–Friends or foes? The guard took us by surprise, blocking up the entrance.
–Where are you coming from?
–From Toronto, was our short answer.
–No enemies are allowed inside!!
He suddenly started laughing, definitely by the look of our faces. A second later it struck me this is French land.. such a welcoming people LOL
Very well organized, the first bus in the morning took us from the Visitor centre right to the entrance of the fortress.
There were only three land gates and a couple of wharves to give entry to Louisbourg, and Dauphin Gate is still used as the main gate, for tourists this time. A cheerful animator dressed up as a French soldier tried to give us a sense of authority right from the entrance, or rather making a fool of us, as pretty much of everyone else.
Located on the eastern side of Cape Breton Island, in the province of Nova Scotia, the fortress of Louisbourg offers today what has been reconstructed out of the original fortress built in the 18th century. The original settlement named Havre à l’Anglois was made in 1713 as a fishing village due to the valuable cod fisheries off the coasts. After ceding Newfoundland and Acadia to the British, France’s only possessions were the islands of Cape Breton, and Price Edward. In 1719 they began fortifying the fishing town of Louisbourg, with a purpose to defend the port against naval attack.
The first attack in 1745 found Louisbourg an important trading centre, known the best for its cod fishery. Although the harbour was well defended, a series of low hills from the main land were dangerously close to the fortifications, reason the fortress was captured by the British Empire after 46 days of invasion.
After three years, the town was restored to the French by the Treaty of Aix-la-Chapelle. But that didn’t hold too much, as in 1758 Louisbourg was besieged a second time. Britain’s American colonies were expanding and Louisbourg was a highly sought-after target.
This time British army attacked the fortress with 13,100 troops supported by a 14,000 crew on board 150 ships. The French didn’t have any chance, and they were captured in seven days. Determined that Louisbourg would never again become a fortified French base, the British demolished the fortress walls. The fortress, which took more than 24 years to be built, was all ruins now.
The modern town of Louisbourg grew up as a small fishing port, but none of the fortress structures survived the next two centuries.
The Fortress of Louisbourg was named a national historic site in 1928. In 1961 Parks Canada began a reconstruction project of the fort. Almost all of the buildings on site are reconstructions built between 1960 and 1980, using some of the original foundations. A huge work, based on thousands of documents, maps, and plans from old archives, a lot of effort in obtaining evidence about the life from the years preceding the first siege, led to reconstruction of approximately one-quarter of the original town and fortifications.
Two-thirds of the interpretative staff is dressed up in authentic reproductions of colonial clothing.
Dressed up lords, servants, children, guards, they are all trying to bring a genuine flavour of the living life as they would in 1744. The buildings are furnished with a wide variety of furniture and daily-life objects. Some of them are the originals from the 18th century, but the majority are reproductions.
While the high-class would play and dance in formal parlours, the servants would cook, and sew, and do the house chores, fishermen and sailors would hang around to the local pub, or do their duties.
So many buildings to see, and so little time. You could spend a whole day walking around, with so much to learn; an astonishing way of presenting the fortress, and still having a lot of fun with the amazing and jolly guides.
I thought our visit back in 2013 was somehow special, as it marked the 300th anniversary since the founding. If you have a chance, you can try one of their 18th century recipes: not that you would like it, but just for fun😊
Tip(s) of the day:
- Ask as many questions as you want, all the staff looks knowledgeable;
- Wear comfortable shoes and clothing, as the site is quite big, and not much shade between the buildings;
- Take water and sunscreen with you, especially during the summer months.
~ visited in July 2013