Saturday, July 31, 2010

Natal Day Festival: July 29 - August 2, 2010, Part 1 - July 31

Natal Day is the celebration of the founding of Halifax in 1749, and Dartmouth a year later in 1750. The Natal Day Festival was not started however until 1895, making this year the 115th anniversary. While the Festival officially started on July 29, I did not actually make it to any of the events until July 31.

At 8:00 AM, the Canadian Forces Base in Halifax hosted a free pancake breakfast on the Waterfront. Even though I was a little late in arriving, most of Halifax was still sleeping off their Friday Night (as the picture above would suggest), and so I had no problem procuring seconds after I wolfed down my first serving.

This was the 5th year the pancake breakfast had been run during the Natal Day Festival, and so I'm sure more people were expected to come later, because I heard from one of the servers that the poor sailors cooking the pancakes had started preparing at 4:30 AM. They must have been the new recruits.

After the pancake breakfast, I went to the YMCA to workout. There was yet another free all day/night concert at the Festival tent later that day (there's at least one every day, and two on some days), but I couldn't be bothered to go; there's only so much "noise" one EP can take in a given weekend.

Later that night I was sitting at home, when at 9:00 PM I looked at the schedule to plan the next day's events. It was at that time that I noticed the most spectacular fireworks show of the year was scheduled to start in an hour at the Waterfront. I hurried to get myself ready again, and pedalled back down to the Halifax Harbour.

In hindsight, I'm not sure if it was worth the 35 minute round trip at night to see 10 minutes worth of fireworks, but a motto is a motto, and at least I was able to get this stunning picture.

Friday, July 30, 2010

EP Bike Trip #1: Crystal Crescent Beach

Welcome to a new feature on Ea-Pea Dave's Terra Nova: the EP Bike Trip.

As I may or may not have been clear about in my FAQ section, I do not own a vehicle and so I ride one of my two bicycles to nearly every single one of the Points of Interest, Monuments and Festivals/Events that you read about on my website. However, Nova Scotia is not just Halifax (believe it or not), and so at some point I knew I would have to venture out to bring you more great historic sites, interesting places and/or festivals. While there will definitely be situations in which renting a car will be most appropriate, for a good portion of these places I hope to be able to make a solo trip using, you guessed it, my bicycle (I may yet attempt to move a mattress or transport a Christmas tree using my bicycle just to prove it can be done).

Since I have been on and plan to go on many more long bicycle rides, for the purposes of this section an EP Bike Trip will be classified as any trip in which the total distance travelled is over 50 km, and there is a specific purpose for taking the trip (i.e., to visit a certain place or attend a certain festival).

With that introduction, let there be no more further ado. EP Dave is pleased to present to you his first ever EP Dave Bike Trip to Crystal Crescent Beach (be sure to have your Google Maps ready so that you can follow along).

My journey started, as all my journeys do, at my house in the centre of Halifax. I travelled south, around the North West Arm, via the Armdale Rotary, and then up Herring Cove Road to Spryfield. Just past the Canadian Tire, I turned right onto Sussex Street and continued on Old Sambro Raod, through Long Lake Provincial Park, until I came to Doyle's Lake (between Harrietsfield and Williamswood).

Doyle's Lake is really not much more than a large swamp, but all the green plants growing in it made some unique patterns in the dark blue water. It also provided an opportunity for me to squat on the shoulder of the highway, refill my water bottle, and eat some blueberries I had packed for myself. Unlike Alberta highways though, the Nova Scotia highways I've seen so far don't really have shoulders. As a result, I was never more than two metres away from any of the whizzing vehicles that passed by me while I ate and rested.

By this time I had been travelling for nearly an hour, and about fifteen minutes later I was starting to feel fatigued. I had no idea where I was at this time, but when I came to Grand Lake (above) I could sense that I must be getting close.

A few minutes later I reached Old Sambro, where I turned right onto West Pennant Road, followed by a left onto East Pennant Road, and then another quick left onto Sambro Creek Drive. I followed Sambro Creek Drive along until I came to the gravel road at the end which led to the parking lot of Crystal Crescent Beach (Coote Cove, if you're looking on your maps right now).

As you can see from the pictures above, the sky could not have been more clear, which apparently is rare for this part of Nova Scotia. Not having brought a towel along though, I found a nice large rock on which to sit down and ate my lunch.

After not waiting the requisite 30 minutes, I went for a "swim" in the lake. However, upon touching my toe to the water my body immediately went "staticy" and then clenched up in right angles. I then dropped over dead from my cramps (just like in the cartoons!) After I had recovered, I waded out to about armpit height before quickly returning. It may have been hot on the beach, but it was ice cold in the water. Nonetheless, I could say I had swam in the Atlantic Ocean.

I climbed back onto my rock seat where I sunned my pasty white torso until I had dried off sufficiently to put back on my socks and shirt. I then headed back out on the road for the rest of the return loop, which would actually be ten kilometres longer than the trip to the beach.

I knew I would fatigue quickly on the trip back home, having already travelled some 25 km and still having 35 km to go, so I stopped in at the Kwik Way convenience store at the corner of West Pennant Road and Ketch Harbour Road (Mr. Mishoo's Take Out on your map), to stock up on a single Snickers bar and to treat myself to a scoop of blue berries and cream Farmer's ice cream. I also made sure to stop at the beautiful Little Cairn Cove, alongside West Pennant Road, again for some more pictures (below).

After 15 km of scenic cycling along Ketch Harbour Road I came to Herring Cove (below), where I stopped to refuel on my aforementioned Snickers bar.

After a fifteen minute rest it was back on the bike to tackle the hilly Purcell's Cove Road, past the picturesque Purcell's Cove, with its equally lovely Spectacle Island, and then on to Halifax.

After passing York Redoubt National Historic Site (about which I will soon be posting), I finally limped in to Melville Cove, where I dismounted and enjoyed a waterfront stroll along the Northwest Arm, before finishing the last few kilometres to my home.

Total Distance: Roughly 60 km.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Moncada Day: July 26, 2010

On July 26, 1953, Fidel Castro led a group of young rebels on an assault of the Moncada military barracks in the eastern city of Santiago. While that initial assault was unsuccessful, Cubans still consider it the beginning of the revolution that eventually saw the ouster of dictator Fulgencio Batista on New Year's Day, 1959.

This year marks the 57th Anniversary of that glorious victory for the Cuban people, and the Cuban community in Halifax celebrated this year with its own annual Moncada Day celebration in Victoria Park. I was unaware of the celebration and was on my way to a prior engagement, so I was not able to document it in full this year. However, an excellent video of the 2008 Moncada Day celebrations can be seen here, which will give those curious viewers a good idea about the purpose and nature of the event.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Random Halifax Picture #5

Spring Garden Road is the busiest pedestrian street east of Montreal. During the Pride Parade, it was filled with even more people than usual. Ukulele Mike, seen above, one of the many buskers who like to set up shop along the strip, must have gotten up bright and early to be able to lay claim to this prime busker real estate on the corner of Spring Garden Road and South Park St. (Across the road from the entrance to the Public Gardens.)

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

Halifax Pride Parade: July 24, 2010

If the Dykes vs. Divas softball game can be considered the kick-off to the Halifax Pride Week, the Pride Parade would represent the beginning of the close to the Week. Unlike the softball match though, or some of the more famous versions in San Francisco, Toronto or Vancouver, etc., the Halifax Pride Parade truly can be considered "family friendly." Well, at least as "family friendly" as you can get while attempting to celebrate/recognize a group of people who are more or less unable or unwilling to form a traditional nuclear family...

The irony of the Halifax Pride Parade, is that the vast majority of the floats/entries had nothing to do with the theme of the parade, and were more or less just used as advertising opportunities for local banks, businesses, etc. However, as I overheard one local citizen proclaim after the last float had past, "biggest (Pride Parade) I've seen in Halifax ever."

(I didn't know Darth Vader was gay.)

(This little Cadet handing out fliers for the upcoming Air Show was just too cute not to get included in the blog.)

(I'm not sure what this is though...)

(Or why there was an "elephant" there.)

(I also don't remember there being a fire fighter in the Village People.)

(These annoying French girls were just plain annoying, even before they ran out and held up the whole parade. I was really annoyed. Did I mention they were annoying?)

(These pole dancers though, were just downright impressive.)

("Here come the Divas!")

(No matter what your opinion of gay pride parades, I'm pretty sure we're all in agreement that this picture of this "guy" was something nobody wanted to see.)

Monday, July 26, 2010

7th Annual Dykes vs. Divas Softball "Game": July 18, 2010

The Halifax Pride Week, from July 18-25, the third-largest gay pride event in Canada, can't officially be considered "under way", until the annual softball match between the Dykes and the Divas has been played. The Dykes team consists of, well... dykes, while the Divas team is an eclectic group of cross-dressing males.

(Yes, that is correct, the short stop for the Divas is sitting in a lawn chair at the second base "make-up station".)

The game drew a large crowd this year to the Halifax Commons - surprisingly large, with people lined up three or four deep around the entire fence, all the way to the outfield - and the play by play announcers were downright hilarious, if not a bit crude.

(Divas in the Outfield. Some of them even brought gloves this year - "a new look" according to the announcer.)

(Dykes score two to take an early first-inning lead.)

To be honest, I couldn't be bothered to watch even one full inning of this painful display of bad softball. The point of the match though, was to gain attention and raise money for charity. In that regard it was a huge success, although I wasn't the only person there who questioned its being labeled a "family event".

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Shakespeare by the Sea: July 2 - September 5, 2010

(This R. Staines engraving of Malvolio's famous attempt to court his mistress Olivia in yellow, cross-gartered stockings, was obviously not produced by myself. Yet, as it was originally made in 1859 and is now over 100 years old, it belongs to the public domain.)

There are many Shakespeare festivals around the world, which often go by fancy names like Bard on the Beach or even Shakespeare on the Saskatchewan. One of the most recognizable Shakespeare festival names though is Shakespeare by the Sea. Four theatre companies - one each in Los Angeles, California, Sydney, Australia, St. John's Newfoundland, and Halifax, Nova Scotia - share the name Shakespeare by the Sea.

The Shakespeare by the Sea Theatre Company in Halifax was formed in 1994, after poorly advertised, volunteer performances of William Shakespeare's Twelfth Night in Point Pleasant Park drew 2 500 people in one weekend . The company officially formed later that year, and has returned every summer since for nightly performances of Shakespearean classics, as well as the additional well-known, non-Shakespearean play.

This year, the festival's seventeenth, the company will perform a version of R.L. Stevenson's Treasure Island, as well as Shakespeare's own Julius Caesar, and Twelfth Night again. On the night I attended, the play being performed was Twelfth Night.

In Twelfth Night, a brother and sister, similar in appearance, are separated after their ship is destroyed. The sister, Viola, thinking her brother dead, plans to gain the favour of a Duke by pretending to be a man and becoming his favourite servant, but later falls in love with him. The Duke, however, loves a wealthy woman, Olivia, who has scorned the advances of all men to date, including those of the Duke.

The Duke sends his new young confidante, Viola who has passed herself off as Cesario - the "not yet a man, but also not a boy" - to Olivia, to win her love for him with her/his gift for eloquent speech. Olivia falls in love with Cesario, who obviously does not welcome the advances of Olivia, but must continue to go see her at the orders of her master, the Duke, whose love she hopes to win even though he thinks she's a man. The hilarity multiplies when Viola's nearly identical brother, Sebastian, whose image, as Cesario, she has copied, coincidentally manages to wash up in the same town, also thinking his sibling to be dead.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Nova Scotia National Historic Site #7: Halifax Court House

The Halifax Court House on Spring Garden Road was completed in 1863, and since then has housed both county and provincial courts. A rear addition was built in 1881, and the west and east wings in 1908 and 1930 respectively. It was designed and built by the famed Toronto architectural firm, William Thomas and Sons.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Nova Scotia National Historic Site #6: Halifax Armouries

The Halifax Armoury was constructed by the federal government between 1895 and 1899 as part of an expansion and reform of the Active Militia. Innovative for its time, this fully equipped training centre was substantially larger than earlier drill halls, and included an indoor shooting gallery and lecture rooms (novelties at the turn of the century). This bold, medieval fortress-like design by Chief Architect Thomas Fuller, would go on to influence Canadian drill hall design for several decades. It is still in use as a training facility for the military today.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

HRM Monument #20: Halifax Memorial

Dedicated on November 11, 1967, the Halifax Memorial stands in memory of the men and women of the Navy, Army, and Merchant Navy who lost their lives and have unknown graves. On the panels around its base, are written the names of 274 casualties of the First World War, and another 2847 casualties from the Second World War. The monument is located in Point Pleasant Park.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

HRM Point of Interest #10: Point Pleasant Park

The largest forested park on the Halifax peninsula, Point Pleasant Park is home to the annual Shakespeare by the Sea festival, and was once part of the strategic defence system that kept Halifax safe from attack during four different wars. The park is home to two National Historic Sites, the Prince of Wales Martello Tower, and the Atlantic Bulwark Coastal Defence Fortress. It is also one of my favourite places in Halifax.

(Based on the Gatehouse at Hughenden Manor, in Buckinghamshire, UK, the lodge at Point Pleasant Park was built in the 1800s to house the park superintendent.)

(Built in 1868, the Cambridge Battery was named in honour of the Duke of Cambridge, who was head of the military during the reign of Queen Victoria. It was abandoned though, by the start of WWI.)

(One of two lovely summerhouses built at Point Pleasant Park in 1882, at the bequest of Halifax business man, Walter West.)

(Stunning views of the Northwest Arm and the Atlantic Ocean are the norm at Point Pleasant Park, rather than the exception.)

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Nova Scotia National Historic Site #5: CSS Acadia

CSS Acadia is a former hydrographic surveying and oceanographic research ship once used by Canada to map its coastal waters. Launched in 1913 and named after the original name for Nova Scotia under French colonial rule, Acadia provided landmark surveys of Sable Island, the Bay of Fundy, and provided information instrumental in the establishment of the port of Churchill, Manitoba.

Later, the prefix CSS was changed to HMCS when Acadia spent two years from 1917 to 1919 on anti-submarine patrol in the Bay of Fundy and Gulf of St. Lawrence. During WWII, HMCS Acadia patrolled the waters at the entrance to Halifax Harbour, and also saw extensive action as a training ship. After the war, Acadia resumed work as a survey vessel for the third time, and in 1962 rescued hundreds of people from forest fires in Newfoundland. By the end of its career, CSS Acadia had charted nearly every metre of water in Atlantic Canada as well as a great percentage of the Eastern Arctic Coast.

Currently CSS Acadia belongs to the Maritime Museum of the Atlantic in Halifax where it is moored, and is open to the public every year from May to October. CSS Acadia is the only known ship still afloat to have survived the Halifax Explosion, and is also the only ship still afloat to have served the Royal Canadian Navy in both World Wars.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Random Halifax Picture #4

This edition of Random Halifax Picture contains not just one, but four random pictures, all taken at the Quinpool Show and Shine on Quinpool Road, July 18, 2010. The cars are, in order from top to bottom (or from left to right depending on how your monitor displays them), a 1954 Chevrolet Bel-Air, a 1956 Chevrolet Bel-Air, a 1928 Model A Ford with its own trailer, and a 1940 Chevrolet Special Deluxe.

HRM Monument #19: Halifax Explosion Memorial Bell Tower

On December 6, 1917, the French munitions ship, S.S. Mont Blanc, collided with the S.S. Imo, a Norwegian ship carrying war supplies, near Pier 6 in Halifax Harbour. The resulting explosion killed 2 000 people, as well as leaving many more injured and/or homeless. The Halifax Relief Commission supplied funds to create Fort Needham Memorial Park, overlooking Richmond Street which leads to Pier 6.

Today the park is still a popular recreation area, and contains this memorial bell tower, designed and dedicated in 1985 to look like the jagged ruins left after the explosion. The tower includes a distinctive upward thrust which represents hope for the future, and contains a set of church bells that formerly hung in the United Memorial Church - once shared by both Methodists and Presbyterian congregations after both of their churches were destroyed in the Explosion. The Halifax Explosion Memorial Bell Tower stands as memorial to all those who lost their lives or suffered injuries in the Halifax Explosion, and to the survivors who helped rebuild the city.

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Halifax Jazz Festival: July 9-17, 2010

The Halifax Jazz Festival is an 8 day party on Spring Garden Road, that features free outdoor concerts with local bands, as well as more high profile international talent in various venues around the city. Last year the festival drew over 65 000 visitors, and this year more than 500 volunteers signed up to help at least that many or more enjoy another year of great Jazz music.

When the Atlantic Jazz Festival was first held in Halifax 24 years ago, it was the only Jazz Festival in Atlantic Canada. However, Newbrunswick, PEI, and Newfoundland have all recently developed jazz festivals of their own, and so this year JazzEast - the organization responsible for the Atlantic Jazz Festival - decided to change the name of the festival to Halifax Jazz Festival to more accurately reflect reality.

I attempted to see at least one free concert every day, and the artists and bands I watched perform spanned the jazz spectrum from gospel to bossa nova, from dixieland to gypsy-jazz (whatever that is). There were many memorable performances, and a great number of songs I wish I could have recorded for you, but in the interest of preserving my limited bandwidth I will post just one song (below). Bonus points if you can guess the name of the tune (hint: if you hear this song it usually means the Washington Generals are in for a long night.)

Canada's Parks Day: July 17, 2010

Canada's Parks Day was first celebrated in 1990. It has been held every year since then, on the third Saturday in July. It was formed to give Canadians a chance to participate in a number of unique and fun events in the many parks and National Historic Sites across the country. This year is a special year, as it is not only the 20th Anniversary of Canada's Parks Day, but also the 125th Anniversary of the creation of Banff National Park. Banff National Park was Canada's first ever National Park, and only the third National Park ever created in the world, after Yellowstone National Park in Wyoming, USA, and Australia National Park. To celebrate Canada's Parks Day I went to The Citadel National Historic Site in Halifax, where there were a number of unique presentations and admission was free the entire day. How did you celebrate Canada's Parks Day?

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Nova Scotia National Historic Site #4: The Citadel

Citadel Hill is an 80 metre tall glacial drumlin with a commanding view of Halifax Harbour. Citadel Hill's strategic value was the primary reason the British chose to maintain a military base on the east side of Nova Scotia. The current star-shape fortress currently atop Citadel Hill, formerly known as Fort George, is actually the fourth fortress design to occupy the hill, and took 28 years to build.

It took so long to build, because the entire fortress had to be set into the hill so that only the parapet was in view from the base of the hill. Should an enemy soldier miraculously escape having his head blown off at the bottom of the hill, from well inside the range of the British rifles, he would be met with the precursor to land mines just outside the base of the wall. Should he pass that, he would fall off the edge of the wall into the hidden ditch, roughly 10 metres in depth, where if his legs or neck were not broken, he would be pelted with "balls of spikes attached with chains meant for taking down ship masts" from the cannons. Or he may be lucky and merely hit in the back of the head by the sharp shooters hiding inside the secret tunnels behind him and aiming through the slits in the wall.

The wall was designed to be, and in fact was, the most technologically advanced fortress of its time. Its construction was ordered because of fear of an impending American attack. Ironically, the largest threat the Americans ever posed to the British at Halifax was during the War of 1812, when US President James Madison declared his intentions to claim what would later become Canada, for America. The War of 1812 ended in 1814, before construction of Fort George had even begun.

Today, Fort George (The Citadel) is a National Historic Site managed by Parks Canada. Costumed actors bring life at the fort in 1869 alive for the numerous visitors, and many rooms are open for guests to tour at their leisure. Even the secret tunnel in the outer wall is open.

There are numerous demonstrations that take place during the day, and the highlight of any visit is the firing of the "noon gun". Overall the fortress is in remarkably good condition, and it is my strong opinion that any trip to Halifax should definitely include a visit to this fabulous living museum.

(Rifle firing demo.)

(Getting ready to fire the noon gun.)

(Ceremonial cutting of the cake for Parks Canada's 125th birthday on July 17, 2010. I had four pieces.)

(The Pipes and Drums of the 78th Highlanders. The pipers have green coats because they were not paid by the military like the drummers or brass band members, but rather by the officers personally. Having a personal pipes regiment was a sign of prestige for British officers, and so an officer would dress his pipers with extra brass and more regal colours to show off how rich he was.)

(Changing of the guard.)

(The new recruits practice loading a cannon.)

(Military drill demonstration. Look at how tightly they walk together.)

(A special treat: this is the actual cloak that the legendary General James Wolfe was wearing when he was shot and killed on the Plains of Abraham, in 1758. Wolfe's Adjutant General and friend, Isaac Barre, saved the cloak for posterity. It currently belongs to Her Majesty Queen Elizabeth II, and is on loan to the Army Museum at The Citadel.)

(Closing up the gates.)