Friday, June 19, 2015

Walking Through the Past

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. 



  1. How I would love visiting here. I love reproduction villages such as this one. Thanks for sharing it!

  2. What fun to visit and explore the history of this site! (Some of our favorite trips --day trips or otherwise-- have been to historic sites.) It is fascinating the Queen Elizabeth took a few minutes to add to the history. Somehow, I am not surprised that her stitches were neat. :)

  3. Wow!!!! You know that I love history!!! This is such an incredible and fascinating place and the stories are wonderful!!! Thank you so very much for taking us along, I really enjoyed it!!!! xx

  4. How interesting...such unique buildings and grounds! I really like that little teapot! Thanks for the history lesson :)

  5. I agree with Cheryl - it doesn't surprise me that the Queen would have neat and even stitches!

    I love history and trips like this one are my favorites - you learn so much about how life was lived for people in these different time periods.


  6. What a wonderful trip! Love all the details!

  7. A wonderful glimpse into an historic site! Great photos, as always. Looking forward to seeing the garden!

  8. Loved the history lesson and the tour ! :)

  9. I may not have come here for a history lesson, but I'm sure glad I got it. I love places like this and am so glad you shared it with us. Thank you!

  10. Very interesting and good photos. I too would have thought that teapot to be heavy--it's such a unique piece.

  11. Oh I enjoyed this history lesson Lorrie. Your photos are beautiful as is the scenery there.

  12. Lorrie, so enjoyed your wonderful words, along with beautiful photos of your interesting trip through time. Thanks for all the details; they really make a difference.

    Happy weekend!


  13. Such a fascinating post, Lorrie, armchair travel is the next best thing to actually being there!

  14. I hope they kept record of the gravestones somehow. Names are important. =)
    Isn't it funny, the things a queen is asked to do on her visits? I like the earth fortifications, now covered in grass, almost hiding the buildings.

  15. Very interesting. I am always interested in the early history of North America because my early relatives came as trappers pre- Mayflower under a special grant by the King of England--naturally. I don't think Thomas Duston was in Canada, but he was in the far north. So I enjoyed your photos and your history lesson.

  16. Oh I like history and I really like living history museums. I had to leave to see where this place was...ahhh...Nova Scotia. It looks like a beautiful and interesting place! That squat tea pot took my eye, too. Without a spout and made of fabric, it might have been a lady's handbag.

    Would you believe that your blog just showed up in my blogroll this morning?! I hate the rolling blog-outs.


Thank you for commenting. Each comment is a connection between us. I read each one and will usually visit your blog in return. If you are a no-reply blogger, then I will not be able to respond to you directly. If you have a Google+ blog, I am unable to comment there.

The Second Week of Advent

  Last week went by with a whoosh, and here we are on the second Sunday in Advent. Over the past two days Tim and I decorated the Christmas ...