Monday, August 13, 2012

EP Road Trip: Mahone Bay and Lunenburg

EP Dave is back! And what a way to rejoin the world - with a road trip! My roommate was leaving back home for Korea, and I thought I would like to treat her to a special trip.

When I was in Korea in 2009, I was guided on a train tour of South Korea by a total stranger. Some random woman I met in the Secret Garden at Changdeok Palace in Seoul, South Korea, befriended me and then invited me on a tour of all her favourite spots around South Korea. It was truly an experience I would never forget, and one that would change my life forever.

I asked the woman how I could ever repay her, since I wasn't exactly loaded with money at the time. She said that I could repay her by returning the favour to any Korean visitors I met in Canada.

So, fast forward to January 2012, and my roommate of the past seven months is about to return home to Korea without visiting the one place every Korean knows, PEI (the home of "red-hair Anne"), and only ever having travelled by bus to tiny Truro. No offense to Truro, as I'm sure it's a lovely town, but the Acadien who lived there before the British stole it from them originally named the place "Village in the burnt wood."  That's probably not exactly the postcard image of Canada she would like to take home with her.

I knew what I had to do. While I couldn't afford the time or the trip to PEI, I did the next best thing - I took take her to Lunenburg.

According to Wikipedia, Lunenburg was one of the first attempts by the British to settle British Protestants in Nova Scotia, back in the 1750s. This makes it somewhat special for two reasons.  First, they actually settled a new area and didn't just steal a settlement from the French or Mi'kmaq, but also this influx of Protestants resulted in Lunenburg being attacked by the Catholics nine times!

More importantly, in modern times, Lunenburg is the best remaining example of a planned British colonial settlement in North America.  It was awarded UNESCO World Heritage Site status, accordingly, in 1995.

On the way over, we took the Lighthouse Route along the coast and stopped in at beautiful Mahone Bay.  Mahone Bay is famous for its cafe on the side of the road.  No wait... that's not right.

Aha! That's more like it. Mahone Bay is famous for its pretty downtown Main Street, and its three churches more than 250 years old (two-and-a-half of which you can see in this picture).  On a side note: I've been waiting more than two years to take this picture!  Success!


Of personal significance to me was a trip to the excellent independent tea store, The Tea Brewery.  The store's motto is "where there's tea, there's hope."  What more do I need to say?  You can clearly see why someone would have biked 100km just to buy some superb Blueberry Tea.  I only wish I had thought of it first.

I mentioned earlier the pretty downtown for which Mahone Bay is well known.  That beautiful yellow house in the background is a store.  The entire Main Street is filled with others just like it.  It's well worth an hour of your time to stroll up and down this street if you're ever in Mahone Bay.  You won't soon forget it.  Nova Scotia has some of the most delicious ice cream I've ever tasted, as well.

Finally we got to Lunenburg and stopped for a picnic.  Mihwa is an excellent cook and made the most incredible "bulgolgi wraps."  Even more perfect though was the view.  I enjoy Halifax, but this is really what I had pictured when I planned on moving to Nova Scotia.

Lunenburg is famous for its well-maintained, 18th Century downtown storefronts, painted every colour of the rainbow (and some extras).  I had visited here as a youth, back in my high school days, but I did not understand the significance of the town at that time, and shamefully I must admit I did not appreciate it as much as I should have.  I'm grateful for the second chance to walk these streets.

If you don't feel like walking, that's okay too.  Even the tour guides get into the spirit and the costume of the 18th Century.  I was a little disappointed that the horse didn't whinny with an accent though.


The real excitement was down on the waterfront.  Not only were the Tall Ships in town, but this year marks the 200th anniversary of the War of 1812, during which the British burnt down the White House (hoo-ah!)  There were parties and festivities everywhere.

When they aren't patiently enduring the endless stream of tourists, the locals like to row out in their yellow dinghies.  I'm sure my astute readers will notice that the red building in the back ground is the exact same building found on the back of the 1975 Canadian $100 Bill.  It's a little hard to tell from this angle, but trust me, it's the same.

The Bluenose II was under repair, getting a face lift, but I found something even better.  This is the R/V Farley Mowat.  It was formerly the flag ship of Canadian hero Paul Watson's great Sea Shepherd fleet.  The anti-free speech Harper government of Canada stole the ship from Watson in 2008 though, after his crew was caught documenting the government killing baby seals.

Before we left I insisted on making one last stop - the beautiful Lunenburg Academy.  Perhaps the most remarkable heritage building in the entire province, the Lunenburg Academy has been designated a Municipal, Provincial, and National Historic Site.  Additionally, by visiting the Academy, yet another in a long list of blunders from my youth has been repaired.  I somehow failed to deem it important enough to visit this gorgeous building my first time to Nova Scotia.  I can now check the last item off my list of high school Nova Scotia "oopsies".  Success!


"Oh no! We're gonna die!"  Ha ha!  This is not quite the sight you want to see in front of you when you're travelling down the highway at high speed.  Thankfully it was just a semi-truck being towed backward by another semi-truck.  I have to admit, this was the first time I had ever seen that... weird.

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

HRM Monument #33 - Wolf on the Rocks

Located in the middle of the cobblestone pedestrian street, Granville, in front of Gallery Page and Strange, this lone wolf was designed and produced by Ontario College of Art graduate, John McEwen.

Especially known for his use of naturalistic objects flame cut from massive slabs of metal, McEwen has produced art out of his blacksmith shop since before the '80s, and has exhibited his works across Canada as well as in Australia, Germany, and England. In 2007 he was honoured with a Doctorate of Fine Arts from the University of Lethbridge.

This particular sculpture is more than meets the eye. The two rock cliffs on which the wolf is walking (buried in the snow) are actually pieces of marble from Cape Breton Island.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Titanic 100th Anniversary

Today is the 100th Anniversary of the sinking of the Titanic. On April 14,1912 around 12:30 AM, the RMS Titanic hit an iceberg off the coast of Newfoundland and sank on its maiden voyage. Ships from Halifax were some of the first on the scene collecting victims and bringing them back to the city. Many of the buildings in Halifax were used as temporary morgues, until the victims could be identified and burried. Three major cemeteries in Halifax contain the graves of the recovered victims.

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

HRM Point of Interest #25: Royal Artillery Park

Located just across the street from The Citadel fortress, Royal Artillery Park was acquired in 1799 to provide soldiers quarters, stores, officers' accommodations and a headquarters for the Royal Artillery personnel stationed in Halifax. As an interesting factoid for Haligonians: the old location was across the street from the Grand Parade where the World Trade and Convention Centre is now.

In 1812 work began on the Officers' Mess. Rather, it would have begun, but the War of 1812 got in the way, and so work wasn't completed until 1816. At 196 years old though, it is officially the oldest Officers' Mess in Canada.

My favourite part of the park is being able to walk around and look at the well preserved pieces of artillery from wars past.

(Breech-loaded Howitzer used in the Boer War of 1895. This gun was actually still in use even up to 1917.)

(WWII Gun used in desert battles in Africa in 1941.)

(Armour piercing howitzer gun used from 1940-1952.)

Monday, September 5, 2011

Nova Scotia National Historic Site #14: Akins House

This small cottage on Brunswick Street, in North End Halifax, was the home of Thomas Beamish Akins. Built in the 1790s, T.B. Akins' house is the oldest dwelling in Halifax.

Thomas Beamish Akins was born on February 1, 1809, in Liverpool, Nova Scotia. His mother died when he was 10 days old, after which time he moved to Halifax and was there raised by his mother's family. Akins went on to become a relatively successful lawyer with his cousin, Beamish Murdoch, but neither married or exhibited any interest in public or political matters. He never once ventured outside Nova Scotia.

Akins did, however express a keen interest in history. He entered a contest and won a silver medal from the Halifax Mechanics' Institute for his 1838 "Essay on the Early History of Halifax." Although, his essays were apparently rather boring, they did rely heavily on "primary sources" which still makes them useful to this day. In 1882 Akins was made president of the Nova Scotia Historical Society

In 1811, Sir George Prevost complained to the Provincial Assembly of Nova Scotia that its public records were "in a ruinous state." However, it would take numerous government bunglings before something was finally done about it (are you surprised?) Opposition member, Joseph Howe, distressed by the rapidly decaying condition of the records, moved in 1851 that the province do something to examine, preserve and arrange the documents. Enter Thomas Akins, who agreed to become the first ever provincial Commissioner of Public Records in Canada, for any province, on May 29, 1857.

This was an important moment in Canadian history, since the creation of the Nova Scotia provincial archives predated that of the Dominion's archives by fifteen years. Furthermore, there would not be a second provincial archive created until Ontario established its own in 1903. Thanks to some rare political forward thinking, Nova Scotia now enjoys one of the most complete sets of public records in the country.

Akins maintained his position faithfully for 34 years until his death in 1891. Upon passing away, Akins bequeathed his entire, substantial personal collection to the provincial archives.

For more information on Thomas Beamish Akins, please refer to his biography, here.

Monday, August 22, 2011

2011 Halifax International Busker Festival, Part 2 - My Favourite Acts

With over 30 different acts, ranging from mime to acrobatics, and from dance to magic, the EP Reader with a tight schedule might have wondered what would have been the best acts to see? That's a great question, and while I thought all of the performers were great, there were four that really stuck out in my mind as having been "must see!"

1) FlameOz, England

Originally formed in Australia in 2002, FlameOz is a unique entertainment company that blends its awe-inspiring fire show with the energy and flare of the circus. FlameOz won the Metro People's Choice Award two years in a row, in 2009 and 2010, and they were back again this year with two completely new shows (one for the day, and a night time version as well).

(When FlameOz flat-packed its Swedish team-mate, Thomas, in from IKEA, he had to be re-assembled by hand. Unfortunately, the other members put his arms on backwards.)

(The amazing Satya, standing on Ms. Gracie's shoulders, spinning three hoops...)

(... And then tossing all of them on to Dmitri in one shot.)

(Gracie, doing a straddle lever on Satya's back, while Dmitri and Dangerous Dave look on. Oh yeah, and they have flaming torches on their heads too.)

(Dangerous Dave figures he'll have a go, as well, and lifts four people. Thomas' legs are hooked around Dave's waist, and he's sticking up out of the front like a larger version of Kuato from Total Recall.)

(Everyone's favourite FlameOz show is the one they put on at night. They're worth seeing in action, so click here to watch a video clip from the 2009 show.)

(It's a low quality picture, because it's taken from afar, but here you can see Satya and Ms. Gracie spinning flaming hula-hoops of death, during the All-Star show.)

2) ILLMask/ILL-Abilities, All Over.

Consisting of two BBoy teams (break dancing), of seven people total, representing as many different countries, ILLMask/ILL-Abilities was by far the most inspirational show of the festival.

Ill-Abilities was formed by Luca "Lazylegz" Patuelli, to destroy the common misconceptions surrounding people perceived to have a "disability," and to show the world that anything is possible and that when you make no excuses, you have no limits.

(A Thalidomide baby, Sergio David Miranda Carvajal a.k.a "BBoy Checho," was born with severely effected lower limbs. His dance style involves a lot of upper body strength, and he often appears to be "floating" in the air. Here you can see him doing a move called "What Your Man Can't Do." In his home country of Chile, Sergio is a freelance electrician.)

(Living in San Francisco, California, Tommy Ly a.k.a. "BBoy Tommy Guns" was diagnosed at 18 year-old with osteosarcoma - having a malignant bone tumour - in his right knee. He was given the choice between a prosthetic bone implant and amputation. Tommy chose the amputation because it would allow him to continue with high level dance and physical activity.)

(Luca "Lazylegz" Patuelli is a Concordia University (Marketing) graduate from Montreal. Born with arthrogryposis, a condition affecting the bones which causes stiffness of the joints in the body, and in his case causing weak calf muscles. Luca believes any dance move that can be performed on the ground, can be performed on crutches.)

ILLMask is a combination of two separate dance teams, and also includes Luca "Lazylegz" Patuelli. Three of its members came along with Ill-Abililities to Halifax to help with the show.

(Some of the stunts that they performed seemed to defy physics.)

(And some of them just looked painful.)

(Bonus shot: Lazylegz and Checho perform the two-man, two-arm float. They actually perform a stunt later in which both men support each other on just one arm. It sounds difficult and looks even harder.)

3. Lords of Strut, Ireland.

Blending "pop, dance, and entertainment, into circus, acrobatics and comedy," Famous Seamus and Seantastic are the two members of Ireland's "hardest working man band." They provide a high-energy comedy-acrobatics show, that contains equal parts break dancing, contortion, acrobatic ladder and acrobalance (you'll see). Poking fun at celebrity culture, Sean and Seamus definitely put the theatre back in street theatre.

While I borrowed much of that above paragraph from Lords of Strut's official website, I'm being 100% sincere when I say Lords of Strut, more than anything, is perhaps the single greatest health care return on investment ever made by Ireland. This award winning show is supported by the Irish government and provides a nearly non-stop 45 minutes of laughter, mirth and joy.

Since, "laughter is the best medicine," and a University of Maryland study found that people who laugh are 40% less likely to have heart disease, it stands to reason logically that this relatively tiny investment in culture by the Irish government must be saving its country millions of dollars annually in health care costs. The Canadian government is welcome to take notice and make the appropriate changes to its fiscal policy any time now.

(During the show, Sean and Seamus notice a tourist in the audience with a camera and stop to get some free publicity and exposure in the Salem, Massachusetts area...)

(...Then they decide to have their picture taken in "the crazy pose.")

(They do eventually get around to dancing, but Sean has some trouble with his back spin and needs Seamus to come help him.)

(Why is Famous Seamus so mad? Perhaps it's because "you didn't see his brother, Seantastic, lift him up in the air, with one hand, by his ass!")

(Now Seamus is upset because Sean is ruining his "ladder dance" by standing in front of him.)

(Sean gets a solo too, with his "ring piece," which he'll eventually fit his whole body through. This joke works much better in Ireland, as I think there is something lost in translation when it comes across the Atlantic Ocean.)

(Toward the end of every show three unsuspecting men get dragged out of the audience to become part of Lords of Strut's back-up dance team. Together they are called the Strut-a-lites.)

(The finale though, is this stunt. They are the only two-man man band currently performing this move. And yes, that is a man standing on another man of roughly equal weight's head.)

4. Throw2Catch, Montreal

A professional circus group that typically does paid shows on cruise ships or in theatres, last year three of the members, Jean-Philippe, Nicolas and Sam, created a street show they planned to perform three times. They received so many calls after those three performances - from festivals booking their act - that this summer JP, Nico, and Sam, along with their dog "Salto", have driven over 7000 km back and forth across Eastern Canada, in a converted, old mini-school bus, to entertain their adoring fans. "Success!"

(Never ones to take themselves too seriously, Nico holds the "hot hot hot" hoop of fire in one hand, while he taunts JP The Lion to jump through it.)

(In the words of Ringmaster Sam, "Suc-cess!")

(They don't just have a good sense of humour though, the boys also have some serious juggling skills.)

(Here, Nico and Sam juggle the razor sharp swords of death, while JP does a "salto" over seven members of the audience and lands between them.

(Nico performs on the Cyr Ring, that we first saw at the Tattoo. He also seems to be losing his clothes. The woman in the front row, on the right, doesn't seem too upset though.)

(In perhaps the most dangerous part of the routine, JP gets ready to be launched into the air from the Russian Bar and do a double back flip.)

(You didn't believe me, did you? That bar is only 3 inches wide, and believe-it-or-not he's going to come down and land on it safely.)

(Let's face it though, the real reason you all came here is to see JP do a back flip through this burning ring of fire - it's real this time.)

(JP readies himself for certain death, while Nico and Sam prepare to step off the ladder of doom onto the teeter-board of terror.)


Well, EP Readers, I hope you enjoyed this year's EP Review of the 25th Halifax International Busker Festival. Remember though, when you're donating to street performers who have dedicated upwards of 18 years to their craft so that you can be awed and entertained, if you can't buy anything with it, neither can they.