Thursday, September 6, 2018

We Went to Canada and Saw Halifax!

Here's what we've done on our trip so far:

Here's our first stop at Steamtown National Historic Site.

After leaving Fundy National Park, we drove to Halifax, Nova Scotia!

I'd been looking forward to our accommodations in Halifax, because I'd booked us a three-bed room in a dormitory in St. Mary's University. It would be the kids' first time staying in a university dorm, and eating breakfast in a university dorm cafeteria--how fun!

What I didn't realize, however, until I unlocked the door to our room, is that I hadn't actually booked us a three-bed room. I'd booked us a THREE-BEDROOM APARTMENT! We had a wee, but full kitchen. We had a full bathroom. We each had our own bedroom! Mine looked out onto the football field, where team practices had apparently already commenced:

We were all absolutely thrilled. By this time, we'd been living in each other's pockets for nearly a week, and the thought of spending the evening each of us all alone in her own room?

Oh, my gosh. Just... bliss.

But first, we needed groceries, and we finally had a decent-sized city to buy them in! Just so you're aware, grocery shopping in a foreign city is one of my favorite tourist activities, and the kids have caught onto that just fine. We all three of us adore wandering around an unfamiliar grocery store, picking out unfamiliar foods with fun packaging, and nomming it down. Will, in particular, was on a mission to spy the VERY Canadian Milk in a Bag.

We did spy that milk, although we did not buy it--this time. We did buy juice, and fruit, and sandwich stuff, and Whippets, and a different brand of All-Dressed potato chips that was NOT as good as Ridgies, and frozen pizza, and I absolutely thrilled a liquor store clerk when I asked him if Nova Scotia has any local hard ciders.

DOES it?!?

Friends, it DOES.

And after only one incident in which I thought we had a flat tire but it turned out that Will had actually just managed to close her door onto an entire tree branch (?!?), and another incident in which Syd thought she'd locked herself out of her room but I'd showed her that she hadn't, so she then proceeded to immediately ACTUALLY lock herself out of her room as some sort of misguided science experiment (!!!), I am not ashamed to tell you that we each settled down into her respective private bedroom with frozen pizza and her own respective screen (props to the quality of university wi-fi!), and proceeded to completely ignore each other for the rest of the night.

It was exactly what we needed.

I  am a firm believer in early rising on vacations if you want to see stuff before it's crowded, and the kids are now believers, too, because WE got to the Paleo station in the dorm cafeteria when it was empty, but by the time we were ready for seconds the line for that station stretched out the door. There were probably people STILL in line for their eggs and sausage by the time I'd found my way to downtown Halifax, the kids had helped me score a free parking spot (that's what you get for reading all the signs really carefully!), and we'd walked the waterfront to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic:

This is Merlin. He has his own webcam!

There was stuff about pirates, which was awesome--

--and a movie about right whales, which advertised itself as "family friendly" and "a message of hope" but was actually deeply upsetting and we all came out of it staring at each other with big eyes, like, "Umm, were you also traumatized by the devastating human impact on the right whale community?"

The movie was the story of Calvin, though, and you really should know it. Just be prepared to be upset for about a month afterwards.

This is the set of Theodore Tugboat:

You guys, I am 100% sure that I watched this show as a kid!

The kids and I had JUST been talking about birchbark canoes--you know, as you do--so it was perfect timing to see this one on exhibit:

I knew nothing about the Halifax Explosion before we came to this museum, other than that it was a thing. But man, the Halifax Explosion! How horrible and terrifying and heartbreaking!

But here, although I don't have many photos of it, is the reason why I wanted to visit the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic:

That's a remnant of the Titanic. After the Titanic sank, survivors were sent to New York City, but bodies came to Halifax. The rescue crews also brought along other pieces of the ship and its belongings, and what wasn't returned to living relatives, buried in the local cemetery, or taken by private individuals, has remained, and some of it is displayed in the museum.

The gallery takes an extensive look at the lives of all three classes of passenger, as well as the crew, and details the recovery efforts and how artifacts were preserved and, as with this deck chair fashioned using that above wicker remnant as a model, occasionally recreated:

The lighting in the museum was not great, so here are just a few photos of artifacts:

Rest assured, however, that I obsessively pored over the exhibit and in my head I have models of the lifeboats and the sunken bow of the ship, diagrams of where each class of passenger slept and took their exercise, maps of where the ship sank and where the other nearest ships were at the time, telegrams and newspaper articles, wreckwood, a medicine cabinet, and a heartbreakingly small pair of shoes.

There were other exhibits of other artifacts recovered from other sunken ships--

--and a billion more things to look at, but Syd got bored and restless and needed tending to, so I bought her a sweatshirt and took her back to talk to Merlin:

At one point I went to look for Will, and found her on the second floor, reading all about archaeological excavation of a shipwreck. I told her to take her time, but that her sister was finished looking around, and she responded, kind of frantically, "I don't know why I have to read every sign, but I do!"

That's cool, Kid. Read every sign, and afterward I'll buy you a sweatshirt, too, and take you both back to the waterfront:

There was playground play by my two toddlers-at-heart--

And then we sampled that Canadian dish known as poutine:

It didn't sound appetizing to me--French fries covered in brown gravy and cheese curds--

--but we gave it a shot: 

We all agreed that we probably don't need to taste poutine again...

We actually left Halifax after this for Kejimkujik National Park, but we were back the next evening, and with a couple of hours to kill, I took the kids back to the waterfront (I mean, that free parking lot!!!), bought them some ice cream, and we sat quietly by Halifax Harbor while they ate. And then one kid cried out, and then the other one joined her, and then I saw them, too:

Seals, playing in the harbor:

Other tourists came and went, noticed them or didn't, but we sat and watched them quietly for more than an hour, until they finally swam away and I took my two to our hotel, where we could swim, too.

No comments: