Thursday, September 13, 2007




September 6, 2007

Parks Canada really needs to hire a marketing manager. Many, many Canadians, let alone Americans, have never heard of this treasure located in the southeastern part of Cape Breton. If it had not been for the Harmathys telling me that I had to visit, I would have missed the opportunity to be immersed in the 18th century at the Louisbourg Fortress.

The original footings were never built on, as has happened at so many other sites, so archeologists have been able to recover many artifacts, and much of the original stonework was still there when it was decided to re-construct the fortress as it had been during the French occupation, and afterwards when the English captured it. The buildings have been lovingly restored and many of the original pieces of furniture, etc. have been showcased in the rooms. But what makes this place so special is that there are many people, known as “animators” who are in period costume and who have taken on the character of a person from the original fortress’s time period.

As we entered the fortress, we were challenged by a soldier to give him the password. When we couldn't come up with the password, he demanded silver. And when we couldn't come up with any real silver (quarters and nickels wouldn't do), he asked for rum. We promised to bring him some on the way out.
I chatted with soldiers, serving women, and others who told me what it was like for them in their daily lives. In particular, the priest and the assistant commissaire were very believable in their roles. When I asked the assistant commissaire where the washrooms were, he warned me that there was sorcery there because when you push a handle, the tides go in and out. He was determined to get to the bottom of the mystery and find the witch who was responsible! Later on, I met him again and he played the harpsichord for me and told me that he does not associate with the lower class, and dressed as befitting his station. He also confided that he was “cooking the books” so that he could amass a fortune which he would take back to France, along with his fiancée, the daughter of the quartermaster. In France, he and his wife would escape the guillotine because they knew how to blend in with the common folk from their experiences in the colonies. However, one of their sons would lose his neck.

The priest told me that the citizens were too penurious to build a church for him and consequently, he was forced to say mass in the soldiers’ chapel. He showed me a typical meal, which I must say was quite sumptuous, and demonstrated a clever method of turning a spit with meat on it over the fireplace, by using the heat to push a bellows.

Later, I entered one of three taverns and had a meal of pea soup, home made bread, tea and almond tart – all served on pewter dishes and served on wooden tables which were shared with other travelers.
Here are some samples of the many photos I took.

Punishment Block
I learned, too, that another wall had recently been discovered near the tideline and several graves have been recovered. Archaeologists are currently studying these remains and the artifacts found there.

What a remarkable way to learn history! I was truly enchanted by the experience.

Peasant's Sod House
Sadly, the people at Parks Canada are considering doing away with the animators, arguing that people don't want that kind of experience anymore. I beg to differ. For me, it made all the difference in the world.

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