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angus l macdonald bridge from citadel Halifax nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

One of the reasons for my being up at the historical end of Halifax is that it is where you might find the Citadel. It is of course quite high up, perched upon its glacial drumlin and the climb up from the town is quite steep - not for the faint-hearted.

Mind you, if you do make the effort to stagger up the slope on foot, you won't be disappointed by the view. As you might agree, height is might when it comes to scenery and the view across to the Angus MacDonald Bridge is particularly noteworthy.

tradional wooden houses citadel Halifax nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

One advantage of having a decent camera and a decent lens is that you can do all kinds of exciting things with the photographs, like cropping sections out and expanding them.

Here's a section that I cropped out of the previous photograph. You can see the wooden houses here and how they are painted in nice lively colours in order to brighten up the street. I thoroughly approve of that. Here in France where I live , most of the houses are stone-covered-in-rendering and there only seems to be two colours available.

traditional wooden houses gottingen street agricola street from citadel Halifax nova scotia canada october o010

The road up to the citadel spirals round the hill and so at different points along the route you are presented with a different view across most of the city.

This is a view looking north along the streets that run between Gottingen Street and Agricola Street. You can see in the foreground the typical Maritime Clapperboard house that you might encounter in most places in urban North-Eastern North America, and then behind them you can see where they have been superseded by a more-modern style of architecture.

I'll leave you to decide which is the nicer of the two styles.

high rise loran c mast citadel Halifax nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

Further along the road there's a view out towards the east and the way out of the city if you are planning to take the motorway. There's not much choice in the style of architecture here though - it's all modern high-rise as far as the eye can see, indicative I suppose of the modern suburban sprawl.

In the distance we have a low ridge that is crowned by a couple of radio masts. Not that I can see very well from here, but the height of the taller one might be thought to correspond with the height of a typical Loran C radio mast, a couple of examples of which we encountered in Labrador . But never mind the radio masts, why aren't there any ..."thud!".

citadel Halifax eastern wall nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

And so after much binding in the marsh, I arrive at the rear wall of the citadel - the eastern face of the defences. They seem to be carrying out some repair and maintenance on the property right now and I suppose that that is encouraging. We've seen too much of Nova Scotia's history the railway museum and the Commercial Cable Company Building to name just two examples, go to ruin just recently.

The main purpose of the citadel was to protect the Narrows and the Harbour of course, and so all of the exciting stuff would be around the front. We will arrive there in a minute and so like the midget who went to visit the busy doctor, you'll need to be a little patient.

citadel Halifax eastern wall gun nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

Even though the purpose of the Citadel was to defend the port, the Citadel still needed to be defended from attack. Whilst the weight of the attack would naturally come from up the hill from the harbour, being assailed from the rear is something against which everyone needs to guard.

In fact someone, with clearly nothing better to do, counted that Halifax was raided on at least 13 occasions by either First Nation Canadians, by the Acadians, or by a mixture of the two.

But talking of the cannon up there, I have a friend who has a part-time job in a circus. He's a human cannonball and is fired from the gun during the shows.
"I bet that job pays well" I remarked.
"Oh yes" he replied. "I'm on £100 per night plus 50p per mile."

car park citadel Halifax nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

The walls of the fortress have been penetrated today of course. And where the French, the First Nation Canadians and the Acadians couldn't penetrate, the motor car has managed to triumph.

Maybe if the the aforementioned First Nation Canadians and Acadians, instead of creeping up to the Citadel walls under cover of darkness, had simply driven up in a coach and horses in broad daylight (during seasonal opening hours of course but don't get me started off on this again) and offered the admission money for the guided tour, they would have saved all of this unnecessary bloodshed.

fortifications citadel Halifax nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

You can see the fortifications of course, nothing like as spectacular as any work by Vauban - he who fortified most of North-Eastern France in the 18th Century - but the principal remains the same.

The idea is that not one inch of the walls cannot be overlooked by another part of the walls elsewhere, meaning of course that scaling, mining or tunnelling operations can be opposed quite comfortably by the defenders.

This kind of layout here, with the angled corners, is good. Vauban of course took it so much further and his works are defensive masterpieces.

defences citadel Halifax nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

Not having a plan in front of me and not knowing how the defences of the Citadel worked, all I can do is to make assumptions from what I can see. It looks like there is an external wall that would be the first line of defence, and with a steep and deep ditch behind it that protects the main part of the fortress should the external wall fall to the enemy.

But I can see two problems with this layout.
firstly the outer wall (where we saw the cannon earlier) isn't sufficiently high. It doesn't therefore have a good field of fire and if it does fall to the enemy there is little to stop them dragging their own artillery up onto there in order to assail the inner defences
secondly the wall of the main part of the fortress isn't sufficiently high either. It needs to be much higher than this so that anyone on the inner ramparts would be able to fire over the heads of the defenders on the outer wall, and also that if the outer wall were to fall to the enemy the defenders on the inner ramparts could pick off the attackers on the outer wall without exposing themselves to much in the way of risk.

City Centre Atlantic shopping mall citadel Halifax nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

Having dealt with the issue of the defence - or otherwise - of the Citadel I can continue my walk around the perimeter. This is a view towards the south looking over the principal shopping area of the city and the City Centre Atlantic Shopping Mall.

One of the attractions of the shopping area is said to be the big multi-screen cinema, but then again who would want to go to the cinema in Halifax when there is so much to see and do in the city itself?

By the way - look to the extreme left edge of the photograph at centre-height. You can catch a glimpse of the Atlantic Ocean. Just imagine what the view might have been without these modern buildings in the way.

defensive walls citadel Halifax nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

There's also a good view of the walls of the Citadel from this spot. The photo just here is where I'm going, whereas the one below is the view from where I've just come.

And I suppose that it's probably a good idea before we go much further if I were to tell you something about the history of the Citadel and how it came to be built, because this is something quite exciting

We have to go back, I suppose to the late 17th Century. Although the Canadian coast had been officially discovered - in modern times at least - by John Cabot in 1497 on behalf of English merchants out of Bristol, the purpose was for trade and not for settlement. The French, under the leadership of Jacques Cartier, took to exploring the St Lawrence valley in the 1530s, also for the purposes of trade. And it was over trade that there were the original stirrings of conflict.

defensive walls citadel Halifax nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

60 years later, the vision of another Frenchman, Samuel de Champlain, was for a settlement, maybe a colony, in the St Lawrence Valley. The major stumbling block with this idea was that in winter the St Lawrence froze up and so supplies and reinforcements could not sail in. It was therefore vital that there was an overland route to the ice-free Atlantic coastline. Soldiers would be needed to protect the supply routes, and several forts were created along this route for the purposes of defence. You may remember that we visited a fort back in 2003 .

Meanwhile, settlers from the English colonies in New England were travelling northwards looking for new lands to settle and for new trading opportunities, and it was only a matter of time before they came into conflict with the French travelling along the supply route to the coast.

A whole series of wars in Europe in the 18th Century, with the English and the French on opposite sides, was eagerly replicated in North America and there was a regular "exchange" of territory as a result of the different peace treaties. But after the end of the War of the Spanish Succession in 1713, during which the French came off badly, the French built an enormous and expensive fortress at Louisbourg on Cape Breton Island , designed by our old friend Vauban, in order to defend what they still retained.

Of course an important fortress such as Louisbourg along the maritime coast was a huge threat to the English position in what at the time was known as British North America and during the War of the Austrian Succession the English and their allies managed to capture and occupy the fortress. However, the Treaty of Aix-la-Chappelle that ended the War in 1748 restored the fortress to the French.

It was at this moment the the English decided that they needed a secure naval harbour along the part of the coast that they were holding, in order to protect their own interests. This would serve to counteract the French sailing out of Louisbourg and to bottle the French up in their fortress if the need were ever to arise. Several sites were investigated, and indeed we had a look at one potential site yesterday, but in the end the Bay of Chebucto was chosen.

mcnabs island from citadel Halifax nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

One reason for the selection of this site was that with the presence of a couple of islands in the mouth of the bay, one of which - McNab's Island - can be seen in this photo looking south-east across the city, access could be strictly controlled.

Accordingly, in 1749, work began on the fortifications and 2500 settlers were sent here to establish a township.

In case you are interested, which I'm sure that you are, the gates down there at the bottom of the hill lead into Sackville Street and that's how I arrived at the park. Just to the left of the centre of the photograph is the spire of St Mary's Cathedral Basilica, with that of St Michael's Church immediately to the right.

georges island from citadel Halifax nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

A couple of islands, I said, didn't I? This one just here is George's Island - George II being the King of England at the time the fortification of Halifax commenced. You can immediately see what I mean about firstly how the islands can control access to the Narrows, and secondly, how the Citadel up here has a commanding view over the harbour.

George's Island is of course fortified - any serious raiding party intent on mischief in Halifax would need to occupy it and so the British would need to defend it. Unfortunately the island isn't open to visitors right now while the fortifications are being restored, and it was far too cold for me to swim out there. I could of course try to paddle my own canoe to over there but the cold weather would put me off. It wouldn't really be a practical proposition because as you know, it's against the law to light a fire in a canoe. One cannot have one's kayak and heat it. You will have to make do with just this photograph.

George's Island also had a more sinister role, in that it served as a prison in which many Acadians were incarcerated between 1755 and 1764. When the maritime coast finally fell to the British, the Acadians - the French-speaking inhabitants of the area - were allowed to stay on as long as they were prepared to sign an Oath of Alleigance to King George. Many did, of course, but there were quite a few who refused. The most influential of these were imprisoned on the island until they agreed to sign, and if they didn't they were simply deported.

Many people these days see this as some kind of horrific and disgraceful episode and there is much discussion and debate about the issue. But in my opinion it is totally wrong to judge events of the past based upon the standards of today. What happened here was just the same as happened in many other places back in those days.

In fact, never mind the "back in those days". We had mass deportations of inhabitants, complete with total dispossession of all of their worldly goods, in the Western world in modern times. The most famous example occurred after the end of World War II. Some 30 million people of German descent were uprooted from homes all over Central and Eastern Europe that their families had occupied for centuries and sent - on foot - to walk with only what they could carry in their arms to a country that most of them had never ever seen.

The stories that they recounted of their march (some of which were told to me in person by the people concerned) and which was in some cases as much as 3,000 miles were dreadful and it is estimated that fully one-tenth of those who set out never completed their journey. Almost everyone on the march was pillaged and looted, and many suffered even more frightfully along the way (and not even children were spared - one person who told me her story was a girl of 12 at the time). And all of this was done under the auspices of the United Nations and the victorious powers couldn't care less.

This kind of event puts these historical events into a much better perspective. If you are going to condemn one mass expulsion of people, then you need to be condemning them all.

prince street wharves dockside harbour from citadel Halifax nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

Meanwhile, back at the Citadel, here's a photo looking down the hill right down Prince Street all the way down to the wharves on the dockside which is of course where we were earlier this morning. .

You remember that I mentioned earlier something about the attackers having to cover a distance of several hundred metres from the waterfront in order to storm the citadel? Several hundred metres is one thing, but several hundred metres up a steep hill such as this is something else completely, as I'm sure that you can imagine.

Imagine having to storm up there with a full pack and a loaded musket, while the defenders could calmly take cover behind the ramparts, coolly take aim, and pick off the attackers one by one as they labour up the hill.

old town clock citadel Halifax nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

The building in the foreground is The Old Town Clock. It was presented to Halifax on the instructions of Prince Edward, Duke of Kent, and was installed in 1803. Down there behind it is Carmichael Street and then George Street, and right on the waterfront is Cable Wharf, where our journey began this morning - and last night, and even back on New Year's Eve 2001 if it comes to that. when I first came to Halifax.

This is what the Citadel was originally built to defend. Down there were the earliest moorings of the port of Halifax and it is said to be where the first settlers landed. Ships at anchor there would be right under the guns of the Citadel.

And so having given you the historical bit of the tour of the Citadel, let me return to the sightseeing. Somewhere on my travels around the defensive perimeter of the Citadel I stumbled across a biker, parked at the side of the road and leisurely surveying the scene.

Of course, as is my wont, I went over for a chat with him, like you do "well, like SOME of you do" ...ed but before I had the time to utter a word (mind you, Llanfairpwllgwyngyllgogerychwyrndrobwllllantysiliogogogoch is rather long), I was interrupted by something rather unusual crossing my path.

pseudo dukw amphibious vehicle citadel Halifax nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

I'm not sure what it is supposed to be but it isn't a DUKW. After all, the W in the acronym DUKW implies that it has two powered axles at the rear (the D being that it was designed in 1942, the U being that is is amphibious and the K meaning that it is all-wheel drive)

Nevertheless, it's certainly novel and it's an interesting way to see the harbour. I'd have no trouble at all getting over to George's Island on this, always assuming that it does have an amphibious capability.

Mind you, that does remind me of the legendary "Yogi" Berra, who when describing a certain baseball player, said
"that guy can bat with either hand! He's amphibious!"

But anyway, I noticed that the motor cycle of the biker was registered in Ontario and so I had a chat with him about it. He does indeed live there, and has done for the last 13 years. But he was originally from Newfoundland and so we had quite a chat about that too, bearing in mind the fact that it's not all that long ago - a matter of a couple of days in fact - that I was there as well .

And in the middle of our discussion he let slip an "alrighteeeeeee". Yes, he's from Newfoundland.

And that's not all. I met another one of these marching women up here. This time, I was on foot and so I was able to accost her. I asked her the question about this bizarre phenomenon of marching women out here in the Maritimes. She told me that she was in fact from Ottawa and in answer to my question replied, without even a moment's hesitation
"well, Canada is such a big country and there is so much to see. You need to be in a hurry if you want to see it all"

So now I know.

After all of that I finally arrived at front entrance to the Citadel, "and not before time" I hear you exclaim. It is another one of these "please prepare your admission money" places, and so that means of course that I shall give the interior a miss. I'm on a limited budget and with only limited time to spare.

What was interesting though was that just as I arrived, one of the tourists inside the Citadel stood on the ramparts for an even better view. A security guard (and aren't I totally fed up of these people all over the place?) shouted "get down!" three or four times - and the tourist took not a blind bit of notice.

My suggestion - that the security guard should have repeated his order (for make no mistake - that was what it was) in French fell on stony ground completely.

But it did remind me of the story of the Anglophone tourist who went to the dentist in Québec for some emergency treatment. During his manipulations, the dentist touched a nerve and the patient yelled
The dentist turned to the patient and said
"'ere, Monsieur, we are in Québec and 'ere we speak ze French. I shall touch that nerve again and zis time you will yell 'Aïeeee'"

guard on door citadel Halifax nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

Meanwhile, back at the Citadel, I reckoned that the guard on duty was well-worth a photograph. This was all very well but you have absolutely no idea just how difficult it was to actually take it.

Each time I went to take the shot, a group of tourists miraculously appeared in the alleyway and stood in the way of the shot. Each time that they saw me in the position to take the shot, they decided that it would be a good idea to also take a photograph and so they stood right in front of me to take theirs. And then each time after they had taken their photographs they sauntered slowly away up the alley, keeping in the view of my camera all the time.

When they all had finally disappeared, the sentry then decided to go off and patrol his beat.
"Don't you sod off now!"
I muttered under my breath - I was not in all that much of a good humour by this time.

I cheered myself up by recalling to myself that when I had once been in London I had seen the Middlesex Regiment perform the Changing of the Guard at the Tower of London. A few weeks later I was in Edinburgh where I witnessed the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders perform the Guarding of the Change at Mactavish's Grocery Shop.

wallenius wilhelmsen ship woodside industrial wharf dartmouth from citadel Halifax nova scotia canada october octobre 2010

From up here there's an even better view of that large ship over there at the oil terminal. I can't read her name from up here unfortunately but what I can say is that she is one of the ... errrr ... 135 ships owned or controlled by Wallenius Wlihelmsen Shipping Lines

The company, apparently based in Sweden (and most other European countries, so it seems), describes itself as specialising in Ro-Ro cargo (so my earlier guess about it being an oil tanker may well be rather wide of the mark) and being the leading vehicle transporter in Europe. In fact, the company would like you to know that
"every year, millions of new cars, as well as agricultural machines, railway carriages and even aircraft wings, are transported on board our vessels. ".

In the meantime that's everything that there is up here at the Citadel. I'm going to disappear, and disappear into what I call "Disappearing Halifax".

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