Gallivanting in Halifax

By guest blogger Roona

All photos copyright © Roona 2009

THANKS TO THE United States Citizenship and Immigration Services, in the summer of 2009 I took a solitary trip to Nova Scotia. After renewing my work visa in the country, I had to go to a consulate outside the country to get it stamped in my passport. The closest place where I could get an appointment for consular services was Halifax, Canada. It reportedly took a week’s time to complete the process, so I had an entire week there to myself.

On the harbor

On the harbor in Halifax

I stayed in Hotel Westin close to the harbor with views of the ocean. The town is small enough to walk everywhere, so I did and I had a blast! On the days I had to go there, the consulate work was over in a moment and the rest of the time was mine to gallivant to my heart’s content.

It was cold and raining during most of my stay but this only added to the charm of the place. After a bone-chilling walk on the harbor, I would buy coffee and fresh-caught fried fish from a stall and enjoy it in the warmth of my room. Every day was a delight of flavors with fresh seafood available everywhere! I would get up early in the mornings and run to the crepe stalls for chocolate hazelnut crepes for breakfast. There was even an authentic Persian food shack close by my hotel, where I enjoyed some awesome lamb and chicken with saffron rice.

Once, when I had a bad sinus headache from all those walks in cold weather, I scouted a tiny Indian kiosk in a mall and requested some Masala chai—strong black tea with milk, sugar and spices including cinnamon, cloves, peppercorn, cardamom and nutmeg.

There’s tons to be done and savored in and around Halifax. The Citadel is still in great condition, with a military museum and military routines of bygone days enacted for spectators. This includes a cannon firing at noon and soul-stirring bagpipe music. I spent hours sitting there listening to music on another of those cold, misting, rainy days.

Starting day of the tall ships race

Starting day of the tall ships race

I walked around the Atlantic Maritime Museum looking at the relics of the Titanic, which sank off the coast of Halifax. I went for a pirate boat ride on a sailboat with a true-blue, old-time sailor at the helm whose drawling, mellifluous speech made even curse words sound beatific. I was lucky to land there on the starting day of the tall ships race; the row of huge ships lining the harbor was an awe-inspiring sight.

One evening I had a chance to watch a Shakespearean comedy in an outdoor theater. Put on by a theatre company called Shakespeare by the Sea, it was a hilarious production of Love’s Labour’s Lost. I laughed my guts out sitting on a camp chair in the ruins of Cambridge Battery in Point Pleasant Park, with the unseen Atlantic Ocean in the distance and the slow summer nightfall.

The highlight of my trip was a jaunt to a little fishing village called Peggy’s Cove. Situated near grey-black rocks on the coast, in this quaint little run-down village is a lighthouse overlooking the vast Atlantic Ocean. Yet again, it was one of those stormy days with incessant rains and cold winds. What better atmosphere to relish a lighthouse on the rocks?

As I stood next to the lighthouse, looking at the ocean with its grey-green waters, foaming waves lashing the rocks, the ocean spray and the misting rain, I easily forgot I was living in the 21st century. Just for a moment, I was transported back in time to when this place was a thriving village, where the lighthouse was key to the safety and wellbeing of the ocean vessels coming in to harbor.

Lighthouse at Peggy's Cove

Lighthouse at Peggy\’s Cove

Then, hot seafood chowder and old-fashioned gingerbread with lemon cream icing in the only restaurant by the lighthouse. Although an over-priced tourist trap, the food was delicious and the place more than made up for the price.

Food and activities aside, there is one more glorious thing about Halifax: the shopping! It may be a small place but it has some beautiful shops and boutiques. I was thrilled to find a gorgeous scarf the likes of which I had never seen anywhere else, and beautiful artwork such as dried flowers pressed on to glass; the whole looking almost ethereal. Tartans, wool, and Scottish paraphernalia are also worth looking at. Walking around town, you can find everything from antique stores to flea markets, New Age stuff to American brands costing way more than they do in the US.

I had a joyful time, enjoying everything from the cold rains to the lilting Scottish/Gaelic accents of the local people. After returning home to Cleveland, for a few days I actually felt homesick for Halifax!




ROONA has lived and worked in India and the United States and recently moved back to India. In the process of settling down in her home country, she continues to miss her life in the USA. On the other hand, for the first time in her life she has an opportunity to focus on her one true passion: writing. She blogs at IndiaRepat and Aesara Says.

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  1. Brian W. says:

    Thanks for sharing your experience and the great pix! I’ve always been curious about that part of the world and hope to visit some day. What could be better than enjoying fresh seafood, salt air and music while witnessing such a unique maritime event?

  2. Brian…Thank You for your kind comment. Yes it is a great place to go to especially if you are in the mood for some simple, hassle free fun and sport, a relaxed holiday so to speak. I want to go there again some day and explore some of the surrounding regions that sounds awesome as well!

  3. Quote: After a bone-chilling walk on the harbor, I would buy coffee and fresh-caught fried fish from a stall and enjoy it in the warmth of my room. Unquote.

    Roona, for a while I forgot about gallivanting – it was a case of salivating. It was me sitting there in that room enjoying that little repast.

    You’ve described Halifax to a T and I was glad to accompany you through that lovely old city in that gorgeous part of Canada. I think that Shakespeare by the sea is the most.

    You brought up a point not too many folk are aware of – the relics of the Titanic. They are there at the museum – a stark realisation that we humans are subject to the force of nature and it was a mere 98 years ago, this tragedy happened.

    Thanks for your mini tour of Halifax, most enjoyable. Then I’m biased having a Canadian grandparent from NS.

    Now! about Masala chai, does it work without milk?

  4. Hey Al, Glad to meet a fellow Halifax enjoyer! And how nice to have a grandparent from NS especially if they lived there somewhere close to the ocean. That’s just the kind of place I would have loved to go to as part of the visiting grandparents school vacations rituals!
    Abt the masala chai you can substitute coffee creamer for milk and its almost as good..or if you want it black, u can substitue honey for sugar and add some slivers of ginger and you are good to go.

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