Just the (Hali)fax, Ma’am

I love conferences. They remind me of times in elementary or high school when you’d walk into a classroom and see a TV set up and you’d get really excited. Conferences are TVs in the classrooms for grown-ups. I especially love them when they take you away from home for a few days, and I’m very lucky to have these kind of opportunities crop up occasionally.

I spent part of last week in Halifax, which was a welcome reprieve from the hot, sticky weather that’s blanketed Toronto lately. While most of my time was spent actually doing work, I did have a few hours on Sunday to noodle around and experience a little Maritime charm and hospitality. Both of which were on display the minute I hopped into a cab and was invited to go for a lake swim if I wasn’t busy. Seriously, can you imagine this EVER happening in other cities? If it happened at home I think I’d try to get out of the cab immediately.

I politely declined, and after a quick check-in and dumping of my suitcase I dashed out into the warm sun. First stop was for lunch as I was famished, and I made a beeline for Paperchase Cafe on Blowers Street. I’d checked this place out when I was in Halifax (for work, again) in 2010 and thankfully it was still there (it’s above a convenience store, so look up when you’re searching for lunch). I tucked into an apple and cheese sandwich and smoothie while lazily reading a book and checked out a map to plan the rest of my day.

Refueled, I headed over to the Halifax Public Gardens which is open daily from April until November. It has everything you’d want in a public garden – lots of flowers (obviously), statues, a pond (with a mini Titanic in the middle in homage to Halifax’s ties to the tragedy), wrought iron (maybe just me that’s a fan?) and these ladies:

Why hello there!

Flora and Diana are French Geese and it took a lot of restraint not to hop over the fence and give them a big hug. I recommend visiting the gardens just to say hello, it’s the polite thing to do.

After more wandering and window shopping, I gave my legs a good post-flight stretch by trekking to the Citadel (head’s up – cannons go off daily at noon. Don’t panic, you’re not under attack) for the stunning habour views below. A thick fog was rolling in and carpeted most of the ships and bases of buildings. It’s a pity I didn’t bring my camera with me, phone pics just don’t do it justice. I went down to the harbour for a closer look and parked myself on a bench to people watch. A fiddler strolled by playing a cheerful number, and people danced on the boardwalk. What a perfect moment, I thought, only made better by the discovery of this:

Kids weren’t as excited as I was. I may have slightly nudged one out of the way to take this picture. I feel no shame about this.

I poked around some of the shops by the water (drop in to Rum Runners Rum Cake Factory for an excellent souvenir idea or just some delicious samples) and watched people fishing off the boardwalk. While the lure of ocean air and warm sunshine was strong, I had work stuff to attend to so I headed back to meet my colleagues for a drink (I did say work “stuff”). Post-drinks my co-worker and I headed for The Wooden Monkey which might have been one of the greatest food decisions of my life. A mix of vegetarian-friendly and meat-friendly fare, it was SO GOOD. So good, we returned the following night for another round. I had a vegan seitan donair with a side of roastie potatoes that was beyond delicious, and I was pleased that I could sample a spin on a local must-have. The next night I savoured a vegetable curry with quinoa that I couldn’t part with, so I brought leftovers to the conference the next day for lunch. Classy? Yes.

For our final night in Halifax, the conference organizers sent us out to sea on the Tall Ship Silva for a lovely tour of the harbour. On a day when it felt like the high-40s with the humidity in Toronto, we could see our breath on the boat it was THAT COLD. I may have huddled over a buffet hot plate at one point for warmth.

Once I had some red wine in me I warmed up, and we enjoyed the views of the harbour,  naval yard and searched (unsuccessfully) for sea life. It was a great way to wrap up a busy few days.

Facts About the ‘Fax:

Getting There: Numerous airlines, trains, buses and ferries service Halifax. Or hop in the car and drive! If you’re flying, expect to pay about $53 Canadian for a cab from the airport to downtown.

Where to Stay: For historic atmosphere, stay downtown and be close to the waterfront and great restaurants. I stayed at the Delta Halifax (there are two Deltas, across the street from one another – make sure you know which one you’re staying at before hailing a cab!) which was well-appointed and had a very comfortable bed.

Where to Eat: Seafood is king in Halifax, but be sure to also try a donair or two! Popular options include King of Donair, Brooklyn Warehouse (I can vouch for this, I ate there last time I was in town and it was amazing), The Bicycle Thief and The Five Fisherman.

What to Do: Trek up to Halifax Citadel National Historic Site, which is a star-shaped naval station constructed between 1828 and 1856. A costumed animator will guide you through musket galleries, garrison cells and more. Head’s up on that cannon fire. Check out the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21, where over 3.5 million immigrants, military personnel, war brides and more passed through between 1928 and 1971. Hop over to Alexander Keith’s Nova Scotia Brewery and learn about the brewing process and visit the home of Alexander Keith. Oh, and sample some ales, of course. Go deep-sea fishing through one of the many charter options available and get a jump start on your dinner plans. Or, get out of town and head to Lawrencetown Beach and catch some waves, or Peggy’s Cove on the south shore.

Have you been to Halifax? What are some of your favourite things to check out?


8 thoughts on “Just the (Hali)fax, Ma’am

  1. Great post! Can’t wait to go back there as I was 12 last time I was there! Ounds like you had a great time and I’m glad to know that there are vegan-friendly options there!
    What is donair??

    1. It’s kind of like a gyro, but it has beef instead of lamb and a sweet sauce instead of tzatziki! Except the version I had was seitan instead of beef. SO GOOD!

      1. Have you ever been to a Chinese restaurant and see mock chicken/beef/pork? That’s likely seitan! It’s made from the protein portion of wheat. It has a really meat-like texture. I’m actually not a huge fan of it normally but it worked really well in this instance!

  2. You’ve pretty much mentioned every one of my favourite Halifax places to be. The Paperchase. Spring Garden Road. The waterfront. Good job!

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