Friday, May 25, 2012

Halifax - NO, NOT the building society

Sunday – an early start, off to Union station and front of the long long queue to get the train to Montreal, where I change and then an overnight train to Halifax. Trains over here are different to UK. In UK, trains are everywhere and the average station deals with hundreds a day. But here, even the busiest station like Toronto only deals with a few dozen at most. The station is more like an airport, with waiting rooms at the gates and a boarding time for the departure. It’s a bit crazy as the queue for the number 60 train to Montreal was massive! (I had done a recce the day before on my way around town and knew I should get there early)

We departed on time though on another glorious day and I loved looking out of the window as we travelled alongside Lake Ontario as we headed North East towards Montreal, where we arrived just a little late at around 5.30pm. My next train was due to leave at 6.30pm, so I had an hour to wait, but when I walked up to the main concourse, there was already a queue forming, so I just joined onto the end and a few minutes later went back down the same steps I had ascended to a set on the new train – no more than 10 feet across the platform from the seat on the old train I had left just a short while earlier. This train was set out differently though – with big wide seats – A pair of seats down one side of the train and a single seat on the other side. As I am travelling alone, I was given a single seat and settled in for the journey.

About midnight and after watching a movie, I took a pre-sleep walk around to discover a pair of seats empty in the next carriage, with single travellers squashed up in their single seats all the way along, so while they slept I quickly grabbed my stuff, moved right on in and settled down, stretching myself across the two large comfortable seats and sleeping really well till almost 9am the next morning. A bloody good move!  

I stayed in my new double seat till we arrived in Halifax the next afternoon. It was still lovely and sunny, so after checking into the hostel I went for a walk along the harbour front, checking out the sights of the harbour and stopping for some really good fish and chips whilst I watched a sailing ship come in to dock.
The queue in Toronto


The next day I woke up to rain and grey skies, but it didn’t stop me going out. I ended up walking for most of the day – first to Fairview cemetery to see the Titanic memorial graves of the people who died in the disaster 100 years ago – including a certain J. Dawson, who when the film came out starring Dicaprio, was thought to be the person on who the character was based, but in fact worked on the ship as a coal hand and had nothing in common with the fictitious character at all. The graves are very well kept and it was very interesting to see and read them. One strange thing I noticed in the cemetery is that a lot of family plots have names of people on who are not yet dead – But with the as yet unknown date of their demise left blank to fill in when the time comes. I don’t think I would like to visit my dead mum or wife and see my name already carved and ready to be completed when I meet my comeuppance!!

It started to pelt down with rain so I hid in a burger joint for a while till it passed before venturing out again and walking across The Macdonald bridge to Dartmouth (How many people reading this have walked from Halifax to Dartmouth!?! Haha) and checking out a nice park with a view over Halifax before getting the cross harbour ferry back to town. A nice pleasant day out, on a cool and damp day.

Later in the evening I went back out to The Maritime museum, which is free on a Tuesday evening. Not my normal type of subject matter but as it was free and still raining I felt it a good choice. It turned out to be really good as I saw a lot more interesting stuff about Titanic, including some relics from the ship itself. I also learned about the massive disaster of 1917 when a ship exploded in Halifax harbour killing thousands of people and destroying a large part of town, in what was the largest ever man made explosion before the invention of the atomic bomb. There was also a 12 foot high ‘Kracken’ sea monster draped around the museum, which was funny as well as a strange ‘Titanic’, themed board game which was banned when it was released in the 1970’s. 

Scary monument in Halifax..

Is Mary still alive!?

Not the Leonardo DiCaprio bloke

The Titanic graves

YES!! Appearing in Halifax - unfortunately I am leaving before then

Whatever day it was today, it was a good one. (I think its Wednesday but I’m not sure)
I got a hire car this morning and drove out of town to see some of the Atlantic Coast. 1st stop was a relic from the explosion in 1917 – a piece of the anchor chain was blown over 2 miles by the explosion and is still on display in a small park well out of the city.

I headed south from there, exploring tiny little hamlets. Perched above the ocean and only reachable by roads that end when they reach the sea. It was hard to see the end of the road sometimes as the mist from the sea enveloped the land and merged them together in a dull grey fog. But I managed to stop before driving off the end of the land and found some really cool places, with colourful houses and fishing boats sitting in the harbours.

The big explosion story

I want one for Christmas

and one of these!!

Cool miniature Titanic model


The Anchor chain that was blown over 2 miles

The weather started to break and as I reached my main goal for the day – A tiny place called ‘Peggy’s Cove’, but one which is visited by thousands of tourists to see the picture postcard perfect lighthouse and its perfect little harbour. It felt like I was in Cornwall and even more so when I found the local shop selling hot Cornish Pasties, which I just had to try. The sun shone enough for me to get some decent photos before I continued driving and discovering even more beautiful sights. I passed through Chester and onto Mahones Cove, which has a lovely curved road leading around the side of the water and I passed by Oak Island – A mysterious place where in the late 1700’s a pit was discovered, that after excavations was thought to be a ‘Money Pit’, holding pirates treasure or some other valuable items, hidden from frying eyes years before. Excavations have take place many times and deaths have occurred, some say by booby traps left by the original diggers. But still now, there is a mystery about the Money Pit and even a licence for people to dig for treasure in the island. Unfortunately I could only go as far as the causeway.  (Built to get an excavator to the island to search the pit) So, it remains a mystery to me.
 (Look here for more info:-
I continued to Lunenberg – yet another amazing little town with brightly coloured buildings standing in front of a harbour full of fishing boats. It had taken me 7 hours to drive about 100km, but I had actually done closer to 250km, with all the backwards and forwards down the tiny cove roads, but I had loved every minute and as a drive it comes very close to the spectacle of ‘The Great Ocean Road’, in Australia, but has more of a Cornish or Irish feel about it.
Foggy at the start of the day

At Peggys cove...

...cornish pasty

which way to Halifax?

Jump teh lighthouse and some tourists

panorama of Peggys cove lighthouse


more of Peggys cove

The mysterious Oak Island

Lunenberg from across the bay

My last full day in Halifax was a sort of military history day! I visited ‘The Citadel’ – a massive fortress embedded into a hill right above the centre of the city. It was built by The British, when we had an empire and was so well designed, not only did it never lose a battle – nobody ever even attacked it. It is built under the level of the top of the hill with underground battlement and angled sides to prevent having blind spots of being blown apart by artillery. It is still staffed my military personnel today who sound the noon-day gun, demonstrations of old weapons and the like as well as having a band. One of the guys told me how in the old days the woollen clothing was waterproofed by using piss. It was soaked in it and then shrunk so that the yarn tightened and became waterproof. It explains the smell of some of my old mates in the army!! I also loved the weapon demonstration and the firing of the noon day gun. I smelled the gun after it was fired and loved the stench of freshly fired gunpowder!
I really enjoyed my afternoon at the Citadel and continued the military theme with a walk out of the city in the evening to Point Pleasant Park. This is a park that has the remains of some gun batteries, which were built to protect the busy wartime harbour from attack from the sea. There were some great views over the Atlantic Ocean from the park and a lovely was to spend my last sunny evening in Halifax.
In the Ciradel

Nice flag

The noon day gun

Canadian rifle recivered from Juno beach and the D day landings

Another nice flag

Just about to take out a fishing boat....booooom!

Cool cranes

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