Tag Archives: Street Art

No Fundy Sundy

Sundy Sunday 2 October 2022 – Our itinerary for today featured, as its main event, a tour round the Bay of Fundy, a bay some 90km north of Halifax, on the border with New Brunswick. “Tour” in this case, meant a hike of about 17km in total, and the reason for going there was to witness the tides, which are the highest in the world – as much as 50 feet between low and high water levels. We had instructions to present ourselves at the Maritime Museum entrance, about 15 minutes’ walk away, at 0830. So we got up nice and early (‘coz we’re on bloody holiday) and shot down to the hotel lobby at 0730 to discover that breakfast on Sunday didn’t start until 0800.


There wasn’t much we could do about that, so we just dressed ourselves up in the expectations of a cool (10°C) windy (northerly, 20mph) day (yes, I know that’s mixed unit systems. Deal with it) and set off breakfastless to our rendezvous.

Which didn’t happen. No-one turned up to collect us.*

To be honest, we weren’t altogether surprised. Jane had tried to contact the operators of this particular tour to confirm things, and there had been no answer on their phone number over a couple of days. We gave them until 0900 and then gave up, but used the time in going back to the hotel to see a few new things on the streets of Halifax that we’d missed before: artworks;

a shack which would offer the Canadian national dish were it open, which thankfully it wasn’t;

more artworks;

some buildings of curiosity – the Pacifico Dance Club and the Press Block, the remains of which are shored up in dramatic fashion in order to act as façade for new apartments yet to be built;

and a chance to get some photos on the Grand Parade unobstructed by the celebrations of other folk – the town hall, the monument and St. Paul’s Anglican Church, the oldest building in Halifax and the oldest Anglican Church in Canada.

So we got our breakfast after all. Having partaken, we rested a while and then went out for a walk. Obviously.

Before we had our chat with Tim the concierge, he had been giving another couple some tips about places to go and things to do. Jane had earwigged this and used it formulate a Plan B – take the ferry across the harbour to Dartmouth and take a late lunch at a restaurant called the Wooden Monkey. So we walked to the Ferry Terminal via the Historic Properties

which now house various small boutique-y businesses.

I noted this highly retro offering in the ferry terminal.

The ferry is astoundingly good value for money. Two dollars will get you across the water to the Alderney Landing in Dartmouth and that price also includes what they call the “transfer” – a return journey if undertaken within two hours of the start. The only hurdle put in our way was that not only did they only accept cash, but also you had to proffer the exact amount. We managed to get some notes from an ATM (which was erroneously marked as Out of Service) and thus some change from a change machine, but this was the first time that only cash was acceptable for such a long time that I had given up taking any with us.

Anyhoo… the ferry journey gives some decent views in the 10 minutes it’s in motion: views of Halifax city

(our hotel visible between the two buildings), including the large Casino complex;

a view of the Alderney Landing, unsurprisingly;

and a view of the two major bridges across the water, the Macdonald Bridge and, through it, the Mackay Bridge.

Seeing the two bridges gave an opportunity to reflect on something I’d never come across before we visited Canada (first mention of it was in my brother Chris’s blog post on his earlier visit here) – the Halifax Explosion of 1917, the largest man-made explosion before the first atomic bomb. On the morning of 6 December 1917, the French cargo ship SS Mont-Blanc collided with the Norwegian vessel SS Imo in the area between where those two bridges now stand. The Mont-Blanc, laden with high explosives, caught fire and exploded, devastating the Richmond district of Halifax. 1,782 people were killed, largely in Halifax and Dartmouth, by the blast, debris, fires, or collapsed buildings, and an estimated 9,000 others were injured, many by flying glass. It’s amazing that I’d never heard of this incident until this year.

Dartmouth is quite a large area in Halifax, but the downtown part near the ferry terminal is quite limited. We had time before our restaurant reservation, so we walked around a bit. Obviously. There’s a waterside trail which features a couple of curiosities: the propeller of HMCS Macdonald, broken by ice when assisting another vessel in crossing the North West Passage (astonishingly the damage was only discovered later in dry dock);

the World Peace Pavilion, dating from the 1995 Global Economic Summit and containing symbols of peace from nations around the globe;

and a decent view back over to Halifax.

We had an excellent meal in the Wooden Monkey,

(above – the lift lobby going up to it from the ferry terminal)

which takes local produce and environmental issues very seriously. My theory about the restaurant name was that it was called such because it wooden monkey around with the quality of its offerings (actually, we were told that it came into being in the Chinese Year of the Monkey when wood was the element associated with that year).

Afterwards, wandering back for the return ferry journey, we came across more artworks.

It really is a pleasure to see such trouble being taken, pretty much wherever we’ve been in Canada – and Alaska – to use art in various forms to make places more attractive. I hadn’t got a mental picture of Halifax before I arrived, but such a bounty of interesting and quirky touches was not something I had expected, and they make it a nice place to be.

Whilst waiting for the ferry to go back to the city, I caught sight of this chap in a wheelchair, nonchalantly doing stationary wheelies; very impressive balance and control.

And, as we walked back to the hotel, we passed yet another mural that we hadn’t seen before.

We decided to try to find a Pedway route back to the hotel, doing which gave us this final nugget about the city.

One hopes the future will see the place developing and improving itself even further. It’s been a pleasure discovering the city. Even though we missed out on the Bay of Fundy hike, we’ve had a really nice two days here.

We leave tomorrow to go to the final new adventure before we return home – St. Johns, Newfoundland. Here’s hoping that our last couple of days on this nine-week odyssey will be a pleasant conclusion to what has been an excellent holiday. Join us, if you will, to find out….

* It turns out that there has been a miscommunication between the various agencies behind our intricate and ever-evolving itinerary. Our UK agency had thought the Canadian agency had nailed it down whereas the local operator had cancelled. It’s a shame, but it did mean we had a more relaxed day here.

Taking Steps in Montréal

Friday 23 September 2022 – For our first full day of exploring Montréal, we settled on two aspects we wanted to prioritise.  Neither of them was particularly likely to be in evidence near our hotel, and walking to them would have taken too much time, so we decided to use the Metro to get us about. Apart from anything else, we both feel that using public transport in a strange place gives one a greater feeling of connection with it; Montréal is really the first place on our long trip through Canada where using it has made sense, so we were glad to take the opportunity.

The hotel is connected to RÉSO, as is the nearest metro station and it only took a small amount of blundering about to enable us to find it. We bought 3-day passes, which would give us unlimited use of the system whilst we were here.  I tried to use the transaction to split a 50-dollar note, as we were running short of smaller denominations, only to be told that the transaction was card only – something I suspect is true in many places across the city now.

The Metro here is not a particularly intricate network – just three lines – but the Orange line suited our needs.  I am quite impressed with what we’ve seen of the Metro.  It’s clean,  reasonably frequent and has modern trains which run, like many Paris Metro trains, on rubber tyres.  There are some nice design points in the way it operates, too.

Station announcements are clear, lights tell you which side to disembark, and they also warn you when the doors are about to close by turning red.  There’s a mobile signal throughout and altogether it seems a very good system.

Acting on recommendations from the esteemed Ian Burley, we aimed for Jean Talon, which features a well-established market.  The area is well out into the suburbs and does have the same air as some of the (nicer) banlieus of Paris.

The market is very substantial, and looks like a typical sort of market you find in France,

with lots of wonderful-looking fresh produce, meats and cheeses.  There is a considerable variety of some things,

such as these varieties and colours of aubergines and cauliflowers, the like of which I’d never seen before.

On the way to the market, we saw examples of one of the two aspects of the city we were keen to explore – street art.

Some items are very obviously formal works of art.  Others are more difficult to distinguish from upmarket graffiti.

The city staged a festival of street art for 2022, and Jane had found a website which gave an idea of where to find some examples that were part of this festival, as well as some pieces that have been in place for longer.  And we found lots and lots of examples, one or two of which I’ll share in a moment – just be patient. But, after leaving the market, we also came across the other aspect that we (Jane, particularly) wanted to see: outdoor staircases.

The city has a phenomenon called a “plex” – a building with apartments stacked on top of each other.  In many cases, external staircases are used to reach the upper ones. The basic reason for this is to save space on internal staircases.  There’s an interesting article giving more detail here.

We reached a section of the city called Little Italy,

no, really,

and found that these external staircases can be found in profusion here. So I got my camera out and Took Steps:

The (mostly ironwork) staircases look interesting and artistic on a nice sunny day such as this one; what they must be like to use in the ice and snow of a Montréal winter I dread to think…

Our route towards more examples of street art was the Boulevard St. Laurent, which is a busy and quite crowded main road.  One block to the side of it, though, is Clark Street, which is much quieter and more pleasant, and also contains many examples of these external staircases.

It also has a segregated cycle path along much of its run through Little Italy, which makes stepping off the pavement unwise without checking carefully in both directions. Here are a couple more instances of these interesting cultural oddities.

Even the less attractive ones are interesting to look at.

We also saw a few other oddities as we walked along:  what seems to me a risky way of exercising dogs;

A Catholic church with an unusual architecture, offering services in Polish, Italian and English (only open on Sundays, so sadly we couldn’t peek inside)

and the absolutely massive building which once housed the Canadian Warehouse Company.

But now: the street art.  There is a lot of it – it’s A Thing in Montréal, much more than anywhere else we’ve visited in Canada.  There are all sorts: grotesque;


advertising the business;




and unfathomable.

Sharing all the photos I took here would be too cumbersome, so I have created a Flickr Album with 44 examples, if you’re interested to see more.

The one thing that we noted about every single piece of street art we saw was that they were all, every single one, defaced by graffiti, which I found very saddening.  In fact, there was graffiti everywhere we looked and its utter ubiquity leaves me with a less than favourable impression of the city.  Sure, every city has its graffiti, but there’s so much here that it renders even the attractive bits ugly in my view.

In the midst of all of this (vandalised) street art, we discovered we were (a) hungry and (b) near a deli recommended by the indefatigable Ian Burley – Schwartz’s Hebrew Delicatessen, famous for its smoked meats.  So famous, in fact, that it has its own Wikipedia entry. And so famous that the queue to eat in the restaurant is, well, quite famous.

Jane spotted that there’s a take-out section,.  The queue in there was quite substantial, but very fast-moving.

We got a Smoked Meat Sandwich each, (with a pickle, already!), and actually scored seats at the very back of the shop; I can report that their pastrami is delicious, but you really must make sure to have napkins or tissues to hand, as the portions are vast and tend to leak everywhere.

Clark Street actually runs all the way into the city, and is much preferable to walk along compared to St. Laurent.  It also has some really interesting houses along it.

On the other side of St. Laurent to Clark Street there is a square called St. Louis,

which is also surrounded by some really individual properties.

As you get towards the city, having passed through Little Italy and Little Portugal

you reach Chinatown, which is quite small, but has four gates.  This is the main one (through which you can just see the far gate)

and then, before you know it, you’re by the Old Town, and in our case, near the Basilica Notre Dame,  Like almost everywhere, it was under maintenance –

I guess when you have winters like they have here, you have only a limited window in which to get things fixed, but another thing I found oppressive was the ubiquity of roadworks and other construction projects going on.


We went inside. It’s quite a sight.

It’s another telling example of the opulence of Catholic churches as opposed to the more austere Protestant approach to worship.

You’d have thought we’d have had enough by now, but no – we were near the Old Port and there was The Wheel.

You can’t see something like that on a sunny day and not want to ride round it, can you?  So that’s what we did.  To be candid, there are so many reflections once you’re in a cabin that photography can be quite unrewarding, but we managed a couple of reasonable photos between us as we went round.

The last one of these, the “galleon”, we subsequently found out, is set up as a kids’ adventure playground, with all sorts of places to climb around; a nice idea.

And that really was it for the day.  We headed back to the nearest Metro station and thence to the hotel for a much needed glass of something cold before retiring for the evening.  The day was long but interesting, with many charming aspects of Montréal to balance against its ineffable scruffiness.  We have one more full day here; who knows what we shall do with it?  I’m pretty sure Jane Has A Plan… come back and find out, eh?