On The Waterfront
Halifax, Nova Scotia, Canada
Halifax, Nova Scotia, is the ‘top point’ of many cruises that
make their way up the eastern seaboard of the North American continent. This
outpost of eastern Canada is out on a limb – Nova Scotia sticks out into the
Atlantic like a long finger pointing at Europe, several thousand miles away
across the water.
In a way, that’s appropriate – because Halifax is the meeting
point of two immensely tough and endlessly fascinating cultures. The city was
established by the British in the late eighteenth century and extensively
settled by those perennial builders of the British Empire – the Scots. ‘Nova
Scotia’ is simply the Latin for ‘New Scotland’. The original colonists must
have felt rather at home. The cool, maritime climate and sea mists of this part
of Canada would have been very familiar to them. The culture they met there –
that of the Mi’kmaq Canadian Native Americans – was (and remains) just as hardy
as the tough Europeans. Something of a meeting of minds seems to have gone on,
and the two ethnic groups have interbred extensively over the years. Even today
in the faces of many Nova Scotians you can see wild highlander mixed with the
almost Asiatic features of the Mi’kmaq.
Cold Morning in Halifax
colonists have left an big footprint on the modern city. A walk around Halifax
harbor, or the historic downtown area, is a step back in time. The beautiful
Georgian buildings that were among the first to be built in the colonial city
must have seemed strangely out of place on the wild coastline. Halifax has
always been a center of the fishing industry. It’s relatively close to
Newfoundland, Grand Banks and other great fishing grounds of the North
Atlantic. But it has also served a defensive role in the past. The fact that
Halifax was founded by a General – Edward Cornwallis – gives a clue to the real
reason for its existence as a colony. It is very close to the main sea routes
between Europe and the major centers of the eastern seaboard – something that
came in very handy when competing with other European nations for supremacy on
the continent. If it hadn’t been for places like Halifax and the people who
settled there, the dominant language of the US might be French! Even today the
tough and good-natured people of Nova Scotia seem in some ways to be a bridge
between the old world and the new – both North American and European in
outlook, they are a very tolerant and friendly folk.
The Scottish cultural heritage shows through in a number of ways
– you don’t have to stay in the city long before you come across a Scots
dialect word thrown into conversation, or even a display of tartan-clad
dancers. The Scottish heritage of the city is reflected in the inhabitants
taste in food and drink, too. Halifax is home to many restaurants, and, as you
would expect in a modern western city, you can eat food from nearly every
cuisine in the world. But the marked local preference seems to be for the kind
of ‘traditional’ fare that would go down equally well in Edinburgh or
Inverness. Venues like the Ardmore Tea Room and the Argyle Bar and Grill
reflect the innate Scottishness of the city’s food and culture. If you enjoy a
fine Aberdeen Angus steak you should find plenty of cafés and restaurants in
the city where you can fulfill your desires – Nova Scotians take their
meat-eating very seriously! Vegetarians should not be put off, however: there
are lots of meat-free alternatives available.
Halifax’s drink can be pretty Caledonian, too. Nova Scotia is
home to North America’s only producer of single malt scotch. The Glenora
Distillery is close to Cape Breton on the eastern extremity of Nova Scotia.
Although it’s a working distillery, the Glenora is open for tours and even has
its own pub and bed and breakfast accommodation. It’s a bit of a long day trip
from Halifax, but if your cruise schedule permits it’s well worth a visit.
Finding out the ancient arts of whisky production – and, of course, trying a
few samples – makes for a great way of spending a day!
Many cruise lines that run tours as far north as Nova Scotia let
their guests spend a days looking around
Halifax– which is a good thing, because it’s a unique place.
Experienced cruisers might find a voyage along the Nova Scotian coast into the
city rather similar to a trip up the western coast of Norway. The weather can
be similar, as can the warmth of the welcome you can expect when you make