One Way to do Sydney, Nova Scotia

Exactly 12 months ago my wife and I visited the port of Sydney, Nova Scotia while cruising  Canada’s Eastern coastline aboard the P&O cruise ship, Arcadia….

Sydney is a former city located  on Cape Breton Island and was originally founded  in 1785 by the British. It served as the Cape Breton Island colony’s historical capital until 1820, when the colony merged with Nova Scotia and the capital moved to Halifax.

It is a very popular cruise port and on the day of our visit there were three cruise ships visiting. We were lucky to be berthed alongside at the cruise  terminal which is famous for the world’s largest fiddle, built in recognition of Cape Breton’s musical talent…

This was the first time we had visited Sydney, Nova Scotia and we were keen to get the most out of our experience. During my pre-cruise research I had noted a number of historical references to the Fortress of Louisbourg which was some 42 km  from Sydney. Considering this distance, and the historical significance of the Fortress, I was surprised that it did not feature in any of P&Os shore excursions.

Not to be deterred, and having an urge to visit it, there was little  alternative other than to organise a private excursion which eventually proved a very wise decision. And so I made contact with a delightful lady named Anna Marie Cormier  who now operates as a private tour guide and  just happened to be a retired staff member from the Fortress – where she had worked for some 20 years.

This review therefore really covers our full day tour in the excellent care of Anna Marie Cormier who, should any other reader so wish, can be contacted by email at cormierannamarie@hotmail.com.

My wife and I were one of the first passengers to disembark Arcadia at Sydney, some 30 minutes prior to our arranged meet. This was entirely due to our wish to have a few photographs with the world’s largest fiddle which dominates the jetty adjacent the cruise terminal…

Unveiled in 2005 and designed and constructed by Cyril Hearn, this ten ton solid steel construction reaches a height of  60 feet and is a tribute to the folk music and traditions of Cape Breton’s Celtic community.

Photo shoot achieved we were also delighted when we discovered that Anna Marie had turned up early so we hit the road for our first surprise, a private visit to Jost House…

One of Sydney’s registered Heritage Properties I had noted it featured on a number of the ship’s excursions so was delighted that we were privileged to be given this early taster.

Jost House was originally built in 1786 by the merchant Thomas Jost during the founding of the loyalist settlement in Sydney. It is one of the oldest residential buildings in Sydney and serves as a living museum to the colonial days and atmosphere prevailing at the time…

Displays reflecting the development of the house  through to Victorian times are brought to life by the dedicated guides with various tales and the tour includes a visit to the preserved detail of the original ‘cellar’ kitchen, 

…the First Floor bedrooms…

…and the one time first floor Apothicary…

Jost House is well worth a visit to experience the colonial atmosphere that once prevailed in the town.

So the surprise visit to Jost House complete,  we now headed out of town on our journey to the Fortress of Louisbourg. We  travelled for some 50 minutes along scenic autumnal coloured roads…

…all well signposted…

…until we entered the township of Louisbourg…

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Very soon we had our first distant glimpse of the imposing Fortress site…

…which required us to drive across a causeway…

The location for the fortress was chosen because it was easy to defend against British ships attempting to either block or attack the St. Lawrence River and the fortified town is now North America’s largest historical reconstruction….

We made our first stop at  De la Plagne House…

…which serves as an Information and Administrative centre and was historically the home of Military Captain Pierre-Paul de la Plagne and his family: it was explained that they were members of the colonial elite…

…with such large accommodation. The house position can be seen upper centre on the Fortress layout below, marked as ?/23

One of the joys of using Anna Marie was the fact that she ensured that we arrived well ahead of any other day visitors. An added bonus was the fact that October was what was referred to as the ‘Shoulder Season’ for visitors: effectively less visitors but also less activity; a fact borne out by the almost deserted main street  …with ‘Frederick Gate’ at its end…

…and a greatly reduced admission charge of $6.10 (Canadian Dollars) – the over 65 rate.

Taking full advantage of our early arrival and the dearth of other visitors we headed immediately  in the direction of the King’s Bastion Barracks…

…with the old ‘Guard House’ on the left above.

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The King’s Bastion is basically a massive  accommodation block set against the ramparts of the south westerly side of the Fortress…

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The ramparts are walkable and offer a number of interesting views and aspects well restored…

…including this particular view northwards over the Dauphin Demi-Bastion…

This half bastion forms part of Louisbourg’s defence system and the cannons here are reproductions of French 24 Livre (pounder) long guns, while on the opposite ramparts were good views across the remainder of the Fortress site…

*****

Leaving the ramparts and returning to the main compound…

…we were given a full tour of the Barrack Block…

which in its day accommodated over 500 men mainly in barrack rooms, twelve to sixteen men per room…

…which again have been authentically restored and often with volunteer guides to relate historical tales…

Interestingly, we were to discover that there were no mess halls and no workrooms in the barracks – throughout their service the men cooked, ate, drank, smoked, gambled… and lived in these rooms.

At the centre of the Barrack Block was the Military Chapel…

French Récollet missionaries were sent to the colonies to minister to the military as chaplains, and to the civilian population as parish priests. This military chapel served as a parish church since a community church was never built. The patron above the altar is the Saint-King of France, Louis IX…

Also impressively restored were the quarters of the Governor’s Apartments…

The Governor represented the king’s majesty in person and often lived lavishly. Unlike the soldiers, he had his own kitchen complex…

…and lavish sleeping  arrangements…

…and the odd transportation artefact…

The Superior Council met in the chambers downstairs and served principally as the colony’s court of appeal…

That completed our time in the King’s bastion other to say that we were delighted at the volunteer staff at every point of interest and yours truly could not resist at least one photo shoot with these great guys…

It was now time to explore the remainder of the fortified town and witness  French colonial life between 1713 and 1758.

As one wanders around one is free to enter the many restored houses,  the interiors of which have fine displays of life as it was in those years. Looking down the main street the central house in the photograph below…

…is named De Gannes House after another military Captain who resided at the property with his family. The triangular building to its left was the icehouse, a small pyramid-like building that provided an 18th-century form of refrigeration.

Most buildings are manned by volunteers who willingly relay details and tales of life inside the Fortress…

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Numerous buildings served as stores and store houses like De la Vallière Storehouse …

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…while another, Carrerot House…

…was the home of André Carrerot,  the garde-magasin, or Chief Clerk of the King’s Storehouse. He lived there with his wife, Marie-Josephe Cheron, who gave birth to at least 15 children. (He was obviously good at numbers)

On the waterfront can be found The King’s Storehouse…

This was the central receiving depot for merchandise needed by the fortress and its garrison. Supplies kept here included 􏰒􏰄􏰋􏰈􏰝 􏰓vegetables and salt. Uniforms, ropes, and tools were also kept here…

Also on the waterfront is the Hôtel de la Marine…

􏰦􏰑􏰂􏰈􏰈􏰂 􏰧􏰄􏰈􏰌􏰐􏰀􏰝 􏰌 􏰨􏰩􏰉􏰛􏰂􏰌􏰈􏰉􏰄􏰔􏰍 􏰆􏰏􏰁􏰂􏰈􏰕􏰌Pierre Lorant lived here, with his wife and three children. He operated a cabaret 􏰅􏰈􏰂􏰪􏰋􏰂􏰐􏰀􏰂􏰍frequented by fishermen, merchants and soldiers…

So meticulous is the authenticity that even the gardener…

… has an authentic 18th Century wheelbarrow…

There was one final place for us to visit before we departed the Fortress and that was adjacent the car parking facility: the reason it was left till last. This was the McLennan Centre…

This building is the museum that was built soon after Louisbourg was designated a National Historic Site in 1928…

A popular feature in this Centre is the model of the town, made in the 1940s…

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…in addition to some great mural depictions of how the Fortress would have looked in its heyday…

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Our visit to the Fortress of Louisbourg complete we now  head back to Sydney. The Fortress complex is actually set on one side of the entrance to the harbour and on the e opposite side is the Louisbourg Lighthouse…

During our planning of this trip Anna Marie had offered to include a visit to the historical lighthouse site as part of the visit.

As we headed back through the township of Louisbourg we made another stop to capture the lighthouse from a different angle…

…before circling the harbour to eventually arrive at the Louisbourg Lighthouse site…

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During our exploration of the area we discovered the foundations of the original lighthouse…

…and a plaque detailing the historical significance of this particular site…

That’s General James Wolfe, mentioned on the plaque, as commanding the battery in 1758: The same General Wolfe  remembered chiefly for his victory over the French at the Battle of the Plains of Abraham in Quebec a year later.

While at the lighthouse site we also had the opportunity to view the fortress from a different angle…

Returning along the shores of the harbour Anna Marie kindly made a stop for us to view the facilities of the Cape Breton Lobster Fishermen…

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…while informing us that for preservation the lobster fishing seasons are staggered and vary by location. Have a look at this map: www.tastelobster.ca/fishing_regions.html

 

Needless to say this locality was ‘out of season’…

We arrived back safely in Sydney following an excellent and thoroughly informative day with Anna Marie…

At our request she dropped us within easy walking distance of our final photo opportunity, The Merchant Mariner Monument…

..on Sydney’s waterfront boardwalk…

…and within sight of our floating home…

 

 

That concluded our day visit in Sydney, Nova Scotia  which definitely surpassed expectations and  achieved our primary aim of visiting North America’s largest historical reconstruction site: all thanks to our guide Anna Marie with her outstanding insight into the history, life and heritage of Cape Breton, not to mention her patience with my photographic demands.

As a footnote I would mention again that I found it odd that P&O had no excursions to Fortress Louisbourg even though we did notice groups from the other two cruise lines in that day, Oceania …

…and Holland America Line…

If you have enjoyed this review and would like to be amongst the first to hear of new reviews, including another Canadian port of call, Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island and Port Elizabeth in South Africa why not join over 600 followers by clicking on the ‘Follow’ link on the front page.

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Hopefully, when cruising resumes after the Corona Virus pandemic there will also be reviews  of my 2021 booked cruises featuring a rescheduled  Emerald Waterways river cruise through Eastern Europe, a second cruise with MSC, onboard their ship MSC Magnifica and a new experience onboard P&O’s latest offering, Iona.

©2020 – 2021 * Solent Richard’s Cruise Blog * All Rights Reserved

Duplication in part or whole without prior written consent is prohibited by international laws.

 

Disclosure to potential conflict of interest:

It is common throughout the travel industry for travel journalists and many cruise bloggers to be provided with complimentary cruises for the purpose of their reviews.

Solent Richard has no ‘conflict of interest’ as he is not an accredited journalist, he pays for his cruises, and is happy to confirm that all his reviews are his own given without fear or favour.

􏰀􏰄􏰖􏰐 􏰓􏰋􏰑􏰔􏰀 􏰑􏰐 􏰀􏰁􏰂 􏰗􏰘􏰙􏰚􏰏 􏰓􏰛 􏰀􏰁􏰂 􏰕􏰋􏰏􏰂􏰋􏰕􏰜􏰏 􏰆􏰈􏰏􏰀 curator, Katharine McLennan (1892-1975).

https://www.novascotia.com/see-do/attractions/fortress-of-louisbourg-national-historic-site/1583

2 responses to “One Way to do Sydney, Nova Scotia

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