No lawyers were allowed in colonial Louisbourg. Louis XIV wanted to build a utopia on this side of the Atlantic and anyone who was out to practice law could only undermine that dream, the Sun King thought. So rules were enforced by the governor of Île-Royale and an appointed council. But lawyers? They were left to eat cake -- or learn to bake it.
Today, Louisbourg still exhibits the spirit and mindset of its founders. Set in 1744, toward the end of French rule of the territory on Cape Breton, the recreated historic village replicates life as it was for the blacksmiths, tavern owners, military personnel, government officials and citizens in the 18th century.
To enter the fortified city, visitors must first pass through a gate defended by militia who will test whether you're a British spy or ne'er-do-well before allowing you to enter. Thoroughly fascinating, Louisbourg is so well done as an attraction you almost lose sight of the beauty of its setting. Almost.
Cape Breton's natural allure never quite relinquishes its grip and the scenery surrounding Louisbourg is reminiscent of the French coast, with a torrent of waves and swatches of thick, golden reeds that from certain angles appear to mask the fortress as you approach.
"Louisbourg is the jewel of the national parks system," says Linda Kennedy, who runs Point of View Suites, a sensational property just outside of the entrance to the historic site.
For those who have been to colonial Williamsburg in Virginia, Fortress Louisbourg will seem familiar. But it is much more of a living museum than a commercial enterprise, although you can purchase meals and pay to take part in a murder mystery tour or night-time lantern walk.
In 2013, Louisbourg celebrates its 300th anniversary and will do so with panache, earning it the distinction as the No. 1 place in Canada to visit in 2013 from Vacay.ca.
The Louisbourg300 festivities feature a month-long fête with additional music, cultural attractions and a harbourside market in July. A series of other events and celebrations will take place during the summer, including a much-anticipated regatta on the waters surrounding the fortress. As Louisbourg heralds its tricentennial, it gives Canadians an opportunity to reflect on how important of a place it was to the nation's history.
"Louisbourg in some ways is a microcosm of what Canada eventually developed into, which is a multicultural, multilingual society," says Barbara Landry, one of the Parks Canada officers at the fortress.
To read more about Louisbourg and see a photo gallery of the fortress, visit Vacay.ca.
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