Monday, April 9, 2012

Travel Log - Getting to know Halifax Nova Scotia

     I get to Nova Scotia a few times a year, so I've had the pleasure of spending time in Halifax about half a dozen times or so now.  That's probably enough to give you an idea of what the place is like and of a few places you should go if you ever get there.

     If you fly into Halifax and have to go through an airport the first thing you are going to notice are the smiles. Our TSA manual must come with instructions on scowling and grunting, but Canadian Security doesn't feel that surliness has to go hand in hand with airport security.  It makes a big difference and people are nicer about having to have their privacy limited, if approached with a smile.  Pay attention next time you are in an airport in the U.S.  and think about how much smoother it would go, if only security acted civilly towards the flyers.  You'll notice if for sure when you go through a Canadian airport.When I make this trip I generally drive over the border and fly in country, to avoid the customs hold up at the end.  I like WestJet better than Air Canada, but they both have good service records.  The drive from the airport takes about a half hour, so the town is pretty convenient to the airport.

     If you are going to stay over, I'd recommend getting a hotel by the harbor (Canadians would spell this
The Five Fisherman
harbour).  The hotels down there tend to be higher end, like full service Marriott's and Westin's, but it's worth it for the proximity to everything.  Find the best deal you can but be prepared to spend about $200 per night.  If you stay down there most of the hot spots are walkable then.  I know my favorite restaurant is, it's called the Five Fisherman.  They have great fresh seafood, a varied menu and an unlimited mussel bar where you can enjoy fresh mussels with butter, garlic butter, marinara, or roasted red pepper sauce. I've never gone to Halifax without a stop at the Five Fisherman.  This last time they were running a menu from the original Titanic, which was pretty cool, and I learned that the building had been a funeral home 100 years ago when the Titanic sank and they helped prep the bodies for burial.  The Five Fisherman is a little pricey but I think it is worth it, I had oysters last time that were as fresh as if you dug them yourself.  They know how to cook seafood, so save up your money for a trip here. 

The Mussel bar 
     If you want a less expensive option, there are a lot of other good choices, and they are all right in the neighborhood.  The best street for these is Argyle Street which is about 2 blocks up from Upper and Lower Water Streets and runs parallel with the harbor.  There is a really unique place up there called "The Economy Shoe Shop".  The Shoe Shop is an eclectic place that is actually about 4 places in one.  The menu is simpler and be prepared for slow service, but if you want to chill for a while in a cool place, this is the spot.  It's not unusual to have celebrity sitings here, and there is always something going on.  Try a couple of the rooms out as they all have a different feel. One has cubbyholes cut into the wall and another opens up to in indoor atrium.  I always have a drink at least at this place just to see what is happening there that night.  Another happening spot is on Spring Garden Road and it's called "Your Father's Mustache" The food is decent there, and they have a rooftop bar that can be pretty fun.  I have also had drinks
The Economy Shoe Shop
and fun at the Lower Deck which is on the waterfront.  They have live music often and it's a nice spot to have a beer and relax by the water.  There probably is a bad restaurant in Halifax, but I've never found it.  You'll notice that the portions in Canada are about a third smaller than the US, which is probably why they don't have obesity issues.  Once you get used to these "right-sized" portions, you'll probably enjoy them more, but it's a little shock to get served in Canada after coming from the U.S. 

     There is a casino called Casino Nova Scotia right on the water and you can spend some time there.  There are plenty of unique shops to look through and browse.  There are parks and a Maritime museum that are all walkable from the downtown area.  I like to try the local food items and in Halifax fresh fish is king, but there is also a menu item called a Donair that is unique to the Maritimes.  It's a lot like a gyro, but it's made from beef and it is served with a sweet white sauce that I've only ever seen in Halifax.  I'm not a fan of the sauce, but try it and you may be.  The locals put the sauce on fries and other things, but I can't get over the sugar.  They carve it off the spit and then re-heat it a little and serve it on a pita, flat-bread or tortilla.  The guy that invented 
it opened up his shop and fittingly called it "The King of Donairs"  Try to get there, you might as well taste it from the original. 
My Titanic dinner, salmon, fingerling potatoes, stuffed squash
I should finish the blog now and you are probably saying, "Does this guy do anything but eat?"  Well, I really don't.  I like to check out the local culinary scenes and since I travel for work, it really doesn't leave a lot of time for sightseeing. If you go, you'll see more during the day than I ever do, but at least you know where to go now at night.  Who knows, you might even catch me out on one of my trips.  I'll buy a round if you do. 


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