Tails of a Travelling Cat
The Canada Edition
Hello, all! So, after a few hours sleep, I was once again awake and ready to explore Halifax. When I’d arrived last night, it has been dark, so I could actually see what I was walking passed now. My first stop was the Government House, where Nova Scotia's Lieutenant governor (whatever that might be) lives. At this time of year, it was closed and the gardeners were busy at work, so I only got to admire the Georgian façade before moving on to the Victorian public gardens. Here I saw a very feathery goose (research will be needed to determine which type of goose this was) and from here I walked up a reasonably steep hill to the Halifax citadel. On reaching the top, I discovered a road ringed the star shaped fortress, which was unexpected. There was renovation work going on here too and it seemed like the citadel was also closed for the season. I was happy to walk around the outside, admiring the view of the city, but at the citadel's main entrance, I realised it was partially open. I could explore the grounds, the battlements and a few open rooms. There were very many cannons of different vintages as well as what looked like ship's masts stuck in the ground. I think they were used for signalling, but what exactly they were signalling or to whom, I don’t know.
From here I left the citadel and stood at a helpfully placed panorama spot which told me many things. One event which happened in view of this spot was the biggest human-made explosion before the atom bomb in 1917 when a Norwegian ship hit a French missile ship in Halifax harbour. The resulting explosion killed 1600 people, more Nova Scotians than were killed in all the Western front battlefields. I could also see Georges Island, on which more later, and the Old Town Clock. This was gifted by Edward Duke of Kent in 1803 because punctuality, apparently, was his passion. Well, everyone needs a hobby. The clock is the city’s most famous landmark, which was covered in orange tarpaulin while it was being renovated (surprise) and wasn’t actually working, meaning the poor citizens of Halifax couldn’t be on time. I guess they’ll just have to use their smartphones. I stopped to enjoy the suddenly warm sunshine in a memorial park. As well as take the opportunity to remove my coat and find my sunglasses. Here, in the shadow of the rather fancy city hall building was a monument to fallen peace officers and in front of St Paul’s church was a memorial to the soldiers of WWI and WWII and the Korean War.
From here it was onto Province House, which, built from 1811-9, is the oldest government building in Canada. It was here in 1864 meetings took place to determine the formation of an independent Canada. Then it was the Harbour Walk, starting with a collection of old wooden buildings and stone skyscrapers. Here I found a great tourist shop called Cool as a Moose. Naturally, I had to check this out. Unsurprisingly, there was a lot of moose toys and t-shirts.
Then, it was back along the harbour front to enjoy the views. Here, there was a statue commemorating the contribution of Lebanese migrants to Canada and a statue relating the story of Arcadians expelled by the British from Nova Scotia. Some were imprisoned on the tiny and wholly inadequate Georges Island. And then I found a collection of bright orange hammocks. I don’t know why, but whatever they were doing there, they were very comfy! My last stop was Pier 21, now a museum, it was once the entry point for many immigrants arriving in Canada from all over the world, particularly Europe after WWII. Well, I guess I was just another European immigrant seeking a better life at this point. Here, there were plaques commemorating the contribution of some of these people and more general explanations of the arrival stories.
It was now time to head back to the hostel to pick up my giant hiking bag from storage and then take the short walk to the station. Here I boarded my first train which will take me through Nova Scotia into New Brunswick for my second city, Miramichi, which through talking to a few Canadians, I’ve learnt is pronounced Mira-mi-shee. So, as I take the train across Nova Scotia, I’ll tell you what I’ve learnt about this province and Canada in general so far.
Firstly, Canadians really are as nice as everyone says they are. Both my plane neighbours, someone on the bus, my train neighbour and someone in the queue for the plane toilet were all happy to talk to me. In fact, my train neighbour was an excellent source of Canadian information. I’ve learnt dollars are almost never called bucks in Nova Scotia, but 25, 10 and 5 cent coins are called quarters, dimes and nickels. In most cases, Canadians have more similarities to American than British English. Wind turbines are confusingly called windmills, what windmills are called, I don’t know.
More knowledge, although Nova Scotia means New Scotland, the town’s are more often named after English towns – Truro, Halifax, Dartmouth (pronounced Dart-Mouth) and Yarmouth (I don’t know how that’s pronounced), Oxford, Windsor, however there is the Irish influence of Londonderry, Waverly is the closest I’ve seen to a Scottish name (Edinburgh station is called Waverly) and there’s Sydney for a bit of Australian too.
Pick up trucks are everywhere, something I’m very happy with, as is the smell of weed. Despite Québec being the French province, Atlantic Canada (New Brunswick, Nova Scotia and Prince Edward Island) have a sizeable French speaking population. Nova Scotia has a lot of trees, almost all the scenery the train has passed has so far been trees. If not, a river or lake. The town’s are sparsely populated with large houses built on open lots. There’s a lot of wooden clapboard houses, painted in a huge variety of colours.
The train crossed into New Brunswick shortly after its final Nova Scotia stop at Amherst, at Moncton my helpful neighbour disembarked and I now continue my journey on to Miramichi alone. Where I can try to remember how to pronounce it properly.
About an hour after Moncton, as I was enjoying another (cold) boil in the bag meal, this time with Ritz crackers, the train passed a road sign warning of moose for 25km. Unfortunately I was so excited by the sign I froze and by the time I moved to take a picture, it was long gone. Who knows what will happen if I actually see a moose! Sadly I didn’t see any moose at all and the train arrived in Miramichi right on time. My AirBnB host kindly met me at the station, saving me a two and a half hour walk. Miramichi might be a small city, but it’s well spaced out along the river of the same name, with big buildings on acre sized plots of land. I’ve decided I like it. But I’ve still not caught up on sleep from yesterday yet so no time to explore tonight, that’s what I’ll be doing for the next two days.
Until then, folks,