Halifax, Novia Scotia — Fishing villages, farmhouses, churches and vivid green tidal marshes emerged from the dense fog as my wife and I headed up Nova Scotia’s Lighthouse Route, a scenic if slow coastal road, to Halifax, the provincial capital.
With Canada celebrating its 150th birthday this year, it had seemed like a good time to reconnect with my homeland and revisit the city in which I had spent much of my childhood.
As we approached Halifax that evening, the memories of that childhood came flooding back.
We lucked out with a hotel room facing the channel from which my father, a captain in the Royal Canadian Navy, had guided North Atlantic convoys to Britain in World War II as the commanding officer of a succession of corvettes (tiny but nimble warships). The city’s deep, protected harbor had been the marshalling point for U.S. and Canadian ships bearing arms, munitions, fuel and food to a besieged Britain. Years after I was born, he had been posted to Halifax again.
Much had changed in the years I’d been gone. The city, whose population had tripled to 270,000, sported a new high-rise skyline and gentrified neighborhoods that had once been slums. The downtown itself had shifted in an entirely new direction, now offering chic boutiques as well as the shops you’d find in any tourist town. New museums lined a waterfront boardwalk, as did restaurants, sidewalk cafes and more shops.
But much was the same. The city, founded in 1749 by the British, had guarded its historic landmarks judiciously. The Citadel, a massive star-shaped British fortress, still stood guard over the harbor atop the city’s highest hill. The Prince of Wales Martello Tower, another 18th century fortification, presided over Point Pleasant Park in the city’s South End, as did the crumbling remnants of never-used World War I battlements. St. Paul’s Church, the first Protestant church in Canada, where I had sung in the boys choir, anchored the Grand Parade, now a park.
Near the Public Gardens, which date to 1836, ice cream shops were doing a steady business. One, the Dairy Bar, a start-up serving honey goat cheese-flavored soft ice cream that day, was testimony to the city’s increasingly sophisticated palate. Daniel Crowther, who was filling cones when I stopped by, told me he…