The rail trail from west of Halifax was in fair conditions and we enjoyed our morning ride. The rhodora was in peak bloom and we couldn’t have asked for better weather. As we approached the city, the trail turned into a paved path with dozens of pedestrians and cyclists out for a bit of exercise. We hoped that this path would continue into the city center, but of course, it ended and we were shot out onto the sidewalk along a busy parkway. From there, the ride into the city was stressful, and we took a few wrong turns despite receiving unsolicited directions from “helpful” strangers. By the time that we were nearing downtown, we were both hungry and irritable. Thank goodness for the Split Crow Pub, the first restaurant with outdoor seating that we passed on our way to the Barrington Street hostel. G and I sat outside, ate too many french fries, drank beer, and were cooked by the sun. Following this experience, I was in desperate need of a nap. We treated ourselves to a private room where I lay down and slept soundly for an unknown amount of time. In the evening, we had planned to go out for a nice dinner but chose instead to walk the citadel until close to 9 PM and then eat mediocre burritos in the hostel kitchen. No regrets.
On June 8th, we left Leonid behind to relax at the hostel and headed out to explore Halifax by foot. Our first stop was the Nova Scotia Museum of Natural History. As G has worked at a few nature preserves with interpretive centers, he always pays attention to good natural history displays. At this museum, he was especially impressed by the indoor honey bee hive, and I loved the larger-than-life trailing arbutus sculpture. I was also interested in the display on Sable Island, as I had been reading The Nymph and the Lamp by Thomas Raddall, a novel set on said island in the years following WWI. The museum includes a display on the craftwomanship of the M’kmaw people. I took dozens of dark through-glass photos of the motifs on the clothing samples and the detailed porcupine quill boxes, which I hope will serve as inspiration for future textile projects.
At lunchtime, we walked through the city’s botanical gardens to touristy Spring Garden Road where we finally found much-needed delicious ice cream and also bought a load of souvenirs.
We spent the afternoon near the water at the Museum of the Maritimes, where we learned more about two tragedies – the sinking of the Titanic and The Halifax Explosion of 1917. G and I were both surprised that we didn’t know more about the Halifax Explosion before coming to Nova Scotia. The catastrophe occurred in the Halifax Harbour during WWI when a Belgian relief ship collided with a Canadian vessel loaded with explosives. A fire began and less than half an hour later, the Canadian ship exploded. It was the largest explosion in the world before the atom bomb. Thousands of people were killed or injured and entire neighborhoods were leveled. The exhibit on this event was moving, and I was particularly struck by the last transmission sent out by the Halifax train dispatcher, Vince Coleman:
“Hold up the train. Ammunition ship afire in harbor making for Pier 6 and will explode. Guess this will be my last message. Good-bye boys.”
He remained at his post sending this message to trains as far away as Truro until his was killed by the force of the explosion. Coleman’s message was heeded and hundreds of people were kept safely away from the disaster zone.
In the evening, we treated ourselves to a special meal at Edna’s. This hip restaurant has gotten abundant positive reviews online and in Halifax magazines, and it lived up to our expectations. Sorry, no photos of our artistic entrees. After dinner, we took the ferry to Halifax’s sister city of Dartmouth. Dartmouth is outrageously hilly, but we pushed our way up to an Air BnB for a sound sleep.