We arrived, almost two weeks later, back to the uninspiring town of North Sydney via the overnight car ferry from Argentina (pronounced Are-Hen-Chia). It was about $500 for two adults, a kid, and a car. A very small cabin with a bathroom, two almost touching bunk beds, and a television would have added another $200. We, along with dozens of other people, chose to sleep elsewhere on the ship and found the movie room (which played back to back movies until eleven) a perfect place to lay out our sleeping gear. Besides back to back movies until eleven there was also a lively bar with two talented singer-songwriters doing their thing, a couple of dining options, and a few other cruise ship like amenities. The boat, however, rocked so much that one of the performers went to bed early. Eventually the sea did settle down and all three of us had a relatively good night sleep.
Leaving the ship, however, we still felt exhausted and a little sea sick. It was worse when we left the car and into the next day we felt the land rocking just a little bit whenever we stood still. Despite this lingering sea sickness we still managed to drag ourselves to the reconstructed Fortress of Louisbourg and were glad we did so.
At one time Fortress of Louisbourg was an essential cog in France’s North America Empire. Like Quebec City it was walled and supported thousands of residents. It was built to defend the sea and its’ formidable cannons would have destroyed any hostile ships approaching the narrow harbor. So the British instead lay siege to the town and twice forced their surrender (1745 and 1758). The second time around the British systematically destroyed the fortress. Two centuries later it was restored as a living museum by Canada Parks.
In many ways the place reminded us of Colonial Williamsburg. Historical Re-enactors milled all over the place with many of them selling period piece inspired knickknacks. Others tended fires and grumbled loudly about the coming war with the British. Still other Re-enactors paraded in military uniform before shooting off cannons (which killed dozens of unsuspecting tourists- joke). A lot of it was in French which added to the authenticity. There was even a French led church service in the ornate cathedral. All of this drove home the point that North America has always been shaped in part by French influences. One only has to look at Quebec, twice the size of France and Canada’s second most populated province, to get a sense of what those early fur traders, farmers, merchants, soldiers, and fishermen left behind. It is always worth rediscovering.