Finding the Acadian Village-Caraquet, New Brunswick

 

“We can make it to New Brunswick today,” said Julia, “It’s not that far.”

She was right. After a restful night and a late start from Monsieur Berthelot’s field, the New Brunswick provincial line was only 150 miles. Not that far.

Except that I’m a wimp behind the wheel, so by about 4pm (or earlier), I start whining and looking for a place to pull off. Wouldn’t want to be caught on the road after dark. No telling what would happen.

By now I’ve become adept at sniffing out places to camp for the night for free. (We call it “guerrilla camping”) If I see a great spot, my vehicle practically steers itself in.

It was mid-afternoon when the perfect place appeared just past Carleton sur Mer. Not quite to the provincial border. But close enough. Sort of.

Who would pass up this for…a parking lot on the provincial border?

This particular spot was delightful, right beside the ocean with–true luxury–a public bathroom. We did the usual canvassing—no signs, no one nearby to ask permission. My approach in these situations borrows heavily from the “argumentum ad ignoratium” fallacy, which goes like this: If it don’t say we can’t, then we can.

That approach hasn’t failed me yet, so I’m sticking to it.

But I also have my backup excuse: “Oh, Officer McGarrity, I traveled so far today and got so tired, I just had to pull off for the night so as not to endanger myself or others.”

I ask you, what Scrooge would send a harmless woman and her sweet daughter packing after a plea like that? Pretty watertight, huh?

So we spent the night by the sea.

Even the flowers are pretty. A thistle by the sea

And although we didn’t make it to New Brunswick that night, we could see its dark mass just across Chaleur Bay where a huge bonfire burned into the night.

In the morning, we faced one of those “fork in the road” decisions. We could:

  • Option #1: Cross into New Brunswick and continue directly to Kouchibouguac National Park about halfway through the province, or
  • Option #2: Cross into New Brunswick, but take a left at Bathurst and go around the Acadian Peninsula.

I was leaning toward #2, not only because it felt more satisfying to continue along the coast, but also because I’d read about the Acadian Village in Caraquet, which promised “more than 40 authentic Acadian structures” that had been hauled to the site and renovated.

I’m a sucker for that kind of historical stuff, plus, ever since dipping a toe in the Acadian story in New Orleans (the Cajun culture there), I’ve been interested in that history.

Even though we were looking at two extra days, at least, to visit Caraquet, I couldn’t let go of the idea. After all, it was a AAA gem, and that rating hasn’t let me down yet.

*          *          *

We got to the New Brunswick line in good time. And although I’d enjoyed bumbling along in French all through Quebec, truth be told, I was looking forward to easy conversation in good old English again.

We walked into the information center.

“Bonjour. Hello.”

This is a prompt. Your answer determines what language the conversation will continue in.

“Bonjour,” I respond without thinking.

“Comment pouvoir je vous aide,” says the nice lady at the counter.

Whoops. I switch to good old English. I am soon to discover that, while Quebec is a French-speaking province, New Brunswick is solidly bilingual. Some people speak French; some people speak English, and in official places, someone speaks both. That’s part of the Acadian story as well.

After chatting for a bit, I am confirmed in my notion to turn left at Bathurst.

New Brunswick, on the whole, seemed more fertile and agrarian than the Gaspé, which had a sort of barren, rocky landscape. But the drive to Caraquet, nearly at the tip of the Acadian Peninsula, while scenic, was taking longer than I’d hoped.

On and on we went, with tantalizing signs occasionally pointing us in the right direction. I had decided that if I arrived later than 3pm, I wouldn’t have time to do the village justice, and I’d have to wait until the next day.

Usually, I become increasingly agitated as I get close to a destination. I’ve gone too far, I know it, I think. Where IS this place. Have I made a wrong turn?  I continue to torment myself until, Voila!, the destination magically appears. The only difference on this trip is that I have a witness to my madness. So, true to form, with only a few miles to go, I am pouring over maps and checking the GPS to determine where I’ve gone wrong.

Julia waits me out.

We continue on, and finally reach the Acadian Village. It is only 2pm.

Within a few moments of entering the place, I can tell it’s something special. This is going to take some time. I steel myself to keep my nose to the grindstone and forge ahead. No meandering down interesting byways; no longwinded chats with costumed interpreters.

I have forgotten, however, that I lost an hour in crossing into New Brunswick. Even though the Gaspé juts significantly farther east into the Atlantic, the entire province is in the Eastern Time Zone, the same as New York–or Michigan, for that matter. Head back west, cross into New Brunswick, and you are in the Atlantic Time Zone—one hour ahead. So, unbeknownst to me, it’s really 3pm.

Not long enough by far to explore the 60 buildings and three centuries represented in the village.

Next: what I learned in 3 hours.

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