Posted by: Waheeda Harris | September 6, 2013

The French Connection

Did you know that Cape Breton Island was once called Ile Royale?

Although the Portuguese established a small fishing outpost on the island, it was the French, defeating the Scottish that established the first permanent European settlement on the island.

As a result, The French built Louisbourg, a fortress that became a trading point for ships from Europe and the Caribbean.

NS - Louisbourg gate

These gates are part of the current Louisbourg, the largest reconstructed historical site in Canada, and celebrating the 300th anniversary of the fortress in 2013.

This island is a combination of three cultures – Mi’kmaq, the Aboriginal peoples of the island, Celtic, the descendants of Scottish and Irish immigrants to the island and Acadian, the French-speaking descendants of French settlers and immigrants.

Visiting Belle Cote, Grand Etang and Cheticamp shows off the Acadian culture – like the distinctive Acadian flag, reminiscent of the French flag:

NS - Cheticamp

And a community with its own traditions, like the Mi-Careme, where locals dress up in costume and go house to house during Lent, challenging their neighbours to guess who they are, while taking a break from the strict rules of Lent.

Visitors can learn more at the Mi-Careme Centre:

NS - Mi careme

And the costumes are often spotted in Cheticamp – displayed long after Lent:

NS - Mi Careme costume

And even in cuisine, like the fish soup served at Fortress Louisbourg, very reminiscent of traditional French bouillabaise:

NS - Louisbourg fish soup

But this just one of the cultural traditions on the island – and another reason to add more days to your travels of Cape Breton Island.

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