Down With History

   The road trip to Canada’s eastern provinces, aside from going somewhere we’d never been before, was to see first-hand the birth place of our nation. To learn more about the region and its history. This meant stopping at historical sites, museums, and roadside plaques. Historical sites and museum give you a heads-up long before you reach them, but roadside plaques just pop-up out of nowhere! You get 500-metres notice!! This caused me to make a few sudden stops on highways, that weren’t exactly the safest maneuvers to make. It earned me more than a few killer-stares and harsh comments from the navigator, along with a slow drive-by by the ‘Federales’, to check out my license plate and give me a shake of the head. But truthfully, without those stops, I’m not sure we could have stretched the trip out for thirty days.

   I like history, but Honey has a passion for it. In particular Canadian history. She feels that Canadian history, is just as flashy as any of the crap you hear out of the United States. Her attitude is infectious, especially when you’re spending hours driving towards the ruins of an old French fort. It was like being caught in a feature film documentary. Listening to her give me historical insights into what I was seeing and what I was about to see, as we drove. Holy Crap! Does she ever know a lot! History covering hundreds of years! She knew so much background knowledge of where we were, and what had happened there, it was like having my own personal tour-guide!! The David Attenborough of Canadian history at my side!!! It was great!!!

   My personal knowledge of Canadian history is limited to grade school. This means that I am seeing this part of Canada, with virgin-eyes. I know very little about our history beyond Cartier, Champlain and the Plains of Abraham and that’s just name dropping, because I don’t remember anything beyond the names. I should say up front, with all the changes going on currently in our country, it was good to see that action has been taken to recognize the country’s Indigenous roots in most places we stopped, including a few roadside plaques. It’s action, that both Honey and I applaud, as a good start. So, I got to learn about Canada’s history long before any Europeans came to the land. It was better than any grade five history lesson because I was paying attention this time.

   Our travel plans had always included visiting three historical sites. The French Fortress in Louisbourg Nova Scotia, The Citadel Fortress in Halifax Nova Scotia and Lunenburg Nova Scotia, Home of ‘The Bluenose’ (we’ll get to the latter, later). The two forts are situated on opposite sides of the same province, one built by the French and one built by the British. The fort at Louisburg is only slightly older than the one in Halifax, but the histories are completely different. In a nutshell, I visited the re-constructed buildings and battlements in Louisburg, after it had been attacked and burned to the ground twice, and I visited the original British fort in Halifax, which has stood intact for the better part of 300 years. It had a moat!!

   What did I learn? That what I was taught in grade five history about the European invasion of this land, the battles fought between the European-British and the European-French, wasn’t that far off the mark. The European-British kicked the European-French’s ass all over the Gaspe!! Seeing the differences in these two historical sites, only supported this. Louisburg let me tour re-constructed ruins!! I got the “this is what it probably looked like” back in 17-whatever infomercials from the employees dressed in period garb. The Citadel gave me a structure that had actually stood since 17-whatever! It was a military installation right up to the dawn of the nuclear age!! It had 200 plus years of Canadian military service within its walls!!! Louisbourg had two substantial whooping’s!!!

   But the creation of a nation isn’t just about military might, it’s about the people that came here, and the people who were here. That is what the re-constructed ruins at Louisbourg showed me that the Citadel did not. The Citadel showed me military structure, while Louisbourg gave me a glimpse of both military and everyday life. It was the complete package. They had excavated and re-constructed not just the fort, but the housing and commercial enterprises. Seamstress shops and dining houses, a blacksmith for the wealthy and one for the poor. It presented 1750’s society. The place even had a fully operational tavern!! That’s me enjoying something Honey dubbed, “Fortress Skank”. At noon!! The Earl would be proud of me, I drank nothing but locally crafted beers the entire trip. Even Honey gagged down three-quarters of a glass of “Skank”! Louisbourg had everything a meandering senior could want!! Even several smoking areas within the walls!! The place was resurrected civilization!!!

   Both these historical fortresses offered me something new and informative. Both were worth the stop. I enjoyed discovering things about my country that I did not know, not all of it fills me with national pride, but I have increased my understanding of Canada’s European origins beyond grade five level, and am better for it. Also, seeing Honey learn new things, that only enhanced her already vast knowledge, was a rush! Her passion about Canadian history was infectious, and made spending a day meandering around these historical places, and learning things I didn’t know, fly by. Knowledge that stayed with me long past its consumption. Longer thankfully, than the “Fortress Skank” after-taste, every time I burped, did. I tasted that crap for two days!!!

















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