I was thrilled to be invited by Downtown Halifax to participate again in Big Day Downtown. This year, 31 local bloggers were armed with $150 Visa cards and sent out to experience the best of downtown Halifax and blog about their experiences. The 2013 edition had a new theme, “Experience It All,” and a fun twist: every blogger drew three theme cards to shape their experiences. Check out some of the other great local bloggers participating in this year’s promotion. Want more Big Day Downtown? Check out my 2012 adventure!
Downtown Halifax is my second home. I spend a lot of my days in the core of the city working, eating, drinking, and finding fun where I can. This year’s twist made things extra interesting for me, and challenged me to find new experiences that fit my themes: authentic, cheerful and exotic.
A little bit of brainstorming with the Downtown Halifax website and I started exploring.
Finding Authentic in Downtown Halifax
Authentic should give you a genuine sense of place, the feeling that you really know a place and its people through whatever experience you’ve encountered.
Lost Cod Clothing Company
Located on the Halifax Waterfront, the Lost Cod Clothing Company gives you a very authentic sense of Nova Scotia and her people, through the stories of the homegrown companies that have made the province what it is today. The designs are classic and fun, and it makes wearing a piece of Nova Scotia history easy as picking out your choice of t-shirt, hoodie or tank top (plus other items). The tough part, and it is really tough, is browsing the designs until you find something that catches your eye, then narrowing them down to a reasonable number of choices.
I settled on the prettiest of the bunch, to me anyway, Sea Nymph Brand Fish Foods of Halifax. After picking up my shirt, I stopped by the Lost Cod’s tumblr, where there was way more information about Sea Nymph and lots more of the companies featured at the Lost Cod.
Finding Cheerful in Downtown Halifax
Having worked in downtown Halifax for almost eight years, finding cheerful things to experience was no problem at all. Something that brings a little bit of sunshine to my day – regardless of whether there’s really sunshine or not? Easy.
Nothing clears the mind and boosts the spirit like a jolt of sugar! I made a quick hop over to Sugah! on the Halifax Waterfront for a slushie made with a local beverage recently resurrected from my youth, Beep.
The resulting combination of icy cold beverage and hot sunny day downtown is a recipe for summer perfection. I took my shoes off and wandered through Sands at Salter, imagining I was at the beach and not heading to a meeting in a windowless room.
Chocolate! Candy! While I was there, I couldn’t resist the urge to stock up on creative and tasty candy creations handcrafted at Sugah!. In fact, I may have earned myself some brownie points by picking up some Beer and Pretzel brittle for a meeting I had immediately after these pictures were taken, made with Garrison Brewing‘s beer. I also picked up some fleur de sel chocolate, which made some pretty incredible s’mores at my barbeque last weekend.
Biscuit General Store
One place that always makes me happy is Biscuit General Store. Oftentimes, on a rainy day, or when I want a little pick me up, I wander over to Biscuit an look at their collection of housewares, sure to provide as much fun as function. While looking through the cheery glassware, I found this ceramic berry box which called to me, begging to be filled with Nova Scotia strawberries and blueberries.
I was also distracted by some brightly-coloured baubles that will definitely cheer up my earlobes. These peachy-melon earrings aren’t normally my style, but I’ve gotten lots of compliments on them, so I should probably re-think my style.
Finding Exotic in Downtown Halifax
Finding exotic in the place I live everyday proved to be the most interesting challenge. After all, exotic should feel unusual, foreign, very different.
My quest for exotic began with the launch party for this year’s Big Day Downtown. Tucked away under desserterie The Middle Spoon, at the end of a long corridor, behind an unassuming door in the basement, Noble is a secret bar that serves up cool drinks and a Prohibition-era vibe. Entry is by password – obtained from their mailing list – and once you are in, you are whisked away to a completely different world.
Kee Heong Cantonese Bakery
Shifting gears entirely, but barely walking around the corner, Kee Heong Cantonese Bakery was a revelation. Honestly, I wasn’t sure what to expect. The only thing I knew about a Cantonese bakery was “pork buns” (true story), after soliciting opinions from friends about what to order.
I found Kee Heong a terrific way to dive into a new food culture. The individual pieces are small and varied, so it’s easy to try as many as catch your eye. I tried the BBQ pork bun, the sausage “burger” with cheese and Lao Po Bing, a coconutty concoction.
Sawadee Tea House
I’ve been a regular customer at Sawadee Tea House for some time now, but I never shake the feeling of being transported far, far away. The hundreds of teas give the shop a sense of mystery, particularly the more unique varieties that are only available at Sawadee.
Among the teaware for drinking tea from the many corners of the tea-drinking Earth, there are also more blends that you can imagine, including special concoctions for different health concerns. On the day of my visit, I picked up some Scottish caramel Pu-Erh tea, which has become a tasty part of my health regime, as well as an excuse to drink something with caramel in it.
Le French Fix
When it comes to exotic, France may not be as far away as China, Thailand or another enchanted corner of the world, but I couldn’t resist the opportunity to visit my favourite patisserie, Le French Fix. My visit happened to coincide with their one-year anniversary, so I helped myself to a gorgeous salted caramel tart, while ogling the macarons and blueberry tarts on display. Party for them, treats for me, seems like a fair deal.
I also visited Le French Fix to show people a place they wouldn’t believe is in Halifax, especially if they’ve had the pleasure of visiting Paris. Le French Fix is just that, a place that gives you the experience of Paris, but it’s just down the street. You get to momentarily leave Halifax, for one of Paris’ neighbourhood patisseries.
Just imagine yourself, wandering the streets of one of the more neighbourly arondissements in Paris. You have a shopping tote slung over your shoulder, with fresh vegetables from today’s market and a baguette peeking out of the top. After some exploration at les vide-greniers in your neighbourhood – yard sales, but more Parisian and, therefore, exotic – it is time for refuelling with a stop for some café and a little sweet treat
As you can see, I had no trouble fulfilling the mandate for my adventure. Now, how will you have you own adventure in Downtown Halifax? Maybe even a better question, how do you find exotic in your own backyard?
For even more Downtown Halifax ideas, check out my 2012 Big Day Downtown adventure!
The opinions presented are my own, and I would like to extend my thanks to Downtown Halifax Business Commission for inviting me to participate in Big Day Downtown and for providing a $150 prepaid Visa card. Any time I receive a complimentary or discount service in my capacity as a travel blogger, I disclose it.