Thursday, June 24, 2010

A Rainy Day on the Acadian Coastal Drive

Thursday, June 24, 2010

Bathurst, New Brunswick to Amherst, Nova Scotia

We are taking the scenic route today, following the jagged eastern coastline of New Brunswick. It is called the Acadian Coast, because many of its inhabitants are of Acadian lineage, and proud of it.

A little history: Acadians first came to Canada as French colonists in 1604, and they settled in Nova Scotia. They are concentrated in coastal New Brunswick now, because as Britain and France's long battle over Canada was winding to a close in the mid-1700s, the British demanded that Acadians living in Canada take an oath of allegiance to Britain. The Acadians claimed neutrality, refused to take the oath, and fled north from Nova Scotia to what they thought was a more peaceful area. The British followed them, burned their villages and crops, and deported many of them to other British colonies far away, like Georgia. Finally, France surrendered its mainland territory to the British in 1763, and the Acadians were able to live here in relative peace. As the violence against them abated, Acadians returned to the region, where they celebrate their heritage today.

The Acadian flag flies from front yard flagpoles, many telephone poles and mailboxes are painted with the Acadian red, white and blue stripes, and a favorite yard decoration is a red, white and blue striped wooden lobster trap with a gold star attached. The Acadian flag has a yellow star placed on the blue stripe of what otherwise looks like the flag of France. The yellow star symbolizes "Stella Maris," or Star of the Sea. This is a name for the Virgin Mary in her role as protector of those who travel or work on the seas.

Despite the rain, we decided to visit "La Dune de Bouctouche," a sand dune that stretches 7.5 miles across Bouctouche Bay. The Irving Eco-Centre has a 1.2 mile boardwalk that follows the sinuous lines of the sand dune out to the ocean. We donned our raincoats over our cameras and set off on a very enchanting walk in the rain. We could understand why this is the third most popular natural destination in Canada (after Niagara Falls and the Canadian Rockies). We were also glad to be there on a rainy day before tourist season, because part of the charm of the place for us was that we could look down the gentle curves of the boardwalk stretching to the horizon and not see another soul. It made the boardwalk seem like an art installation framing the contours of the dune.

Back in the car, our drive took us past men raking for clams along the sandy shore, and a man packing his black lab and his bucket of clams into an old row boat which he set out to row across a placid bay. The quay was full of fishing boats at what looked like a processing plant. Men were busy loading, unloading, and cleaning their boats. Down the road a fisherman was spreading his nets out on his lawn, in front of a boat on blocks and a back yard full of lobster traps.

We had to stop at Shediac, Home of the World's Largest Lobster—35 feet long and sixteen feet high, and made of cement weighing in at something like 90 tons.

We also couldn't resist a stop at Moncton, where the big attraction is Magnetic Hill. For five dollars you can drive your car down what seems like a pretty big hill, then put your car in neutral at the bottom, and (gasp and giggle) roll back up the hill. It is a very weird feeling, knowing it is an optical illusion, but having no clue how the magic is done. There were only three cars on the hill—us and two cars from South Carolina. The people in the car ahead of us liked it so much that when they rolled back up to the top they wanted to do it again, and since it was so slow, the teenagers staffing the hill said go ahead. We liked it so much that we did it again, too. As we left, the Carolina cars were going back for the third time. Just another fringe benefit of being here in the off season . . .

Needless to say, we had so much fun in the rain that we didn't make it to Halifax today after all.

No comments:

Post a Comment