Do you ever close your eyes and imagine the world the way it used to be? Do you ever wonder what people did during their day to day lives in times gone by… what their wardrobe consisted of, what they worried about, or how they interacted with other people? If you’re anything like me, it’s a somewhat frequent and exciting topic to think about.
If you’ve ever wondered specifically what an 18th century French-built Canadian fortress would have been like, there’s a place for you!
The Fortress of Louisbourg had a very short span of use, but an impressive amount of history happened during its roughly 50 years of active duty. To name a few… Louisbourg became the military stronghold of Isle Royale, the first lighthouse in Canada was built here, and possession changed from French to British twice during sieges.
Your first view of Louisbourg comes as you ride the shuttle bus in from the welcome centre. Through careful excavation and reconstruction, the Fortress has been restored to life as it would have been in 1744, complete with a friendly and knowledgeable staff to fulfill the reenactment and provide helpful information as you walk through.
It’s nearly impossible not to get caught up in the magic of it all. The dedication to detail and planning that has gone into this reconstruction is amazing. Arugably the only downside to that is the authenticity makes it tough in places to push a wheelchair if need be.
Access to Fort Louisbourg runs regularly through the summer months – although I can’t help but think it would be even more haunting in the dead of a Canadian winter – and offers limited service through the off season months.
The ‘day in the life’ atmosphere really showcased stark differences in our society vs. theirs, but no detail felt more out of place to me than the fact that their beds connected to the wall and were much shorter than ours are now. Not to mention, we later came across a bed housed in a corner and supported only by one leg. I don’t know about you, but I’m not sure I would willingly place my trust in such a contraption.
The closer we came to the barracks, the more I really felt the history. The views were stunning – and none more so than from atop the barracks walls – but even the simplicity of walking through a doorway gave me chills reminiscent of my time at the Colosseum.
No building was quite as imposing as the King’s Bastion barracks, which in the past housed up to 500 men in fairly cramped quarters. It is from atop the barracks surrounding wall that you will find the best vantage point for the daily military exercises.
Remember that one-legged bed I mentioned earlier? Behold!
Unfortunately my sister denied permission for me to post a picture of her and my cousin dressed in period-appropriate clothing in the above kitchen area. The roped-off bedroom was – if I’m not mistaken, which I very well could be – located in the Governor’s Apartments, which is attached to the barracks.
If you find yourself in the area, I recommend checking out Fort Louisbourg. It’s been so many years since I was there that a lot of my memory of it has faded, but I do recall being properly impressed. It’s a great feeling to immerse yourself in history, and if you ignore your modern clothing and technology you’ve brought along, it’s easy to pretend you’ve stepped back in time.
It felt particularly appropriate that our last views of the fortress were cloaked in fog.
Do you enjoy imagining the past? Do you ever catch yourself romanticizing it?