Nova Scotia is a province in Eastern Canada. It is a peninsula connected to the mainland by an isthmus. It is one of the Atlantic Provinces of Canada. It's capital and largest city is Halifax (population of 114,000). The population of Nova Scotia is just under a million people.
Halifax, the capital and chief port of Nova Scotia, is situated on a small peninsula in Halifax Harbor. The city is not only Nova Scotia's administrative center and chief port but is the major manufacturing city. Across the harbor and connected to Halifax by the Angus L. Macdonald and A. Murray MacKay bridges is Dartmouth, Nova Scotia's second largest city.
History of Nova Scotia
Home to the native Abnaki and Mi'kmaqs, Nova Scotia was explored first by John Cabot (picture at left) and claimed for Great Britain in 1497 and later by Giovanni da Verrazzano in 1524 and by Jacques Cartier ten years later and claimed it for France. Nova Scotia was originally settled by the French in 1605 and was called Arcadia. The French who traded furs got along with the Native Americans. Great Britain, basing their claim to Acadia on Cabot's voyage, sent men to expel the French. King James I of England changed the name from Acadia to Nova Scotia (latin for New Scotland). France would retake Nova Scotia in 1632.
France and England would fight over Nova Scotia during the four major wars fought between these two countries in the later 17th Century and earl 18th Century. At the conclusion of Queen Anne's War in 1713, Britain received control of Nova Scotia. The French tried to drive the British out in 1745 during King William's War but were unsuccessful. In 1755, during the French and Indian War, 6,000 French Acadian settlers were driven out of Nova Scotia (some settled in present day New Orleans). Also during the war, the British captured the French fortress city of Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island. At the end of the French and Indian War, France lost all it's possessions in Canada.
Halifax was a major port for the British army and navy. During the American Revolution, thousands of colonists who remained loyal to Great Britain migrated to Nova Scotia. During the Napolianic Wars and the War of 1812, Nova Scotia's economy grew. In 1839, Samual Cunard of Halifax started a steampowered shipping service across the Atlantic to England. Of course, this developed into Cunard Lines, that has such ships as the Queen Elizabeth 2 and the Queen Mary 2.
Today, Halifax (called Halifax Regional Municipality or HRH) has 372,679 people. Some of its more famous residents in recent years are hockey superstar Sidney Crosby and actress Ellen Page (Juno and Inception). Its climate is heavily influenced by its location on Nova Scotia's Atlantic coast. Temperatures can average around 30 degrees in winter and 75 degrees in summer.If you want to see some hockey, go to the Halifax Metro Centre and see the Halifax Mooseheads. The major junior ice hockey team plays in the Quebec Major Junior Hockey League. They play in the Halifax Metro Centre near the Old Town Clock which seats 10,600.
Debbie and I spent a week long vacation in Nova Scotia in August of 2001. We flew here, but you can drive also (it's just a long drive). If you do drive, you can take the Cat Ferry from Bar Harbor, Maine to Yarmouth, Nova Scotia and save over 600 miles of driving in under three hours. It's not cheap, a one way ticket for a family and car can run about $255.
We stayed in Halifax for most of the week, but one day we rented a car and drove down to Peggy's Cove, Mahone Bay and Lunenburg. We had a room in an old Victorian hotel called the Waverley Inn on Barrington Street (one of Halifax's main streets so it's an easy walk to the waterfront). The Inn was built in 1866. The rooms are decorated in the Victorian style and are full of antiques (If you visit the website, look at the photo tour of the rooms.) The people who run the hotel are very friendly and helpful. They serve a nice breakfast in the morning. Just sitting in the lobby takes you back a hundred years, as does the staircase leading to the second floor. An interesting Waverley fact is famed Irish poet Oscar Wilde once stayed there during a visit to Halifax. You can stay in his room (I believe he's checked out). When Wilde came to Canada, he was reportedly asked by a customs officer if he had anything to declare, at which Oscar replied, "Nothing but my genius!" We had a great room with a canopy bed on the second floor in the front of the Inn next to the room where Oscar's slept. The best thing is that the rates are very reasonable - our room was around $130 (in Canadian dollars) a night.
Halifax is a pleasant city. It is very clean and, like most Canadian cities, is full of flowers. It has some skyscrapers (30 stories at best), but mostly it is an old city. The waterfront is fun to walk around. What I didn't know is that the harbor and it's tugboats were the inspiration for "Theodore the Tugboat". Debbie thought I was going to start watching the show. They have an exhibit in the Maritime Museum (brown building next to the Canadian flag in center of the picture at the top of this page) with the set of the show and all of the characters including Theodore. The architecture of Halifax's South End is renowned for its grand Victorian houses while the West End and North End, Halifax have many blocks of well preserved wooden residential houses with notable features such as the "Halifax Porch".
Halifax was founded on June 21, 1749 below a glacial hill that would later be named Citadel Hill. The outpost was named in honor of George Montague-Dunk, 2nd Earl of Halifax (1716 - 1771), who was the President of the British Board of Trade. He was a favorite of King George III and his nephew, Frederick Lord North was the Prime Minister during the American Revolution. Since he had no children when he died, there are no more Earls of Halifax's.
This is the Old Town Clock (you can see the end of the Halifax Metro Centre - home of the Mooseheads - to the left of the clock). It's one of the more famous landmarks in Halifax. It was ordered to be built by Prince Edward, Duke of Kent. He was a bigshot here at one time. He was a very organized person who didn't want the people to be late for work (You can see this is Debbie's type of person.) It has been around since 1803. The clock is on a hillside overlooking the town. Behind the Clock Tower is downtown Halifax and the harbor beyond. If you continue up the hill from the tower you come to The Citadel.
We actually went out on Halifax harbor 5 times while we were there. This was the first. We also did a harbor cruise. Another day, we went out on the Harbor Hopper. These are old Vietnam-era amphibious boats. They take you on a tour through the streets than down into the harbor. They are very popular and you have to reserve your tickets (ticket booths are on the waterfront) a day in advance (but be aware - they will want you to make frog noises when you pass other tourists groups). We also crossed the harbor on the ferry and finally we took The Bluenose II (the national tall ship of Canada). On another day, we walked across the Angus L. Macdonald Bridge. Its a large suspension bridge that crosses the harbor to the town of Dartmouth (now part of the HRH).
We took a tour of the Parliamentary Building. Halifax is the capital of Nova Scotia so this is like their state house. It was very interesting since they mirror the British parliamentary system. Not many other people find it very interesting since the building didn't have too many tourist in it.
Another historical point of interest in Halifax is the "Old Burying Ground" cemetery of St. Paul's Church. It's on Barrington Street, about four blocks from the Waverley Inn. This is an old cemetery, not the one the Titanic victims were buried in. It dates from the founding of Halifax to the early 19th Century. One of it's more famous people interred here is Major General Robert Ross. He is famous for being the general in charge of the British troops that captured Washington D.C. on August 24, 1814 during the War of 1812 and was responsible for giving the orders to burn the Executive Mansion, the U.S. Capital and other government buildings in the nation's capital. A thunderstorm later in the day saved the buildings from being completely destroyed. The Executive Mansion was rebuilt and then painted white to cover the burn marks on the outside granite and forever giving it the new name, "The White House." In defense of Ross, he was never very happy carrying out these orders, unlike British Vice-Admiral Sir George Cockburn who was very happy to spread the torch. Ross died two weeks later on September 12, killed by an American sniper, when the British advanced on Baltimore. They were stopped here at Ft. McHenry (remember rockets red glare and bombs bursting in air but the flag was still there in the dawn's early light). General Ross' body was put into a barrel of rum (to preserve it) for the trip back to Ireland (where he was from) on the H.M.S. Tonnant, but since the British were preparing for their attack on New Orleans (A British military disaster), Ross was taken to Halifax and buried here instead where you can see his grave.
We spent a rainy morning in the The Maritime Museum. In addition to the Theodore exhibit, they have an exhibit on exploring shipwrecks which was very interesting. Two of it's main attractions are the Halifax Wrecked exhibit in the Halifax Explosion of 1917 and the Titanic exhibit which includes artifacts from the ship.
Halifax was involved in two major disasters in it's history. In 1912, after the RMS Titanic sank, the ships that went out to scoop up the victims floating out in the ocean were from Halifax. In fact, 150 of the 209 bodies that were recovered are buried in one of Halifax's three cemeteries (Of course, we visited two of them) - Fairview Cemetery has the most (121 victims - mostly crew members and Third Class passengers) followed by Mt. Olivet Catholic Cemetery (19 victims). There are 10 more at the Jewish Cemetery, but we weren't able to get there. Many of the victims are still unidentified.
In the Fairview Cemetery, there is the grave of James Dawson an Irishman who worked on the Titanic pushing coal (one of the worst jobs on board the ship). Since his grave only has "J. Dawson" on it, many people, especially girls, assume it to be Jack Dawson from the movie "Titanic". There are flowers and other items from young female admirers. Also in the cemetery is Jack Hume who played the violin in the Titanic's band. In Mt. Olivet Catholic Cemetery is the grave of J. Fred Preston Clarke who was the Bass Violist on the Titanic. Titanic's orchestra was famous for staying on the Titanic playing until the ship went down. All of it's eight members were lost. The band leader Wallace Hartley's body was also recovered but is buried in Ireland. The cemeteries are on some Halifax tours. The Maritime Museum has an exhibit on the sinking, including some artifacts they recovered (like a deck chair shown in the photograph).
The other disaster was on December 16, 1917 during World War I. A French ammunition ship, the Mont Blanc, collided with another ship, caught fire and exploded in Halifax harbor. It was the largest man-made explosion until the Atomic bomb. The ship disintegrated and the explosion instantly killed 1,900 people (this later rose to over 2,000 as people died from their injuries), injuring over 9,000 and flattened almost two square miles of the city. To make matters even worse, the next day, Halifax was hit with a blizzard that dumped 16 inches of snow on what was left of the city. The Maritime Museum has an exhibit on that too including part of a ship's anchor, weighing over half a ton, that was thrown for two miles by the explosion. There is a very good website, put together by a local high school, with more in-depth explanations and pictures at halifaxexplosion.org
A fun experience and a must see in Halifax is the Alexander Keith's Brewery tour. The brewery is in downtown Halifax near the waterfront at 1496 Lower Water Street. Alexander Keith was born in Scotland in 1795. He and his family immigrated to Nova Scotia in 1817. At the age of 25, he established a brewery in Halifax in 1820. He created India Pale Ale. Keith became a prominante member of Halifax society and became their mayor and a director of the Bank of Nova Scotia. He was also a member of the Nova Scotia legislature before he died in 1873. The one-hour tour of the brewery is great. They use period costume actors to portray a trip through the original brewery around the year 1863 with music and games. It is a lot of fun and you can bring kids along. They just won't get any samples at the end of the tour. They do have good lemonade for kids and beer-haters like Debbie. The rest of us can have a sample of Alexander Keith's India Pale ale. They serve it in these green mugs which they sell in the gift shop. The tours run every half-hour. Debbie and I really enjoyed the tour and the beer is pretty good too. Here I am raising a toast with Alexander Keith.
This is the Bluenose II - the national tallship of Canada. It's a 161-foot ship (twice the length of the Mar II). The mainmast is 126 feet high. It has an 18 person crew. Mostly young men and women cadets (18 to 24 yr. olds). She has the largest working mainsail in the world (I guess that's the big one in the back). It's picture is on the back of Canadian dimes (I guess they ran out of animals to put on their money). This is a promotion photo (I can't take credit for it). It is usually in Lunenburg, but it came to Halifax on the last day we were there.
They sell only 35 tickets for the days sailing and you have to be in line by 8:00 in the morning. So since it was our last day in Halifax, we got up early and got down to the dock by 7:40. We were the last two they sold tickets too. I guess it was our lucky day. The weather was cool and clear. It was our 5th trip out on the water.
Don't we look nautical - you can just picture Debbie with a parrot on
shoulder. We had a great 2-hour cruise. In the picture, you can see
Halifax in the distance. On the way back into the
we saw a whale (no, not me - a real whale).
To celebrate our trip and Debbie getting to see a whale we went to McKelvie's Restaurant (1680 Lower Water Street) for lobsters. We actually ate in a different place every night. They serve a lot of fish as you can imagine. This made Debbie happy (I had a lot of Fish & Chips). This was my first full lobster (1 and 1/2 pounds) and will probably be my last. It was OK (actually Debbie said it was great, cooked just right), but I just don't see what the fuss is all about. They wanted me to go back to the tank and pick one out. I refused. There was no way I was going to pick the one to be condemned.
Other places we ate at and can recommend is Murphy's on the Water, which is on a pier on the waterfront. We had a great lunch here next to the harbor. They also run a number of harbor cruises from their pier. Salty's Restaurant is another one next to the water. Downstairs is the bar and grill while upstairs they have a nice restaurant. The upstairs, which you most likely will need reservations for is much nicer. Candle lit tables overlooking the harbor. Debbie and I really enjoyed our visit here.
One night, we were in the mood for steaks so we went to Ryan Duffy's Restaurant Bar and Grill (5640 Spring Garden Rd - it's not near the waterfront). This place was very interesting. They are famous for their steaks. They select and cut the steaks at your table and you pay whatever the weight is. They also make caesar salads at your table too. You can select what you want in the salad (hold the anchovies, please). The dessert wasn't bad either. Try the chocolate decadence (Debbie did!). This is another place I would recommend getting reservations to.
We got a lot of sun, as you can see, we are starting to resemble our dinner.
While we were in Nova Scotia, we rented a car and spent a day driving south of Halifax. We went to Peggy's Cove, Mahone Bay and Lunenburg.
We first stopped in the little fishing village of Peggy's Cove. It has a population of around 46. It's about 10 miles southwest of Halifax on rt. 333. It is described, and rightfully so, as a photographers paradise. I easily shot over a roll of film here.
The town is built on a rocky landscape called Chebucto Peninsula that juts into the Atlantic Ocean. The village marks the eastern point of St. Margaret's Bay. The first recorded name of the cove was Eastern Point Harbour or Peggs Harbour in 1766. The village may have been named after the wife of an early settler or taken its name from St. Margaret's Bay as it marks the eastern beginning of the Bay and Peggy is a nickname for Margaret. Two versions of the popular legend claim that the name came from the sole survivor of a shipwreck at Halibut Rock near the cove. Artist and resident William deGarthe said she was a young woman while others claim she was a little girl too young to remember her name and the family who adopted her called her Peggy. In both versions, the young shipwreck survivor married a resident of the cove and became known as "Peggy of the Cove" attracting visitors from around the bay who eventually named the village, Peggy's Cove, after her nickname.
The village was formally founded in 1811 when the Province of Nova Scotia issued a land grant of more than 800 acres to six families of German descent. The settlers relied on fishing as the mainstay of their economy but also farmed where the soil was fertile. They used surrounding lands to pasture cattle. In the early 1900's the population peaked at about 300. The community supported a schoolhouse, church, general store, lobster cannery and boats of all sizes that were nestled in the Cove. From its inception, the community's economy revolved around the fishery, however, tourism began to overtake fishing in economic importance following the Second World War. To keep its rustic appearence, they are very carefull not to allow any development and even to decide who can live. Since we visited in 2001, Hurricane Bill in 2009 damaged some of the buildings including the giftshop we had lunch in.
It is not a town with streets and sidewalks. It has just one main road in and out of the town. It was pleasant walking around the town (more like a village). They have their lobster traps all stacked up on the docks next to the fishing boats. There are small houses spread out along this road and on a few side roads. There is a large restaurant/tourist gift shop here. The food is all right but unless your real hungry or want to be able to say you had lunch in Peggy's Cove, you could skip it.
This is the lighthouse at Peggy's Cove. The red-and-white lighthouse is still operated by the Canadian Coast Guard. You have to walk out onto the granite rocks to get there. The first lighthouse at Peggys Cove was built in 1868 and was a wooden house with a beacon on the roof. At sundown the keeper lit a kerosene oil lamp magnified by a catoptric reflector (a silver-plated mirror) creating the red beacon light marking the eastern entrance to St. Margarets Bay. That lighthouse was replaced by the current structure, an octagonal lighthouse which was built in 1914. It is made of reinforced concrete but retains the eight-sided shape of earlier generations of wooden light towers. It stands almost 50 ft. high. The old wooden lighthouse became the keeper’s dwelling and remained near to the current lighthouse until it was damaged by Hurricane Edna in 1954 and was removed. The lighthouse was automated in 1958. Since then, the red light was changed to white light, then to a green light in the late 1970s. Since we visited it was changed to red in 2007 to conform to world standards .
They have a post office inside interestingly enough (the post office was closed in November of 2009). I got a great shot here in the late afternoon (above). This is one of the most photographed places in all of Canada. As you can see, it is very windy there.
They say it gets very cold in the winter. The Atlantic tide runs about 4 to 6 feet. The ocean temperature ranges between 50 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit in the summer and falls to between 33 to 40 degrees Fahrenheit in the winter. The ocean moderates the air temperature over the land year round. Because of the Labrador Current from the north and the Gulf Stream from the south pass each other here, Peggy's Cove gets and interesting collection of Artic and tropical fish.
Just outside of Peggy's Cove is the Swiss Air Flight 111 Memorial. On the night of September 22, 1998, a Swiss Air MD-11 from Newark to Zurich crashed into the Atlantic Ocean about five miles off the coast of Nova Scotia near Peggy's Cove killing all on board. There are signs directing you to the memorial which is right off the road near the ocean. We stopped for a visit. The stone monument reads in English and French: "In memory of the 229 men, women and children aboard Swissair Flight 111 who perished off these shores September 2nd, 1998. They have been joined to the sea, and the sky. May they rest in peace."
We then drove to Mahone Bay and finally to Lunenburg, which is about 57 miles south of Halifax on Rt. 103. If you get a chance, it's definitely worth the visit. It's an old picturesque town of about 2,000 people that was built back in 1753. It was a British town (the 2nd in Nova Scotia after Halifax) that was settled by Germans and Swiss. They came during the same wave of immigration that produced the Pennsylvania Dutch. They were "Foreign Protestants" encouraged by the British to settle in the area. During the American Revolution, Colonial priveteers attacked the town twice, once in 1775 and again in 1782, looting and burning parts of the town.