The islands of St. Pierre & Miquelon are actually part of France, but they are tiny islands off the southern coast of Newfoundland, Canada. You can get there by plane from Halifax or St. John’s, or by ferry from Fortune.
It’s so neat to be in France but over here in North America! They speak French with French accents (not Quebecois which I can’t understand du tout), use the euro and you get a nifty stamp in your passport upon entering!
My dad and I spent two nights on the island of St. Pierre during our father-daughter Maritime Canadian road-trip. St. Pierre is the smaller of the two islands but is the more heavily populated, with almost 6,000 residents (mostly concentrated in the town of St. Pierre) to Miquelon’s 600 residents.
Given that in mid-July it was cold and rainy, we didn’t take the opportunity to get soaked on a ferry-ride over to Miquelon. I’m not even sure the ferry was running one day since the winds were quite high. Next time!
So we centered our time around St. Pierre and the ghost island of Ile aux Marins located in St. Pierre’s bay. Ile aux Marins’ last resident died in the 1970s I believe, however many of the island houses are well-maintained and I wouldn’t be surprised if families used them as weekend/summer houses.
In St. Pierre, we stayed at Nuits St. Pierre, owned and operated by the lovely local proprietress, Patricia who picked us up at the airport. She also owns the next door cafe, Delices de Josephine where we took our afternoon Orangina.
The B&B was warm and cozy. There are 5 well-appointed rooms with modern amenities (including adapters – good because I hadn’t even thought to bring one!), slippers, robes, free wifi and a very comfy pull out couch (dad said the bed was comfy too).
Each morning, breakfast was prepared by a friendly young lady who had moved from Montreal to work in the hotel. I had the requisite pain au chocolate an baguette with lots of butter and coffee.
Even though it was rainy and chilly for most of our stay, we wandered around town, visiting the lighthouse, the salines (colorful seaside huts where they clean and dry the day’s catch), the post office for stamps, the WWI/WWII memorial, the Musee de l’Arche with a great history exhibit, the look-out point with 360 views of the town, harbor and expansive above-ground cemetery.
The history centers mostly around fishing, although there was a great economic boom during the years of US Prohibition due to massive smuggling operations through St. Pierre. Al Capone even installed himself at the Hotel Robert (still in use) during that time.
According to one sign in the museum, there was prohibition in Canada too (who knew), but they allowed for the manufacture of alcohol so long as it was exported to a country who did not have prohibition. Well good thing St. Pierre is part of France – so convenient! So once the Canadians exported to France, the bootleggers took it from there to get it into the US.
Once Prohibition was lifted, St. Pierre’s economy collapsed, and they had to return to their fishing way of life with some added tourist income.
We ate our dinners at L’Atelier Gourmand and Le Feu de Braise. Neither were much to write home about – both solid and good – not incredibly memorable, although the scallops at Feu were tasty and fresh, and the steak au poivre at L’Atelier was up to snuff.
On our second day, the sun came out for a bit and we witnessed the end of the Halifax-St. Pierre annual regatta. The first sailboat arrived after setting out two days prior, battling some storms but finally making it safely to St. Pierre (some boats scratched out along the way). We joined in the end-of-race party tent for some snacks and people watching.
That evening we came across an outdoor concert near our hotel of traditional French music – old-timey feel good songs accompanied by drums and accordion.
Just as I had my fill of croissants at the local boulangerie (there are only two apparently, but we only stumbled upon one), it was time to move on to Newfoundland for the next leg of our journey!