A Taste of History in Atlantic Canada

One reason I love to travel is because it helps me learn about history. A couple of summers ago I went to New Brunswick for the first time. Before that trip, I had little idea how much this corner of Atlantic Canada had been transformed by America’s War of Independence. The territory — part of Nova Scotia until 1784 — was sparsely populated until 15,000 Loyalists fled here in the aftermath of the war. Their sudden arrival led to the creation of the province.

A sense of history is pervasive in New Brunswick, and some of my most memorable lessons came from Kings Landing. Located in the St. John River valley, the “settlement” contains a beautifully restored collection of 70 historic buildings from the 18th, 19th, and early 20th centuries. Many of the structures originated in other stretches of the river valley; they were brought to Kings Landing to prevent damage from flooding. Costumed actors depict the daily life in a small 19th-century town, but with a twist: All of the stories they tell are true. The families who lived in the original buildings have been thoroughly researched and their tales are retold in great detail. One of the most moving is recounted in a single-room cabin that housed a family that fled Ireland’s Great Famine.

Kings Landing also has a theater festival that runs from early July through Labor Day, presenting musical comedies and dramas appropriate for the whole family. Kids fall particularly hard for the site, since they can dress up in period costumes, help out the local blacksmith, and feed the farm animals. (For adults, there are workshops in rug hooking and braiding and in 19th-century medicine.)

For me, the biggest surprise was at the King’s Head Inn, an old-fashioned public house that serves as the main restaurant on the site. Several dishes on its short and historically accurate menu were celiac-safe. The staff explained that buckwheat has long been a favored crop in the region (in spite of its suspicious-sounding name, buckwheat is safe for the gluten intolerant). Not everything on the menu is safe, since barley, malt, and oats are also used (and because the menu changes frequently, call or e-mail in advance to ensure that there will be gluten-free options during your visit). The buckwheat is actually milled at Kings Landing, in a building that dates back to 1885 — and visitors can buy a pound at the gift shop to take home.

Kings Landing [address] 20 Kings Landing Road, Kings Landing (near Fredericton), New Brunswick, E6K 3W3 Canada [tel] 506-363-4999 [e-mail] info@kingslanding.nb.ca [web] www.kingslanding.nb.ca

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