From Costa Rica and beyond

Saturday, July 13, 2013

Fort Louisbourg, Nova Scotia

July 12, 2013

The night of the 11th was warm, but very misty. It was smelly too. A fish rendering plant was right next to the campground. While this may be the stinkiest campground in the world, there were redeeming qualities. The bathroom and shower facilities were very clean, there was a lounge area with wifi, and there were little rooftops over picnic tables at each campsite. Knowing full well that it might rain overnight, I removed the picnic table and replaced it with my tent. That had little effect on the mist that drifted horizontally with the wind. But while water did creep under the tent, I remained dry atop my sleeping pad. In the morning, I got up early so I would be ready to visit Fort Louisbourg when the gates opened. After showering, I commenced packing. I took out my super absorbant mini-towel and started drying the rainfly. I had just finished and started undoing the stakes when rain struck. It poured. All my efforts were undone in an instant. The opaque grayness hinted that this rain could last all day. Great. I migrated to the lounge and checked Canada's weather radar. The worst was passing and the storm should be done in an hour or two. This was a perfect time for breakfast at the diner across the street. A breakfast of eggs, bacon, home fries and coffee drove the rain away (the fish smell remained). I returned to my campsite, shed my rain gear, and pondered how to dry everything. The ground was soaked. So, I took my straps, threw them over the beams supporting the roof and hoisted my tent off the ground and dried it off as it hung. I felt pretty clever.

The gates had long been open, but the woman at the ticket sales counter said my three hours were perfect for a good visit. A bus retrieved us tourists at the welcome center and drove us about one kilometer to the fort. Across a small harbor, the fort looked elegant, dominated by a wide, colonial style dwelling above and with a ceremonial yellow gate on the waterfront. The French sense of style goes way back. Their military ineptitude also goes way back. Twice this fort was attacked by the English, both times over land (the defenses were directed toward the water - an acknowledgement of English naval prowess), and both times (1743 and 1758) it fell. The French had, however, established a remarkable outpost and community at Louisbourg. The village thrived on the cod they caught in the rich North Atlantic. Some of that cod was eaten there, some was traded inland, and much was shipped back to France for great profit. Although I am a history teacher, places like this can bore me to tears. However, Louisbourg is very charming aesthetically, gastronomically, and in how the "inhabitants" interact with the guests. The buildings remind one of historical buildings along the Maine coast with beautifully weathered Shake shingles on the roofs and exterior walls. Small garden plots can be found in spaces between the finer dwellings. Each person is greeted and briefly interrogated by a security-minded soldier in contemporary garb (English folk beware!). Go to the bakery and buy some fresh, warm bread (white bread for the officers, brown break for the rank and file). Kids are given costumes and engaged in games. Women are cleaning and cooking. Soldiers are showing off their living quarters where three share each bed. A 15 minute ceremony with marching and music culminate in the firing of the canon precisely at noon. If hunger strikes, there is a kitchen preparing delicious food elegantly served with faux (I hope!) pewter plates and bowls and spoons (no forks nor knives). I had a delicious pea soup, turkey pie, and scrumptious break pudding with coffee.

With that, it was time to return to my bike. Now I am on the ferry awaiting departure to Newfoundland. The sky is partly cloudy. I am dry. We leave dock at 5pm and will arrive in Argentia (I would soooo like to write Argentina!!) at 10am.

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