The drive to Nova Scotia was a bit longer than we like, we had the shorter option of a ferry across the Bay of Fundy but it was about a wash in terms of time and more expensive for us to take the RV across. So, we took the longer way around New Brunswick to reach the land bridge connecting the two provinces.
Once again, it rained hard during our drive, and part of our basement got wet. Not as badly as the last time this happened in the Outer Banks, so we didn’t have to take everything out of the basement this time. Hector just left the basement doors open for a while and everything dried out. Fortunately, the water only comes in if we are driving during a hard rainstorm. But there is a pending project to identify the place where water is getting in.
We started out early and made it to our campground in Bridgetown, Nova Scotia by mid-afternoon so we had a nice amount of time to settle in. Bridgetown is a tiny village near the Fundy Shore, quaint and quiet. It was a small campground by the river, immaculately maintained.
The owner, Ken, explained that it’s an adult campground, they have no pool or other such amenities, so it’s pretty quiet, which is ok by us. Angel enjoyed the nice lawn and open space and lots of pets from Ken.
Ken holds the world record for having caught a 1,496 pound giant bluefin tuna off Nova Scotia on October 26, 1979. The record stands to this day. Ken also happens to be a very nice man and a gracious host.
A few miles from our campground was Annapolis Royal, where the nearest visitor center was located. Annapolis Royal kind of became a “home base” for us as we passed through it most times on our way to other areas. It also happens to be a beautiful little town. One of the oldest in North America.
We walked around and checked out some nice shops and galleries, then stopped for lunch. I tried poutine for the first time – a dish that was invented in Quebec, but is also very popular in Nova Scotia. It consists of French fries, cheese curds and gravy and sometimes is creatively combined with meats and seafood. Not a diet dish.
On the following day, Wednesday, we returned to Annapolis Royal for a farmers’ market. It was quite small, their larger market is on Saturdays. But we got fresh eggs and found some homemade sweet vinegars.
Margo, the creator of Nona’s Preserves, told us that the vinegars were from an Old Nova Scotia recipe. In the old days they made raspberry sweet vinegar and added water or, in later years, club soda to make a refreshing drink.
Margo has since developed other sweet vinegars including strawberry, cherry and pineapple. And she provided a salad dressing recipe using her vinegar – add a little mustard, olive oil and a little pepper. I thought it might be too sweet for me, but it was delicious! What a great find!
Another day, we visited the Port-Royal Habitation just on the other side of the Annapolis River. This national historic site is an incredibly well done reconstruction of a small French compound begun in 1605. The original village was home to one of the earliest European settlements on this continent.
The French gentleman, Pierre Dugua, Sieur de Mons, was granted a fur trade monopoly by France for a large area in North America on the condition that he establish colonies there. He chose to settle across the Bay of Fundy on this site, in 1605, upon the recommendation of Samuel de Champlain, a cartographer and explorer who remembered this beautiful, sheltered harbor from when he visited it briefly in 1604.
The French settlement was part of the original territory of the Mi’kmaq First Nation, but the French established an enduring friendship and alliance with them and their chief, Membertou. In 1613, while the inhabitants were away from the settlement, an English expedition from Virginia looted and burned the Habitation. But the French inhabitants survived the winter with the help of their friends, the Mi’kmaq. The village, however, was abandoned.
The Canadian government rebuilt the Habitation in 1939-1940. It’s a wonderful example of how life must have been in the early 1600’s here. Amanda, a teenager wearing a 1600’s costume (including wooden shoes) gave us an orientation.
There were other costumed interpreters within the village. A young man was making wood shingles with antique tools which included a big wooden club Hector called the “kabonger” and when we chatted with him about it he laughed and said they had a huge one for larger jobs they call the “Fred Flintstone”. The rooms were all furnished with period pieces. Very well done.
On Saturday, we returned to the farmers’ market in Annapolis Royal – this time it was about three times as big. And who does Hector bump into but Amanda, this time in Mi’kmaq costume promoting an upcoming event. We joked about her unique and varied wardrobe. Funny.
That morning, however, as Hector was having his coffee, our power went out. We have a fancy surge protector at the main shore power outlet that we bought upon the recommendation of some blogs and forums and it tripped. Hector disconnected the power and turned on our generator. Ken, the campground owner, said his 50-amp electrical set up was brand new, so we were all stumped.
Our next step was to test the power, but we didn’t have a voltage meter (something we are about to correct). Ken called the electrician, who discovered that the power was indeed surging (280 volts!), our expensive protector did its job! We’d heard horror stories about surges blowing people’s refrigerators (a very expensive repair) and even worse. The electrician was going to call the power company, so we left our generator on so Angel could have air conditioning and headed for Annapolis Royal.
Although we’d run late, we found Margo and bought more of those fabulous sweet vinegars. But she’d run out of the strawberry vinegar, and tried calling her husband to deliver more (he’d have to leave his office, go home and come to the market). The folks here are so accommodating. But we asked if there was an easier way for her, and she said we could stop by her home after the market closed. That was the plan.
We left the market to visit Fort Anne, the oldest national historic site in Canada. And guess who was at the front desk, this time in a National Parks uniform, our young friend Amanda, who assured us that “she dresses like a regular teenager sometimes”.
In 1621, Sir William Alexander received a charter for New Scotland – “Nova Scotia” to establish a Scottish colony in North America. In 1629 Sir William the Younger built Charles Fort, on this same embankment, as the headquarters for Sir William Alexander’s colonizing efforts.
In 1632 the territory was ceded back to France. It changed hands multiple times between the French and the English, ultimately remaining under the English. Who renamed the town Annapolis Royal to honor Queen Anne.
There are a couple of buildings remaining on the site. The officers’ quarters from the late 1700’s has been restored and features exhibits of the Fort’s history.
But the brief Scottish history was forever recorded in the name of the province, Nova Scotia. One of the most amazing artifacts in the museum is one of two originals of the Nova Scotia Charter dated from 1621 and just barely readable.
The history of the Fort has also been recorded on the 8 foot by 18 foot Fort Anne Heritage Tapestry, crafted by over 100 volunteers using three million stitches (including some by Queen Elizabeth). There are four very detailed panels, depicting different stages of its history, quite impressive.
But for me, the most interesting part of this site is the earthen fort itself. As you walk out by the cannons, and look out over the Annapolis River, you can see how vulnerable any ship coming in from the Bay of Fundy to this body of water would have been. Fascinating.
And we finished touring Fort Anne just in time to visit Margo and pick up our sweet vinegars. And when we arrived there, she and her husband, Henry, graciously invited us to have one of their sweet vinegar drinks. Hector had the strawberry rhubarb with club soda and I had the blueberry with club soda. Delicious! And we enjoyed them with great company in their lovely yard.
We were surprised to find out from Margo and Henry that the town of Annapolis Royal has about 400 residents, and fewer in the winter! They love it because for that size town, it has many resources – a community health center, two national historic sites (Fort Anne and Port-Royal), an exciting arts community and theatre, a library, and historic gardens amongst them. Really the town feels much bigger than its population suggests.
That afternoon when we returned to the campground we found out that the power issue had been resolved. Amazingly, when the electrician contacted the power company, they’d not been aware of the high voltage level, which was affecting the entire town. So, because of our surge protector, the town was saved! Anyway, that’s our story and we’re sticking to it.
On to more Nova Scotia adventures.