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To appreciate the troubled history of these lands, a stop at this UNESCO World Heritage Site is required. Hardworking Acadians vastly altered the local landscape, in large part by constructing a series of dikes outfitted with ingenious log valves, which allowed farmers to convert the saltwater marshes to productive farmland. At the modern, unobtrusive Visitor Centre, visitors learn about these dikes and the history of the Acadians who populated the Minas Basin from 1680 until their expulsion (le Grand Dérangement) at the hands of the British in 1755. Some 11,500 were forcefully deported from these and other Acadian communities, their homes and farms burned when they refused to sign oaths of allegiance to the British crown. Many died on their way to Louisiana where they became the Cajuns. Today, Grand-Pré (“great meadow”) features superbly tended grounds with green lawns studded by graceful weeping willows, excellent for picnics. A graceful stone church, built in 1922 on the presumed site of the original Acadian church as an interpretive center features commemorative works of art and fascinating artifacts, like a ledger that lists all those deported. Evangeline Bellefontaine, the revered (albeit fictional) heroine of Longfellow’s epic poem Evangeline, was said to have been born here; look for the tragic heroine’s iconic statue (created in 1920 by Canadian sculptor Philippe Hérbert) in the garden gazing longingly over her shoulder at the church. From here, you can bike the 9 km (5.6 miles) of hard packed dirt trail along the tops of the dike.