Sunday, August 5:
Nova Scotians are celebrating Natal Day today, the equivalent to our August long weekend, so there are lots of eventsand celebrations going on, and the parks and campgrounds are full.
We started off Natal Day at the Halifax Citadel National Historic Site of Canada. It was a beautiful day for touring theold fortification, with blue skies and bright sun contributing to some fabulous views of the city. During our visit andtour, we learned that, since Halifax’s founding, Citadel Hill has served as the site of four different forts, each builtduring a time of perceived threat. Initially, the fort was built to counteract the French at Louisbourg, while protectionagainst native attacks and ultimately the Americans resulted in continuing the fortification. It is certainly interestingto connect all these dots as we visit various historic sites. The Citadel that exists today was the last to be built andwas completed in 1856, having taken 28 years to complete. It is interesting to note that the strength of this star-shaped fortress was so formidable that no enemy every dared attack. However, the importance of the Halifaxharbour is such that its protection was crucial. Apparently it is the second deepest harbour in the world and it neverfreezes over in winter, so is and was a very attractive port for both military and commercial purposes.
There are two historic regiments of the British Army represented at the Citadel, and we were lucky to be there whenthe 78th Highlanders were carrying out their exercises, dressed in kilts, sporans and white boots. During thechanging of the guard, Zorro evidently decided that they were shouting a little too loudly, so he started to give them”what for”. Everyone watching had a laugh about that, and we were relieved that they thought it was cute rather thanjust annoying!
From one of the lookout points, our tour guide pointed out the site of the Halifax explosion of 1917 and describedthe series of events that led to this horrific explosion and the death of 2000 people. Had any one of these incidentshappened differently, the explosion could have been averted. Unfortunately, the stars all aligned tragically, and nowit is a sad page in the history books.
Following our history lesson for the day, we decided to head for the harbour and Natal Day festivities. There werebands playing and all sorts of food and souvenir booths operating. Sitting by the water, we saw every type ofwatercraft imaginable – from the amphibious Harbour Hopper to Theodore Tugboat, a pirate ship, tall ship andvarious types of pleasurecraft. We walked through the historic buildings section of old Halifax and even receiveda golden doubloon from a mermaid (actually a chip from the casino, but it makes a nice souvenir). We found downtown Halifax to be charming, with so many of its old buildings retained, restored and in use as neat little pubs,restaurants and offices. The waterfront is a vibrant place, full of activity and people.
One of the most interesting stops of the day was at Nova Scotia Crystal, the only place in Canada where handcraftedcrystal is still made by skilled craftsmen. This is the 10th anniversary of the company, and I remember visiting thissame shop when I was here 10 years ago (for CBSC meetings again. I certainly was lucky to have seen so much of Canadathrough my job). At that time, the shop had just opened, and we were able to see the craftsmen blowing and cuttingthe glass through a window into their workshop. We learned then that these were workers from the Waterford Crystalcompany in Ireland who had been brought to Canada to start a new operation in Nova Scotia. Today, we learned that7 of the 9 workers who came over 10 years ago are still with the company and that they have developed anapprenticeship program to pass on this skill to new workers. As this was Sunday, the shop floor was empty, but Ivividly recall watching the magic of molten glass taking on form under the hands of skilled craftsmen and ofwatching them grind their trademark etchings into the delicate glass bowls and tumblers. As the retail outlet was open today, we decided we would be remiss if we did not take home a souvenir of this increasingly rare craft!
posted Sunday August 2007