It seems to rain a lot up here in the Maritimes. At least it has in the places that we have visited so far. Today was no exception as we boarded the bus for a tour of the area. With rain outside and 44 bodies inside of the bus it didn’t take but a couple of minutes for the windows to fog up with condensation. As we rode along, Paul, the Wagon Master, was pointing out landmarks to help us navigate when we pull out tomorrow morning. Of course, we couldn’t see the landmarks but everyone seemed to be in a good mood with a lot of joking around and laughing.
Our first stop was the Port Royal National Historic Site, a reconstruction of a small French compound begun in 1605, making it one of the earliest European settlements in North America. The “habitation” lasted until 1613 when it was attacked and destroyed by an army of 300 men from Virginia. The Virginia colony claimed land all the way up to and including Nova Scotia. It wasn’t really much of an attack. The 100 or so men (no women) at Port Royal were out working and left the gates to the compound open. After all, they hadn’t been bothered by anyone in eight years. So when the Virginians/British arrived they just walked in, looted the place, and burned it before returning to their ships.
The men of Port Royal only lived there for one year at a time. They signed a contract to work for a year, when the next supply ship arrived with new workers. Their primary purpose in being there was to trade with the local Mi’kmaq Indians for beaver pelts, which were shipped back to France to be made into beaver skin hats (the “fashion rage” of the times). Just as an aside, rabbit fur was also used to make hats but it first had to be processed with salts of mercury (which is toxic). After a hatter had absorbed enough mercury into his body he would begin to suffer from dementia. Hence the term, “mad as a hatter.”
These guys at Port Royal must have gotten quite bored during their year of service. They worked long hours and their diet was poor. Scurvy would hit them really hard during the winter months. To help maintain morale and make their evening meals more enjoyable they established what was probably the first social club in North America. The Order of Good Cheer was established to “keep our table joyous and well provided.” It included a good-natured competition by the members who would take turns providing food and entertainment for a banquet. At the end of the meal, the responsibility would be passed to the next member and challenged to “top that!”
Fort Anne, the oldest National Historic Site in Canada, was our next stop. It was a star-shaped fort (similar to Fort Beausejour, at which we stopped yesterday - except larger). Construction of the fort began in 1702. This area was one of the most hotly contested territories in North America and it changed hands several times between the French and the British.
After Fort Anne we were taken to the German Restaurant and Bakery for lunch. After hearing about the French, British, and Acadians for the past several days, Rich was wondering why we were going to a German restaurant. Good question. But it was also a good lunch and we bought a few items from the bakery to take back to the motorhome.
Once we finished lunch we went to the Historic Gardens in Annapolis Royal. By the way, Annapolis Royal means “the royal city of Anne (the Queen).” The gardens included 17 acres of what was described as “horticultural excellence.” Almost everything was in full bloom and I took several hundred photos that I now have to plow through and reduce to a workable number.
It is late afternoon and still raining. We are scheduled to go on a graveyard tour at 8:30 tonight, rain or shine. I guess it will be rain. How could it shine at night, anyway? Everyone will be given a lantern with a candle to help light the way. I hope we are able to find our way in the rain.