Tag Archives: Water

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.

New York Mountains

My family recently spent a week at a pond in an area of the Adirondack Mountains that doesn’t get cell phone service. We spent our days reading in the sunshine, paddling canoes and kayaks, and basking in the quiet and solitude.

We hiked through forests . . .

. . . climbed mountains . . .

. . . and waited by the fire for stars to appear.

The Adirondack Mountains are beautiful and also, in my biased opinion, a very special part of the state. The region includes an area called the High Peaks, forty-six mountains ranging from 3,820 feet (1,164 meters) to 5,344 feet (1,628 meters). Technically a High Peak is classified as anything over 4,000 feet (1,219 meters) but original list of 46 stems from the early twentieth century when surveys were less precise. Three of us were keen to climb Gothics, the tenth highest peak at 4,736 feet (1,443 meters), which we planned to reach via Pyramid Peak, a mountain tall enough to fit High Peaks criteria but unfortunately located too close to Gothics to be considered its own mountain.

The hike is approximately twelve miles (19 kilometers) of adventure through forest, across rivers and waterfalls, and over boulders. Having prepared coffee the night before, we left before dawn and only returned close to dark. I’m very comfortable rock climbing but free climbing on slabs was a new experience.

We had lunch on Pyramid Peak overlooking Gothics, marvelling at the trees and plants that are features of alpine terrain.

The hike is divided into three four-mile sections with the middle section containing the difficult climbing. It took us 11 hours and 38 minutes to complete, longer than the nine hours we’d read about and planned on. As we finished the last stretch of trail, we realized that many people likely walked the first and third sections along the road that we had decided to avoid. This was probably why the people we encountered in the woods commented that we were taking the scenic route to Gothics. It certainly was and I highly recommend it, but we were glad we started early and that we’d packed more food than we thought we needed.

After an hour in the car, we were glad to be back at the pond.

What I love about the Adirondacks is how far away it seems from the rest of the world. The air tastes cleaner, the sky is bigger and stars brighter, and the ecosystems around water and forest conjure a tranquility that seeps into my bones. There’s nothing to do but be out there, no time to keep, no opportunity for mindless distraction. Instead, the mind switches off while watching the fish jump early in the morning, and the senses sharpen as the arms, warmed by the sun, dip the kayak paddle into the water. The Adirondacks are a special place for me because they find all of me, scattered as I sometimes am, and bring me right there. Right there where there’s no place else to be.

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.