Not far from Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, if you take the back roads from Halifax, you will find the village of Lower West Pubnico. It is part of a little group of fishing villages, and is close to Le Village Historique Acadien de la Nouvelle-Ecosse (The historic Acadian Village of Nova Scotia). It is another example of the recreated "living history" villages which are becoming popular wherever there are tourists, but this one has a big difference: it's real. House for 21 children
The village began in 1631 with a grant from the king of France to Charles de Saint-Etienne de la Tour of land in the territory occupied by M'icmaq Indians. Charles brought with him his friend Philippe Mius d'Entremont. The French settlers were a rarity for the time because they respected and worked well with the M'icmaqs, and the little village thrived. That is, until the British deported all of the Acadians in 1756.
The villagers, most of them d'Entremonts, were sent to what is today Walpole, Massachusetts. Because they were bilingual, they were able to negotiate better conditions than other deported groups, and were allowed back to their Canadian homes about 1767. They returned to the same village, the same farms and homes, and have kept their Acadian traditions ever since. In addition to farming and fishing, their descendants have now developed this small tourist attraction illustrating Acadian life stretching back through generations.
The modern day descendants, most of whom are surnamed d'Entremont, have salvaged a number of their 19th century houses and put together a lovely tourist attraction, where we were pleased to spend the morning.
The first house we visited was inherited by a brother and a sister who agreed to share the house and raise their families there. The sister married and had her Blacksmith and forge nine children and then the brother married and had his twelve children, so they had to add on to the house and expand the entire attic into a huge dormitory. In a sort of coming-of-age ceremony, the younger children had to reach a certain maturity before being moved out of the safety of their cribs and youth beds on the ground floor and allowed to climb upstairs to the dormitory. The young lady who explained this all to us was descended from this large family, and spent time in the house as a youth. (So did the young mother who joined us at lunch and used to work as an interpreter in the village, but we're getting ahead of the story.)
She told us to visit the blacksmith, which is where we learned all that history and more. We could have talked to him for hours. He seemed quite content to have given up the hard life of a fisherman for a job as a blacksmith.
The next house was staffed by two women cooking the vegetables for soup. They explained to us how Rappie Pie was made. New potatoes are grated and the water all squeezed out. The dry gratings are then added to a liquid chicken broth to make a gooey paste. A baking dish is filled with first, a layer of potato paste, then a layer of chicken meat, and finally another layer of potato paste. It is baked for two to three hours, and tastes delicious.
We continued down the village path and saw a dory being built, old-fashioned lobster traps being built, and talked to more people, no doubt named Entremont. One was studying to be a pharmacist, while the other was young and strong and went out Handmade fishing dory deep sea fishing for lobsters, at 500 fathoms deep. He explained that he went in the winter, the water was cold, and the lobsters wore hard shells and had the highest quality meat, and brought the best price. He set his pots 50 miles out to sea. He spoke somewhat derisively of the Maine lobstermen who fished the summer season in shallow waters.
We saw another dory lying in the mud, an old-fashioned lobster boat the team had built, and strolled back up the hill to the cafe.
The luncheon special was seafood casserole (every Wednesday) so there was a long line of villagers queued up to place their orders. This was the first time in months that we have not been the first customers for lunch! We ordered one dish of seafood casserole and one of Rappie pie and one dessert of bread pudding with caramel sauce and whipped cream, all of which was quite delicious. The lunch room was so crowded that we offered the remaining two seats at our table to a local mother and daughter -- the mother used to work as an interpreter here at the Acadian Village.
After lunch we found our way to Dennis Point, where a hundred or more fishing vessels were tied up, mostly lobster boats, who work the winter season, as we had learned. Some of the boats were labelled as made by the d'Entremont company, others belonged to a d'Entremont captain! The ships go to German and Browns Banks for lobsters and scallops, to Bacarro and LaHavre Banks for "ground fish" (haddock, pollock, redfish, etc.), and Dennis Point lobster boats further out to sea for tuna and swordfish.
Adjacent to the fishing boat piers were several large fish packing plants, with large refrigerated semi-trailer trucks waiting to load up and go. Also there were some five or ten thousand noisy seagulls in the air and water, driven into a frenzy by the odor and taste of bits of fish in the vicinity of this bustling commercial fishery.
Yet on returning to Yarmouth we saw a huge memorial that at first we thought was a giant memorial to those who died in the wars, with ten or twelve large black granite panels engraved with the names of fallen men in small letters; but it was instead a memorial to those lost at sea, proving that fishing is not only an arduous job but also an extremely dangerous one.