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Halifax's unusually pleasing harborside setting first attracted Europeans in 1749, when Col. Edward Cornwallis established a military outpost here. Its natural advantages -- including that well-protected harbor and its location near major fishing grounds and shipping lanes -- eventually allowed it to emerge as a major port and military base. The city is also home to a number of colleges and universities, which gives it a youthful, edgy air. Skateboards and bicycles often seem to be the vehicles of choice. In addition to the many attractions, downtown Halifax is home to a number of fine restaurants and hotels.


Nova Scotia proves cagey to characterize. It generally feels more cultured than wild . . . but then you stumble upon those blustery, boggy uplands at Cape Breton Highlands National Park. It's a province full of rolling hills and cultivated farms, especially near the Northumberland Straits on the northern shore . . . but then you find the vibrant, edgy, and lively arts and entertainment scene in Halifax, a city that has more intriguing street life than many cities three times its size. It's a place that earns its name -- Nova Scotia is Latin for "New Scotland" -- with Highland games and kilts and a touch of a brogue here and there . . . but then suddenly you're amid the enclaves of rich Acadian culture along the coast between Digby and Yarmouth. The place resists characterization at every turn.