Halifax - Citadel, Whale Watching Tour
05.09.2009 - 05.09.2009 25 °C
Woke up today to the sound of someone playing 'O Canada' on the piano -- R was teaching a music lesson in the next room in french. It always amuses me to hear my friends speak in french when I am so accustomed to them doing so in English. Once the lesson ends I roll out of bed and we ponder what to do that day, settling on visiting the citadel and catching a whale watching tour later that day.
It's no big surprise to me that the citadel is built on a huge hill because what in the town of Halifax does not require extreme mountain climbing skills? As we make our way to the top of the steps I find myself out of breath already, and it's only the start of the day. As we pay our admission fee we catch the changing of the guard. Oh boys in kilts, it never ceases to amuse me. We wander across the bridge and into the citadel itself and I am surprised by how massive it is. It's plainly obvious that they have worked hard to restore it to its natural appearance, and the effort seems worth the work they put into it. As we enter the courtyard there is an announcement that the tour will start in 15 minutes. R suggests we do the tour, so we take a few photos to kill some time and then show up a few minutes before it begins. At the end of the tour, R admitted that the english one was much better than the french one.
The citadel has a lot of history to it and Mr. Adams, the tour guide, is a wealth of information and claims to do ‘research’ on a very frequent basis. We start out by visiting the soldiers quarters, which are set up with 12 men per room. He indicates that all the soldiers own can essentially fit on the one bed (socks, coat, shoes, grooming kid, portable pillow and mattress) and that all of these things have to fit into one little bag that they are expected to carry around on their back at all times. Because of the amount of items being carried this makes for quite the heavy bag, especially if a term of service lasts about 2 years. He also goes to show us the hat, pointing it at me and asking ‘what type of feathers do you think these are?’. I laugh and step back, explaining my allergy to feathers and he lets me off the hook. The correct answer is that the hat is actually made from ostrich and vulture feathers. Yum. Another useful tidbit is that originally a married man would bring his wife with him while on duty, and she would have to share the very tiny bed with him. Should they have children then they would also be forced to share the bed or sleep on the floor around it. Only in later years did they end up housing married couples outside of the citadel in local homes, and that had more to do with the fact that a lot of soldiers would have ‘wives’ in each port, and then these ‘wives’ could be of ‘service’ to others soldiers for funds, funds that the ‘husband’ would use to buy provisions for himself. Essentially, they would prostitute out their women for new socks and apples.
From there we moved on to the storage area for the ammunition. This consisted of the gunpowder used for the cannons which would be stored in wooden barrels weighing 100 lbs each. Soldiers were not allowed to wear any metal into the room, nor bring any form of light (aka torch) with them, relying solely on the one window in the room to provide enough illumination. Their task in this room was to move the barrels from one side of the room to the others all day, rolling them across the floor in order to keep the powder from clumping. Having minimal daylight this task would probably be quite challenging, but doing it during the night would be tiresome. Another interesting note made by Mr. Adams is that the room is built with very thick walls, but a very thin ceiling. The logic behind this is that should an explosion occur it would funnel it upwards instead of outwards and into the camp. Smart cookies.
This was followed up with a tour of the schoolroom, in which both the soldiers and their children would get educated. It’s amazing to look back and see how primitive the whole thing was in a way when there was no technology present. In fact the main source of entertainment was a projection system that relied on lamplight to show pictures or texts that were the ‘reward’ for students should they do well in their lessons that day. The tour ends with a visit up onto the wall, where Mr. Adams advises us to stay away from the grassy ledge since the drop down from there is 40 meters and would likely kill us. The view from the outer wall really is spectacular of the harbour. He shows us how they would communicate in the old days by use of flags on high posts, the color indicating the message being relayed to others. He also tells us of how american and german armies did examine the citadel for weaknesses, but never actually attacked it, proving the high level of security that it possessed. Granted, having to run up a steep hill and then jump down into a massive trench around the fortress that is 40 meters below the inner wall … well yes, that would discourage me also. One of the interesting things is that they have tried their best to restore it to its natural state, and this has been to the tune of 4 million dollars thus far. A high price to pay, but worth the money imho.
R and I leave the citadel and decide to head downtown to kill some time before our whale watching cruise. One of the items on my list was to have fish on the ocean, so we find a little booth called Captain’s Catch that sells delicious smelling fish and chips for a reasonable price. We each get the two piece combo and find ourselves stuffed full by the end of it without finishing all our food. Though I am trying to get myself into the habit of eating fish more often I find myself somewhat lacking in the palate for it at times. It’s greasy, but so fresh tasting and delicious, mmmm. We clean up and head over to hop onto our boat.
There are a few local outfitters and we chose Murphy’s as our carrier. The prior tour arrives while we wait and the crew indicates they had been seeing whales that day. This excites us a bit since R has never seen whales. We board the boat and settle into our seats, but quickly end up choosing to stand and snap some gorgeous pictures instead of remaining seated. The boat cruise is about 2.5 hrs in length and goes out to the end of the harbour near Halifax. Also, along with the whale watching and such they do a presentation on lobster fishing, so they pull up a trap and pull out some of the captured aquatic life (along with lobsters there are fish and crabs). They do a good job of educating you on the differences between males and females, and how to handle lobsters without losing a finger.
We don’t end up seeing any whales unfortunately, but we do see some great views of the city and landmarks, two lighthouses, a couple of seals and some jellyfish. It felt a little disappointing compared to the tour I did in Kauai where we saw some whales and some dolphins, but at the same time the price for this one (very affordable at $35 per person) was significantly less than the one out west at $130 USD per person. Returning to the harbour you get an amazing nighttime view that takes my breath away. I could learn to love this place.
After the boat tour we both find ourselves exhausted and decide to head back to the apartment. We have a few drinks and watch a movie, then crash for the night since the next day will be an earlier one.