I always knew that Quebec was French speaking but I didn’t know that half of New Brunswick was too. I have since learned that it is the only province that is bilingual in both English and French (but Canada as a whole recognizes both as official languages). That means everything is translated into both languages and school children learn both. It was interesting eavesdropping on conversations and hearing people seamlessly switch between languages with perfect accents.
When we drove through the small town of St. Louis de Kent, we were greeted by this giant flag in the center of town plus many other smaller versions. I knew it looked a lot like the French flag but when I looked it up, I learned it was the Acadian flag.
Acadia was the name of New France, the French colony established in 1605 that encompassed part of Quebec, New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Prince Edward Island and part of Maine. This is also where Lousiana’s Cajuns are from. A big part of their story is the “Great Expulsion,” when between 1755 and 1764, the British temporarily forced them out of this area.
To learn more, our family visited the wonderful Acadian cultural center Pays de la Sagouine in nearby Boutouche. You can wander around a traditional Acadian village, which includes a lighthouse, shops and homes, and watch costumed characters re-enact life of centuries ago. We watched some of a play in French though we couldn’t understand anything and then very much enjoyed hearing a performance of traditional Acadian music featuring guitar, violin and drums. It reminded me a lot of Cajun music I heard in Lousiana. My boys went wild dancing up a storm to the show and were sad when it ended. We are definitely going to seek out more Acadian music in our travels in this part of the world.
We learned more about French culture where we were camping at nearby Kouchibouguac National Park. We stayed in an “equipped camping” site where they provide you a tent, a bug screen for the picnic table, cots, stove, pots and chairs and you just bring your sleeping bag. Most of the people staying there appeared to be French and ranger programs were held in both French and English. Our boys enjoyed playing with three French kids who were staying next to us. Neither family could understand the other’s language but they all played wonderfully together with each other’s toys.