Tag Archives: Beach

Travel Guide: Halifax

I’m a bad Canadian. I hold a Canadian passport, speak with enough of a Canadian accent that Americans have asked where I’m from, and spent many a childhood weekend in Canada visiting grandparents and other relatives. But I’m a bad Canadian. Until last week, I had only visited two provinces (visited = seeing family) and, with the exception of a ski trip as a child, had never gone to Canada on holiday. For this reason and more, it was a pleasure to finally take a trip to Halifax and neighbouring Dartmouth to visit my closest friend from Singapore, who grew up there and has since moved back.

We began the tour of Halifax and its environs with a trip to Peggy’s Cove, a fishing community with a famous lighthouse. It looked like everything that comes to mind upon hearing the word “Maritimes” and, as you can imagine, smelled of the sea.

The air tasted like salt and the wind picked up as we walked further along the boulders, heeding the warnings to stay off the black rocks.

The community of Dartmouth is located across the harbour from Halifax. One can cross the bridge by car or take the ferry, which is conveniently free on the weekends (and, on the weekend of my visit, decorated for Halifax Pride). The best part of Dartmouth is the view of Halifax, I was told, though I beg to differ. Dartmouth has a vibe and charm all on its own.

The next day we walked along the boardwalk and through downtown Halifax, admiring ships-turned-museums, murals, and funky buildings.

The license plate of Nova Scotia states, “Canada’s Ocean Playground,” so it was only fitting that the last full day of my visit include a tour of the nearby beaches. The water was cold and for the first time in my life, I saw people wearing sweatshirts at the beach. I dipped my toes into the North Atlantic and that was more than enough.

On the final morning of my visit, we went to Fisherman’s Cove to go for a walk and browse the gift shops.

Just like everywhere else we’d been, you could taste the sea on the air. My favourite part of Dartmouth/Halifax was the integration of the ocean with regular life. It was everywhere and the communities had been built in it, around it, and with due regard for how the sea behaves. There are lakes everywhere, too, and life by the water is simply a normal part of life. I felt lucky to finally be there, a visit that was in the planning stage even before the pandemic, and grateful for the locals who took me around. My visit concluded with, “And next time we’ll go to. . . .” I am already looking forward to it.

The Beach

I’m not sure how my parents chose the beach that ultimately became the beach we visited every summer, and then every other summer, and then one last time. I think it was advertised in a catalogue or maybe as part of a vacation package at a wholesale store. Whatever it was, we loved our family beach holidays, which started as soon as we got into the car and began the sixteen-hour or so adventure of reading, license plate spotting, occasional bickering, and listening to Garrison Keillor’s A Prairie Home Companion after dark. Throughout my childhood, the ocean was my happy place.

Until last week, it had been a while since I’d spent a holiday at the ocean, several years since the order of events upon arrival followed a familiar pattern: Unload the car, have something to eat, buy groceries, walk on the beach. It was my first trip to Warnemünde on the Ostsee, or Baltic Sea, where I was thrilled to have been invited, and my heart felt almost like I’d been there before.

Warnemünde is a fishing town with an active port and a popular destination for tourists and cruise ships. A port means boats and lighthouses, both of which remind me warmly of my years working on boats and never fail to capture my attention.

The water was warmer than I’d expected though still a shock each time we waded carefully in, laughing, slipping on rocks, getting tangled in seaweed, playing. The ocean was surprisingly flat even on windy days, and the beach rockier than usual, I was told. We tasted salt on our lips, dried off under the sun and wind, watched the seagulls marching along the sand. And when the sun went down, we walked quietly and in awe.

On the Ostsee, I learned, much of the beach emerges from the forest and this was completely new to me. We found a cozy spot, watched the approaching rainclouds, and walked calmly back in the storm that followed.

In the bright sunshine of my last day, we rented bikes and followed a path through the forest and along the coastline. We passed farms and little towns, stopped to eat and drink overlooking the ocean, and went swimming in the warmest water yet. We searched unsuccessfully for Hühnergotter, stones with a small hole through them that are supposed to bring good luck. The sound of the ocean was soothing and I nearly fell asleep on the sand.

The world is a beautiful place and I was lucky to be somewhere new to me, lucky to share it with people who have such fond memories of being there. The world is a beautiful place and to be part of it is a gift. I am glad to know this – every day.

Exploring Coney Island

It’s always important to get outside. We know this, and it seems to be increasingly part of collective awareness because there are currently so many restrictions on movement. I am so, so grateful that we’re still able to get out and about in Singapore and I am taking advantage of this simple freedom as much as possible.

Over the weekend, my social cohort and I met early in the morning to take the MRT all the way to Punggol, the northernmost terminus of the North-East Line. From there, we caught the 84 bus to Punggol Waterway Park, is exactly what it sounds like. We were greeted by a turtle pond!

We walked along the path next to the water until we reached the bridge to Coney Island, also known as Pulau (“island” in Bahasa Melayu) Serangoon. Click here to read about the history of the island, which opened to the public in 2015 after ownership changed hands repeatedly beginning around the 1930s.

While much of Singapore looks like this . . .

. . . Coney Island felt like a whole world away.

We heard birds that we don’t hear in the city and saw different flowers, which I really enjoyed.

There were neat mushrooms, too!

It was great to smell the sand and the sea and the sand felt different here than it does in other parts of Singapore.

We walked the length of the island and then turned back to head back to Punggol Waterway Park. It was very hot and we were glad we’d ventured out in the morning. Except for a toilet, there are no amenities on Coney Island so if you’re planning to spend some time there, make sure you rent bicycles before crossing the bridge and stock up on snacks! There’s plenty to eat and drink along the promenade leading to the bridge but nothing but trees and beach once you’re on the island. Trees, beach, and groups of old men fishing.

Since we’re surrounded by glittering skyscrapers, it’s easy to lose sight of what Singapore used to be. And it’s the juxtaposition of the two landscapes that I love.