Friday, November 29, 2019

Ending Up Our Nova Scotian Adventure

We've got one more full day in Halifax before it's time to head home. Let's head out into the city and pick up a few last sights before we leave...

Fairview Lawn Cemetery is a bit out of our comfortable walking distance so we take the number 21 bus from the waterfront. It's about a 20 minute ride on the fully accessible bus and we're let off about a block from the front gate.

Watch the Video!

In April of 1912, the Titanic went down about 700 miles out to sea from Halifax. The city was the closest to the accident site with the means necessary to mount a rescue and recovery effort. Much of what had to be done was to recover bodies from the icy seas.

The White Star company offered to pay burial expenses for the victims on the condition that they be buried in Halifax and with a modest headstone. Anything beyond that would be at the expense of the survivors. 121 are buried here at Fairview Lawn, 10 are buried next door at the Baron de Hirsch Jewish Cemetery, and 19 are interred at Mt. Olivet Catholic Cemetery.

Signs at the gate point the way to the plot in the back of the grounds where the Titanic victims are buried. It's about a quarter mile walk from the front gate.

We browse the head stones, most are the company-provided basic version while a few are a bit more elaborate, and try to imagine the stories behind each one. Some are still unidentified.

The one that is most poignant is a baby who could not be identified. At least at first...more recent DNA testing has revealed the baby to be Sidney Goodwin. An updated tombstone sits at the base of the 'unknown' one while someone has provided a photo of baby Sidney. Many people leave toys and coins for Sidney on his monument.

Many trees in the park are toppled from Hurricane Dorian's visit a couple of days ago. That day, we hunkered in our hotel room to wait it out. The power in and around the cemetery is still out days later.

Moving on from the cemetery, we walk past the Public Gardens. It has been closed since the storm and would remain that way for the duration of our trip. We never got to go inside.

A few blocks away, we visit one of the city's oldest buildings, St. Paul's Church which dates to the city's founding in 1749. Inside are plenty of artifacts covering the almost three centuries since such as the Royal Pew for the Queen or King, the old pipe organ, and even a few Titanic artifacts.

A couple of different things, though, date back to the Halifax Explosion of 1917. When a French explosives ship collided with a Norwegian ship on December 6th, the resulting cataclysm was the largest man-made explosion the world has ever seen until nuclear weapons came along.

Outside, you can see what looks like a silhouette in one of the windows. There are a few stories about what happened, the most morbid is that a head flew through the window from the explosion and all attempts to remove the shadow that remained have failed and a ghostly apparition remains.

The docent, however, sets us strait. The window broke in the explosion, the resulting damage looked like a silhouette, and that had a resemblance to the pastor of the church so they put two panes of glass on either side to preserve it.

Another is in the entrance. When you look up, you'll see a metal bar embedded in the wall. This was blown from the explosion over a mile and a half away and has been sticking out of the plaster ever since. 

Just up the street is St. Mary's Cathedral. This Catholic church is about two centuries old, has plenty of beautiful artwork inside, and makes for a very handy, accessible bathroom stop.

Back down by St. Paul's Church is the Old Burying Ground. This cemetery is so old that it filled to capacity in 1844 so it closed before most of Canada's major cities were even founded.

About 1,200 headstones are hear although there's more than ten times that number of bodies rotting in the ground. The grave of Robert Ross is here, who burned Washington D.C. and the White House during the War of 1812.

On the other side of St. Paul's is the Five Fishermen restaurant. This is curious because in 1912 it was a mortuary. The dining room upstairs was used to embalm bodies from the Titanic.

Caskets of Titanic victims stacked up outside of what is now the Five Fishermen restaurant

It's supposed to be a good restaurant and we wanted to eat there but, alas, it's not wheelchair friendly.

Now, it's back to the waterfront. 

Back at the Maritime Museum, we see the HMCS Sackville docked outside. This historic ship, a submarine hunting Corvette, had a legendary career attacking U-Boats in World War I. 

It also served in World War II and the Korean conflict.

Today, self guided tours are available for free. I go onboard and shoot the video you can watch below.

Watch the Video!

Unfortunately, the Sackville is tight, full of steps, stairs, ladders and other obstacles so wheelchairs would not be able to go onboard.

We've got one more stop on our sightseeing tour. Maud Lewis is a famous Canadian artist (you can pose inside a frame of her recreated artwork on the waterfront, above). She was disabled and lived with her husband in poverty in a shack in Marshalltown on the bay side of Nova Scotia. 

She sold her works to travellers out of her home and became a renowned artist.

Her shack, which she painted from top to bottom, inside and out, has been relocated to a gallery specifically built for it at the Art Gallery of Nova Scotia.

We go to take a look, admiring her artwork hanging on the walls.

Here's Tim next to the door of her house, on display in the gallery.

With that, we've seen everything we want to see and will head back to the hotel to rest up for the trip home.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2019 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, November 25, 2019

In Search of the Official Halifax Food: The Donair

We get to Halifax and everyone is saying, you have to try a donair. Our friends, who have been here before us, tell us you have to try a donair. It's so ubiquitous to Halifax that it is the city's official food.

On one of our first days here, we tried a 'donair sandwich' at a local restaurant, but I had my doubts as to how authentic it was.

One thing we needed to do was to search out an authentic donair and try it before we go.

As you can see from the picture at the top, it looks like something you'd find on a street in the Middle East. So how did this Mediterranean style food find it's way into the hearts of Haligonians?

Peter Gamoulakos, a Greek immigrant with a pizza parlor in nearby Bedford started selling doner kebabs. It wasn't quite to the taste of the locals so he started experimenting with the recipe, toning down some of the more pronounced Greek savoriness and spice.

The locals pronounced it 'donair' and the new recipe caught on.

In 1973, Gamoulakos opened the "King of Donair" restaurant on Quinpool Road in Halifax. It was a success and soon spawned a chain and imitators. In 2015, it was named the city's official food.

We're headed to the original restaurant. Mainly because we want an authentic experience and it's also in a part of the city where the power has been restored after the hurricane. Many neighborhoods here are still in the dark.

It's a long walk from our hotel, at least a couple of miles, but walking is what we do when traveling. It builds up a good appetite.

Upon arrival, we find a table and peruse our options. We decide to go with the original, classic donair.

They're big enough that we get a large sandwich cut three ways so we can all have our own.

I'd watched the cook slice the meat off of the spit and wrap it in the sauce, tomatoes, and onions.

I dig in and take a big bite expecting a tasty, savory bite...not unlike a good gyro...and - what's this? - it's sweet! I was not expecting that.

So, imagine a gyro with a bit of frosting like you get on a cinnamon roll in the sauce, and you get an idea of what the donair tastes like.

It's good, if you know what to expect, but not quite my cup of tea.

We finish it and now we can be satisfied that we haven't missed anything.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2019 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, November 24, 2019


It's Blooper Reel week here on The Cocktail Hour!  Not really, but you will see a major prop malfunction in the video below (what happens when whipped cream isn't whipped?  Find out below).

It's getting colder now and we're going to go with a hot drink.  Cold means 58 degrees mid-afternoon here in Southern California, but it's also very windy today and we need something hot if we're going to sit out on the patio.

Watch the Video!

Today, it's the Cafe de Playa, which means beach coffee in Spanish.  If you're on a cold beach this winter (which can be very fun...if you have a nice fire to sit by), this is what you need to take the chill off.  I modified this recipe from the Cafe Platino recipe on the Jose Cuervo site, and mashed it up with Giada de Laurentis' spice coffee recipe.

It came out good.  Letty liked it a little better when she added half a shot of amaretto to it which also adds 42 calories to the total.  Here's the is it's 120 calories.  Add 42 more if you use the amaretto:

1.5 oz. - - tequila
1/2 oz. - simple syrup (can substitute sweetener to eliminate more calories)
1 cup - coffee
reddi whip or whipped cream (1 tbls)
dash of ginger
dash of nutmeg
dash of cinnamon powder

Put ginger and nutmeg in coffee cup.  Add tequila and simple syrup.  Pour in coffee and stir. Put whipped cream on top.  Sprinkle with cinnamon.



Friday, November 22, 2019

Seeing a Giant Tide and Ending Up on the Bottom of the Ocean - Bay of Fundy, Nova Scotia

Time for another Nova Scotian road trip. My dad would regale me with tales of the world's highest tide when I was a kid. It was something he always wanted to see and told my about this magical place with the world's highest tides...up to 50 feet!

Watch the Video!

When he explained it, it sounded like a giant tidal wave would come in each day..."you can actually see the wave come in," he'd tell me. I was always entranced by this but never thought I'd get there. Well, you can see where this is going. Now that we're in Halifax it's only about an hour by car to the Bay of Fundy and the Fundy Discovery Site where you can watch this very tidal action take place and watch the wave, the wave my dad always talked about, come in.

In reality, the "wave"...or the tidal bore, to be technically only 1 to 3 feet tall but it is still something amazing to see.

Gray clouds are threatening as we leave Halifax towards Truro on the other side of the province. There will be rain but this will just be a normal, late summer precipitation, not the hurricane that came in a couple of days ago.

We dress appropriately and bring our raincoats and hats along.

It's a very easy drive, if a bit wet. We had checked the tide table before we left and the tide was scheduled to come in at 11:56am. We arrived, parked, and turned off the engine. It was 11:36.

With just enough time to get Tim out of the car and into his chair, we make our way over to the viewing area, a couple of hundred yards away.

There are about 40 to 50 people here for the same reason. We find a couple of chairs on the bank of the channel and then wait. It's raining so it's not the most comfortable wait but it shouldn't be too long.

The tide's a bit late. 11:56 comes and goes with nothing. Then, about ten minutes later, a flock of seagulls sitting on the ground of the estuary suddenly take flight and a shout of "here it comes!" from the visitor center behind us tell us to be on alert.

The estuary is on a curve so we look down to the bend and there it is...the magnificent, one foot tall tidal bore. Yes, it looks a bit like a large ripple but there it is (you can see it very well in our video).

It comes by and past us. The water keeps rushing in afterward like a rushing river. Soon, the water has risen about 6 feet. We stay for about a half hour before we decide to leave and look for some lunch.

One of the best restaurants in Nova Scotia is about a 30 minute drive down the bay. The Flying Apron comes highly recommended but I call just to make sure..."we just go our power back this morning so we're not going to open until tomorrow."

Scratch that on the list of Dorian related vacation casualties. Now, it'll just be a scenic drive along the bay and then back to our plan B restaurant close to the Halifax Airport.

Awhile later, we're in the town of Noel where I stop to get gas. Full serve out here in the boondocks at similar prices to what we pay in California. At the edge of town on the edge of the bay, we have to make a stop at Burntcoat Head Park. It's here where you can really see the effects of the massive tide here.

Tim's not interested in getting out of the car in the rain and the park's really not accessible anyway. He waits and listens to music while Letty and I take a short walk.

The tide's gone back out now so we walk down some stairs and soon we're walking along the bottom of the ocean, about 30 feet below the high tide line.

Nearby is a mushroom looking tower of red rock that is under water when the tide is in with a forest of trees on top. When the tide comes in, it's a small island offshore.

We spend a few minutes wandering around the seabed and then we meet back up with Tim for the drive back to Halifax.

Along the way, we stop by Oliver's Gastropub...located at the Inn on the Lake near Wellington...for a delicious lunch in a very cozy, warm atmosphere.

It'll do us nicely as we get back to our hotel and relax for the rest of the night.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2019 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, November 18, 2019

Day Trippin' on the Day After

After burning a day of doing nothing but sitting in our hotel room yesterday, courtesy of Hurricane Dorian, we're back at again today. Looking at the weather, you'd never know a big storm blew through the day before but looking on the ground, there's a lot of evidence looking at all the dark shops and torn out trees.

Still, it's a beautiful sunny day and there's really nothing to do in our neighborhood. Let's take a drive.

Letty wants to see a quaint Atlantic fishing village. Her pick is Lunenburg, about a two hour drive out of Halifax. I'm wanting to go a little closer to Peggy's Cove, about half that distance.

Of course, we're going to Lunenburg.

The signals are all out in Halifax so it's a bit slow going until we get to the freeway, then it's a quick cruise. Tim has a loose bolt on his wheelchair and the toolkit we carry along with us doesn't have the right wrench for it so I swing off halfway down to stop at a hardware store.

Of course, it's closed because there is no power. I'm thinking this is going to be a quick trip to Lunenburg if there's no power there.

Hurricane Dorian actually made landfall a bit north of Lunenburg, sparing it the full force of the storm. Still, we pass plenty of downed trees. Some block over half of the road with no emergency personnel or signs of any kind. We can see where this might be a problem if traffic will be coming in both directions.

We also see dozens of dead porcupines on the roads. We don't know if this is a regular thing in Nova Scotia or maybe storm related.

Exiting at highway 3, we wind through Mader's Cove...another postcard perfect Atlantic village...where we see a huge, uprooted tree laying across someone's house. Eventually, we end up in Lunenburg where we find a nice, handicapped parking spot right in the middle of downtown.

It's a hilly little town and we climb up to the top of the hill on King Street from which we can wander downhill through the shops and restaurants on the way to the waterfront.

About half of the businesses here are still without power but enough is open so it doesn't feel like a wasted trip.

A friend of ours recommended we stop by Ironworks Distillery at the end of town. We walk over and, even though they have power and a few people are inside, they're taking the opportunity of the storm to have a day off and are closed to the public.

We continue to the waterfront, take in the views, and talk to a few shop owners.  A cemetery at the other end of town makes a good spot to look at the gravestones and take a few pictures.

Here's one where a tree grows through two tombstones.

Finishing the day with a forgettable lunch at Big Red's, we stop at a hardware store on the way out of town that and with power to get the wrench we needed for Tim's chair.

It's a slow, scenic drive along the coast on the way back as we decided to drive through Peggy's Cove to see what's there.

It's much smaller than Lunenburg but with about twice as many tourists milling about. There's an almost full parking lot at the famous lighthouse perched on big rocks that make for a stunning picture.

We cannot find an accessible spot but park in a normal parking spot while Letty goes out to take pictures.

While there is a tiny, picturesque fishing village here, there's not much else to recommend trying to navigate the area with a wheelchair so we continue on and back to Halifax.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2019 - All Rights Reserved

Some photos by Letty Musick
Copyright 2019 - All Rights Reserved

Sunday, November 17, 2019

The Cocktail Hour: Halifax Pub Crawl

We were told that Halifax has more pubs per one thousand people than any other city in Canada. I guess we should try a few while we're here.

Let's start with the 2 Crows Brewery, which is right next door to our hotel. Beers a bit overhoppy for us but it's fun to go next door with a couple of beers and throw axes at the wall at Halimac.

Watch the Video!

Another stop we enjoyed better was the Stubborn Goat Beer Garden, on Halifax's waterfront. This is a nice place with good beer to enjoy the activities on the water when the weather is nice although I'd call it more of a patio than a beer garden.

Onto actual pubs that we visited, we start off with the Split Crow Pub which sits at the entrance to a small pedestrian mall on Granville Street at the north end of downtown. It's a bit tight inside with the wheelchair so we sit in the small patio out front.

It's happy hour so we take advantage to get cheap glasses of Molson Canadian and Garrison Red along with Letty's wine. I like the red, Tim likes the Canadian.

Up the hill across from the Citadel is the Halifax Ale House. It's an ancient looking bar but it's only been in business since the 1960's. The building is indeed old (1893) but it used to be a church for the Salvation Army.

Keith's Red is my pour while Letty gets a giant mug of Hoegaarden and Tim goes with a Leffe blonde. We each think our selection is the best.

Next, we'll pop back down to the waterfront and visit Halifax Distilling Company. On our outing to Lundenburg, we missed out on the rum distillery there because of Hurricane Dorian related issues (basically the staff used it as an excuse to take an extra day off). Luckily, there's a good rum maker right here in downtown Halifax.

We taste a selection of their rums going from light to dark and including spiced varieties. It's all good and we take a bottle of the black and another of their chocolate rum to take home.

Next it's up to the lively climes of Argyle Street and Durty Nelly's which has a nifty side entrance for wheelchairs to avoid the old steps built into the main door. It's another Keith's Red for me and wine for Letty. Tim's going back to Coke at this point.

We're finishing up down the block at The Pint Pub, a much larger facility that includes a rooftop patio (that's not wheelchair accessible, unfortunately). We finish with a forgettable Olan lager, Fireball and Captain Morgan shots.

That's it from our drinking tour in one of Canada's most pub friendly cities. 

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2019 - All Rights Reserved

Friday, November 15, 2019

Dastardly Dorian Dumps on Halifax

We've had marvelous weather in Nova Scotia since the fog of the first day lifted. Daytime highs of around 70 degrees, sunny, with a slight breeze. That's about to change.

Just before we left, Hurricane Dorian pummeled and devastated the Bahamas on its course through the Caribbean. As of this writing, 58 people have been killed, more than 600 are still missing, and some endangered the Bahamas nuthatch...are now believed to be extinct after the storm.

Dorian left the Caribbean, headed out to sea, and is now headed north. Looking at the track on the weather map, we can see a dot right smack in the middle of the storm's path...the next landfall will be Halifax.

We are going to experience our first hurricane.

Walking along the waterfront, we see changes. The floating pedestrian bridge is gone, it's been stowed away for the storm. A parade of Navy ships are headed out of the harbor from the big base here. They're headed to safer waters for the duration. Cranes are being lowered. The ferries have stopped running. Waterfront restaurants are boarding up their windows and, in our hotel, dozens of cots have been set out in the conference room to accommodate employees who can't go home and stranded guests who can't leave.

It's Saturday morning. On the news, the storm is expected to make landfall sometime in the afternoon. We head to a nearby convenience store to load up on snacks and drinks to hold us over until the storm passes. We each get a microwavable dinner from the hotel's lobby shop to have some nutrition to go with it.

Then, we get comfortable in the room. We're hunkering down, waiting for the storm, and will not be leaving the hotel until it's gone.

A consideration for us is that our room is on the 10th floor. We visit with the manager to see if we need to be concerned. We're told that all should be well, the hotel (Homewood Suites) has plenty of backup generator power and the elevators will still be running in the case that the local power goes out.

Now we long as the cable TV, lights, and internet hold out, we'll be good. Hopefully, the large windows will remain intact as well.

Mid afternoon, the rain starts. Not long after that the wind kicks up. Soon, we also have snow that is blowing sideways. The snow doesn't last long and then the rain comes in sheets with 80-90 mile per hour sustained winds.

Hurricane Dorian has arrived. A category 1 storm, just enough to be a hurricane, but not the category 5 that hit the Caribbean, thank God.

The windows shake...even the building shakes with the buffeting of the winds. I make a quick trip to the lobby just to take a little video of the storm for posterity. No way I'm going beyond the front door.

Back upstairs, now and again, the internet and cable go out. Just for a few minutes at a time. The lights flicker now and again but no sustained power interruptions. If you're our friends on Facebook, we apologize for all the silly posts...mainly, we were bored.

We're lucky...the neighborhood around us is lights out and the area to the east of us would not see a flicker of electricity for three more days.

By 10 o'clock that night, the winds have died down and now it's just a steady rain.

Halifax was very one died, no major injuries. A crane toppled onto an empty apartment building under construction, hundreds of trees were taken out, windows broken, and hundreds of thousands of Nova Scotians were without power for several days. Minor inconveniences in the big scheme of things.

Some things we planned to do will either have to be modified or scrubbed but now it's time to count our blessings and continue our trip.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2019 - All Rights Reserved

Monday, November 11, 2019

Splish Splash and Cannon Blasts - Forts and Cruising in Halifax, Nova Scotia

Fully rested up, we're ready to start exploring a little deeper into Halifax.  After breakfast and getting ready, the phone rings. It's the Harbour Hopper tour office telling us we will not be able to do the 1:30pm tour we booked because the accessible vehicle will not be ready until 2:30pm. Would we mind waiting an hour?

Watch the Video!

No, we're good. Actually, this is great because it gives us a litte more time to explore what would become my favorite attraction here, the Halifax Citadel.

This is where the English part of the city was founded back in 1749. A heavily fortified hill that was the North American military backbone of the English Empire. It also just happens to be right across the street from our hotel.

It may be just across the way but it's still up a steep and big hill. We have to track up five blocks, feeling every step in our glutes, to get the accessible route up to the entrance. Tim has a power chair so it's no big deal for him.

We buy our tickets and pose with the guard.

Over the moat and into the cobblestoned entrance, it's another photo opportunity with the guards but this time, they can break the pose and smile with you.

Inside, there's a large parade ground covered with hard packed gravel. It's not a problem for most chairs. There are some deeper, softer spots around the edges that you should take care to avoid.

Built into the wall, there's a museum of British and Canadian military history that winds you through several rooms.

It's interesting, especially as an American seeing things explained through the British side of things when you get to the period of the Revolutionary War.

Tim's am what sounds like a cannon going off repeatedly. Actually, it's a musket demonstration going on over in another corner of the fort. I amble over, too late to take pictures, but here a very interesting spiel about why the armies of the day marched in attack lines, hundreds of soldiers wide, as opposed to taking cover.

In short, it's because the soldiers were nervous, the guns smooth-bore, and they figured with everybody shooting at once, there was a good chance that someone would hit something, even if a lot of shots went wild.

Over in the barracks building, a docent tells us the fascinating story of everyday lives of the soldiers.

Here, he demonstrates some of the games the soldiers would play to pass time in the barracks.

I must say that the docents here at the Citadel are among the best we've ever encountered in our travels. They were very knowledgeable, engaging, and made the history come alive. We enjoyed our visit to the Citadel a lot more than we thought we would.

At noon, another crew fires off a cannon over the wall that was to alert the ships and citizens of the town so they could set their clocks.

At this loud point in the action, we take our leave of this fascinating old fort that also has an elevator so that wheelchairs can access the path around the top of the ramparts.

It's about four blocks down the rather steep hill to the city's waterfront. This afternoon, we need to be there for our next adventure. We're going on the Halifax Harbour Hopper tour. This is like the Duck tours you have in cities like Boston but up here they're named after a frog instead of a waterfowl.

An old army surplus amphibious vehicle is used so that after tooling around the city streets for the first half of the tour, the truck turns into a boat and floats in the water for the second half.

You need to book the wheelchair accessible vehicle at least a day ahead of time. We stopped by the office yesterday to do just that.

At the appointed time, the vehicle pulls up and a manual, hand-cranked, wheelchair lift is deployed to get Tim onboard.

Once he's in, and strapped down, we're off.

First stop is a couple of loops around the Citadel, where we'd just come from, so we got a bit of a rerun.

Then, it's off to the streets where we see some old cemeteries and the large park known as Halifax Common.

It's through the shopping district and then by St. Paul's Church, the oldest building in Halifax dating back to 1749.

It's off to the casino where a ramp hidden alongside allows us to splash into the water.

It's a slow cruise along the waterfront, an area we've been exploring on foot for a couple of days now. The HMCS Sackville, a Canadian Corvette that was a legendary U-Boat hunter in WW I, is docked next to the Maritime Museum.

Georges Island, with it's pretty lighthouse and another historic fort, is the next landmark we pass.

We see the Halifax Transit ferries ply their way across the harbor, make one more pass along the waterfront from the casino to the cruise ship dock, and then it's back to the base.

It's a lot of fun and one of the few, truly accessible boat tours in the region.

Afterward, we make our way back down the waterfront to Pickford and Black, a waterfront seafood restaurant where we can bask in the late summer sunshine.

Letty has their wonderful seafood chowder and lobster roll...

...Tim the fish 'n chips...

...and the landlubber in the family has a creamy pesto chicken thigh.

It was all marvelously delicious and a perfect way to end this day.

Darryl Musick
Copyright 2019 - All Rights Reserved