When we choose a travel destination, we base it on both inspiration and practical information. In this post, I share what I loved most about my trip to Nova Scotia's Acadian Shores. These are the stories I tell my friends. I hope they inspire you to travel to this very special part of Nova Scotia.
Soon I will give you an itinerary of amazing activities, beautiful places to stay, and great food. Not to worry, I will give you the practical information you need for this trip as well.
I've explored Acadian communities before but Nova Scotia's Acadian Shores was a very different experience. Their history has created an Acadian culture unique to this part of Nova Scotia and, even more interestingly, dialects of the French language.
Allow me to whet your appetite for a rich, cultural experience.
First, A Brief History of the Acadians
If you re not familiar with Acadian history, please allow me to give you a bit of background.
Acadians are descendants of French settlers dating back to the early 1600s who settled in what is now recognized as Canada's Atlantic provinces. In the 1700s, the British took over Nova Scotia, New Brunswick, and Prince Edward Island and in 1755 they deported the Acadians from those regions. With the deportation order, some went into hiding in the thick forests of the time. However, most were put on ships and dispersed to France and along the eastern seaboard of what would become the United States. They then migrated to places like Louisiana where they are now known as Cajuns.
In 1764, the British allowed the Acadians to return, though in many places their land was no longer available as their settlements had been burned and their land resettled by the British. Along what is now known as the Acadian Shores, this forced the Acadians who returned to move down peninsulas into more isolated communities.
I have explored Acadian communities before, however, my experience along these shores was like none other. In this part of Nova Scotia, geography met history and had an impact.
Geography of the Acadian Shores
In general terms, after their return to this area, the Acadians were settled down the peninsulas as the English had settled their land at the top of the peninsulas.
A gentleman at the Historical Acadian Village gave me a history lesson using his hand to demonstrate. His fingers were the peninsulas and the knuckle portion of his hand was the top of the peninsulas. On his fingers were the French settlements and his knuckles the English settlements. When one drives the area, you will notice that the churches along what would be the knuckles are baptist (English) while the churches down the peninsulas are Catholic (French).
Being located down the peninsulas, the Acadian communities were often closer to English communities than other Acadian villages. On each peninsula you will find a few family names that dominate. In West Pubnico the two family names that are everywhere are d'Entremont and d'Eon. In Wedgeport, where I embarked on the Tusket Island Tour run by Simon Leblanc, the name Leblanc seems to dominate as I met, by chance, two others of the same name before taking the tour.
Some people even told me that they could determine where along the Acadian Shores a person was from simply by the ways they spoke French.
The French Language Can Be Many Things Along the Acadian Shores
Family history runs deep along the Acadian Shores along with a great pride in Acadian heritage. However, that connection with the English described above is very obvious as well.
The Acadians of this area speak French three ways. They speak it with a pretty heavy English accent to some people, in a formal French to others, and in a true Acadian French when speaking amongst themselves. When they speak English there is rarely a trace of a French accent.
My first exposure to this curiosity of language was at the Musée des Acadiens des Pubnicos. Bernice was my guide and she welcomed me in formal French that I understood perfectly. She took me around the museum speaking perfect English. Just as I was leaving, she turned to speak to a woman in French but with a heavy English accent. It was the first time I'd heard this happen.
Entering the Rendez-vous de la Baie Visitor Centre in Clare, I was welcomed in French with the heavy English accent. I still hadn't figured out the language situation and said to the young man, not to worry, we can speak English. As he took me through their museum, I got the sense that he was Acadian. I asked him to speak to me as he would at home and his French was so fast with an Acadian accent that I couldn't understand what he said.
When I took the Tusket Island Tour, I assumed Simon Leblanc was English and he assumed I couldn't speak French. However, having met a French couple on the tour, I was speaking French with them and he turned and said he didn't know I was French. I, in turn, said I didn't know he was Acadian.
A final demonstration of the English-French connection here simply requires listening to the French radio stations. At times, formal French was spoken and at other times, French with a heavy English accent.
Broadening My World View on the Acadian Shores
For someone who has worked on her French accent, these multiple forms of French were, at first, very confusing. I confess, it took me a bit of time to accept French with a heavy English accent to be just as legitimate as any other French.
But then, that's representative of one of the great joys of travel. Spending time in and attempting to understand and appreciate the nuances of another culture, as I did in Nova Scotia, is enriching. It broadens my understanding of the world in general and my world in particular.
The experience has caused me to think about the many forms of English. While some language and grammar may sound wrong to my ears, wrong is too rigid an interpretation to apply. History, geography, politics, and more will affect how a language is spoken and should be considered just as legitimate as any.
The Acadian World Congress Is Coming to Nova Scotia
The Acadian Reunion, more formally known as the Acadian World Congress, is held every five years and will be along the Acadian Shores and Clare, Nova Scotia from August 10-18, 2024. It's a festival that celebrates Acadian and Cajun culture but also includes Acadian family reunions as well as academic conferences centered on economics, culture, women's issues, genealogy, and genetics. I've been told that some accommodation is already booked, so if you think you would like to attend, it's time to start planning.