Halifax is the next big thing

According to a recent article, Halifax is going through a bit of a boom and it has a lot more to do with its desirable lifestyle than with the proliferation of (building) cranes on the waterfront. As major Canadian cities become increasingly unaffordable and unliveable, this is a city that knows how to look ahead to the future without sacrificing its heritage and way of life.

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Although we loved Nova Scotia, we left after five years for a number of reasons. We could not see a future for our boys here and we could not shake the feeling of being CFA’s (come from aways). I remember my heart breaking a little when a lovely new neighbour told me we couldn’t be friends because “I don’t have time for any more friends.” It wasn’t a brush-off – it was her reality – extended family on both sides, combined with friends she and her husband had known since grade school left no time for new acquaintances. We did meet wonderful people and made friends, but since we were not surrounded by our own circle of multigenerational family with roots here, we often felt quite alone.

Twelve years later, much has changed. CFA’s are moving here  attracted by affordable houses, small-city charm, and a half-hour drive to the beach. And jobs…there is a steady demand in the construction trades and the tech sector is bringing in Ontario refugees. As the article said, “The spotlight is on Halifax.”

With good reason – this is the house we lived in – it would probably sell for around $400,000 right now.

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The Regional District of Halifax is Halifax, Dartmouth, Bedford and surrounding suburbs. Halifax and Dartmouth square off across the harbour, and Dartmouth possesses the same leafy streets and gorgeous homes as Halifax for even less money. We’ve been staying with our friends Harriette and Mike, who live in a charming home right on Lake Banook. Stephen worked with Harriette at NSCC (Nova Scotia Community College) and we’ve remained friends ever since. They have been treating us to their very own brand of maritime hospitality, including a ride in their convertible, which is way more fun than our station wagon. Here, Mike striking a pose.

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We’ve been having a grand time discovering Dartmouth. On Canada Day, we walked a 3- km. pathway that skirts Lake Banook. Not sure how necessary the Moose Crossing signs are, but we kept our eyes peeled, just in case.

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Lake Banook has a very active rowing club – this was taken on a misty Canada Day.   Right now it is bright and sunny and I am watching kids puddling around on little kayaks and leaping in and out of the water.

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Further down the street – a veterinarian with a sense of humour.

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And beyond that a former school turned into loft apartments with a sense of style:

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The Dartmouth Saturday market on the waterfront was a delicious diversion.  Wineries, cideries and craft breweries are exploding in Nova Scotia, along with scores of new restaurants. With such a healthy marketplace, food entrepreneurs are testing the waters at their local markets, before going bigger.

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Riverview Herbs has been around since 1988 – cheeky comments are free with all purchases.

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The thing we enjoy most about the people here is their humour. Maritimers have humour in spades and if they’re not naturally funny themselves, they still love to laugh. If you can’t take a joke at your own expense, don’t come here, but you will be expected to give as good as you get.

We dropped by to see Cheryl, another dear friend of Stephen’s from the NSCC days. She and her husband visited us on Gabriola a few years ago after a cross-country motorbike ride and it was like no time had passed.

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That’s been the case with the rest of our Halifax friends – the catch-up and connection has been immediate.

We stopped by for a delicious dinner with Deb, her sister Dianne and her niece Lauren. Deb is a chef instructor at NSCC – she and Stephen also worked together.

While we lived here, I went back to school and became fast friends with two young women, Teri and Jennifer. We have kept in touch over the years and met up at Jen’s place for dinner to meet for the first time in a decade. In that time, Teri met and married Jordan, and Jen and Glenn had two kids, Ava and Carson. It is so satisfying to meet up with friends years later and realize you like their partners and families as much as you like them.

Jen, me and Teri.

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And finally – my friends Joan, Louise and Helen.  I had the opportunity to teach communications at NSCC and I had never been so terrified in my life.  These three women were my stalwarts – reassuring, sensible and funny. I don’t know if I would have survived without them. We met up for coffee and once again, the years peeled away. They are as dear as ever.

Louise, Helen, me and Joan

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So now – on to Halifax. We did as many tourist-y things as possible. Ten days here is not even close to being enough time, but I’ll take you through a snapshot of our time in the city.

Bud the Spud – don’t miss this food truck. They have been in business for three decades, and are a Nova Scotia institution. Their french fries defy description.

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Nova Scotia Duck Toller – cutest dog ever. We ran into this one on the waterfront –  her owners were besieged by admirers of 12-week-old Belka.

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Pier 21 – the site where over one million new Canadians arrived by ship. A National Historic Site and  a must-see for any visitor. Staff is available to help trace your ancestors. Soon all immigration records will be housed here, regardless of point of entry.

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The exhibits are touching – Ariella’s small suitcase of clothes on display with a pictorial account of her family’s arrival from Naples.

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Many exhibits are wrenching reminders of what people left behind. This young woman, an ethnic Albanian, is saying goodbye to a family in a Macedonian refugee camp that she may never see again.

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Most importantly Pier 21 informs us that, with the exception of First Nations people, we are all immigrants. All of us arrived here from somewhere else.

The Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is another important stop.
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The Halifax Explosion and the Titanic are prominent events in Halifax’s history and both are well displayed. Intricate models of Cunard ships as well as full-scale models of typical boats can be found here. The waters off Halifax’s coast are a diver’s delight – filled with hundreds of shipwrecks and treasures that still lay hidden beneath the waves. Every red dot indicates the site of a shipwreck.

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The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia has Maud Lewis’ tiny home and paintings on permanent display.  She was a beloved and well-known folk artist in Nova Scotia, who was extremely prolific in spite of her crippling arthritis and challenging life. 

Her home was moved from its site and reconstructed in the art gallery.

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The artist posing with one of her paintings.

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Part of the exhibition of Inuit art from Labrador.

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Street art depicting a cross-section of Haligonians.

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And…the Public Gardens.  Halifax is filled with green space, including the huge Point Pleasant Park, overlooking the ocean at the southern tip of the city. The Public Gardens are right in the centre of the city, providing Haligonians with an easy and instant nature fix. Surrounded by wrought iron fences, and encompassing four entire city blocks, the Public Gardens are one of my favourite Halifax destinations. It is a showpiece of specimen plantings, dozen of benches and seating areas and twisting pathways.

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A pond filled with ducks and turtles.

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And plenty of shady, quiet spots to read.

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Our last image of Halifax is the iconic Citadel,which dominates the downtown sightlines.  It is well worth the climb up the hill for the visit and the view.

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Our last Nova Scotia posting will be the Bay of Fundy coast, with stops in Wolfville, Halls Harbour, Annapolis Royal and Digby.

 

12 thoughts on “Halifax is the next big thing

  1. Peter Hohenadel July 5, 2017 / 1:40 pm

    One of Maud Lewis’s paintings sold in Toronto earlier this year for $36,000! She sold them from her home for $5. For fans of her work, it was an image of three black cats.

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    • leavingourselvesbehind July 5, 2017 / 7:26 pm

      Peter, I was so struck by the fact that Maud sold her paintings for almost nothing, even after she began to gain some recognition. One of the exhibits showed 4 panels that an American neighbour bought as shutters for her home – at 70 cents a piece! It is sad to imagine how difficult her life was, but I’m not sure she thought of it that way. I want to read more about her. Scenes from Maudie, (with an intense Ethan Hawke as her brooding husband) are part of the exhibition.

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  2. Joan Fisher July 5, 2017 / 1:52 pm

    Your words are kind and your stories so interesting. We take much of what you describe for granted, and I think we should rethink. Was great seeing you even for such a short time. Enjoy “The Rock” and don’t drink too much Screech. And the lady who said she didn’t have time for any more friends sure missed out when she gave you the brush off! Can’t have too many! Hopefully, we meet again.

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    • leavingourselvesbehind July 5, 2017 / 7:29 pm

      Joan, it was so great to see you again, and I hope it wont be too long before we see you all again. From everything I hear about Screech, I think we will be taking an inaugural drink, and then switching to beer.
      I agree, you can’t have too many friends – each one of them is precious.

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  3. Heather Scott July 5, 2017 / 2:58 pm

    Wow, I had no idea Halifax had so much to offer! We know some people who chose to move there and I wondered why at the time but now I understand their reasoning. I think it’s wonderful that the two of you are able to meet up with people you haven’t seen in years and it seems like only yesterday – how glorious!

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    • leavingourselvesbehind July 5, 2017 / 7:32 pm

      Oh Heather – if Halifax had icebergs, we would have hardly scraped the surface. This is a city with many universities, filled with young people and fresh ideas, and it has a new energy that wasn’t here when we lived here last. Lots going on – I haven’t done it justice at all. I will be so interested to see where Halifax is in even 5 years time. You would love it here and you would love most of Nova Scotia, I’m sure of that.

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  4. Anne K July 5, 2017 / 3:13 pm

    keep an eye on Stephen in Newfoundland…..I’m concerned he may get into trouble

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    • leavingourselvesbehind July 5, 2017 / 7:34 pm

      Anne – Stephen encouraged a small boy to squirt dinner guests with his water gun. You know he will get up to no end of trouble in Newfoundland. On the other hand – they have way more practice than he does at finding mischief.

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  5. Alanna July 6, 2017 / 8:34 am

    Nice pictures! Love the puppy, duck tollers are one of Alex’s favourite breeds too. Would love to take a trip out East sometime, the houses look beautiful too. Enjoy

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  6. Linda Whitely July 6, 2017 / 11:28 pm

    As always, such a treat reading your wonderful comments, so beautifully written and photographed. We also loved all of the Maritimes, especially the people. Have you been to Newfoundland before? Probably when you lived in NS? Such a great experience ahead of you. Looking forward to hearing about your travels. Hugs.

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    • leavingourselvesbehind July 7, 2017 / 11:43 am

      We just arrived in Nfld. LOVE it already and no, we hadn’t been here for 40 years. The people and the music haven’t changed a bit. :>)

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