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Quaint shops tucked inside historic buildings, colourful café laid out on garden patios and elegant Victorian mansions offering B&B accommodation, present the picture-perfect tourist haven of Annapolis Royal.
Set along the Annapolis River just below the sprawling Bay of Funday where the famous tide swells and fades throughout the day, this is the jewel of the Annapolis Basin. Peaceful and pretty today, the town is marked by a brutal military history dating 150 years before Confederation. Everywhere are landmarks to Canada's early battles and first permanent settlers.
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Annapolis Royal, named for Queen who ruled England when the French were captured here in 1710, is regarded as Canada's birthplace. Samuel de Champlain arrived here in 1604, before he even saw Quebec, building barracks to house settlers a year later and naming it Port Royal.
With a population of only 600, Annapolis Royal serves as a massive outdoor museum documenting Canada's dual ancestry, Fort Anne, where English soldiers were garrisoned when they expelled the Acadians in 1755, was designated the first National Historic Site, in 1917. Across the river to Granville Ferry and slightly west is Habitation, the full-scale restoration of Champlain's first settlement.
Near the fort, within the Annapolis Royal Historic Gardens, a rebuilt Acadian cottage overlooks a "potager" (vegetable garden) along with the fruit trees for which the Annapolis Valley is so famous.
Preserving the area's immensely rich heritage, is something the town takes very seriously. In fact, the local historical association has existed as a loosely knit lobby for more than a century, since the fort's last remaining block house was demolished in 1881 by a man who was leasing the land.
"That's what spurred the movement to try to save the site," says Alan Melanson, president of the Annapolis Royal Historical Association. "The block house had been built in 1778 and instead of repairing it, he tore it down and that's what angered a lot of the town's people. It was too late to save the block house, but then the movement grew to save the entire site."
The historical group fought for and won its bid to preserve the area where four successively larger French forts preceded the installation of British troops at Fort Anne.
All public and private stops in the town carry brochures about walking tours with historical details on each site. A graveyard lantern tour is conducted three evenings a week, by a costumed guide.
Some 150 buildings around the town have provincial heritage protection. Many are along Saint George Street, originally known as Rue Dauphin while the French remained. (Dauphin was the title given to the eldest son of the king of France.) It is regarded as one of the oldest thoroughfares in North America and, not surprisingly, Annapolis Royal points of interest are highlighted as "first" or "oldest" at every turn.
Beyond all the heritage and history, the town is simply a lovely place to stay and visit. There are potters, painters and other artists... from a bagpipe maker to a rocking-horse carver, Anna Gloria Antiques features one of the largest collections in Canada, of imported blue-and-white Staffordshire pottery.
The basin also shares a climate more in keeping with the Niagara Peninsula where and early spring and luxuriously long warm autumn (in normal weather patterns, that is), is perfect for off-season tourists. Eateries include Leo's Cafe, located in the Adams-Ritchie House, reputedly English Canada's oldest building.
For additional details on Annapolis Royal, log onto the web site http://www.annapolisroyal.com
or explore links through the Annapolis Royal Historical Gardens at
The above-noted article was written by Marlene Orton and published by the Toronto Sun Newspaper on November 4, 2001. It is reproduced here with thanks to the afore-mentioned.
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