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48 hours in Halifax

Posted on 03 March 2014 by Jimmy Yan (Meds 2015)

Much like this article, my weekend away had a hard time taking form at the start. The Family Day Weekend was looming and I was informed I’d have Monday off. Perfect, I thought, I could go on a quick trip and have some fun. But where?

I won’t bore you with the details of how I settled on Halifax, except a big factor was that I had never been to the Atlantic time zone before. With that determined, a last minute (but not last second) round trip ticket was purchased and I was off to Nova Scotia. Thanks to a long layover , it wasn’t until 5pm on the Saturday night that I touched the tarmac in YHZ. Noting that my return flight was 8pm on the Monday night, I realized that I had about 48 hours before I needed to be back in the airport to enjoy Halifax.

This is the log of those 48 hours.

Hour 1) Pick up rental car. Stupidly agree to prepurchase gas refill to whatever level the car currently is at. Realize too late that the car is filled up. Grab a quick coffee, and drive into the city. At the MacDonald Bridge discovered that I had no change to pay the toll. Fortunately the bridgekeeper let me through (didn’t even ask me these questions three), remarking that I “must not be from around here.”

Hour 2) Uneventfully got to the hotel, parked the car, and settled in. Got a few tips about what to do in the city. Discovered that I didn’t pack socks or underwear for the weekend (d’oh!) and rushed over to a Walmart and get a few pairs. Decided to grab a few energy drinks as well, because I wanted to have gratuitous amounts of energy.

Hour 3) Went to explore Barrington, one of the main streets of the city. A storm was moving in so I ducked into the Freak Lunchbox, which fortunately was also one of the spots I was advised to check out. This place was like a compact version of Willy Wonka’s chocolate factory, with a nerdy twist! It was a little bit retro, a little bit psychedelic, and a little bit geeky, all in the right amounts. There’s no way I can fully describe how awesome the place is (and, disappointingly, neither does its website), so you’ll just have to check it out.

Hour 4) Popped into the Economy Shoe Shop, a pub recommended by my preceptor who did medical school back in Dalhousie (so who was I to argue). Fortunately, it was a good tip (unlike cool guy tips, which are just awful), as the food was great, the atmosphere was friendly, there were Calvin & Hobbes comics in the washroom, and there were ample beers on tap (Harrison, the bartender, is a particularly good guy).

Hours 5 – 10) Embarked on some good ol’fashionded Haligonian pub hopping (and yes it did involve an Old Fashioned). Checked out some classics like the Durty Nelly’s as well as some of the new places, like the Stubborn Goat. The reputation of Maritime hospitality was on full display as people were always up for striking up a conversation, splitting some pizza, or including a visiting stranger into their celebration.

At some point in the night, I had been invited to join a fellow on his birthday evening out (No I didn’t come out of the cake).

By the end of it, a new acquaintance offered to drive me back to hotel as a hail storm decided to pop up in the middle of the night.

Hours 11-14) Sleep.

Hour 15) Worked to update the OMSA website quickly (go check it out, a ton of services, opportunities, and discounts offered there). Afterwards, went to have breakfast with an old friend from UBC. She decided Cora’s which I have never been to before. For years I’ve had Cora’s hyped up from brunch loving friends everywhere. It was okay (no Marionberry pancakes). Essentially an overpriced and over-esteemed Denny’s. Actually a Grand Slam would have been amazing.

But I digress, it was a nice meet up, a couple West Coasters catching up on the other side of the continent. She’s finishing up her MHA and in the application cycle for medical school this year. Hopefully it goes well for her.

Hour 16-17) Lots of wandering around the city, taking pics from view points around the citadel and from the harbour. Very icy, very windy, and oh so very, very, very cold. Surprised I didn’t end up with some form of frost bite as a result.

Hour 18) Wandered into the Halifax Seaport Market, kind of a larger and more open version of the Covent Garden Market. A mix of local produce, craft vendors, food stalls, and artists, it was pretty lively considering it was a Sunday morning.

What caught my eye the most, was a small shop class in the very back, it was a weekly group that met every Sunday to learn a specific type of carpentry: bow and arrow making. The students were bent over decrepitly old work benches whittling down staves of maple. Their instructor, an old man sporting thick white whiskers and a weather worn face and belonged in a Hemingway, would rotate through and inspect the students work, offering guidance and tips as well.

Hour 19) Went back to the hotel. Read a couple cases. Took a quick power nap.

Hour 20 – 23) Went to watch the Canada – Finland Olympic Mens Hockey game. After asking everyone last night about the best sports bar in town, I ended up trekking to HFX Sports, which is supposedly modeled off Real Sports in Toronto. After snagging the LAST seat in the whole bar (score!) and getting a round bought from my neighbours for being in Halifax the first time (double score!), I partook in one of the time honoured and sacred rites in this country: celebrating a big hockey win with a crowd a strangers.

Hour 24-26) A few random snippets of things” toured the Maritime Museum right before closing, working out at the hotel, reading more cases, sitting down to write an article for In-Training Magazine (THE agora for the medical student community).

Hours 27-31) Met with another former UBC-er for some delicious seafood and a few apres dinner drinks.

If Saturday was all about meeting new people in the city, Sunday was about re-establishing some old relationships. I hadn’t seen Jenn for about 5 years, as she left Vancouver to go work on her Masters’ and now a PhD out at St. Mary’s University. It’s nice to re-connect after a while, and reminded me that these relationships do need to be tended or risk falling apart.

Hours 32 – 40) Sleep, working out, packing up the hotel room and signing out. Nothing to see here.

Hours 41) Hiked around Point Pleasant Park. It was pretty bare, like Old Mother Hubbards pantry. The recent hailstorm and subsequent warmer weather and rain led to a thick layer of ice cover the whole trail as well. This created an interesting walking sensation, almost as if I was walking over a frozen lake.

Hours 42-43) Drove out of the city, south and east, towards a “classic touristy” spot, as Harrison the bartender described it.

“It” being Peggy’s Cove, which had one of those classic “let’s have it on a postcard or feature it in a romantic sitcom scenelighthouses. The road out to Peggy’s Cove was gorgeous, with immaculately iced over bays, serpentine roads wedged between rolling shoreline, and tiny colourful towns dotting the way.When I arrived at the cove, I left like suddenly I was part of a #WeAreWinter commercial or on set in a real-life re-enactment of Frozen (I’m assuming, I haven’t seen the movie).

The lighthouse did look like it belonged in post card, but no post card picture ever correctly depicts the cold wind that whips around the outcropping rocks. As the sea spray had frozen over the path as well as many of the rocks that led to the lighthouse, I was a bit leery about wandering too close to the furious Atlantic rim. I did wander into the nearby restaurant and had a delicious lunch of various seafood delights.

Passed on the pickled herring, however.

Hours 44-46) Decided to take the scenic route back and drive along the coast some more. While it did take a bit longer to end up back in the city, and the route had some harrowing moments (like nearly running into a herd of deer after coming up a hilly segment), it was well worth it to appreciate the Nova Scotian country side. The clouds had blown past, the sky was clear, the vistas were exceptional.

Hours 46-47) Got back in the city. Went to the Paper Chase, a great little newsstand and café. You see, I had a few paragraphs left for my In-Training article (again, the agora for the medical student community), and I was determined to finish it before I left. One invigorating cup of tea, and one astounding piece of carrot cake later, I got that checked off my “To-Do” list.

Hour 48) I rode that feeling of accomplishment out of Halifax, down the 118 (because I didn’t want any more awkward encounters on toll bridges), and back to YHZ. A little while later, as I drifted off for a nap while the plane was taking off the runway, I had half a thought that I’d wake up and it’d still be Friday and the last 48 hours were all just a dream (just a dream). Awoken by the Thundersnow landing at Pearson, it was reassuring to know it wasn’t.

Halifax truly is a city that belongs to the elements. Water, that one’s easy, as it lies on the edge of the Atlantic. Earth, the jutting rocks and hills that shape its roads and stones that form its buildings reminds us of its history. Wind, takes the form of the storms that batter its citizens on a whim. Fire, from roaring ovens and grills come hearty epicurean delights. And, of course, who can forget about Heart (because no quasi-Captain Planet allusion is complete without Heart), especially in the company of Haligonians.

Yes, Halifax was definitely displaying it elements this past weekend. Fortunately, I, too, was in my elements then – my elements being eating food, sampling local craft beverages, and having a new experience. And that’s what happened in my 48 hours in Halifax.

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