Walkabout Halifax

Now that we’ve been out in Halifax awhile and are a week out of quarantine, we’ve been able to explore the city a bit.

So far, I like a lot of what I’ve seen.

Outside Seaport Market

We booked a rental home that’s in downtown Halifax, only a few blocks from Lower Water Street, and from the shops along Spring Garden Road.

My wife’s homemade apple pie for Thanksgiving dinner!

That’s allowed us to shop and explore in multiple directions – south through the residential neighbourhoods towards Pleasant Point Park, north up into the Hydrostone neighbourhood, east and along the waterfront, and a bit west towards the universities (our son is at Dalhousie).

It’s been a fun few days of wandering about. I’ve been to Halifax before – each time we came out to the east coast on vacation, we’d stay down along the South Shore at Mahone Bay or Lunenburg, and we’d always make a day trip into the city. Still, those excursions were short and confined to the touristy bits along the waterfront like the Maritime Museum or the Seaport Market or the Citadel.

Halifax Public Gardens

Now that we’re living here for a bit, we have a chance to settle into the life of the city. It’s been interesting for a few reasons. One thing we noticed right away is how courteous Halifax drivers and pedestrians are compared to Toronto. People wait for the pedestrian crossing signals! Cyclists actually stop at stop signs! Drivers politely wave pedestrians across the road at crosswalks! Who knew that somewhere actual courtesy and common sense existed outside the Big Smoke?

It’s also a lot quieter than Toronto. You don’t realize what the constant background hum of traffic is like until it’s not there. Come 6 pm, the streets are silent and sleeping with the windows open in the middle of the city is actually refreshing and calm. The only mildly loud thing once in awhile is the flight of helicopters overhead as they land across the harbour at the Shearwater RCAF base.

It’s also been interesting to see the way that people are dealing with COVID-19. In large part because of the mandatory quarantine for anyone arriving into Maritime Canada from anywhere else, the case count here is vanishingly small. Weeks go by with no new cases reported at all. Despite the lack of community spread, people are still wearing masks indoors as they shop, and often on the streets too, and there’s more or less no bellyaching about it. In fact, people are proud of their resilience and how they’ve handled COVID-19 so far, and they don’t want to undo all the sacrifices they’ve made by letting in any cases now. In the words of their Premier, Scott McNeil, if you have COVID-19 or even suspect you might, then “Stay the blazes home!”.

I’ve also been quite taken by the quiet charms of the east coast. People just seem more relaxed here, friendlier and less harassed than they do in the daily rat race of Toronto. Wandering a neighbourhood, you see people out for a walk but not in a hurry.

Plus, thank the stars, there is a wonderful lack of leafblowers and weed trimmers. I’ve explored various residential areas, including some relatively high income ones, and have barely heard those annoying noisemakers. There are trees here and the side streets are leafy and lovely, and yet they manage to live their lives without making a racket. Imagine that.

If I had to name a favourite walk so far, I’d say it was exploring the North End and Hydrostone.

We walked up their on a lovely sunny mid-October day. We found a great little pizza place that served excellent pies and a decent glass of wine. We circled Fort Needham park and explored the memorials to the Halifax Explosion victims. We nosed into shops and picked up some little treats. It reminds me a little bit of Leslieville in Toronto – lots of young families, some hipsterish little spots, and leafy quiet streets just off of busy roads. It’s just quieter, and you can get a house for well under a $1m, unlike anywhere in Toronto.

The grave of Alexander Keith with a tin of his eponymous ale

Canada’s east cost offers so much as a getaway destination, and Halifax as a gateway to it is a great place to start or end a holiday. Come out and explore, and you’ll love it too.

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