Spouting on a Fine Tradition; Martin Keene Takes a Trip to Halifax - a Canadian Town That Can Boast a Whole Wealth of History

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Our skipper had been searching for the whale for over an hour with the intensity of a destroyer captain hunting a submarine when, in the finest seafaring tradition, Angele shouted "Thar she blows!"

We made our best speed to the spot where our guide had seen the tell-tale spouts, and within minutes were rewarded with the sight of two fin whales, swimming effortlessly alongside our boat.

We watched in awe as these whales that can live to be 100 years old, glided powerfully through crystal clear waters of the Gulf of St Lawrence.

They came to the surface three times before they arched their backs and with one final snort, headed back into the deep.

We returned, drenched but elated to the French-speaking town of Cheticamp from where Captain Poirier has been running whale-watching cruises since 1981.

And although Angele had warned that there were no refunds if we returned without seeing any whales, few visitors leave disappointed - last year just two per cent of Poirier's trips came back to the harbour without seeing these magnificent mammals.

Whale watching is one of the `don't miss' attractions of Nova Scotia. It's the nearest Province to the UK, and its capital, Halifax, is easily reached on a six-hour Canada 3000 charter flight from Gatwick and Glasgow airports.

They also fly to seven other Canadian cities from nine UK and Ireland airports.

It was from Halifax that ships left to rescue the survivors of the Titanic. They came back with bodies, but there's been a resurgence of interest in the disaster after the release of the Hollywood blockbuster.

The city's Maritime Museum of the Atlantic has seen a fourfold increase in visitors and a cemetery where some of the Titanic's bodies are buried has become part of the regular tourist trail.

Young girls leave their cinema ticket stubs by a headstone marked J Dawson, thinking, wrongly, that it is the grave of Jack Dawson, who is played by their heart-throb Leonardo DiCaprio.

There's even a Titanic Restaurant with a replica dining room and a menu cut down from the original 11 courses.

The city offers a wide range of restaurants and nightlife. The Halifax Hotel has superb views of the world's second largest natural harbour; the Five Fishermen restaurant offers a fine fish menu and there's a host of bars that feature live music in the e venings.

Although the Mi'kmaq Indians last posed a threat to settlers years ago, there is still a touch of the wild west frontier town at the Drunken Duck on Spring Gardens as local Acadian bands entertain revellers into the early hours.

Lobster is one of Nova Scotia's three main exports (the others are blueberries and Christmas trees) and is on the menu almost everywhere. The favourable exchange rate against the Canadian dollar makes eating out great value. …