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March 20, 2005
Acadian Village, New Brunswick: I always loved Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s poem, Evangeline, that was published in 1847 and wanted to learn more about the Acadians and eastern Canada. Their roots are deep in the soil of northern New Brunswick and history goes back more than four hundred years. In the area around Caraquet, Shippagan and Lameque, the architecture reflects the heritage, French is still the primary language and the recreated village is the place for total immersion.
From a personal perspective, we knew we’d have a great time visiting Village Historique Acadien when the car that arrived to take us to the hotel was a 1923 Ford and the driver was in 1920's era clothing. The Chateau Albert didn’t disappoint either. It is a three storey wooden structure, built from original plans for a hotel that stood in Caraquet a few miles away. The ambience is complete, right down to staff in period costume and rooms that reflect the early 1900's - period furniture, no television or radios in rooms, electrical outlets that are well disguised and windows that open onto a 1920's streetscape.
The historically accurate living museum depicts Acadian life 1770 through 1939. We were told the site was huge so packed comfortable shoes and lots of film. There are thirty-two buildings to visit, all with knowledgeable and friendly staff in period costume. We timed our visit for the end of June, knowing that July and August are very busy months for the attraction.
Our tour began at the Visitor Reception Centre where we picked up a good site map and checked to see what special events were on during the day and watched a twenty minute video presentation that gave good background for both the Acadian culture and village.
Travelling back through time, we strolled a gravel road through the village which meandered through woods, past pasture and homesteads. Lupines and other wild flowers grew along village roads where pastured horses waited for attention. Views across the marshes and Riviere-du-Nord showed how early settlers cut marsh grasses and stacked them on a raised platform for storage.
One of our first stops was at the c1770 Martin House, our last the c1910 Chateau Albert. During our travels we learned about baking in a traditional outdoor oven and had a slice of bread hot from that oven. We enjoyed a cup of tea in an 1840 stone croft house and had cookies with a lady at her c1880's farm home.
Our wanderings took us past a wayside prayer station, to a chapel, tavern, school house, general store and print shop. We visited the grist mill, woodworking shop and shingle house. Lunch was at the c1855 Dugas House where we enjoyed a meal of Acadian food made in the traditional 18th and 19th century way. We wanted to try Poutine Rapee and Pate Rapee, both a combination of potatoes and pork and eaten with molasses, ketchup, butter or brown sugar. There are several Relais on-site where lighter fare and cold drinks are served.
A walk through a covered bridge brought us to the early twentieth century street with its barrel-making shop, lobster hatchery, tinsmith shop, c1924 Chiasson Farm Complex and the Chateau Albert. We arrived back at the hotel in time for supper where the dining room serves meals based on an early twentieth century recipes.
Every weekend, beginning at the first of June, there are special activities in the village. Some of the best attended are the Acadian World Festival of Folklore at the end of June, Logger’s Contest in mid-August and Agricultural Fair in mid-September. There’s something special about Acadian music and Canadian maritime fiddlers bring it to life during the fiddling contest at the beginning of August. Soirees, evenings of Acadian song, dance and food, are held throughout the season in various areas of the village.
Village Historique Acadien is self supporting and relies on admissions and sales from the gift shops and restaurants for funding. There’s a restaurant at the Centre where we enjoyed breakfast one morning and a gift shop stocked with some lovely handcrafted items.
Other things to see in the area: Musee de Cire d’Acadia, a wax museum on the site of the Ac Acadian Village; the Musee des Popes, the Pope’s Museum in Grand-Anse with a collection of gothic chalices and a scale model of the Vatican; the peat fields in Lameque and Aquarium & Maritime Centre in Shippagan.
IF YOU GO
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