Moncton, New Brunswick, located at the center of Atlantic Canada and central to the Fundy Coast was the start of our Acadian Coastal Drive. Moncton is Canada’s first bilingual city speaking both French and English and a major transportation center. Our hotel was the Marriott Residence Inn, an all-suite hotel five miles from the Moncton Airport. Hotel amenities included free high speed Internet access and a complimentary hot breakfast buffet. A short walk away was the Restaurant La Chateau a Pape serving local Acadian delicacies prepared in the traditional way by Acadian Chefs.
The following morning we travelled to the Memramcook Valley of Southeastern New Brunswick to visit the Monument Lefebvre National Historic Site, which commemorates the survival of the Acadian people from before the expulsion until the present day. Our guided tour included a video on the deportation and a one hour visit of its historical exhibit “Reflections of a Journey – the Odyssey of the Acadian People.” This exhibit allowed us to appreciate the history, culture and accomplishments of the Acadian people. There story is one of survival.
In 1604 a group of French colonists ventured from France to the coastal regions of Canada where they established the first permanent settlement in North America. Following a difficult winter the settlement was moved to Port-Royal, Nova Scotia in1605. During this period they relied on the help of the native inhabitants to establish new colonies. These were landmark years for French colonization, heralding the birth of the Acadian people. Acadia was the frequent target of fighting between France and England. The turning point of Acadian history began in 1755 when the British began the deportation of the Acadians for their refusal to sign an alliance to Britain. Their houses were burned, their cattle seized and their crops destroyed. Many Acadians were lowered into boats, separated from their families and deported to the United States, England and France. Louisiana became a meeting point for the exiled Acadians and they formed the Cajun culture. Hundreds of Acadians were allowed to return to Acadia after almost ten years in exile. English settlers had taken over their farm land and they too had to start over in more isolated areas. In 1884 Arcadians began to understand their roots when the American Poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow wrote his poem “Evangeline: A Tale of Acadie” which depicted their suffering and deportation. Today, Acadians can be found all over the world.
We left the Monument Lefebvre National Historic Site and continued to Bouctouche, arriving at Le Pays de La Sanguine, a theme park filled with Acadian entertainment and history. Le Pays de la Sanguine is based on Antonine Maillet’s award-winning book “La Sagouine” published in 1971. Through Ms. Maillet’s impressive literary work she tells the story of the Acadian suffering and their enduring strength and sense of humor in the 17th and 18th century. Our lunch at the La Paneterie Restaurant offered us Acadian specialties, including the famous potato dish poutine and a rape pie made of pork and potatoes. After lunch and a theatre performance we walked across a bridge to Flea Island where musical and theatrical performances were held inside and outside 18th century homes.
From Bouctouche we continued our drive to Caraquet, New Brunswick, located in the heart of the Acadian Peninsula. As we approached Caraquet we saw flags of red, white, yellow and blue everywhere. Some houses were completely decked out in their colors and had displays of wooden Acadians. The next three nights we would stay in Caraquet.
The following morning we visited the Acadian Historical Village where we traveled back in time through this remarkable authentic historic site which portrayed the lives of Acadians in the 18th, 19th and early 20th centuries. More than forty buildings were staffed by interpreters in period costumes who explained typical life and activities that enabled the ancestors of today’s Acadians to survive. We visited a straw house making brooms, a crochet house, a blacksmith, a fishing house, a school house, a church and tasted breads of that period.
Tonight’s dinner was at the Hotel Paulin, situated on the Bay of Chaleur along the Acadian Peninsula. It was the first hotel constructed in Caraquet in 1891. Hotel Pualin is a beautiful living history of early Acadian architecture and is one of the oldest family operated hotels still remaining in Canada. Today, Hotel Paulin is an up-scale boutique-style hotel, preserving the charm, elegance and spirit of the 19th century operated by Innkeepers Gerard Paulin and his wife Karen Mersereau, a well-known Acadian Chef.
On Sunday our drive took us to the northeastern corner of New Brunswick where we visited Shippagan, Lameque and Miscou Island. The Shippagan Aquarium and Marine Center is the perfect place to learn about sea life. Our tour started by viewing a presentation on the history of fisheries. The Marine Centre has a large collection of more than 100 species of fish as well as a rare Blue Lobster native to the Gulf of St. Lawrence and Atlantic Canadian lakes and rivers. Some of the local fish seen were cod, mackerel, snow crabs, Atlantic salmon, white flounder and Greenland shrimp.
The Brunswick Aquarium and Marine Center is also a museum. The museum exhibits focused on the contemporary fishing industry and the gear and equipment required. There was a life-size wheelhouse equipped with all the electronic devices, including navigation instruments used by fishermen to locate and catch fish. Our guide, Gilbert, explained that lobsters are lured into the back of a 40 pound wire mesh trap by the smell of the bait and cannot get out. Lobsters are measured and smaller ones are thrown back into the sea while the remaining lobsters are sent to market. Gilbert’s best catch was 32 lobsters in one trap.
Lameque is noted for the Saint-Cecile Church. When the church was built in the 19th century the interior of the church was a drab brownish color. In the 1970’s the priests spray painted the inside of the church in the colors of peach, yellow, ivory and tortoise. Every summer since 1975 Lameque has hosted an annual Baroque Music Festival and has attracted thousand of music lovers to this picturesque island. Its program features chamber music and solo pieces performed in the colorful Sainte-Cecile Church with exceptional acoustics.
Miscou Island is at the most northeastern tip of the Acadian Peninsula and has one of the oldest operating Lighthouses in New Brunswick (1886). It has a white, octagonal wooden tower with a red lantern. The island’s sand dunes and lagoons make it a favorite location for migrating birds.
Monday morning we traveled south along the Acadian Coastal Drive toward Moncton arriving at Kouchibouguac National Park, a wilderness Canadian National Park located on the east coast of New Brunswick. The name Kouchibouquac (Kou-she-boo-qwack) means “river of long tides.” The park includes barrier islands, sand dunes, lagoons, salt marshes and forests and offers excellent opportunities for hiking, canoeing, camping, picnicking, rowing, bicycling and swimming.
It provides habitat for seabirds, including the endangered Piping Plover which is a small, well-camouflaged shorebird. Their nests are small holes that they dig in the sand on the beach. Each nest contains up to four spotted, sand-colored eggs. Because the eggs are well camouflaged people often walked right over them, which made it necessary to fence the nests for their protection. Other natural wonders around the Park are the second largest Tern colony in North America.Like Piping Plovers, nesting Terns also face many obstacles and are especially vulnerable to human disturbance.
After a long day, we set out for Shediac known as the Lobster Capital of the World, situated on the east coast of New Brunswick. The first mention of the word “lobster” appeared in the Maritimes Archives in 1578. Our last night was at the Maison Tait House, an historic mansion built in 1911, located in the heart of downtown Shediac, New Brunswick. Our beautiful room had a fireplace and canopy beds with all modern amenities, including telephone, air-conditioning, television and high speed internet. At our farewell dinner at The Maison Tait House we enjoyed beautiful amazing food, wine and pastry.