On the eastern side of Nova Scotia, nestled on the edge of the clam waters of the Minas Basin, is Grand Pre, forever memorialized in Henry Wadsworth Longfellow’s haunting poem Evangeline.
Published in 1847, Evangeline tells of the main heroine’s idyllic childhood in Grand Pre and her arduous search for her betrothed after they were separated during the chaos following the burning of Grand Pre and expulsion of Acadians as part of Britain’s Bay of Campaign in 1755.
It is slightly ironic that Longfellow, a New Englander who had never visited Acadia, was to write a poem igniting the public imagination and capitulating the history of Arcadia from the shadowed past. Excerpts of the poem is now required reading for all children as part of the Canadian school curriculum.
Though Longfellow attributed the expulsion only to the British in the poem, in actuality, the concerns of New Englanders and their suspicion that Acadians were aiding the French and Indians in the war played a large role.
The memorial church and statue of Evangeline on the grounds of the current-day Grand Pre National Historic Site was constructed in 1922 by the Dominion Atlantic Railway. By that time, there was growing interest and tourism in Acadian history, and the site said to be where the original church had stood was located next to the railway’s mainline. The interior of the memorial church was finished in 1930, the 175th anniversary of the Deportation, and the church opened as a museum.
The beautiful stained glass windows were designed in 1985 by Terry Smith-Lamoth and depict the moment when the community of Grand-Pré is broken apart by the departure of the first Acadian families from Pointe Noire, on the shores of the Minas Basin. Cape Blomidon’s presence in the background helps to locate the scene; the physical location of the beach where the Acadian camped awaiting deportation is a short 10 minute drive from the historic site.
En route, one passes through the quaint fields and pastures of the dykelands.
Though full of fertile mineral deposits, the lands of Grand Pre are in reality below sea water. Acadian settlers had built dykes (seen below) to keep the salty sea water from flooding the growing fields. After their expulsion, the Scottish settlers who came after rebuilt the dykes and the tradition continues to this day.
In 2012, the landscape of Grand Pre received designation as an UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The Gaspereau Valley, of which Grand Pre is a part of, is also known as well for its vineyards. At the Grand Banker for dinner two night before, we had ordered a Nova Scotia wine sampler. All five were vineyards located in Gaspereau Valley – L’Acadie Vineyards, BLomidon, Domaine de Grand Pre, Luckett Vineyards and Gaspereau Vineyards. Domaine de Grand Pre holds the distinction of being the oldest vineyard in the Maritimes, having been established in 2000.
Our favorite though had been Ortega from Luckett Vineyards, and so that was where we headed for lunch.
Over a delicious meal of oysters, cod fish tacos and more, we tasted another six wines from Luckett. The Buried White was full of depth and the Fizz fruity and light. The rest were relatively forgettable. The Triumphe red reminded me of New York states reds – they try so hard with oak caskets to make it full-bodied, but it’s nothing compared to the balanced complexity a good French red.
From here we headed on the road to drive around the head to the opposite side of the Bay of Fundy, which has the highest tidal range in the world.
In order to be able to walk on the beach and explore Hopewell Rocks (on teh New Brunswick side of the Bay) by foot, I had research the tide times the day prior.
High tide was going to be more than 12 meters around 2pm, and low tide at slightly above 1 meter at around 8pm – a change of 11 meters! The difference can get above 16 meters during certain times of year.
All the sandy flats below would be completely submerged by water during high tide.
Also called the Flower Pots for the splattering of green trees that grow on the tops, the 12-14 meters tall rocks are a geological wonder to behold.
Walking through the crevices felt like stepping on a different planet – the towering rocks, the cries of the birds high overhead, the red waters in the background.
It was so different from anything I’ld ever seen.
But there does come a time to say good-bye.
Good thing too, because we only managed to find one restaurant (with a kitchen) open in the vicinity – An Octopus’ Garden Cafe.
It had been the same struggle all through the trip, trying to find restaurants who’s kitchens were still open. Once in Lunenburg, we had called in advance and were told that they would seat people until 9pm. We arrived at 9:02pm to be told that the kitchen had just closed down.
On this particular evening, four more other families came in after us – we aren’t the only tourists staying out late to soak up the sights while it’s still light out!
The food was nothing special, but the restroom sign was a true gem. It was a good conclusion to our 9 day foray into Canada.