Our next stop was Louisbourg, about 35 km south of Sydney, where we planned to visit the Fortress, a National Historical Site,. The site was founded by the French in 1713 and was twice besieged twice by the British (at least by “American” colonists, before being finally demolished in 1760. It was reconstructed in the 1960s and encompasses one fourth of the original French town and fortifications. What we in the United States call the “French and Indian War” was actually a part of the Seven Years War, the first real world war. In Canada, it included the expulsion of the Acadians, an event which resonates to this day. (https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Seven_Years’_War) Most Americans are unaware of the extent of French territories in the New World. This map may help:
You can see why Americans were so worried about the threats from the Spanish during the early years of the Republic and why Jefferson, despite massive opposition, was so eager to acquire Louisiana. Sad that so little of this is taught in US history courses.
We arrived in Louisbourg on a sunny afternoon, but too late to do justice to the Fortress, so we agreed we would head out in the morning. We expected to spend a couple of hours there and then move on towards the mainland of Nova Scotia. Next day dawned cold and misty, but we layered up and headed out. Apparently such weather is quite common and the sea mists blow in on a regular basis. It was chilly to put it mildly but we found our visit fascinating.
We stopped at a fisherman’s hut, outside the city walls, where we learned all about the importance of cod fishing, because cod could be salted and then dried at which point it could be kept for years and was valuable back in Europe. In 1731, cod exports were worth more than 3.1 million French livres (pounds). The industry was so profitable, that some fishermen came over only for the season and wintered in France.
We then entered the Fort through the Dauphin Gate where we were greeted by a soldier in costume warning of the rules and regulations! (We were identified as English spies.)
We first visited the fortifications before heading into the town proper.
There are a number of houses open for viewing, furnished according to the class of the people who inhabited them, from farmers to successful business people, to the Governor’s quarters.
We stopped at one house where we met a musician who performed on a variety of instruments. We discussed life in general during the era and then the instruments of the era. He used a traditional ten string guitar, a recorder and also a hurdy-gurdy. He brought it out to show us, and gave us a short concert. (Sur le pont d’Avignon, l’on y danse, l’on y danse, etc.) Fred has always been fascinated by the Hurdy Gurdy (Vielle a roue) and loved having the chance to examine one in detail.
Basically, it is a form of violin, bowed by a rosined wheel with the various melody strings stopped by wooden frets attached to keys. Tuning is an absolute nightmare as EVERYTHING, from the strings to the frets, is adjustable and everything responds to changes in humidity.
His instrument was a reproduction of an original which reposes on a bed, on display in the fort. His day job is repairing pipe organs and other musical instruments and he is hoping that one day they will let him restore the original Hurdy Gurdy. He told us he would be performing with a group of children, so we made sure to attend!
We went on to watch the fife and drum marching, and the musket and cannon firing, at the King’s Bastion, before visiting the displays and rooms belonging to the Governor.
Then, cold and hungry we decided it was lunch time. We headed for the Inn where “lower class food” was being served. Fred ordered a meal, which turned out to be a bowl of soup and turkey pie with vegetables. Denise ordered a bowl of soup, which came with bread baked in the Fortress bakery. We both ordered hot rum to warm us up! We were given pewter spoons with which to eat and large bibs to tie around our necks. Yes, the napkins were large enough for us to “make ends meet.” (You can see that we spend entirely too much time in historical recreation sites, we are even learning the language(s).) The food was good so we decided to try desserts, a cookie and a piece of rum cake. The rum cake was the best, it was excellent. Or maybe it was the hot rum we had imbibed!
After visiting some more houses, and watching our friend perform with the children, we headed back to the car park.
We decided it was too late to try and leave so we returned to the Louisbourg campground for another night. We set out the next morning back to the mainland after a wonderful ten days in Cape Breton.