A Travellerspoint blog

A Blisters-on-my-feet Kind of Day

Halifax, Nova Scotia

sunny 14 °C

The plan for the day was to walk - and walk - and walk.

We started by walking to the Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21.

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This may sound corny, but this museum really changed how I thought about by life. When we first entered, a volunteer tour guide who had worked at Pier 21 during it's operation told us tales of his experiences there. Then we switched to a more formal tour, which we were happy to learn, was much of the same tales of personal experiences and conversation. I love absorbing oral history like that.

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They led us to a large ship at the back where we watched one of the best multimedia museum presentations I have ever seen. The story really came to life for me and I finally felt like I understood how Canada was formed and how my history is a part of that. The best part was hearing the stories of Ukrainians heading to Alberta as we totally related to that. After the boat, we got on a train that had more video testimony from all types of immigrants to Canada, both past and present. You could sit in a compartment and hear all different tales of immigration and the struggles that go with it. There was even a booth to record your own oral history of immigration.

Finally, the museum had a room where you can research your own family history. We tried to look for Nathan's Ukrainian relatives, but didn't get far. They gave us a business card so we can contact them with more information. Great!

Then we decided to walk about 4 kms to the Hydrostone Market. It's a little street with European-esque shops and restaurants in the area where the Halifax explosion occured. We stopped for lunch at the Little Europe bistro which was delicious and so cute.

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After that, we looped back around on the other side of the Citadel to check out the main campus of Dal. We stopped for an appointment to view an apartment, hoping maybe Nathan would luck into finding something for September, but it was an awful place... So I guess Nathan's search will just have to be complicated.

These are examples of houses I think he should live in. (Not really... I just like them and wanted to include them in this post somehow. Woo! NDP!)
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Then we headed back to a little second hand bookstore and coffee shop we had seen near our hotel earlier that day. The place was called Trident Booksellers and Cafe. They had fair trade coffee, a sign that said "Hurray for bikes", and little red chairs on the sidewalk as an impromptu patio - we were sold! We enjoyed cafe mochas on the sidewalk patio (mine was of course, a double) and browsed for books.

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For supper, we hit up the nearest Thai and Vietnamese place called Gingergrass. Delicious food and such nice people! Our server was originally from Calgary and the other server was impressed that we could function with chopsticks. Funny.

Tomorrow we are picking up our camper van and heading out on the open road. So, tonight I am going to soak in the tub in our hotel for hours, since we likely won't shower again until we get home! :)

Posted by Kristy_pj 13:02 Archived in Canada Tagged museum coffee halifax immigration bistro Comments (0)

A Sunny Day in Halifax

Putting Halifax to the Test

sunny 18 °C

The main reason for our visit to Halifax is to see if it's a place that Nathan would like to live for 2 years while he goes to grad school. We wanted to do some toursity activities, some random wandering, and take in some food and entertainment. Our first day was super successful and I really have developed a fondness for Halifax.

We started our moring with a delicious breakfast in our hotel - it even included beans! This was most thrilling for us.

After breakfast, we headed to the Seaport Farmer's Market.

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Apparently it's the oldest farmer's market in North America (I guess it depends on what you define as a farmer's market). The market is open almost every day (except Monday) and is in a beautiful building with huge doors that open up right onto the ocean.

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There were a ton of different booths - from regular fruits and vegetables to Indian and Mexican food to fresh lavender and "hippy" apple juice.

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Next, we walked along the harbour boardwalk. It was almost deserted since it was Easter Sunday morning. Great for us! We could imagine how busy it would be on the weekend in the summer.

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After the boardwalk, we wandered around Halifax.

First stop - Nathan's potential school. Dalhousie planning school.

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We checked out the creepiest graveyard ever. It stopped "accepting new entries" in 1844. For Canada, that is INCREDIBLY long ago.

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We visited the Public Gardens.

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We stopped by Pete's Frootique - the greatest name ever for an independent specialty grocery store.

We wandered through Historic Properties and ate at a super cheap Chinese food buffet (obviously important).

We ran into Theodore Tugboat!

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Then went to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic. My favorite exhibits were the one on the Halifax explosion and on the Titanic. Both are incredible stories of disaster, but also of how Halifax came together as a community to help others. Plus, the exhibits were really well presented, and so interesting. I read every word.

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Relaxing on the deck of the Titanic.

After enjoying the sun on the boardwalk for a bit more, we headed back to the hotel for a nap. Post nap, we got dressed up and went out for dinner at one of the many sushi restaurants, called Fujiyama. The sushi was delicious and the restaurant was in a very cool, old cave-like building. It reminded me of going out for sushi in Montreal with my cousin.

With tummies full of sushi, we headed a block down to Neptune Theatre to watch West Side Story. After a particularly bad experience watching West Side Story before, Neptune Theatre's production was brilliant! The vocals and choreography was excellent and I got really involved in the story (you know... with tears, chills, and a jump at the gun shot).

We did some late night wandering, but eventually headed home as we are still a little out of sorts with the time change and were up SUPER early this morning. Time to relax in bed and watch trashy television... I love being on holidays!

Posted by Kristy_pj 18:25 Archived in Canada Tagged ocean theatre museum nova_scotia sushi halifax dalhousie Comments (0)

Halliburton House

Our Haunted Hotel in Halifax

sunny 18 °C

Arriving in Halifax at midnight after a long day of travel, we were really hoping that our hotel would be "like the pictures". After a crazy taxi ride, we arrived... and were greated by a beautiful boutique hotel.

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The Halliburton House is three old townhouses converted into hotel rooms. The house belonged to the first Chief Justice of the Nova Scotia Supreme Court. Historical fun!

We hauled our luggage to our gorgeous room, furnished with antiques. After we settled into our room a bit, I decided the hotel is haunted. Just as I proclaimed my decision to Nathan, the closet door opened. Both of us stood in shock and then laughed awkwardly.

Even if it is haunted, it's a lovely place and the ghosts seem to be nice!

Posted by Kristy_pj 18:10 Archived in Canada Tagged architecture hotel haunted halifax Comments (0)

Cambridge Bay, Nunavut

Northern Canada

snow -45 °C

My mom recently visited Cambridge Bay, Nunavut for 10 days in March 2011. Since not many people are fortunate enough to travel that far North, I asked her to write a guest blog post about her experience.

I received a short-term contract to do year-end work for a company in Cambridge Bay. They provided a nice 2-bedroom apartment with a view of the bay. It was located right across the street from the office so I thankfully didn’t have to walk far in the cold weather. They paid all my expenses including the $1800 return flight!

I had never been that far north and it was an interesting journey. I was told that I should bring food (especially meat) for the 11-day trip, as the cost of food and other goods is extremely high. All of their supplies are shipped in by plane in the winter and by barge in the summer making it very costly. For example, a small box of pasta sold for $12 and fresh fruit and vegetables were impossible to find. Usually I take two suitcases on trips but this time I left one suitcase behind, opting for a cooler instead. My cooler weighed 35 pounds (which I thought was heavy) and I was told it was obvious I was an inexperienced northern traveler. Most people take huge coolers packed full to the maximum limit of 70 pounds.

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A = Cambridge Bay B = Yellowknife C = Edmonton

The flight to Cambridge Bay had a stop over in Yellowknife. Passengers carrying onto Cambridge Bay were supposed to stay on the plane but the flight attendant asked us to deplane. Due to bad weather, they weren’t sure the plane could fly into Cambridge Bay. We waited in the airport for about 1 hour and then they announced the flight was boarding. I found it rather odd that there was no security or ID check when we got onto the plane, particularly because new passengers joined us. We flew to Cambridge Bay (1 ½ hour flight) and then the pilot announced we could not land as the weather had worsened. We flew back to Yellowknife. I booked a seat on the next flight the following morning and hauled my suitcase and cooler to the hotel. Yellowknife looked like a typical boomtown although the surrounding area looked beautiful. The cost for hotel and meals was extremely high and the internet reminded me of dial-up. :) I heard a couple people talking about the cost of housing in Yellowknife and they were similar to the high prices in Ft. McMurray.

The next morning I went to the airport and waited in a tiny departure gate packed full of people. Apparently, the weather was bad in numerous communities leaving many people stranded in Yellowknife. I heard some people taking about 3 day waits and they hoped this time they could get home. Sheesh! I noticed however, that people were patient and understanding and took the delay in stride without complaining. I guess they must be used to it.

Again, no security checks were done. Apparently, terrorists and hijackers have no interest in flying to the frozen north. :) It was a little unnerving. Several flights were announced at the same time (on a loudspeaker no one could understand) and people streamed out the door onto the tarmac into the howling wind and freezing temperatures. Yes, you have to walk outdoors to all their planes. Usually that’s done in the tropics, not in places where it’s freaking freezing! Since no direction was given by ground crew, I stood on the tarmac and looked at three Canadian North planes, trying to decide if I should flip a coin to figure out which one I was supposed to board. Suddenly I spotted a man I recognized from the flight the previous day and decided to follow him. I ended up on the right flight. Yay! So far so good! :)

The passengers on the plane were mainly Inuit people and they were very friendly. In fact, it seemed that most people knew each other. I found it interesting that the Inuit women carried their babies on their back. They slung them onto their backs in a large blanket that wrapped and tied around the front. Then they put on a huge winter parka that completely covered the baby. I guess it must be warmer for the baby but I’m not sure what they do if the baby starts crying. Of course, their cries would be quite muffled under all that fabric. lol

Most of the white people on the plane were consultants flown in for short-term contracts. I chatted with one man that flies to Cambridge Bay every few weeks to do strategic planning and other consulting work with the government. Our flight stopped in Kugluktuk, Nunavut to let off passengers, which gave me my first glimpse of the northern landscape. Everything is white, absolutely everything! The ground was white, except for the little bit of cement showing on the tarmac; the sky was white and the wind howled and blew snow around, reducing visibility to almost nothing. Hmmm…and this was better weather then the day before! I chose to stay in the plane and wait while other passengers deplaned to visit with relatives that met them at the airport. After an hour of waiting, (the fuel truck driver forgot he was supposed to come to the airport to refuel the plane), we took off for Cambridge Bay. Thankfully, we were able to land and I was met by the owner of the business and taken on a guided tour of the town.

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Cambridge Bay is situated on Victoria Island in the Arctic Ocean and has a population of about 1477, mainly Inuit people. As we drove the short distance to town, the wind was blowing and there was an ice fog over the area. All I saw was white and more white. The land is white, the sky is white and the ocean is frozen over and white. No trees, no pavement (it’s covered completely by snow) and almost totally flat. Nothing but white!!! I was told that if a blizzard blows in it is dangerous to go outside. Because everything is white, people become disorientated even trying to cross the street.

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The houses and businesses around town are mainly covered with bright coloured metal siding (blues, reds, greens), maybe so they show up in all the white. The houses are generally quite small and the average price is about $350,000. It’s impossible to tell one yard from the other as there are no fences, no trees or anything else to distinguish different properties. The town has tons of satellite dishes (the huge ones) and giant storage containers everywhere (the kind that you would see on a barge). They don’t have wells or sewers and they ship in their water and ship out their sewage. The houses are equipped with a storage container and trucks make water deliveries every few days. The internet and satellite TV are not very dependable which made me feel even more isolated. The internet was so slow that I questioned if there was a long internet cable running across the frozen tundra to Yellowknife and a polar bear was chewing on the cord. :) I longed for the speed of dial up I encountered in Yellowknife!

There is an equal amount of skidoos and trucks/SUV’s on the road. It seemed strange to hear the skidoos roaring by at high speed throughout the day and often throughout the night. I can’t imagine riding a skidoo down the street with the wind-chill at -59 C but the weather doesn’t slow them down.

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Most of the employment in town is with the government or other small businesses that have government contracts. I was amazed at the amount of government money given to businesses, and to people to improve energy efficiency and attend educational courses in Yellowknife, Edmonton or other cities. Without government money, I don’t think most businesses would function.

Canada's new High Arctic Research Station will be built just outside of town in the next few years, which will increase the population by an estimated 54 families. Businesses are trying to gear up to ensure there is enough housing and adequate services. Right now, there is almost no entertainment or other activities except the arcade or having coffee at the one restaurant in town. And for those brave enough to endure the weather, there is sledding, hunting and fishing. Of course, there is some entertainment value in watching your web pages load for 5 minutes or watching satellite TV that goes on and off depending on the weather conditions. LOL

The children in Cambridge Bay are now able to attend school in their community. At one time, students were moved to Yellowknife after grade 6 to attend residential schools. I heard horrific stories about the abuse that occurred in these schools and many of the current social problems are related to these experiences. Alcohol is a serious problem in the community even though liquor stores are not allowed. There is a 7-member RCMP detachment and they cannot keep up with all the crime. That’s a huge number of police for this size of community.

When I asked about polar bears, I was told they moved further away from the community because of global warming. However, somehow grizzly bears were introduced to the island and are a real threat to wildlife and people venturing outside of town (not to mention the wolves that may attack). Grizzlies normally eat small animals and berries but because there are very few small animals and no berry bushes, they now go after the muskox. Apparently, muskox are not very smart animals and just stand there while the grizzlies smack them across the head with their large paws. lol (sorry, but it’s kind of a funny visual). The herds are now dwindling and the people who hunt and guide for a living are concerned.

Visiting Cambridge Bay was an interesting experience but I can’t imagine ever living there. I was so excited to land in Edmonton and appreciated the warm temperatures (-6 C), trees everywhere, pavement and the hills and valleys. It never looked so beautiful!

One other thing I discovered is that whether it is -40 C or -59 C, it feels about the same and is just terribly cold! :)

Posted by Kristy_pj 16:46 Archived in Canada Tagged snow north canada cold arctic cambridge_bay nunavut Comments (0)

Fernie, BC

Mountains, Skiing, and Family Hangouts

sunny -10 °C

My aunt and uncle and cousins and their kids take a yearly ski trip to Fernie, British Columbia. This year, Nathan and I joined!

It was really interesting to travel through the little towns of southern Alberta and to see the Frank Slide.

Our home away from home in Fernie was really nice. Each family had their own room and we had a private hot tub!

On our first full day, we woke up and got the kids ready to go skiing. My cousins went out to get lift tickets and replace some forgotten ski pants. When they came back they had some bad news - all the runs except the bunny hill were closed because of avalanches in the night. They consensus was that it was likely caused by the major earthquake in Japan. So, we took it in stride and headed out to the bunny hill. The kids were happy, regardless.

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I decided to look after my mini cousin who is a little too young to ski yet. I love hanging out with her, so it was a blast.... literally... When we got to the hill, they were sending helicopters up to the tops of the mountains and dropping explosions into the snow. This prevents avalanches while people are up there skiing. The loud noise did not thrill my little cousin. I tried to take her to watch her sisters ski but she was too preoccupied with the booms. We hung out for a bit in the ski chalet until she was more comfortable with it. Then we watched the explosions and resulting avalanches and she counted how many times they happened. We also built a snowman and had a snowball fight!

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The next day, we mostly hung out around the house, went for a walk, and got in a couple dips in the hot tub.

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"Monkey Shark" in the makeshift sled on our walk.

We had a fun time on our walk, throwing snowballs and towing the kids around in the snow.

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It was such a beautiful place to spend time with the people you love!

Posted by Kristy_pj 18:16 Archived in Canada Tagged mountains skiing british_columbia fernie Comments (0)

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