Today I drove the forty or so miles down just past the modern-day town of Louisbourg, walked through a visitor center, and caught a shuttle bus into the past.
Louisbourg Fortress (a fortified town, as opposed to a fort, which is just a fort) was built by the French, back when they were battling the Brits for supremacy in North America. The current fortress is something like Williamsburg, only even more so. With Williamsburg they had a few existing buildings to start with. With Louisbourg they had archaeological digs and historians. What they’ve achieved with that is pretty astonishing. You really do feel like you’re walking through an 18th century (they’re portraying the 1740s here, the height of Louisbourg’s prosperity) walled town. You almost feel like you’re in France, not Canada, which is rather disconcerting.
The living history part of the deal is toned down here, though. Not a lot of demonstrations, at least not today. But a good many of the buildings were filled with exhibits, about how they did the research and the rebuilding, and telling the stories of some of the people who lived here. I was surprised (although I have no idea why I was surprised) to discover that a few African slaves lived here. I was also fascinated by the hierarchy of the place, who was on top, and who was unfortunate enough to be at the bottom. I learned about the soldiers’ lives, and saw where they lived, and all in all it was another part of history that I didn’t know about. I also had a very nice chat with a gardener about the local climate, and another with a soldier on the ramparts about how most English language military terms come from the French language.
I’ve been charmed by the way I’m greeted with “hello, bonjour” ever since I crossed the border into Canada. I keep meaning to mention it, but what I’ve learned is that this is how they ask you which language you speak. You’re supposed to respond in your language so that the person addressing you knows how to go on. Which is pretty nifty, IMHO.
I spent most of the day at Fortress Louisbourg, in a misty moisty morning and cloudy (and windy) was the weather, and then just in the brisk wind that made me glad I’d put my hoodie and my raincoat on.
After I left Louisbourg, I wasn’t in the mood to make a decision as to what I was going to do the next day, so I stopped at a provincial park campground nearby – and promptly got read the riot act for speeding in the campground. I had not been speeding. I’ve been paranoid about the whole kilometers vs. miles thing ever since I crossed the border, and I know for a fact that I was not speeding. But I didn’t argue with the man, and he didn’t do anything more than fuss at me.
I’ve already been feeling sort of weird about Cape Breton ever since I got here. I’m not sure I can explain it, but I’m more than ready to leave. It’s almost like I’m a rubber band, with one end fastened in western Washington, and apparently Cape Breton was just stretching me just a little too far. That’s also part of the reason I didn’t go on to Newfoundland.
There’s more to see here, and I could have stayed another night or two, but I’m ready to head west. Not directly west, not yet, but west.