“It doesn’t really matter what game you do fancy, a visit to the Nova Scotia Sport Hall of Fame has just about all the bases covered (no baseball pun intended).
Situated in the Metro Centre in downtown Halifax, it is not a huge place but does have an excellent and very interesting selection of sports memorabilia from Nova Scotians who have made their mark on the national and international sporting scene in a variety of disciplines. Unsurprisingly, in a country so obsessed with the sport, ice hockey as I would call it (simply called hockey here) features heavily but there are artefacts from many other fields of sporting endeavour.
Certainly it is not huge as I said and will realistically only take you about half an hour to have a good look round but, if you are on a budget, the best thing is that it is completely free! Well worth a look.”
I have mentioned the Citadel a couple of times already which is not, as you might expect from the name, a religious building so let’s go there now and find out what it actually is.
Literally the crowning glory.
“It is physically impossible to go anywhere in downtown Halifax and not notice the Citadel as it is the most prominent feature in the city, set on a height which I suppose is why it is there in the first place as an easily defensible and militarily advantageous site.
The Citadel (why it is called that I still have no idea) is situated on a large hill that dominates the entire city and gives excellent views over the seafront a few blocks down. You really could not pick a better place to build a fort in the 18th century and that is exactly what the British did.
The Citadel was first established in 1749 during a period of British / French tension in the region and subsequently reinforced many times to meet increasing military pressure on it from the French, the Acadians (Catholic French settlers in the region) and even the local Mi’kmaq tribe.
The quite magnificent structure you see today is actually the fourth incarnation of the Fort and was completed in 1856 after no less than 28 years construction. Regrettably, after all that effort, it was soon obsolete as weaponry moved from the smooth bore musket to rifled weapons and artillery became much more powerful but the Citadel wasn’t finished yet.
Despite having been reinforced, Fort George (as the Citadel is officially called) was not what was required in an ever-changing military landscape but it did serve as a British Army base until 1906 and thereafter as a Canadian Forces base. It was utilised as an internment camp for foreigners suspected of being German sympathisers during the First World War and it even had a minor role as an anti-aircraft control centre in the Second World War.
I have mentioned in other pieces in this series that Canada is a relatively young country with a history (native peoples excepted obviously) much shorter than the Western European countries whose “children” predominantly inhabit it now, but what history it has it presents so well.
There are a number of re-enactors here, all ostensibly from the 78th Regiment of Foot who were stationed here from 1869 – 1871. Even before you get to the ticket office, there is a young “soldier” in period dress, kilt and all, at the gate. Once inside, there are re-enactors being Quartermaster Sergeants, ordinary soldiers, pipers and just about anything else you care to name.
The best thing is that you don’t sit down and get a lecture from a prepared script, you just talk to these people and ask them the most obscure question and they will give you the answer. I have no idea what training they must undergo to get a summer job here.
A small example for you. We were wandering round the ramparts and there were two lads standing about in period dress uniform, one with a set of pipes. They were quite happily posing for photos with tourists from all over the world and explaining the intricacies of the pipes (drones and so on) to people and then the piper just filled the bag and played a tune brilliantly (Flowers of Edinburgh, if I recall correctly) to maybe a dozen people standing there. This was re-enacting on the grand scale.
I also ended up having a discussion with another re-enactor about the subtle differences in drill procedures in the 18th and 20th centuries and the guy knew what he was on about although I have no reason to think he had ever worn a “real” uniform in his life.
This is what sets this place apart, you don’t get preached at, you really do interact with the “soldiers” and it is a joy. I should mention here that there are several excellent military museums in the Citadel which I spent some time in, slightly to the annoyance of Lynne but she knows what I am like around swords, guns and the other appurtenances of warfare over the centuries.
Thankfully, there is a very nice coffee shop (just beside the soldiers library) which she ensconced herself in whilst I looked at guns!
There was an example of the famous Gatling gun, effectively the first heavy machine gun and even an old Bren gun, which I had been trained on but never carried operationally. Not for the first time in a Museum I felt quite old as a supposed “museum piece” was a “tool of the trade” for me.
If I had one fault to find with this excellent historical site it would be this. I am fully aware of equal opportunity law etc. and have no problem with it at all but having female re-enactors as soldiers is just historically wrong and looks stupid. Females turn proudly worn kilts into skirts!
I know that history tells us of a very occasional female that joined the British Army in those days disguised as a man (one was even flogged and kept her secret) but it was very rare and, knowledgeable and pleasant as they were, the concept of female re-enactors in this context detracts greatly from the whole otherwise brilliant experience, it is just incongruous.
Do not, however, let this put you off as it really is a “must see” in Halifax and is apparently one of the top 5 most visited historical sites in Canada. This really is recommended, it is a great day out and, if you have children with you, they will simply love it.
You have absolutely got to go here if you are in Halifax.”
As an addition to the piece above where I do not mention it specifically, I showed you the portrait of William Hall, VC and said I was to see a real one later on, well here it is.
As part of a more general display of Nova Scotian recipients of the award, the actual medal group of Private John Bernard Croak, VC is on display and it thrilled me just to see it, as real VC’s always do because I fully appreciate what they represent. You really have to be well out the far side of brave to be awarded this particular “gong”.
Pte. Croak was originally a Newfoundlander but had moved to Glace Bay on Cape Breton Island (we shall visit there later in the trip) at the age of two. He left school at age 14 and went down the coalmine, the predominant industry in the area. In 1915 he enlisted in the 13th (Royal Highlanders of Canada) Battalion, Canadian Expeditionary Force and was sent to the Western Front.
I won’t post the complete citation here as it is lengthy, if stirring and very moving, reading but to precis it Croak had become detached from his Unit and single-handedly took out a German machine gun position with grenades and bayonet.
Despite being wounded, he disobeyed orders to go to the rear for treatment and then led his platoon in a charge against a garrison of three German machine gun emplacements which was captured, Croak being wounded again, this time much more seriously, in the action.
He was evacuated to the rear where he died of his wounds shortly after. His award was presented to his Mother in November 1918 at a ceremony at Government House, which we shall visit in the next post.
So there you have it, that was the Citadel and so what to do next?
As usual we had no plan but it was after 1600 and we had done a fair amount of “touristing” so it was undoubtedly beer o’clock and a bite to eat wouldn’t hurt. As I have mentioned, Halifax is certainly not short of good bars and restaurants, often the same establishment and when we came upon the slightly oddly named “Wooden Monkey” it was straight in the door.
The Monkey was situated in a beautiful old building on Grafton Street and has an emphasis very much on locally sourced organic food and all sorts of ecologically sound principles and it has an interesting history.
Although the building is old it has only served it’s current purpose since 2004. In the aftermath of the terrible 2003 Hurricane Juan (I know all about NS hurricanes!) a Haligonian called Lil MacPherson was doing a bit of research and found out that Nova Scotia, at any given point, had three day’s worth of food available so that in the event of the Province ever being cut off completely for whatever reason, they would starve.
Lil was also concerned about the effect the modern food chain was having on both us and the environment in various ways and so decided to set up a restaurant avoiding, as far as possible, all the “bad” things about modern food production. She spoke to her friend Christine and I quote here from the excellent attached website.
“Apart from the vision which drove us to launch the business, Christine and I had no obvious reasons to succeed. Our determination scared our families to death. The obstacles were many: no money, no backers, no formal business education, and our work experience came from 25 years of waitressing”.
They opened anyway and the place is a roaring success with another branch opened in Dartmouth in 2012. Well done them. Food and this trip seemed to be fairly well bound up together.
If you are wondering about the name, a friend of Lil’s had given her a Chinese horoscope for 2004 which denoted it as the Year of the Monkey, more specifically the Year of the Green Wooden Monkey. She took one look at it and knew she had found her name.
Just as Lil knew she had found her name I knew I had found a place close to my heart when I saw the sign you can see in the image above! I would love to play here but I fear my playing days, like my travelling days, have been snatched away from me. The Chinese have much to answer for, even if they do not care a damn, they are still in control.
The kitchen was not yet open for evening service so we just had the one drink in there and went in search of food elsewhere, finding an equally strangely named establishment nearby, “Maxwell’s Plum”. Is nowhere in Halifax called the King’s Arms or Murphy’s Bar or something simple like that? OK, I take that back, we had been in the prosaically named Midtown Tavern before.
Let me tell you about Maxwell and his soft fruit but before I do I have to report that sadly, like the Red Stag which I mentioned in an earlier post, this establishment closed in 2020. Whether this was virus related (probably) or not I couldn’t say but it is a shame and I post this here purely as a reminiscence of my trip and happier times in the world.
Yet another fine pub.
“I noticed when I was in the Maritime Provinces of Canada that pubs and restaurants are effectively the same thing. Unless you go to an extremely upmarket restaurant, you are likely to be eating in what I (from the UK) would describes as a pub, perhaps a gastropub at a push. I am completely in favour of this concept as I had many excellent meals in “pubs” in Nova Scotia that I would have expected to spend about three times the money on in London where I live, and this place is one such.
Halifax is rather well served for places of this type and, frankly, the visitor can more or less pick whichever he or she chooses and probably won’t be disappointed with the sole exception of the waterfront place where I could not even get served (see previous post).
Lynne and I were wandering about downtown with no particular plan and we spied this place. Well, we had had a long and extremely wonderful day ambling about the Citadel and other places and I thought a beer was called for so we wandered into what was a clean but fairly basic pub. No fancy nonsense, just a large, spotlessly clean bar with quite a few people in there.
We perched ourselves up at the bar (as is my wont) and I asked the barman what he had in the way of beer. Well, that was the start of it! He immediately produced a beer menu the likes of which I have rarely seen outside Belgium or Holland. It had just about everything on there from local and American beers, through European imported beers (and cider) and right up to a section entitled “We don’t know what these are”. Now there is honesty in marketing if ever I saw it. As it happened, I actually knew what all of them were, but that’s just me.
If I may quote a song lyric here from my mate Fish, I was “trapped in the indecision of another fine menu”, there was just such a selection. The barman, ever helpful and friendly as seems to be the way in the Maritime Provinces, suggested that maybe a sampling board would be in order. Basically that is where you pick four beers and they give you a reasonably small glass of each, then you decide which one you want to have a large glass of. I think it is an admirable idea.
After sampling, I decided on which I fancied and ordered that. Heaven knows it was a difficult choice and I cannot now even remember which of the fine selection I chose.
There are some very high-class restaurants in Nova Scotia but it appeared to me that people prefer to eat in the less rarified atmosphere of a top-notch restaurant. That suits me just fine, I have been accused of many things in my life but never being “top-notch”.
Although my appetite is famously tiny, Lynne decided she would like a little to eat. At this point I should explain that I was deputed to cook that night and so a light snack was all that was required.
The menu was duly produced by the very friendly young barman and Lynne decided on what I would call potato skins which here are called “spud covers”. For me there was no question as soon as I saw the menu. There were mussels on there so that was me done.
I simply adore mussels and, in the absence of something else really special, I will always order them so that is what I did. Served promptly but not so promptly as to suggest they had been merely microwaved, they were both delicious (yes, I did steal a few bits of her snack).
I have to say, the mussels were as good as I have had, even in Belgium where “moules frites” (mussels and chips (fries)) is the national dish.
The thing about mussels is that, like salmon for example, you don’t need to get too fancy with them. These were apparently sourced from nearby Prince Edward Island and done in white wine with just the right amount of garlic. At $6:95 I thought they were a complete bargain which brings me to my next point.
Maxwell’s Plum have some superb deals if you are watching the pennies (cents), so have a look at the menu and, if you are not set on one particular thing to eat, then you can get a really good deal in here with the daily specials.
On our return visit the next day, my friend ordered the special, a burger and chips (fries) and I know this is what it is but it was very decently done and as cheap as, well, chips. Honestly, if you eat in here and utilise the specials deals, you can have a filling hot meal for less than you would pay for a sandwich in the supermarket.
Please don’t get me wrong, I am certainly not trying to present this place as some sort of soup kitchen for the poor, it most certainly is not, it is a very decent pub and I do like it. If they can produce food of that quality for that price then I am a fan.
After our food, we finished our drinks and regrettably left as we had to get public transport back to our campsite in Dartmouth and the buses don’t run too late on the far side.
Even on the way home there was time for a little more history, the first item of which was the HMC Dockyard Clock on the waterfront at Chebucto Landing although this is not it’s original site which was the Hauser Stores, long since demolished. It was first erected in 1772 and has moved three times since but, whatever it’s location, it is Canada’s oldest working clock.
The clock was constructed by the wonderfully named Aynesth Thwaites in Clerkenwell, London in 1767. Clerkenwell is not too far from where I live now. Every single piece of the clock was hand-crafted, including the nine foot pendulum powered by a 250lb. weight (I wonder who winds it up). Until 1986 the clock had been on private property and therefore not available to the public so it was then donated to the Municipality to be displayed here.
We regained the Dartmouth side of the Bedford Basin and, even on the very short walk from the Alderney Ferry Terminal to the bus station we found yet another little piece of history, the cairn you can see in the images. It commemorates the landing of the first settlers here shortly after 19th August, 1750 (exact date unknown), who Governor Cornwallis decreed should be put ashore on the East side of the harbour where they established their settlement, present day Dartmouth.
Some sources state that the new settlement was named for the Earl of Dartmouth although I find a more plausible explanation to be that they found it visually similar to the town of the same name in Devon, England. Having visited the other Dartmouth several times I can understand their thinking. The Devonian Dartmough stands, toponymically (yes, I know I use that word too much, I love it) accurately at the mouth of the River Dart and so the settlers named the small river running through the settlement the Dart also.
As I am in one of my historical research moods as usual I shall tell you what I know of the Alderney herself. She was one of a class of 22-cannon ships of the line and was built at Kingston-upon-Hull in Yorkshire, England 1742 although she did not have a long military career. By 1749, some of the ships of the class, Alderney included, had been de-commissioned and set to the task of transporting colonists to the “New World”, a policy being actively pursued by the Government during the reign of George II, hence the predominance of his name in streets, settlements etc.
There were no deaths recorded in the ship’s log which is unusual for the time, especially as the journey was particularly arduous due to contrary winds and this may be partially attribuatable to a new ventilation system which had been installed. Prior to this innovation, conditions below deck had been foetid and were an absolute breeding ground for disease.
As you can see from the image, the cairn was inaugurated on 6th August, 1941 then restored by the Kinsman Club and re-dedicated on Natal Day, 1995, the 100th celebration of that day. I initially thought Natal Day must have had something to do with South Africa and the Boer War, as I had seen the Memorial earlier, but the dates didn’t tally. A centenary would put the first Natal Day in 1895, four years before the start of the Boer War but a little research revealed all.
Natal Day, which is celebrated in Nova Scotia on the first Monday in August, is a public holiday and the name derives from the Latin natus, meaning birth and literally celebrates Nova Scotia’s “birthday”.
Digression alert. When I read this I couldn’t help but thinking of, and even singing, the Latin Christmas Carol “Gaudete” which was rather improbably taken into the British pop charts in 1972 by the wonderful Steeleye Span who I have had the pleasure of seeing live.
The chorus runs, “Gaudete, gaudete Christos est natus ex Maria virginae, gaudete” which Mr. Wilf Mulryne, my Latin teacher, taught me translates as “Rejoice, rejoice, Christ is born of the Virgin Mary, rejoice”. Damn, I’ll be humming that all day now.
So who are these Kinsmen, I had never heard of them. The Kinsmen Club, sometimes abbreviated to the Kin Club is an organisation formed by Hal Rogers in Ontario in 1920. Their website states that their mission statement (a phrase I detest as modern American inspired junk) “Volunteer members impacting Canadian communities through service, leadership, fellowship, and personal development”. I suppose they must be like a Rotary Club or the Lions or something similar.
Sounds fair enough to me and the $1 billion CAD they have distributed to good causes since their inception is certainly not to be sniffed at but back, eventually, to my narrative.
We got back to Betsy in the campground and, as I say, I was on cooking duties again that evening although it mustn’t have been anything exciting (it rarely is) as I didn’t even take an image of whatever it was. Eventually we must have gone to bed, pretty tired out from out lovely day’s sightseeing.
Contrary to what some readers think, we didn’t just sit all day every day in various bars, we can “do tourist” as well and I hope you have enjoyed our little walk round Halifax. If you would like more of the same then stay tuned and spread the word.