Halifax – overall 11/10, just don’t get the seafood chowder

Wow realized I saved this nugget in drafts. Now that we’re all flying off to our “vacations” (read 2-weeks of ++ trying to impress preceptors) and I’m currently stuck in the airport due to a flight cancellation, thought it might be nice to finally finish this.

Because you know, never start what you can’t finish.

Anyways, Halifax.

This blog post goes all the way back to a trip I took in December 2016. Originally, I had inadvertently signed myself up for a urology rotation at Valley Regional Hospital, Kentville, which is about 2 hours away from Halifax. I really didn’t realize what a remote location this was until my first day, when every single doctor I met asked me “how on earth did you find your way here.” Needing to meet some of the movers and shakers of Nova Scotian Urology – to ultimately fulfill my dream of inserting foley catheters and estimating prostate size – this was obviously not the brightest choice. The administrative staff at Dalhousie was a dream, and I was able to transfer over to the big city with little to no issue. So for those of you doing a urology rotation at Dalhousie, be grateful for all the planning that goes on for you behind the scenes.

Here’s a short guide of do’s and don’t’s while you’re on your Halifax rotation, including where not to get seafood chowder.

Housing: 

So I was pretty lucky in that two of my medical school friends *Chad and *Rudy took me in. Considering the pretty pricey short-term rent around the hospitals, I was really really grateful and bought them some hipster, small batch coffee-flavoured vodka as a thank you gift. *Chad was not a fan. In fact, I think *Chad almost threw up from this experience. We stayed in a pretty beautiful 2 storey house right across from the Halifax Infirmary (HI), which is where many of the surgical clinics and the emergency department are. This house had 3 bedrooms, one and a half bathrooms and a large open kitchen. They found this place on Airbnb, so highly recommend this app if you’re looking for a place to stay. Another option would be to go on the medical student Facebook page. Overall, I would say aim for between $250-350/week for a shared accommodation, and closer to $600-800 for a single, of course it’s always cheaper to stay with other people.

Something to note, there are several hospitals within a 10-15 minute walk of one another, the HI being on Robie St., and the other two, Victoria General and IWK (also where the Children’s Hospital is) on South St. Regardless, if you live somewhere close to one of the hospitals, you’ll be close to them all.

Transportation:

There’s no uber here so it’s either walk everywhere or take taxis. Taxis are actually pretty convenient, they’re fast and there’re quite a few companies. For a 10 minute ride it’s about $6-7. The only issue is that they charge you extra if you have more than one person, and it’ll bring the cost up to around $9. The week we were here it was freezing so YOLOCO, basically took cabs every time we went out. I guess there’re buses here, but I try and avoid buses in winter because of all sick people (would rather not have people coughing and sneezing on me before I get to the hospital).

Touristy things (from things to skip to things you should go to):

  1. Halifax Public Gardens – I would skip this. Everything’s dead in the winter. I guess if it’s snowing it’s nice, but then again, if it’s snowing here it’s probably snowing everywhere.
  2. Halifax Central Library – it’s really nice from the outside and I’ve head the coffee shop on the inside is quite nice. Great for studying if that’s what you’re into.
  3. Maritime Museum of the Atlantic – ok honestly, I spent most of my free time eating, checking out the bars and following this tourist map *Chad and *Rudy got from the tourism centre. If you’re not like me and you enjoy going to museums and being cultured, it was ranked #6 out of 132 things to do in Halifax.
  4. Canadian Museum of Immigration at Pier 21 – see above
  5. St. Mary’s Basilica – did not actually go inside but it’s nice from the outside.
  6. Alexander Keith’s Brewery – we actually wanted to go to this. You don’t have to make a reservation, and they’re open on weekdays and weekends. Tours are about 1-2 hours so this would be a nice weekend activity before going out for dinner.
  7. Halifax Seaport Farmer’s Market – this was interesting, I love farmer’s markets so I spent about an hour here. They have everything from baked goods to fruits and vegetables to artisan small-batch liquors (where I got that coffee-flavoured vodka from). Would recommend checking it out, it was created in 1750, a year after the founding of Halifax. One note, it was a lot smaller than I expected, so you could start your day here like I did and move uptown.

Food and Drink

Probably my favourite section. Halifax is actually known for having the most bars per capita. So here’s a list of some great bars and restaurants (totally not exhaustive, please go on Yelp, my #bae on electives or Dr. Google to find more gems):

Bars: 

  1. Noble – we actually came here twice! It’s a really neat Speakeasy that requires a secret password to get into. The front is called Middlespoon and is more of a dessert, casual drinks place. To get into Noble, you have to subscribe to this page by email, and they’ll send out the password every Thursday. The drinks were really delicious and fairly strong. They’re a bit more expensive, $12-15, but they’re definitely worth it!
  2. Stillwell – It’s super hipster, they have a million beers on tap and lots of different flavours and ciders to try. They’ll let you sample as well if you’re unsure of what you want. We came here on a Saturday night and it was packed. Would definitely recommend checking this place out if you’re into craft beers.
  3. Durty Nelly’s – this was on the tourist guide for lunch, but it’s an Irish pub with brews and food. I’ve heard it’s pretty popular so check it out, all the bars are relatively within the same area!
  4. 2 Doors Down – we all really loved this place. They had amazing food and they have an extensive drinks list as well. Great ambiance, service and reasonably prices. Would definitely recommend (also has 4.5 stars on Yelp so that was a pretty strong selling point for me)

Food:

  1. 2 Doors Down – see above
  2. Ardmore Tea House – supposedly Halifax’s best brekkie. They’ve been serving comfort food since 1956. In addition to your typical pancakes, eggs, bacon etc, they also serve interesting local features like Newfoundland steak and cod cakes. Location: 6499 Quinpool Rd, Halifax. Phone: (902) 423-7523
  3. Battery Park Beer Bar – this place has a lot of locally sourced food that pairs well with beer. It’s reasonably priced and a part of Taste Halifax Tours. Haven’t actually tried it, but their instagram is bomb so. Location: 62 Ochterloney St, Halifax.
  4. Brooklyn Warehouse – this restaurant reminds me of Berkeley. No seriously, they have their own vegetable garden and a strong commitment to local, fresh, seasonal cuisine. They have rotating specials on a chalkboard and have an extensive list of wines and craft beer from the region. Location: 2795 Windsor St, Halifax. Phone: (902) 446-8181
  5. Chives Canadian Bistro – a menu of “Canadian” cuisine (and here I thought Canadian cuisine was poutine and maple syrup), with innovative meals created by chef/owner Craig Flinn (author of many best-selling Canadian cookbooks). The decor tries to incorporate elements of Canada like rock, water, sand, trees and whatnot and uses seasonal, local ingredients. They have a moving menu, so in the words of Forrest Gump, “you never know what you’re going to get.” Location: 1537 Barrington St, Halifax. Phone: (902) 420-9626
  6. Five Fishermen Restaurant and Grill – disclaimer: have not tried this place, but heard about it from several staff and residents. It’s known for its Alberta Angus beef and great seafood selection. There’s a fine dining area upstairs, and a more casual grill downstairs. This restaurant has numerous awards from the Wine Spectator with an extensive wine list. The building dates back to 1817 and was originally an art school, and later was transformed into a mortuary for victims of the Halifax Explosion and the Titanic. Apparently there’s some supernatural stuff going on here so maybe you’ll get lucky and get one in your selfie? Location: 1740 Argyle St, Halifax. Phone: (902) 422-4421
  7. The Auction House – So this is a restaurant located in an auction house dating back to 1840, and auctions are still held daily here. It’s a taste of local culture and history, in the setting of upscale pub food and drinks. It’s one of the city’s oldest buildings (built in 1765). There’s also live music and it’s across from Parade Square. Location: 1726 Argyle Street, Halifax. Phone: (902) 431-1726
  8. The Bicycle Thief – we came here on recommendation (both from people and from Yelp reviews) for a nice dinner and it really was delicious! I ordered the Cioppino, which was huge, and came with an abundance of seafood as well as a side of garlic bread. I can’t really remember what my friends ordered, but I’m fairly confidence that they enjoyed their meals as well. In total, I spent about $40 after tax and tip. It’s a little on the pricey side, but isn’t that what our line of credit is for?
  9. The Old Apothecary Bakery & Cafe – I visited this cute little cafe on my traipse through the city. It has a cool old-age hipster vibe going for it and adorable cakes and pastries. Everything here is made from scratch and locally sourced as much as possible, and I can vouch for the fact that everything smells delicious. Amazing croissants (of various varieties) and eclairs. It’s also a great study space with big tables, and it’s fairly quiet. If you want a change from your typical Starbucks, check this place out (just make sure to stand once in a while, all those pastries can’t be good for your waistline). Location: 1549 Barrington St, Halifax. Phone: (902) 423-1500
  10. The Wooden Monkey – for all those vegan and food sensitive people, this is the spot for you BUT they also offer things like fish, bacon wrapped scallops and bacon cheeseburgers for all those people who die without meat at every meal (menu). They note all the gluten free options, as well as anything with dairy or nuts. They have a mix of different foods with everything from seitan sandwiches to chocolate tofu pie to lamb burgers. Location: 1707 Grafton St, Halifax.

Huffington Post also has a great updated list and review of restaurants to visit

 Places outside of Halifax worth seeing if you’re there for 2 weeks:

  1. Wolfville – so I like food. And clearly the people of Wolfville like food too. However, disclaimer I have never been to this place. When I was in Kentville (small town with small population), apparently the place to go for a nice dinner was this town approximately 15min drive away. Would appreciate if someone could let me know if I’m talking out of my a**.
  2. Peggy’s Cove
  3. Blomidon Provincial Park
  4. Fisherman’s Cove

Honestly have never been to any of these places. Please see this blog for a much better explanation AND a guide to your weekend outside of Halifax.

Overall I had an awesome time in Halifax. It has a small town vibe but with tons of great bars, live music, yummy food, really really nice people and everything you need is mostly within walking distance. Especially if you live in or near downtown Halifax. Some final tips:

  1. Moksha here (like all Moksha’s) have a $40 for 30 days introductory pass. If you think this is your first and last time here, take advantage of all the introductory deals you can! I think I went to 5 or 6 yoga classes, but it was a great break from the freezing cold wind outside.
  2. Do not wear flats in winter. Because it will suck a lot and you might fall on your face like I did (it might’ve happened twice).
  3. I heard summer is really beautiful here. Honestly please enjoy the outdoors and the festivals and all that happy instagram stuff because we only get this “vacation” once.

Have fun! Feel free to message me or comment if you have any questions about Halifax, urology or surviving in the middle of nowhere.

 

 

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How to YOLO in Chicago

A couple of months ago, one of my high school best friends messaged me and asked if I wanted to go to Chicago for Labour Day long weekend. Well, if you know anything about me, if it involves “traveling” and “long weekend,” I’m in 95% of the time. As medical students, we’re often asked to sacrifice our time, our relationships, and sometimes our sanity on our road to becoming real, productive members of society.

We’re about 2 weeks into our second year, and I’ve found this to be true: if you don’t take advantage of weekends, medical school will take advantage of you; thus, I booked a pretty expensive flight to Chicago, ready to go on another whirlwind adventure.

So how long was I in Chicago exactly? 2.5 days – short, but 100% worth it.

Here are some fun facts my friend researched:

  1. Did you know that Picasso, Joan Miro and Marc Chagall all have contributed artwork to the streets of Chicago
  2. Jazz was invented here
  3. House music started here
  4. Improv comedy was invented at the University of Chicago – the original theatre is still running
  5. The world’s first skyscraper was built in Chicago

Here’s a basic map of what we did to maximize our time in the windy city. If you only have a couple days here, the things I starred I HIGHLY recommend you check out:

Friday (0.5 day):

Saturday (day 1.5):

Sunday (day 2.5):

If you’re still reading, here’s a more fleshed out version of our weekend in Chicago:

I left Toronto at 5:30pm on Friday (after being responsible all morning eg. actually going to class and attending meetings), and got there at 6:45pm. Once I got there, I discovered something brilliant, that would change my entire experience in Chicago. UBERPOOL. My drive from ORD to our AirBnB in Hyde Park was about an hour and 20 minutes, and cost me $20 USD (crazy I know). Once I got there, me and my friend were starving, so we of course called another Uberpool, and decided to go check out the bars and restaurants in Lincoln Square.

After driving for about an hour though, we quickly realized that the restaurant we were trying to go to didn’t seem to exist, and asked our driver if she had any recommendations on where we could go to eat and drink (it was now 10:40pm). She suggested we check out Division St., which is a long street that’s known to be pretty fun on weekends. After another 30 min (total drive time = 2 hours), we discovered Pub Royale, and decided to grab drinks and food here. In total, our UberPool cost about $24 USD, which is incredible considering we drove for 2 hours.

I really loved Pub Royale, an Indian style pub. I highly recommend you check this place out if you’re in that area, they have great Indian food and drinks. My friend ordered the Chicken Tiki Kati Roll, which she repeatedly told me was amazing, and I ordered the eggplant curry, which was delicious and just what I needed at 11pm at night. After talking, drinking and eating for 2 hours, we decided to head home to get some rest before a big day tomorrow.

On Saturday morning, we leisurely woke up at 10am, and headed downtown to check out the Art Institute, after grabbing some coffee at Bowtruss Coffee Roasters. I loved the art institute – they had an incredible collection of Impressionist Art, and I loved their special exhibits. The student price is $19 (adult is $25), and I have to say, you could really spend a whole day here (Open: 10:30am – 5:30pm most days, 8pm Thursdays). If you only have a couple hours though, here are my favourite exhibits/collections:

  • American after the fall: Painting in the 1930s
    • Edward Hopper
    • Grant Wood
  • The New Contemporary
    • Andy Warhol
  • European Painting and Sculptures
    • Monet
    • Renoir
    • Dali
    • Picasso
  • Photography
  • Thorne Miniature Rooms
  • Chagall Windows

The Bean of course is pretty iconic – but I recommend going when it looks like it’s going to rain. There are always so many tourists there when it’s sunny, spare yourself and go on a cloudy day.

Sooo skipping to that evening, I highly recommend trying the doughnuts at Glazed & Infused, they’re really delicious, fresh, free from preservatives and all natural (whatever that means). They have a lot of creative flavours, although my favourite by far was the red velvet. They have a 2 for 1 (or 2 for 2 depending on who the cashier is), so make sure you stop by during happy hour!

After drowning our palates in sugar, we headed out to grab drinks before seeing the comedy show at Second City. I’ve always wanted to check out Three Dots and a Dash, a Hawaiian themed tiki bar, so we found our way to the alley and the unmarked door with glowing blue lights. It’s easy to miss this place before the crowd gets here, but basically look for the security guards standing outside of club-like venue in a shady alley. They have the most amazing decorations and drinks, and the bartenders are super talented. I highly recommend the Missionary’s Downfall ($14) and the Banana Daquiri ($13). The first is sweet and tart, while the second one just taste like sugar, fresh bananas and lots of rum. We spent a couple hours here, but it turns into a club around 10:30/11pm. When we left around 10pm, the lineup outside was down the block, so it’s probably a good idea to eat and drink here, then stay for the party after.

The show, #DateMe: An OkCupid Experiment, was next on our agenda.

LOVED it. We originally wanted to see the Second City improv but it was sold out, so we bought tickets for this instead ($39 after taxes). It was really hilarious, and the the improv bit was gold. It was witty, relatable and apt for our generation. We were super lucky since our Airbnb host was one of the production managers for the show, and reserved amazing seats for us with 25% off our orders. That being said, COME EARLY since there’s no reserved seating, and the theatre is pretty intimate. There were a ton of couples there – it would be perfect for date night.

Sunday was another perfect day. We started the day off at Obama’s favourite diner, Valois in Hyde Park (I recommend the veggie egg white omelette with a biscuit – $7). He’s from Hyde Park, so you see lots of shout outs throughout the neighbourhood. After, we took public transit to Bucktown/Wicker Park and wandered around for the next few hours. There are tons of stores, bars and restaurants here, and you could easily spend half an afternoon browsing, eating and drinking. Also, if you come around 4pm there are tons of happy hours to be enjoyed :). Skipping ahead to deep dish pizza, here’s my two cents:

  • Lou Malnati’s: I tried this the last time I was in Chicago. It was good, but it’s a chain restaurant and there’re definitely better deep dish places in the city. If you’re looking for truly amazing or iconic deep dish, I would skip this place. It also has a super long wait time once you sit down, but that’s because deep dish apparently takes a long time to make fresh
  • Giordano’s: another chain, you can actually get this at the entrance of Navy Pier. I’ve never tried it, but again, probably not the best or most iconic
  • Pizzeria Uno: we decided to eat here because it’s the birthing place of deep dish pizza. It’s pretty famous, the pizza was delicious, and the wait wasn’t too too bad (we got there at 6:30pm and were seated by 7pm). I recommend it!
  • Pizzeria Due: I think it’s owned by the same people as Pizzeria Uno. It’s right across the street and it’s the “second” deep dish pizza place. The wait is similar, about 30min-1 hour and I imagine the pizza is similar to Uno (the menu is the same)
  • Pequod’s Pizza: A local told us to try this place for deep dish pizza. Supposedly it’s really good but we never tried it. If you do, let me know!

I ended up busing home from Chicago, which took about 12.5 hours total ($89). It wasn’t too bad, but we did have to change buses 3 times, so don’t expect uninterrupted sleep if you’re taking the Greyhound. It also gets super cold on the bus, so wear pants and bring a sweater.

Overall, I had an AMAZING time in Chicago, and am so looking forward to the next time I get to visit again. If you have any questions about my trip or want any input on your own trip, feel free to contact me with comments and questions :).

In the mean time, can’t wait to bury my head in my books for the next couple months, stay tuned for my next exciting adventure: USMLE STEP 1 (Note: sarcasm – I’m literally terrified of getting my ass whooped)

Side note: I can’t believe I ran into one of my old Berkeley/PhiDE friends here (TWICE)! She was here for a wedding but we literally kept running into each other. When they say it’s a small world, I guess they really mean it :p