Right now, after laying children down for sleep, I'm pondering how travel for me has changed as I and my family have grown. How once I was attracted to the bright lights and box stores of a city. Now, I search out places for hints of the city's vibe...where it's been, what it is now, what it dreams for the future. I look for the quiet places off the beaten trail. The places the locals know well, but aren't always on the glossy pages of the visitor guides at the info centre.
We made it to lovely Halifax, Nova Scotia yesterday, after a very early wake up call and long day of flights and airports. After we were finally back on land and comfortably settled into our hotel, we walked along the wharf on our way to supper and enjoyed an equally leisurely walk back to the hotel. We sniffed the salt air that felt foreign to most of us (Nicholas was positive the beach close to our town smells the same way). We enjoyed the lively atmosphere as fiddlers played traditional Celtic music for restaurant- and bar-goers. Each open-air place we strolled past was packed with people who looked younger than us. It looked like a fun place to be.
We are staying in a historic area of the city, where many buildings are designated heritage properties and have been around for more than 200 years, despite some violent events. Some of which are being so severely remodeled that only the street-facing walls remains. Some of which are empty, waiting for new tenants to breathe fresh life into them. Some of which were likely welcoming on weekdays for the business crowd, but closed on weekends due to lack of traffic. And still others which have seemed to embrace social responsibility and have covered their roofs with solar panels.
A few blocks from our hotel lies the Citadel, deemed an impenetratable fort that was built by the British in the 1800's. Our children, my son particularly, enjoys history and tales of war, so this was a must-see on our trip. And it lives up to its billing - it is a massive, imposing structure. The staff, who work in period costume and carry out many of the drills troops used to do, are all extremely knowledgeable about the history of the fort, the city, the country, and its European roots. There were special events planned for this Saturday to commemorate the War of 1812. Despite all this, there seemed to be few visitors, at least compared to what we have experienced in the past. We wondered why this was.
So, I've been struggling to put together what I'm seeing and what the vibe is for this first city on our vacation. I see strong ties to its sea-faring background, its deep love for its traditional music and arts, and a culture that encourages creative expression. A culture that has seemingly always found ways to come together, maybe out of necessity due to its economy being so closely linked to disastrous events (like the multitude of wars that have occurred over the last 200 years). Sad times during the "good" times when money was aplenty. Happy times during the "bad" times when there was peace but little prosperity.
I suppose it is rather impossible to truly figure out what a city is all about in one day. I guess the beauty of such wonderings is that it whets the appetite to find out more. It becomes one of those places you know you'll head back to one day.