Wednesday, July 29, 2015

7 Not to Miss Highlights in Halifax, Nova Scotia

When in Canada, eat Canadian - right? So, we started the morning at Liscombe Lodge with fresh blueberry pancakes topped with real maple syrup. What a wonderful way to start a day. Then, the Good Girls and company returned to Halifax and the Westin Nova Scotian. Along the road, the mystical greenery was breathtaking, and someone shared this factoid: Nova Scotia is the largest exporter of Christmas trees, lobsters and blueberries.  What a lovely trio!

And, in case you're wondering exactly where Nova Scotia sits on the map:it’s a Canadian province on the east side of Maine and the name means New Scotland. Hence, the reason we saw a few hotel workers in kilts.

Debi & the Doorman at the Westin
Westin Nova Scotian

We checked into the Westin, which sits a stone's throw from the Halifax train station.  In fact, there is a convenient connecting hallway. The hotel has a long history of hosting Royals like the Queen, Princess Diana and Prince Charles, Prime Ministers as well as other dignitaries and celebrities. Tonight they were hosting us for the hotel's 85th-anniversary celebration.

While the hotel has not always belonged to the Westin group, it does retain much of its historical decor in the lobby. The guestrooms, however, are totally up to date, including the super comfy Heavenly beds. This hotel feels good; we both agree. The lodging meets the needs of any traveler with friendly customer service, clean surrounding and all the amenities you might want like room service, a gym (even workout clothes as part of the Westin Workout) and wifi. We made a point to have a drink at Roy's (Named for longtime-bartender Roy Clorey, who has worked at the hotel for 50 years and counting.) Lovely wine and vibe.

Of course, the Westin, a AAA Four Diamond property, also includes a complete set of banquet rooms and the location is ideal for Halifax meetings. For tourists, it's handy to the Waterfront area, which boasts a number of upscale restaurants, museums, and marina activities.  You can easily walk to Pier 21 Immigration Museum ( discussed in an upcoming post) and the Farmer's Marketplace. Many cruise ships dock at the port directly behind the hotel

The Stubborn Goat
Exterior of the Stubborn Goat

The Good Girls are always on the move, and the group was soon off for lunch at the Stubborn Goat, a gastropub on Grafton Street, near the construction site of the new convention center. Their menu states their philosophy," To seek and find the best local products with which to create fulfilling comfort food, pour craft ales and libations made with thought and care, and serve all patrons as if they were guests in our home. It is our duty to have laughter, cheer and conversation thrive by offering a selection of small plates meant for sharing among friends and families who gather here."

The Goat lived up to its promises. The highlight of the meal, at least for me, was something I've never eaten before - fiddleheads (ferns) cooked in a skillet with prosciutto, lemon, Gouda, almonds. The flavors and textures tasted similar to green beans. Cheese held the dish together and the almonds added crunch. Quite delightful, I'd order it again.

In a futile attempt to watch our waistlines, Judy and I split a Lamb Sirloin Burger with stewed tomato jam, roasted mushroom, arugula, grainy mustard and skipped dessert. Others raved about their woodstone oven baked pizza or lobster mac and cheese. Alas, we all left over-stuffed again.

The Lamb Sirloin Burger
FYI- The owners of the Stubborn Goat first opened Durty Nelly’s, an authentic Irish Pub, which was designed and built in Ireland and shipped to Canada. The restaurant sports an elongated wooden bar and apparently is ‘ the place’ for listening to the Craic, what the Irish call storytelling and partying.

Alexander Keith's Brewery
Alexander Keith's Brewery in Halifax

I headed off to tour Alexander Keith's Brewery on the Waterfront while Judy hopped on the trolley tour.

Keith's Brewery sits in a massive ironstone and granite building (c 1820). Actors in period costume take tour-goers back to Halifax in 1863. They employ song and story as they lead guests through the brewhouse and taproom. You enter Mr. Keith's original dining room and then follow  into an over-sized production room with gleaming copper tanks.  I have been on many brewery tours, but never encountered such magnificent apparatus. Let's just say I'm glad I don't have to polish all that copper.

The Copper Cookers

The Copper Holding Tanks

The tour doesn't dwell on the brewing process, which I appreciated as I've heard it over and over, and because the technicalities bore many. Instead, this tour heads right to an authentic old taproom where tasting and entertainment become the focus. Each participant of age receives a sample in a mug. I sat and enjoyed my choice, Keith's Red Amber, then joined in clapping to the tunes. A few bar games were introduced before it was time to depart. I learned Halifax history in a most charming way and highly recommend this tour.
A waitress in the Taproom
Photo@Debi Lander

 Halifax Citadel

I did not have time to visit the fort-like Citadel National Historic Site, but on a 2010 visit, I made the effort and hiked to the highest point in the city. The Citadel, like the fort in my hometown St. Augustine, was built as a military fortification to protect the city from enemies and the occasional pirate. In Halifax, you hear the crack of rifle-fire and the haunting tones of bagpipes instead of canon fire. The Changing of the  Guard, dressed in uniforms of the 78th Highlanders, creates a colorful and impressive ceremony. The Royal Artillery fires the Noon Gun every day – a Halifax tradition that is one of the oldest in the world.
Changing of the Guard

A short outing on Theodore Tugboat, stationed on the Waterfront, looked like fun and would likely be a highlight for families visiting Halifax.

Worker handcrafting a vase at Nova Scotia Crystal.

I also stopped in Nova Scotia Crystal where you watch glass objects being mouth blown, hand-cut and etched. Irish artisans hoping to keep their craft alive opened the facility in 1996 and it remains the singular crystal manufacturer in Canada. The showroom is full of gorgeous pieces similar to Waterford crystal. They make lovely gifts and souvenirs.

Like most destinations, it is the people and the history that bring out the true depth and beauty of what you see and experience. Halifax is certainly one of those places.

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