Public gardens in Halifax

by Bob Hoelscher 18. October 2013 20:01

Flowers in bloom, bandstand in background

If you are heading to Atlantic Canada, don’t even think about missing the Halifax Public Gardens, which in my humble opinion constitute one of the most beautiful small parks anywhere in the world. Open free of charge, these are among the best remaining Victorian Gardens in the Americas. 

The gardens are a comfortable walk from either downtown Halifax or the cruise ship port. They lie just past the popular district of shops along Spring Garden Road, across the street from the Lord Nelson Hotel.

The first gardens on the site were planted by the Nova Scotia Horticultural Society beginning in 1836, while additional and adjacent gardens were established by the City of Halifax in 1866-67. Both plots, totaling 16 acres, were unified as the city’s Public Gardens in 1874.

In 1984, they were designated a National Historic Site by the Canadian government. Locally, they’ve even been voted as the best place in the city to read a book, but as a photographer, I’m much more inclined to keep my camera busy whenever I visit. I most recently enjoyed the beautiful gardens on a Norwegian Gem Canada and New England cruise in September.

 Beautiful dahlias

Magnificent landscaping

Fountain statuary

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Three Especially Worthwhile Tour Inclusions

Volendam: A breath of fresh air

by Brian Jewell 8. August 2009 18:02

Sometimes a good walk can clear your head and help you see the things around you in a new and fresh way. In Volendam, a small fishing village outside of Amsterdam, a simple walk through town gave me a new perspective.

It’s a Saturday, you see.  And that’s important.

I don’t want to be jaded, but I couldn’t help but to feel like I’ve seen Volendam before – in Germany, in Switzerland, in Ireland, in Mexico, in Canada, in New England… even in Florida. Charming, yes, but not unique. And the sad part is that when tourists begin to discover these wonderful little places, their charm becomes a commodity. The towns no longer seem as authentic – instead, they are caricatures of themselves, peddling a certain image for tourists, all so they can sell t-shirts and ice cream.

Walking along the dock in Volendam, my spirits sank a little, as I saw the typical throngs of tourists crowded into sidewalk cafes, eating their frozen treats and stopping for photos in the most inconvenient places.  So I decided to just walk by, and I kept walking.

This is where the charm of Volendam comes into focus.  In just a few minutes, I was clear of the dockside, of the tourist district, and all of the trappings of the cheap commercialism. Just a few blocks away, I found myself in a local neighborhood, of cute Dutch style houses with peaked roofs and immaculate gardens, laid out along the sides of a canal. Down a side street, a local weekend market was taking place, where neighbors met while browsing cheese, nuts, crafts and handmade clothing. No one was there to put on a show for tourists, and no one was speaking English. This was just life in a Dutch village.

Walking through the neighborhood for half an hour or so, I saw all of the trappings of normal life on a Saturday afternoon – teenagers riding bikes through the streets, mothers on an afternoon walk pushing toddlers around in strollers, and old couples enjoying a stroll down the sidewalk on a sunny, 72-degree afternoon.  As I took it in, I remembered one of the reasons that I love travel so much: When you get past the business and the hospitality and the hassle, travel reminds us how connected we are to people of different races, different nationalities and different languages.  We are so different in so many ways, but in the end, there is so much more that we have in common.

I returned to the ship with a new spring to my step. It’s a Saturday, and I feel privileged to have enjoyed a little bit of it with the good people of Volendam. This is why we travel, and this is why those of us who get to work in tourism are blessed beyond belief.

A Home in the Alps

by Brian Jewell 20. July 2009 02:54

It’s hard to visit the remote Alpine villages of Switzerland without wondering what it would be like to live here. Although there must be downsides to living in small, difficult-to-reach places, the natural beauty and cultural charm of these places makes them feel like heaven on earth to visitors.

This morning we visited the small town of Brienz, a village of 3,500 people in the Swiss Alps known worldwide for its history in woodcarving. But it wasn’t wood that caught my eye today – it was the magnificent houses that sit between alongside the beautiful Lake Brienz.

Historic, huge, and immaculately manicured, these houses are an attraction in themselves. Their architecture and gardens make many visitors drool, or envy or both. But perhaps their greatest asset is the view out of their picture windows: the houses face the lake, with the towering, snow-capped Swiss Alps as a backdrop. Standing looking at this view, I can’t imagine how rich life her e must be.

Apparently, the people are rich too.  Our Collette tour manager Jeff Scott told us that all of these lakeside homes are worth millions of Swiss Francs (which are very close in value to U.S. dollars.) And many times, once a family moves in, they never leave.

When a family wants to buy a house in this area, or build a new one, they take out mortgages with 100-year terms. When the original purchasers die, their children take over the mortgages, and thus the homes stay in families for a century until they are paid. The houses are built so large to accommodate the many family members that will inevitably live there together.

“You often die in the same house that you were born in,” Jeff said. “It’s not at all uncommon to find four generations living together under the same roof.”



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A Taste of the Alps

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