A Travellerspoint blog

By this Author: ka'la

Halifax Trip - Day 3

Halifax - Citadel, Whale Watching Tour

sunny 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.

IMG_3881.jpg

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.

IMG_3914.jpg

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.

IMG_3924.jpg

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.

Posted by ka'la 08:49 Archived in Canada Tagged boating Comments (0)

Halifax Trip - Day 2

Halifax - Point Pleasant Park, Public Gardens

sunny 23 °C

R and I sleep in a bit today, and after grabbing a late breakfast we end up heading up to Dartmouth to the Micmak mall to do a bit of shopping (he needs a hat, and I just want to see part of Dartmouth). Going over the bridge you get to go through a toll booth, and the view from the bridge itself of the water is just phenomenal. The sky on the trip has been flawless and great for photography. We arrive at the mall and do a bit of shopping (no hat for R, but two for me along with some new shoes) and ponder what to do since it's a Friday. We end up deciding to do Point Pleasant park, and actually to grab a picnic to take with us.

We stop at a Superstore and grab some salads, then come back to the apartment and make some tuna sandwiches, chop up some cantaloupe and the leftover cheese from the night before. We throw it all into a bag and hop in the car, heading down to the park. Now Point Pleasant is actually located in the rather ritzy neighbourhood where you find all the very expensive and architecturally breathtaking houses. R and I are both dorks for architecture so we thoroughly enjoy the trip out there. The park itself consists of a series of trails that, when taking in their full length, totals about 26 miles of walking/biking distance. We ended up walking along the entire outer perimeter, which probably was a good 5 or 6 miles. Maybe. My ability to gauge distances is pretty poor. We end up settling near the water and having our picnic while watching the boats going by, loaded up with their cargo. We bring too much food and save the salads for a snack later. Near where we picnic is the Halifax Memorial, which is a cross with the names of 3000 men and women in the army and navy who lost their lives at sea during WWI and WWII.

We walk along the shoreline, even though signs indicate to keep out there isn't anyone around to enforce it. A short distance after our rule breaking we find ruins of some buildings (that I still cannot google to figure out what they are) but that are beautiful in their own ugly kind of way. We hang around them and take a few shots before continuing down along the water, walking amongst the rocks. Should you decide to repeat this experience you will get great pictures, but just make sure to wear proper footwear.

IMG_3719.jpg

We head back up to solid land (and the path) and continue along the outer perimeter until we are near the loading docks. This is where we come across another memorial, but this time shaped like a giant anchor. This is known as the Canadian Peacetime Sailors Monument, and is again for those who have lost their lives at sea. We continue along the loading docks back to the main road and head up to the car. Halifax will forever be engraved in my mind as the city with the worst engineering ever for the amount of hills it has. While I am sure it had some strategic background to build a city in this location my thighs and calves loathe it. We decide to head back to the car and visit the Public Gardens, which is just downtown and with the sun starting to set should provide us with great pictures.

The Public Gardens is just as the name indicates, flowers and trees in a fenced in area. They do request you do not walk on the grass if not necessary and have quite a selection of trails for you to follow should that be your desire. Like my weakness for architecture I also have one for scenery and nature. Thus, flowers and trees are things I tend to find rather beautiful. We snap dozens of pictures in the gardens, and one of my favorite places to photograph is the pond that is in the center. The water has such a reflective sheen to it that I easily take 20 pictures of the pond alone.

IMG_3782.jpg

Also the park houses a gazebo and a few statues. R and I spend some time recreating the poses of the statues, which just don't seem entirely natural or authentic. On our way to the exit we come across a party taking their wedding photos. The actual outfits they were wearing amused us a bit because it seems like the theme of the wedding was 1930's gangster. They all had the fedoras and the suits from that era, and then the silver chains from the belt to the wallets in the back pockets. We contemplate the idea of taking pictures of our own, but decide not to in case they decide to kick our asses. Leaving the park we instead wander around downtown to take some pictures.

There is a 7 level parking garage downtown that provides you with a great height, but its security detail tends to follow you around to make sure you are justifiably there. We leave after we receive a hard time from one guy and end up in front of St. Paul's cathedral. The story with St Paul's is that one of the priests was apparently in a room staring out the window when an explosion occurred, pushing him into the window and killing him. If you look at the church from the north end of the building the third window from the left has a pane of glass in the upper right corner that looks slightly discolored and different from the rest. If you look closely, you can even make out the silouette of a man standing sideways. Whether intentionally designed like that or not, it's kind of spooky. Granted I thought if there was to be a haunted window the one immediately to its right would be more a better culprit since it looked like someone's face who was screaming very intently. Whatever the case, the cathedral takes some amazing pictures as the sun is going down.

IMG_3807.jpg

Headed back down to the waterfront and decided to stop in at a little pub on the water called _______. We sat on the patio and watched the boats as they went by and the bikers showing off their rides (a typical weekend affair at the Halifax waterfront I am told). R ends up getting a Keith's and the waitress at the pub recommends a Clancy's for me since I'm not a big beer person. It's actually an amber ale and isn't half bad. After having our drinks the sun is pretty much down so we walk along the water and take a few more pictures before heading up to get R2 at Pete's. We grab some groceries and stop in at the NSLC to pick up some vodka and, as a surprise purchase, some pink bubbly. We get ready and head out to a gay bar downtown known as Menz, which amuses me greatly since I am pretty sure I was the only straight person in the joint. We drink and dance and have fun. On the way there some guys in a ghetto car call out 'hey girl, you're looking tight!' which amuses me too much. We head back to the apartment and drink the pink bubbly, myself being totally drunk and out of my head for the second night in a row. I sleep very very well.

Posted by ka'la 07:26 Archived in Canada Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Halifax Trip - Day 1

Downtown Halifax, Nova Scotia

sunny 23 °C

Today I played it unsafe and arrived at the airport the recommended 90 minutes before take-off. Typically I arrive at least two hours early, but forces were against me and, in the end I would concede to their will. Because of this I only had 45 minutes in which to grab some breakfast and hop into line to board the plane. Flight itself was rather uneventful at only two hours, and on top of that I ended up falling asleep while watching a movie. So what should have felt like two hours really only felt like about 45 minutes.

One thing worth mention is that I was impressed by the Halifax airport, considering they only have one terminal I was expecting a very minimalist set-up similar to the Lihue airport. Quite the contrary; they have done extensive renovations and are still upgrading. It makes it look very modern and streamline. And honestly, the 45 minute drive from the airport to Halifax itself passed by relatively quickly.

After unloading my stuff R. and I decided to hit downtown today, grabbing some dinner while near the waterfront. We visited the harbourfront first, where there were various sailboats and ships out on the water. Docked along the shore there were even some tugboats and cruise ships. Across from the harbour you can see the St. George's Island Lighthouse, and also an oil rig. The latter of these actually surprised me since I didn't know they drilled in this area. If you look down at the rocks near the water's edge you can see you can see a black film on them. Yum. R. suggests I avoid going in the water here, unless I want to follow that up with an amputation later.

IMG_3645.jpg
Halifax Harbour

We continue down the waterfront and visit a few shops. One is called Rum Cake and specializes in (you guessed it), rum cakes. Various types in fact, and my curiosity is peaked, but not for the price they are asking. Next door is Sugar, which is a dentist's nightmare. Through the glass window near the ice cream counter you can actually see them making the candy they sell, and today there was a batch of peanut brittle cooling on the marble counter. I make a mental note to stop back for some candy before leaving for friends and family. Along the pier there is man playing bagpipes, and around this time we stop at Beaver Tails to have one of their signature products -- a beaver tail. This is a flakey pastry that is flat like a pizza and topped with icing, chocolate sauce, and skor bits. It promises to be messy and surely does not disappoint. Down the way a bit is a man playing bagpipes, and a short distance later there is a man playing the violin. It's like the local troubadours have stepped it up a notch over acoustic guitars. Also, I get my first glimpse of Theodore the Tugboat which is apparently a huge point in R.'s childhood memories. We stop by a booth to grab some pamphlets on whale watching tours (which are on R's list of things to do during my visit). We also see a booth for the Bluenose II, which is currently docked up the shore. Apparently it is near Peggy's Cove so we add it to the 'to do' list later during the weekend.

Heading back uptown we walk by various sights and storefronts. There are many gorgeous churches such as St. Michael's and St. Mary's, along with cemetaries like the Old Burying Grounds. I'm a huge fan of architecture so the fact that a large part of the downtown core still has original structures that have been maintained (or at least repaired while keeping their structural integrity and nostalgic appeal). Apparently this has to do with their heritage law which dictates that structures in certain areas are unable to be torn down and must be restored to their natural state. For someone like me, this is heaven.

IMG_3655.jpg
The Old Burying Grounds

While downtown we visited quite a few of the local merchants. I picked up some cute bangles at the Black Market, which specializes in something that I can only describe as 'hippie wear' at very affordable prices for most of their wares. We also end up stopping in at Freak Lunchbox, which is another candy store at the downtown core that sells a variety of retro candy as well as novelty items. A friend of mine is a freak for anything bacon, and at this store they carry bacon toothpicks, bacon gumballs, bacon mints, bacon .. well, lots of options. I pick up some of the gumballs for a friend of mine, and some candies for myself (out of their expansive collection of Jelly Belly flavours). Also I end up picking up a Domo Attack! energy drink, which turns out to be rather tasty.

R took me to what has to be the most expansive used bookstore I have ever seen. The building itself didn't look very large but the entire interior is bookshelves, floor to ceiling, crammed with a book in every available inch as well as stacked along the beams from the floor up the walls. Plus there is a second floor! He put a time limit on the visit there, which I reluctantly follow and thus leave with only one book (a copy of Lolita, which I have been searching through stores for over a year to find). We stop in a few other little boutiques to find him a hat, with no success.

We decide to stop in a Victor's to get some grub. The bar is located on the second floor of a mall, and sitting on the balcony provides you of a great view of downtown. It's a new place but has quite the boom of business because of their great deals. They offer $5 cocktails all day long, in which we both indulge in three apiece. Also, we arrive around 4:30pm which is just in time for half price appetizers. R gets the mussels, shrimp, and an artichoke spinach dip that is very yum. I end up ordering spinach triangles, the potato trio, and crab cakes (which I have never had before and found delicious). For drinks we had the Electric, the Anti-Freeze, the Purple Haze, the Mackay, and the Key Lime Pie. The Mackay was my favorite.

IMG_3671.jpg
Victor's drink menu.

After dodging bees and birds through dinner we paid the bill (a reasonable $28 each for three cocktails and three appetizers) and headed over to Pete's Frootique. There we picked up some cheese, crackers, and these massive radishes that are almost the size of my fist. The irony of the radishes is that we stopped at the seafood bar and I pointed out the jumbo scallops, stating "now those are impressive" since I have never seen any that large. The gentleman that worked there went on to show me these huge shrimp, and then told us that the biggest thing he had seen that day (insert bad porn joke here) were in fact these radishes that came in. And thus it became my goal to buy these radishes, and we did.

We grabbed a smoothie at Pete's with R's friend R, which actually makes very good smoothies. I ended up getting Jane's Love Potion which consisted of passion fruit, strawberries, orange, honey and yogurt. Very satisfying and very filling on top of all the food we just ate. We also decide to head back to the apartment, stopping along the way at one of the many NSLC stores we pass.

"You know how common Tim Horton's are in Ontario? Well that's liquor stores around here. For every Tim Horton's there is a NSLC. There are three within five minutes of my house.", says R. And it's true. It's mind boggling. But we stop at one and end up picking a bottle of pinot grigio and also a bottle of bubbly wine (aka cheap champagne). R does some work and then we watch a movie and pop open the bubbly, which is rather dry but carbonated so it makes it rather fun to drink. Later when R#2 arrives we open the wine and indulge in that bottle. We ponder more alcohol, but in the end decide to wait and just go out to a bar the next night. And then, we sleep.

Posted by ka'la 09:05 Archived in Canada Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Las Vegas To-Do

Point of reference to see what I did/what I should do when I go back someday.

- cirque du soleil
- Circus Circus carnival
- musical/opera (Phantom mayhaps?)
- burlesque shows
- shark reef at the mandalay
- treasure island battleship show!
- the volcano at the Mirage
- gondola ride at the Venetian

- stratosphere
- big shot at the stratosphere
- new york new york rollercoaster
- sahara rollercoaster
- zero gravity chamber
- eiffel tower
- bellagio fountains
- hoover dam
- grand canyon
- canyon hike
- fremont street - would like to do it again but at night this time
- play some blackjack
- meet an Elvis impersonator

  • bold indicating things I've done

Posted by ka'la 11:59 Archived in USA Tagged tourist_sites Comments (0)

Las Vegas Trip - Day 5

sunny 32 °C

Woke up early for once on the trip, but mainly due to checkout being early and having to prepare, pack, and get out. I take my last shower in the gorgeous marble shower (next to the separate tub!). All packed up we head out and go through the express checkout process, then check our bags with the concierge service.

My father had recommended that Bally's has some good restaurants, so we wander around and manage to find a restaurant that is -not- fast food and actually a sit-down place. So we come across The Sidewalk Cafe and end up getting a table pretty quickly there. The menu had a few things that looked good, but I ended up getting a dish that was supposed to be like breakfast enchilladas with hashbrowns and refried beans. Being of a mexican theme you'd assume it'd be kind of spicy, but instead it was actually rather bland. The price was reasonable but again, the quality just didn't seem to be there. No bite! Fail.

M decided to go play some slots and I headed back over to the Miracle Mile Shops at Planet Hollywood to kill the extra time, picking up some souvenirs for my family. I really wish we had ABC stores in Canada because they are awesome, lol. But other than that I end up stopping at the Roxy Quicksilver store, pick up a cute top, and then it's time to head back to the hotel and head to the airport. Meet back up with M, grab our bags, split a cab to the airport and voila.

Check-in was pretty non-eventful and I spent my free time at the airport writing up all these precious memories in my notebook. On the plane I somehow end up in the one windowseat on the entire plane that a vacant seat between myself and the aisle passenger. Who seemed to be a very nice man who loved his baby daughter very much, judging by all the stuff he bought her. I end up napping for a brief while on the flight, then spend the remainder reading a book until we land in Toronto. As I said, the entire proccess was pretty stress-free and uneventful.

Overall, great trip if you don't count the drama.

Posted by ka'la 22:00 Archived in USA Tagged air_travel Comments (0)

(Entries 1 - 5 of 17) Page [1] 2 3 4 »