We didn’t intend to go to Halifax our first full day in Nova Scotia. We figured maybe Canada Day might be a good choice, or one of the other days a little later in the week. It turned out, though, that we needed to make the hour-and-a-quarter trek back up to Halifax right away so we could pick up the keys that my mother had so kindly Fed-Exed to us so we could get the majority of our luggage out of the roof rack!
We also had no idea until two days before we left that the Queen would be visiting Halifax at the same time we were in Nova Scotia. In fact, as we made the white-knuckled, hydroplaning drive from New Brunswick across the breadth of Nova Scotia and past Halifax down to Lunenburg through an endless torrential downpour, it was a pleasant distraction to listen to the CBC Radio coverage of Her Majesty’s arrival just a few kilometres away.
When we left Lunenburg to make the hour-and-a-half drive up to Halifax on that first day, the fog had yet to lift, but by the time we arrived in Halifax the clouds were sporadic and we were getting peeks of blue sky. We got lost once looking for the MacKay bridge, but made it safely into and out of Dartmouth without any of the feared bridge closings due to the Queen’s visit. It was stunning seeing some of the international naval vessels on hand for HRM’s visit in Bedford Basin.
(Why do they put up those annoying guard rails that mess with my pictures?! Safety-schmafety!)
I’d intended to do a bit more online research about Halifax before we visited the city, but we hadn’t had the time, so I really only had the barest idea of what it might offer. Pier 21, Barrington Street, Keith’s Brewery, the Citidel, Theodore the Tugboat… and the Barenaked Ladies’ uncharitable “Hello City” were about all I knew. So we simply pointed the car toward the harbourfront and made things up as we went along.
We found a parkade right outside of Brewery Market, and had lunch in a nice little place with excellent fish and chips called the City Deli. Conveniently, it was in the same building as the Alexander Keith’s Brewery — Beloved’s own personal malted mothership.
We were going to go on the Brewery tour, but it was an hour long and we were afraid the kids would be somewhere between distracting and disruptive (although the Brewery did say the tour was for all ages) and so we decided to wear them out with a hike up to the Citadel instead.
On our way out, we noticed that most of the harbourfront streets were at least partially barricaded for the Queen’s visit. We followed the crowds and the media trucks to the back of the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic, and found out that they were milling about awaiting the Queen’s visit — two hours hence.
Needless to say, we did not stand around on the pier with the kids waiting for HRH.
We did, however, exhaust the kids with a quick walk up from the harbour to the Citadel. (What is it about hot humid days on vacation that make me want to run my children up a hill to visit a military fortification anyway?)
We enjoyed watching the changing of the sentries (did you know they’re not actually military personnel, but summer students?) and the pipe and drum band. We wandered around on the ramparts for a while, and watched three helicopters escorting a fourth helicopter through the afternoon sky — I’m willing to bet there was some royalty flying by over our heads! The boys had fun completing the historical scavenger hunt put together by the Citidel staff, and felt very rewarded when they earned a cookie for their efforts.
By the time we hit mid-afternoon, more than one of us needed a nap, so we trekked back down the hill and checked out a few of the shops on Barrington Street (which reminded me a lot of Dundas Street in my home town of London, Ont.) before heading back down the coast to Lunenburg.
We’d taken the NS103 highway both into Nova Scotia the day before and up the coast from Lunenburg earlier in the day. While it was an efficient ride, it wasn’t very charming. In fact, you can barely see any signs of habitation — just kilometre after kilometre of highway that looks more or less like this:
We took a long look at the map and figured the scenic “Lighthouse Route” might take a little longer than the 75 or so minutes we’d spend on the main highway, but that it would be worth it to see some of the gorgeous little towns along the seaside. Ha! More than two hours later and we still hadn’t even made it to Lunenburg — granted, we had seen some gorgeous glimpses of the sea! — and we decided to stop for dinner in the charming little town of Mahone Bay. We found a little place called the Innlet Cafe, and they treated us so well and we enjoyed our dinner so much that we went back for dinner there a second time. If you’re looking for a nice place that’s receptive to families without looking like a ChuckECheese, this is the place for you!
Although the afternoon had been mostly bright if not overcast, by the time we rolled back down the rural road to our little home by the sea the fog was once again as thick as the proverbial pea soup. It would take another half day to lift and reveal the splendor all around us.