Monday, January 2, 2012

A Hard Rain Is Gonna Fall

Dateline: Halifax, Nova Scotia
I awoke to a cold, dark and dreary early Monday morning. Like home, it is a holiday here in Canada since New Year’s Day fell on a weekend. Bundling up, Michael and I ventured from the hotel in search of coffee and a light breakfast, ducking into a warm and toasty café on Spring Garden Road just as the rain began to fall, light at first, and then giving way to a hard and steady deluge buffeted by strong winds blowing off the North Atlantic.

I was looking forward to exploring downtown on foot, but the weather soon proved this to be impractical, if not downright foolish. This did not keep us from making the rounds. In the morning, we drove to the North End to visit the Fairview Lawn Cemetery and, thankfully, there was a break in the rain so that we could get out and look around a bit. Toward the rear of the cemetery, on a hillside overlooking a large rail yard, is a plot where 121 victims of the April 14-15, 1912 sinking of the RMS Titanic are interred under rows of gray memorial stones (29 other victims are buried elsewhere in Halifax). Many of the victims have never been identified yet they are not forgotten here among those who shared their fate. Perhaps the best known grave at this site is that of “The Unknown Child.” Only in the past decade has forensic testing made it possible to identify the child as an English boy who perished with his entire family. Even during the winter this memorial is surrounded by flowers and stuffed animals.

Soon the rain and wind returned and we were joined by Spencer and Anna for lunch at Boneheads BBQ (yep . . . honest-to-goodness Southern-style BBQ in Halifax!) . . . which is just around the corner from Spencer’s apartment. I was first introduced to this tiny joint when I was up here last August. Nothing fancy about this place, but it is some of the best BBQ I have eaten, and all the better when you can wash it down with a couple bottles of Propeller ESB brewed just up the road. In fact, after lunch we visited the Propeller Brewery where we picked up six-packs for the larder back home.

The weather cleared later in the afternoon and Michael and I walked down South Park Street along the tree-lined Victoria Park, stopping so I might have a brief chat with Sir Walter Scott. And from there we moved on to Holy Cross Cemetery, the oldest (since 1843) Catholic cemetery in Halifax and the final resting place of many of the early Irish immigrants who settled here. Michael set off to photograph tombstones [] while I quietly wandered about, soon discovering the final resting place of Sir John Sparrow David Thompson, a former Justice of the Supreme Court of Nova Scotia who served as the fourth Prime Minister of Canada (1892-1894). He was also the first Roman Catholic to hold the office of Prime Minister, and the only Canadian leader to die while visiting Queen Victoria at Windsor Castle. The cemetery is the final resting place for many decorated war heroes; among these is Charles Robinson (1840-1896), a native of Scotland who served in the Union Navy during the American Civil War and who was awarded the Congressional Medal of Honor for heroism during the 1862 Yazoo River expedition, in Mississippi.

The skies began to cloud up as we walked back to the hotel, and the cold, blustery rain returned after dark as Spencer and Anna rejoined us for a fine fish-and-chips dinner at Phil’s Seafood, a casual hole-in-the-wall restaurant on Quinpool Road. Spencer tells me this is the best F&C in town (which is saying something in Halifax) and I have no difficulty believing him. And the portions . . . locally-caught haddock baked (not fried) and served crispy with home-made tartar sauce to boot! Two great meals in one day . . . it made up for the rain and wind.

The weather is suppose to be clear and warmer tomorrow and so I think we are going to explore the Atlantic coastline south of the city. I am going to head downstairs for a nightcap. The bar has Propeller ESB on draft. I can’t think of a better way to finish off the day.

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