The woman at the counter brings my pain au chocolate and says something to me in French. I always admire the French language; it flows so beautifully, like silk coming out of people’s lips. It makes me nostalgic for my high school days when I took French and wondered why I was taking it. After all, I would never ever have a need to use it. At least that’s what I thought when I was 17 and growing up in Peoria with no passport.
I processed what the woman behind the counter was saying and realized I understood none of it. I apologetically said, “I’m sorry, but I don’t speak French,” while simultaneously thinking about how disappointed my French teacher would have been.
Suddenly in perfect English with a North American accent the woman smiled and said – “That will be $7.75 please.”
It startled me – not because she spoke English, but because her North American accent was so flawless; absolute perfection.
I was jolted into remembering I wasn’t in France, I was Canada – Acadian Canada.
This wasn’t the first time during this trip that I had to remind myself I was in Canada. This little northern slice of New Brunswick was like a little oasis of French culture – or more properly called Acadian culture.
A Quick Acadian History
I’m American – and it’s likely that if you follow my blog, you are American. The Acadian history may not be that familiar to you…so here is the fast version thanks to the Louisana Med School.
About 400 years ago, a trickle of men and women left their hometowns in France and sailed to Canada where they settled along the eastern coast and began to farm. At their peak they were about 15,000. These little settlements were not important to the King of France. His priority was the Province of Quebec. The settlements were also not important to the British Crown which instead valued the colonies of New England, to the south of Acadia. And, to tell the truth, the peace-loving Acadians didn’t much care for the always-feuding French and British. Everyone was happy.
However, in 1754, Major Charles Lawrence illegally demanded that the Acadians sign a loyalty oath to the English King and repudiate their Catholic religion. When the Acadians refused, the men were forced from their families and arrested. Within days, all the farms, barns, churches, and shops that made up the Acadian colonies were burned down. So were their crops and livestock. A mass expulsion ensued. Families were separated and forced onto ships. What followed were years and years of aimless wandering. Some Acadians landed in England and were promptly arrested. Some went to France and were treated as outcasts. And some sailed to Louisiana integrating there to eventually be called Cajun. Basically the Acadians were a people without a country and because of that were treated pretty poorly.
However some of the Acadian stayed in Eastern Canada and hid in the woods for years never getting on ships. That’s what makes up this heavily populated Acadian Peninsula in New Brunswick today.
Exploring the Acadian Peninsula
It’s a fascinating area that is like no other in Canada; it’s a slice of France in Canada that has a fierce loyalty to their Acadian roots. They have their own Acadian dialect, yet all speak perfect English too; hence explaining the woman in the bakery.
Most of the time I was on the Acadian Peninsula I was confused – wondering if I were in Europe or Canada. Acadian flags fly from nearly every home, and everyone I met was jovial and welcoming. It was like a really, really nice version of France!
I spent a week on the Acadian Peninsula with my friends Dalene and Pete from Hecktic Travels. We found plenty to do in the area and all had an incredibly relaxing time…and a lot of delicious croissants!
Things to do on the Acadian Peninsula
Acadian Village Cooking Class
One of the most popular attractions in the area that will teach you about the history of the region is the Acadian Village; a living museum portraying the daily lives of the Acadians from 1770 to 1949. Take a walk through time and learn what it was like to survive as an Acadian during the expulsion.
And if you want to get really hands on – then take an Acadian cooking class. Head into a real 19th century kitchen and learn to cook over an open flame! You will be escorted to the home of Madame Savoie, who will guide you through a cooking experience—from making fire to cooking an entire meal – including a pie from scratch! Then enjoy the feast in her 19th-century kitchen.
Biking in Caraquet
Stop by the visitor information office in Caraquet along Highway 145 and rent a bike for a mere $5 for a few hours! There is a trail that runs about 12 miles (roundtrip) along the main road in Caraquet and then off into the countryside all the way to Highway 11. At that turn around point be sure to stop and get an ice cream before heading back into town! Lots of beautiful views of the water and a flat path made this s favorite activity of mine…and the ice cream didn’t hurt either!
Want to be a like a local? Then grab a shovel, a bucket, and some good mucking boots! While we stayed at a cottage on an inlet near Shippagan, our neighbor Ron kindly loaned us he shovel and bucket for low tide. To find clams, just dig where you see a few air holes and you’ll definitely come up with clams. Pete dug a bucket full up and cooked them for dinner!
Watch the Incredible Sunsets
We were inside our cottage after dinner working and suddenly Pete said, “look at that,” and pointed out the window. I turned around and saw what he was pointing at. We both grabbed our cameras and raced outside to shoot one of the best sunsets I’ve ever seen! The sky was a blaze – and it all reflected off of the shallow, flat water in the inlet.
We also enjoyed sunsets Shippagan and out at the Miscou lighthouse. We were only there for a week and the sunsets were incredible every night. Just have your camera ready!
Have a Poutine at the La Homard Mobile
This isn’t just any ole’ poutine, it’s lobster poutine! When you are in New Brunswick, you have to eat lobster…as often as you can! This food truck has a permanent home in Caraquet along the main road. Stop and try this local favorite and sit out on the patio soaking up the sun while enjoying you lobster poutine!
Stroll Along the Boardwalk in Shippagan
The boardwalk in Shippagan winds above the marshy inlet for about 2 miles. You’ll find lots of locals out walking, running, or out with pets. There are a couple of well-placed gazebos and benches to sit and soak it all in. We went at dusk and enjoyed another great sunset, as well as a stroll!
Try Some Award Winning Acadian Gin
Gin is my favorite drink, so it didn’t take too much arm twisting to get me to go do tastings at Distillerie Fils du Roy in Paquetville. It’s the first Acadian distillery run by an Acadian family, using mainly local Acadian ingredients. And it doesn’t stop there – when you go to the distillery for a tasting you’ll also get a myriad of Acadian stories and folklore with every taste since each spirit and beer is named based on Acadian history.
Have French Inspired Baked Goods
There’s nothing that beats buttery flakey croissants and a cappuccino, the kind you get when you are in Europe. But you don’t have to go to Europe, just go to Grains de Folie in Caraquet and you’ll basically be transported to Europe. The baristas will even get creative with your cappuccinos…let your imagination run wild!
Visit Acadian Beaches
Keep driving through Caraquet along the water’s edge and you’ll find a number of great beaches to spend a day in the sun on the way to Grande Anse. Many of the beaches are private and for a small fee you can get access to the beach surrounded by little cliffs. Sunbathe, swim, or hunt for shells along the Acadian coast!
Soak Up The Acadian Pride
Everything is in the region is Acadian; picnic tables, bike racks, garbage cans, telephone poles, chairs, houses…everything. It’s rare to see this much pride in a culture within a culture. But it sure is fun to experience this very different and proud part of Canada!
I was a guest of New Brunswick Tourism for this trip, however all opinions expressed here are my own.