The wonderful thing about travelling through Eastern Canadian cities like Montreal, Quebec City and Halifax is that for fleeting moments you actually get a sense of what it might have been like for the early settlers in the Americas. The fresh, brisk, cool salt air (even in the summer), the creaky wooden docks, the solid brick homes with chimneys. The noisy, even boisterous, nightlife in rustic old settings. All of these things still are around in wonderfully relaxed and atmospheric old Canadian cities like Halifax.
I spent three weeks in the vicinity of Halifax while completing a required master’s program residency, but only really had the chance to explore the city and its immediate surroundings over the course of (barely) 3-4 days. The precious time I spent in the city were filled with friends and making little discoveries: I spent my second weekend in Nova Scotia (the first weekend I spent scoping out the Highland Games) at a new friend’s house about a half hour outside of Halifax, where three of us from the master’s program did homework by a quiet little lake, caught up on some shopping (two out of the three of us do not normally live near nice Canadian retail shopping centres!) and went to a movie (Nova Scotia movie theatres, I discovered, have awesome concessions: in addition to popcorn, you could get amazing ice cream, pretzels and even poutine, a culinary import from Quebec).
The following weekend, I was finished with my master’s residency so I travelled back to Halifax and finally met someone who I have known for a while but had never actually met in person, a very good Twitter friend who I met via my various commenting (and occasional guest posting) activities on another blog. We had been in regular contact for a while, especially after we had discovered we were both alumni from the same university in Canada. (I say this to make it sound like we are super intellectual internet fans, but in reality we met through a “fan” blog of a certain movie which will not be named, but plenty of you know what I am talking about here.)
We hit it off right away, and although our time together was relatively short we managed to have an amazing walk along the very foggy harbour front in Halifax. After eating (and, true to form, Tweeting about) our great dinner in the beautiful Cut Steakhouse (fresh sea scallops and a giant hamburger!), we admired the various sailboats and yachts anchored in the harbour (our favourite was a sleek sailboat that had apparently sailed all over Europe and North America and had a 208′ tall mast), the cool evening fog providing the perfect atmosphere. She convinced me (I was not hard to convince) to try a local (via Prince Edward Island) ice cream, Cows, and it was indeed some of the best ice cream I have had in a while, served in a freshly made waffle cone. The gift shop was as amusing as the ice cream was delicious, featuring items illustrated with cartoon cows and various ice cream-themed puns. If you go to Halifax or Prince Edward Island, look for Cows. (Or just follow the smell of freshly baked waffle cone.)
Later that night (I was a college student and as such, really did not get any sleep for three weeks,) I celebrated the completion of my master’s residency with three of my new friends: two of my classmates and one of the advisors of the program (who, and incidentally, also now visits this blog, so everyone say hello!) at a pub in the historic properties area of Halifax. The pub, situated in a massive old brick building and maintaining its liveliness until the wee hours, hosted a boisterous crowd on two levels, dancing to live music, and an outdoor terrace for more relaxed conversations amid the fog drifting in from the harbour. If patrons got bored of the endless locally brewed beers and ciders and Canadian-made whiskey, the Cows ice cream shop is, conveniently enough, located just next door.
The next morning, I was planning on spending an idyllic day visiting the huge farmer’s market on the pier and then wandering around along the harbour front and browsing through the shops in downtown on Barrington Street before leaving for the airport at 4pm to catch my flight to Toronto and on to Santiago. But, the fun and exotic thing about travel is that you can always expect the unexpected to happen, and in my case the unexpected was a tragedy in the form of my computer – yes, that machine that I utterly depend on for work, school, communication, blogging, social life, everything – completely stopped working. I grabbed an iced latte at 9:50 am and by 10 am was at the nearest Apple repair shop. I was informed that the situation looked dire and instructed to leave my computer at the shop. Knowing that it would be truly stupid to return to Latin America without a working computer (Macintosh computers are difficult to find and even more difficult on the wallet to purchase in many South American countries, thanks to tight import restrictions and high taxes), I made a quick decision and found an Apple retailer that was actually open on Saturday (no Halifax Apple store! And so few stores are open in Halifax on Saturday) and hightailed it over there.
Cue the moment I started to depend on the help and kindness of my new friends, who assisted with driving me around while I rushed to pick out a new computer. They had also been heading out to the farmer’s market before I interrupted them with my computer emergency, and they graciously gave up an hour of browsing at the market to help me sort out my dilemma. What’s more, they even bought me a coffee, which quite frankly was unfair; I was the one who owed all of them coffees. (Please, wave hello in the comments to them for me, too! After all, they are the reason I have a computer to write this blog post on now…)
If it weren’t for my MacBook failing, I could have spent the morning browsing through the farmer’s market or downtown shops, but to be quite honest I’ll probably have more poignant memories of the moments I spent picking out a new computer in Halifax with my friends.
That afternoon, I took a few minutes to just breathe by walking down to the harbour again and admiring the brilliant, cerulean blue water. The day was clear and hot (weather that I was told is not at all usual in Nova Scotia for many days in a row, but I enjoyed this kind of warm, summer weather there almost the entire three weeks). It was perfect weather for the Pride festivities that took over the city all afternoon. After a quick lunch (fish burger and sweet potato fries) I was content to stand outside of my hotel and watch the parade. I enjoyed the festive, positive atmosphere it brought to the city. It was fitting because over the past few weeks I’d developed a very positive feeling towards Nova Scotia in general. It was a wonderful travel experience and I sincerely hope to visit Halifax again someday, sooner rather than later! Besides, I think I owe a few people a coffee. And/or some Cow’s ice cream.