In 1605, a group of French explorers established their country's first successful settlement in North America. With the help of the local Mi'kmaq nation, they survived quite well in Port-Royal until the British invaded and burned it all to the ground in 1613. Fortunately no lives were lost, but the French relied heavily on the good will of the Mi'kmaq for survival in the following winter.
In the 1930s the Habitation of Port-Royal, as it was known, was rebuilt, following plans of the original Habitation that had been found in France.
You didn't come here for a history lesson, I'm sure. But the site was very interesting. Even in the barest of survival modes, class structure was preserved with the lowly fellows sharing the loft for sleeping, the cartographer (Samuel de Champlain) and the priests having private quarters, and the nobleman leader, Sieur de Monts, with a downstairs sitting room and an upstairs bedroom. His window was leaded glass, as seen above.
This historical interpreter is turning wood on a lathe....
run by foot-power. He pumps the springy wood to turn the lathe. Many of the interpreters wore wooden sabots and said they were quite comfortable. More importantly, they kept one's feet dry.
The dining room, set with pewter. Here the men congregated and here Samuel de Champlain came up with the Order of Good Cheer (l'Ordre de Bons Temps), designed to help infuse the long winter months with good food and entertainment. Even here the class structure prevailed, with likely only 15 of the 70 or so men considered of sufficient standing to be full members of the club. The others benefited as well, but were not members.
Tourists and historians alike need to eat lunch. We enjoyed some delicious chowder, homemade bread and German pastry in this restaurant in Annapolis Royal, just across the river from Port-Royal.
After the destruction of the Habitation, the settlement moved across the river. This piece of land changed hands seven times over the next couple of centuries - French to British and back again. Wars in Europe had their effect in the New World, as well.
In Annapolis Royal we visited the star fort constructed by the French in the 18th century. The building above was officers' quarters and now houses a museum.
The earth fortifications were designed to absorb cannon fire. The steep banks take some effort to scramble up and down.
It's often the small things that speak to me of life as it was in the past. I picked up this teapot, expecting some heft to it. However, it's light as a feather and made of tin. Such a fun squat little shape to it.
The old armoury is the only other building left. The walls are massively thick and the wind whistles through special vents designed to keep the place cool in summer.
In the museum is a very large, four-panel needlepoint tapestry telling the history of the area from Mi'kmaq through to modern day. The Queen of England came by Halifax several years ago and the tapestry was brought to her to insert a few stitches. Out came her glasses from her handbag and she sat down and stitched. Apparently she has never done needlepoint, but the guide said that her stitches were very even, nonetheless.
We wandered through the graveyard, where the oldest English gravestone in Canada is located, dating to 1720. We didn't find that particular stone. Many of the stones were so weathered that deciphering the words was impossible.
This monument to the Sieur de Monts was erected in 1904.
In Port-Royal we were greeted by this handsome Frenchman - perhaps a distant relative of one of the original settlers?
We also visited the Historic Garden in Annapolis Royal. I'll show you some of that next time.