Thursday, January 7, 2016

Love This Town: A very long list of my favourite things to eat, buy, see, and do in & beyond Halifax

 Art Gallery of Nova Scotia / Herring Cove Polar Bear Jump / random roads

So… my other post got a lot more notice than I thought.

It always surprises me which things I do gather attention, and I am endlessly appreciative for all the kind words and encouragement I received because of it. I teared up several times reading stories of other people experiencing similar situations and trying to reconcile your love of a place with the reality of your life there. I leave for Toronto this Saturday morning. I am excited. If there’s one more thing to say about Halifax, it’s that people only try hard to help fix things they truly love.

In my last post I said I would give you a list of things I love about Halifax for those who are fortunate enough to be there. Here is a list that I will update with forgot this gem! forgot this favourite! within 30 seconds of pressing publish, because that’s how scattered iPhone lists turned into blog posts always go.

The next caveat is that you may recognize a lot of these things already. Halifax is small, it will happen, and I tried to make this as enjoyable for someone new to the city as much as for someone who knows every step on the from Africville Park to Schmidtville and what’s in between and what's beyond.

As someone leaving Halifax, I know the feeling of meaning to that plagues us. We mean to go to the café before it closes. We mean to catch the sunset someday. We mean to stop into that charming place, but we never find time because we’re on our way home.

Most of the joy of Halifax, what I love about Halifax, is the community. But I don’t say this tritely; to love this place, you have to throw yourself into whatever you love and do it yourself. Build it yourself. Actually go. If there isn’t a kind of restaurant you want, host a dinner party. If you’re bored of the nightlife go to bed early and actually drive out to catch the sunrise. Fun in a small city isn’t always as straightforward, it isn’t always as easy, it’s not always going to be planned for you, and that’s the best part of it.

I have no agenda, no reason to tell you why I love the following things, I just do. And I thought you might like if I shared them with you. I didn’t put them in order because I wanted you to get over your notions of what sections were for you and which weren’t.

Here are some things I like about Halifax. I hope you do too, or you find something better and share it with me next time I’m back.

Elsie's Used Clothing / downtown Halifax / Cranberry Lake

The all time greats

The very best ~*place*~: Elsie’s Used Clothing. I also used to work a Saturday shift here (#hustle.) I came here on my 14th birthday when I was a goth. I am now decidedly not goth and love it just as much, and even more. Maureen leant me a suit when I needed one for a co-op interview. Her clothing ranges from expensive vintage Dior to a 2$ bin and she has an excellent taste in wallpaper. Go here.

The very best lemon square of all time: Jane’s Next Door. Just tart enough, just sweet enough. I used to work here. It is still the best lemon square of all time.

The very best unique experience: The polar bear dip at Herring Cove. Last year was my first dip and I can honestly say it was amazing. I wanted to participate again this year but I had a bad cold and couldn’t risk getting more sick before the move. You may dread it, but show up New Year’s morning to a tiny wharf in a picturesque community and jump in. You’ll feel proud. You’ll feel free. You’ll feel cold. Bring a blanket.

The place I will probably miss the most: The library. The library.

Lake Torment / Inkwell Boutique / Seaport Market Roof

Other favourites

-As new distilleries burst into the Maritimes, Ironworks is found in my favourite gin & tonics.

-The rose macarons at Le French Fix.

-Fort Needham Park is just far enough away from main areas like Quinpool and Agricola that few students ever make the quick trek past the Hydrostone to see it. There is simply no better way to spend a summer’s day. It has the best smelling dusk.

-Take the ferry. Take the ferry to Dartmouth. Take the ferry to Woodside. I don’t care. Stand outside on top even in the middle of winter. Take the ferry.

-The Board Room Café which offers more board games than you could ever imagine, are actually fun to play, and serve very delicious, unique, healthy and reasonably priced snacks and beer. A true gem.

-I know I mentioned the new library, but also, the roof of the new library.

-Kayaking is one of my favourite activities in the summer and there are so many places to do it in Halifax. The Shubie Canal is without question the most scenic, but if that’s a bit of a trek for you, you can rent on the Arm quite affordably.

-The Canteen for amazing local lunches that change daily.

-The COLTA trail that starts by Ashburn golf course, continues on to the BLT through Timberlea, and hits the SMB all the way down to southern Nova Scotia. My favourite spots to pass are Cranberry Lake and Jerry Lawrence Park that has wheelchair accessible fishing piers.

-Brooklyn Warehouse’s dinners are second to none in the city. They do truly innovative things but I’ve never had a meal taste anything less than awesome. You know a place is good when it’s my favourite hungover lunch and fancy date night.

-Actually use the Oval. It’s there. Skating is free. Renting skates is free with photo ID. They will teach you how to skate. Use The Oval and plan to end your skate at sunset, so you can take in the best view just before it gets cold.

-The Anna Leonowens Gallery always has something interesting happening.

-Patch Halifax has Liberty of London fabric. It feels like it’s own charming world.

-Steak, latkes, & chili at Hali Deli.

-Gio does phenomenally good drinks. I always have a big of a stigma against hotel restaurants but they bring it.

-The Green Space is a strip of a park between the Fairview trailer park and behind the houses on Lacewood drive. I spent most of my childhood walking around there and it now has a community garden at the foot of it.

-Best brunch in the city: Edna. Edna Edna Edna. Also good for date nights, but really truly ideal for friendship dates where you want to get maturely drunk while still hearing each other.

-Quinpool Shoe Repair is one of those charming cash only businesses that you can’t believe still exists in 2016, but does, and for it you are eternally grateful. I wish I owned more broken shoes just to take them to Quinpool Shoe Repair. I’ve taken high heels with broken caps to have them returned looking shinier than when I bought them new. They apologized that they didn’t have the exact same shade of black thread when they fixed the strap of a purse I thought was dead forever. They tried to fix the zipper of my coat for free when I brought it in, and were horrified by the idea of doing something that involved charging me money. I picked up said coat on the day before New Year’s Eve and they were inviting every customer to a party at the shop the next day. I couldn’t make it, we were packing up our apartment, but I wish I could’ve. Sometimes the most lovely people do a few things remarkably well and they are able to make a business out of it. Mess up your shoes, even your nothing special bought on sale shoes, just so you can take them to Quinpool Shoe Repair.

-MacCormack’s beach park, right next to the colourful shops in Eastern Passage is delightful for swimming, or not. One of the few Halifax beaches accessible by bus, there is a wonderful boardwalk, and the water is very shallow for quite some time.

-Inkwell Boutique sells handmade mostly printed art that is as stylish as it’s charming owner, and that is very high praise.

-The Art Gallery of Nova Scotia is free on Thursday nights. The space is beautiful with frequently changing exhibitions and regular artist talks. My favourite wing is the Inuit art.

-Many people like to walk through the old South End to spot gorgeous houses, but many of the neighbourhoods around Lake Banook are just as interesting to look at, and you have a reason to take the ferry to get there if you’re coming from Halifax, which we have established you should do.

-Halifax Cookie Cravings is a cookie delivery service that also appears regularly at the Halifax Forum. The combinations are unique, and the presentation is a food instagrammer’s dream.
-A chicken tostada at Pete’s Fruitique is 2.99$ and the tastiest thing in the entire store. Get it heated, and grab an apple for a lunch that comes in at under 5$.

-I recently went to Wasabi House with two tall, broad men who had never been there before. They insisted on ordering 7 elaborate rolls, even though I explained that Wasabi House regularly brings free, unique, complimentary chef’s specials. Our stomachs burst, but the quantity does not come at the expense of creativity or quality. If you’re willing to wait, which you’ll probably have to, this is possibly the best value in the city, especially if you order take out (-10%) and pay in cash (-10%.)

-The roof of the seaport market is unique and colourful. I go up on it after getting a lobster roll, apple cider, and a bouquet of hydrangea from the market below.

-It’s old, but Dalplex is effective. It’s a no nonsense, basic gym with plenty of room for a variety of activities. As the partner of a Dal student, my monthly pass comes to a laughable 15$. Although the draw for me was the pool, the part I actually enjoyed the most was the sauna, deeply relaxing and frequently filled with hilarious senior women post water aerobics classes who would ask lots of questions about whatever book I was reading. I’ll miss them a lot.

-You shouldn’t put off a trip to Deedee’s ice cream, even in the winter.

-The Bike & Bean is very much worth biking to.

-Actually go to the Dingle. I know you went when you were 5, but now you’re tall enough to actually see the view, so go again.

-For two summers in a row I’ve brought picnics to youth baseball games with friends. The Robert Lenihan Memorial Ballpark in Bedford offers the most wonderful sunset, but it gets cold fast, so pack a blanket, even in the middle of August.

-There is a commuter bus to Lawrencetown that I wish would run on weekends in the summer. The area is home to my favourite beaches and the Salt Marsh Trail, but also offers brunch (the charming and tasty Rose & Rooster) and remarkable vintage clothing and housewares (Fancy Lucky & Midcentury Mania.) You couldn’t ask for a better Saturday.

-Everyone knows Stillwell is The Place to get beer, but you probably don’t know how frequently they change the taps, so go regularly.

-Speaking of beer, I couldn’t possibly pick a favourite, but I’m always excited to see Tatabrew at Rockhead, Big Spruce’s Kitchen Party is a hard to find treat, and Propeller is my safe bet available almost everywhere. Also, as someone who doesn’t get excited for flavoured beer, Propeller makes a surprisingly delicious pumpkin ale around Halloween. The trick is that it’s just pumpkin! No ‘spice.’

-Pure maple syrup makes you rethink how you use maple syrup. Their sampler pack is a delicious combination of syrups perfect for chicken, stirfries, salmon, ice cream, and yes, pancakes.

-On the way to Queensland Beach is a series of delightful antique stores. The most diverse offerings come from Rural Roots, which is cluttered and well curated at the same time. You will recognize it by the bicycle sign. A few minutes past this is the ‘church of pyrex’, a store whose name I don’t know that sells a huge selection of vintage cookware located in a tiny one room former church.

-On the way to Peggy’s Cove is the largest hammock in Canada, and sitting in this hammock is a better vacation picture than anything you will take at Peggy’s Cove. (Just kidding, Peggy’s Cove is beautiful, keep off the black rocks you idiots.)

-If you are a student, there is something interesting happening at your campus’ art gallery, and you should go.

-Have I mentioned the library? (First priority: get a Herring Cove Fog at Pavia. Second: check out the excellent selection of cookbooks.)

Outside of Halifax

Martinique Beach / Lunenburg / Blue Rocks

-Lunenburg is lauded for its charm, with excellent hipster staples like Dots & Loops and The Lunenburg Makery. Often overlooked is Blue Rocks, which is a mere 5-minute drive outside the town proper. You’ll drive up some roads that look like drive ways but the ocean views will be worth it. While you’re on the South Shore, the LaHave Bakery is a place that can only be properly described as magic.

-Many people think of White Point when they think of Liverpool, but Lane’s Inn is well worth a night. The property is stunning and it’s only a quick walk to a small but good outdoor farmer’s market, a retro bowling alley, and Hell Bay Brewing.

-Even if you don’t think you’re interested in the historic aspects, you are, and Grand Pre is so worth a visit. The property is completely stunning and the recently updated museum is kid friendly, engaging, and interesting. You can grab delicious noodles from the Wolfville Farmer’s Market on the way there.

-Dempsey Corner Cherry Orchard is a cherry and berry U-Pick with tiny baby chickens and dogs running around. Truly all ages, there is a playground and petting zoo for hyper children and the orchard is big enough for adults to walk around stress free. There are few things more satisfying than climbing up a ladder and seeing stone fruit bearing trees for as far as you can look.

-Masstown Market is infamous, but many are unaware of the look off at the top of the lighthouse that is especially majestic in the fall. One of my oldest friends has a cottage in Economy that I’ve been trying to make it back to since I last visited. Anything near the Bay of Fundy will be worth going to.

-Antigonish is home to my second favourite public library in the province. The impressive buildings at St FX are also well worth a wander.

-Although I spend a considerable amount of time in Cape Breton, most of it is with family. Every single guide book will tell you to do the Cabot Trail, and they’re not wrong, but my favourite drive is through Isle Madame. If you pass the co-op, get a cinnamon bun. A close second to Isle Madame is the Ceilidh Trail, which can be taken to Inverness, whose recently updated golf course hotel is on a really lovely rock and sand beach and is not a far wander from the delicious Downstreet Coffee Company.

-If you unabashedly use the expression ‘watch the leaves turn’ (I do) and are willing to go somewhere to do it (I am), the Eastern Shore is your best bet. Yes, there is really a town called Mushaboom, and perhaps family from there makes me biased, but it’s only a 10 minute drive from the spectacular Taylor Head Provincial Park, so why not throw on some Feist and drive through.


Somewhere near the Eastern Shore / Mahone Bay / Inverness Beach / Port Hawkesbury