Judy and Doc had to return to Five Islands today since he is still working and I am heading in the opposite direction to continue my explorations. Backtracking just a bit, my first destination was the settlement of Annapolis Royal and Fort Anne.
The area around Annapolis Royal was first discovered and colonized by the French in 1604 ~ the oldest settlement of Europeans in North America north of St. Augustine, Florida. It became one of the most hotly contested territories on the continent, enduring numerous sieges and battles as the French and British fought for control of eastern Canada. The original French settlers were overrun by a British contingent from Virginia in 1613 that pillaged and burned all of their buildings. In 1621 Sir William Alexander received a charter to establish a Scottish colony ~ New Scotland (Nova Scotia) ~ on the site. A fort was built at the confluence of the Annapolis and Allain Rivers where it served as headquarters for the colonization effort. However, in 1639 the territory was ceded back to France. The French Acadians thrived and the area became a strategic point for commerce and military campaigns.
The French built four forts where Fort Anne sits today. The last was the current, bastion-type fort, which was constructed in 1702, burying the remains of the Scottish Charles Fort under the outer earthworks. The fort is based on a design by Vauban, the preeminent European fort architect of the times. The star shape, with its triangular bastions and ramparts, creates multiple points of cross-fire which make it easier to defend the surrounding land. Didn’t help the French much, though, because it was seized by the British in 1710 and they never regained control. The British made changes to the fort during their tenure but much of the original fort remains today, including the earthen bastions and ramparts, powder magazines and a storehouse. The Officers’ Quarters building now contains several exhibits, including the Fort Anne Heritage Tapestry. This colorful masterpiece was created by over 100 volunteers, using some three million stitches. It is 8 ft. x 18 ft. and depicts 400 years of area history.
Moving on from the fort, I visited the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens. Sitting on 17 acres of land overlooking the Allain River, the gardens provide a glimpse of the area’s history from a horticultural perspective. Sections include the Governor’s Garden, Knot Garden, Victorian Garden, Scotch Heather and Acadian dykeland, among others. Also included are a rock fountain made of stones collected from all over Nova Scotia and a sculpture garden created around a piece of driftwood that was submerged in the Bay of Fundy for over 50 years. Needless to say, I spent way too much time here!
After a late lunch/early dinner at a delightful German café and bakery, I took a quick tour of the magnificent heritage homes in Annapolis Royal ~ many of them dating from the late 1700s to the mid-1800s. Then it was back to the highway and I pointed my Toyota chariot southwest toward Yarmouth and the Acadian Shore Region.
Trans Canada Highway 101 turns into Provincial Route 1 south of Digby and hugs the coast of St. Mary’s Bay across the water from Digby Neck. If you were to drive straight through to Yarmouth from Digby, it would take about an hour. I made it in just over four. There were just too many interesting spots to stop. The first one was scenic Gilbert’s Cove with its beautifully restored lighthouse sitting on a promontory of land that affords great views of the village and surrounding countryside.
When exiled Acadians returned to their homeland, many of them accepted the British government’s offer of 40 acre lots along St. Mary’s Bay and the area became known as the “French Shore”. Just inside the “boundary” of the Shore I came upon St. Bernard Church. Unlike the utilitarian “little white churches” of the Protestant and Anglican congregations found elsewhere in Nova Scotia, the Acadian Roman Catholics built more elaborate churches based on designs from Europe. St. Bernard is a massive granite structure that took 32 years to build. All of the exterior blocks were hand cut and laid ~ one row per year between 1910 & 1942. The interior walls consist of two layers of plaster applied over a wooden lathe. The second coat was roughed up with a trowel and scored by hand to resemble stone, a process that had to be accomplished in only 20 minutes. The church is a testament to the skill and craftsmanship of the Acadians.
Next was the village of Church Point, home to E`glise Sainte Marie, one of the largest wooden churches in North America. Unfortunately, the church was closed when I arrived so I was unable to see the interior, but it was very impressive. Church Point is also the site of the only French-language university in the Province. St. Anne’s University was founded in 1891 to preserve Acadian culture. Just beyond the university grounds I found the Church Point lighthouse. It is a sad little building in great need of some TLC but its location provided scenic views of the bay and surrounding shoreline.
Proceeding on down the coast my next detour was Smuggler’s Cove. According to local lore, the cove was one of many bases for rum running operations along the Acadian Shore during Prohibition. Many fishermen along the southwest Nova Scotia coast found new careers smuggling contraband liquor to the U.S. from 1919-1933, aided by the skilled boat builders in this region who crafted many sleek, swift boats for this purpose. The large sea cave in the cove provided good cover for these activities. I spoke with a woman who used to bring her family to the beach here. Her son liked to swim in the cave and reported that many ledges and alcoves had been hewn into the cave’s interior for storing kegs and boats.
I arrived at Cape St. Mary just as the sun was beginning to set across the bay. The lighthouse here was first placed in service in 1865 and was tended until 1989 when it was automated. After taking some time to admire the view of this rugged coast it was time to scoot on down to Yarmouth and find a place to stay for the night.
To view more pictures from Annapolis Royal, visit my on-line web album
To view more pictures from Acadian Shores, visit my on-line web album