St Pierre et Miquelon – October 5
How many of you knew that just a few miles south of Newfoundland there are a couple of islands owned by France? The islands of St-Pierre and Miquelon aren’t just French-like with their berets, baguettes and Bordeaux – they are France, governed and financed by the tricolore. Locals kiss their hellos and pay in euros, sweet smells waft from myriad pastry shops, and French cars crowd the tiny one-way streets. It’s a world away from Newfoundland. St-Pierre is the more populated and developed island, with most of its 5500 residents living in the town of St-Pierre. Miquelon is larger geographically but has only 600 residents overall.
Jacques Cartier claimed the islands for France in 1536, after they were discovered by the Portuguese in 1520. At the end of the Seven Years’ War in 1763, the islands were turned over to Britain, only to be given back to France in 1816. And French they’ve remained ever since.
As we land in St Pierre by tender, we are greeted by the locals dressed in period costumes and are offered coffee and wonderful French pastries. In heavily accented English, they explain the series of brightly coloured shacks called Les Salines. Formerly used to store salt, salted fish and fishing gear, these colorful little cabins located on the coast are now used to protect artisanal fishers’ equipment. Primarily a scenic cluster of multihued fishing shacks.
We then headed toward the Saint-Pierre harbor to see the Pointe aux Canons Lighthouse. While the lighthouse itself wasn’t open for the public, there’s a jetty where you can take photos. There’s also the remnants of a cannon here that was used during the Crimean War.
As we walk into the downtown area, we pass Le Square Joffre. You can’t miss the sculpture of a sailor that overlooks this peaceful park. This statue, erected in 1964, was sculpted out of a block of granite and is dedicated to the many sailors who lost their lives at sea. During the Sailors’ Festival, the procession stops there to lay flowers at its base.
The balance of the day is spent wandering around the small town. Some of the people, again dressed in period costume, danced in a square to a local 3 piece band. What surprised me is that we found a couple of large wine stores there that carried an impressive amount of French wines for a rather small population of 5,000.
Finally, we went to the local church. Once a wooden church, it was ravaged by fire and rebuilt with concrete and stone.
That’s it for now…next stop…Sydney, Nova Scotia!