September 25, 2011
HALIFAX, Nova Scotia – After days and days of cold, chilly weather the sun shone all day in Halifax and temps got up into the 80s which made for a glorious Sunday.
Halifax is such a pretty city. It had been 30 years since I visited here and the waterfront is totally changed. Yes, the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic is still the centerpiece but everything around it seems new. It was by far the loveliest waterfront we’ve seen on this trip.
The Emerald Princess docked at Pier 22, right next to Cunard’s Queen Elizabeth which was making its maiden call. (More on that later). Silversea’s Silver Whisper and the Seabourn Sojourn were also in port.
From the ship we walked down the waterfront, past several piers, the indoor Farmer’s Market and several new residential/shopping complexes into the center of the waterfront area. It took about 15 minutes. From their we caught the “Deluxe Historic Halifax” tour operated by Grayline/Ambassateurs.
We climbed into the bright blue English-style double-decker bus and thoroughly enjoyed our three hours with our guide Linda and driver Hap. The two main stops on the tour are at the Citadel fort and the Fairview Lawn Cemetery…we saw many neighborhoods but it was the many facts about this historic city that I found so fascinating.
I did not realize that Halifax was the center for three major disaster recovery efforts. First, and best known, was the sinking of the Titanic in 1912. Second was the Great Halifax Explosion in 1917 and the third was the crash of Swissair 111 in 1998. In all three cases, it was ships from Halifax that recovered the bodies and brought them back to the city for identification, shipping home to their families or burial here.
This harbor is the second largest natural ice-free harbor in the world and it never requires dredging. Its Bedford Basin was used for staging convoys in both of the world wars. In fact, submarine nets were strung across the entrance to protect the vessels inside. And long, long before that pirates sailed from here as well.
The visit to Fairview LawnCemetary was quite poignant. There are 121 victims of the Titantic disaster buried here and many are still unidentified. All were buried by the White Star Line. There are more victims buried in two other of the city’s cemeteries but this is the largest number of Titanic victims buried in any one place.
There have been many Titanicmoments on this trip, as Belfast is where the ship was built and Halifax is where the dead finally reached shore.
After our tour we decided to splurge on a fresh lobster dinner and headed to the prominent Waterfront Warehouse where we sampled fresh blackpoint oysters (slurp!) (from Prince Edward Island), yummy mussels with nantua chili sauce (from Nova Scotia) and luscious Atlantic lobsters. Nothing, but nothing, tastes like fresh and this dinner was one of the highlights of our trip. Thanks to a great waitress Liza and the manager Brodie Cook for making it memorable. (www.waterfrontwarehouse.ca)
While we were eating, at about 5 p.m., the Queen Elizabeth came up the river in front of the Museum, blew its horn in a salute, turned around in front of the crowd and sailed out. I later learned that the Cunard was celebrating the legacy of Sir Samuel Cunard, who hailed from Halifax and established the iconic ocean liner company bearing his name more than 171 years ago.
In honor of the maiden visit of Cunard’s newest ocean liner and the recent revitalization of the Halifax Seaport and waterfront, The Halifax Foundation re-dedicated a majestic statue of Cunard which had been re-located last year to a more prominent position, adjacent to the Cunard Centre.
Because we took an hour and a half for this fab meal, we didn’t flock with all the other tourists to Peggy’s Cove. That little fishing village with just 56 residents will have to wait until our next visit when we hope to drive there on a quiet day. And we did not have the time to go through the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic to learn more about the city’s role in the Titanic and Halifax Explosion disasters. (The latter was the largest manmade explosion in history. It occurred when a munitions ship collided with another ship in the narrow part of the harbor and the munitions exploded, killing 2,000 and rendering 25,000 homeless, nearly a quarter of the population.)
There is so much history here — there are 10,000 documented shipwrecks in the area – that it is a rather lot to absorb in a short time. Which means, of course, Halifax well deserves a return visit!
Photos by Chet Janssens
Special thanks to Destination Halifax for our tour arrangements.