|Subject: St. Pierre and Miquelon, 1994|
On the Long Week-end in May 1994, my wife and I flew from St. Johns, Newfoundland to the island of St. Pierre in the Gulf of the St Lawrence. The flight took only about 45 minutes in a twin-engined turboprop plane seating 15 passengers. There were only 9 of us on the plane. There was no ferry service in May that year due to a strike by the School Teachers in NFLD.
If we had taken the ferry, we would have had to drive about 3 hours along narrow roads to the ferry dock, park and lock the car, and take the ferry - a 45 foot boat. The ferry carries passengers only, no cars, and the waves averaged about 2 or 3 meters in height so the ferry ride would not have been pleasant!!!
Anyway, back to the Tale. On arrival, we noticed that the Airport had only 1 Runway, no taxiways, and the terminal was very small. A crowd of 30 people would fill it completely. Upon exiting the building, we could see to Hotel in the distance - it looked to be less than a kilometer away. I didn't notice any taxis waiting so we decided to walk, pulling our luggage on a 2-wheeled luggage cart. We do travel light - only 1 carry-on bag each for a 9-day trip.
We arrived at the hotel, checked in, and proceeded to explore the town. The population at that time was only about 5,000 but everyone seemed to have a car and went home for lunch. There were no roads outside the town itself and the longest route was around the end of the runway, past the incinerator and back - about 4 km, I think - we walked the complete circuit.
Lunch-time in St Pierre is the same as in France - the shops all close at 11.30 am and reopen at 2 pm. The restaurants are open, of course, but the grocery shops are closed.
In 1994, the various clothing shops ran dual cashes. You could pay in French Francs or in Canadian Dollars. The shopkeeper could tell you the price in either currency and, at that time, they used a single rate of 4 francs to the dollar - to keep it simple!
For a small town, there were a lot of Pastry Shops. In our 3-day stay, we discovered 5 of them. At 3 pm sharp each day, each one had a line-up in front of it. When we inquired why, they said that 'Teatime' was 4 pm and everyone needed refreshments...
Suppertime is also on the 'french-style'. No hope of an early supper at 5 or 6 pm. The earliest we ate was at 7.30 pm and we were the only customers! The usual meal time is 8 or 8.30 pm with some establishments not opening their doors until 9 pm.
There are taxis in town, I believe, but not necessary as the town is very small. The largest building was the Catholic church.
We grew adventurous after investigating the town shops, dock, etc, and took a walk up into the 'hills'. I put that word in quotes because there were only low rocky outcroppings around the town. No real hills and few trees. My wife wore her 'town walking shoes' and a long raincoat as we left the road for the rocky (and sometimes muddy) paths. Had we been better outfitted and perhaps younger too, we could have had an excellent ramble through the surrounding wilds. As it was, we carefully walked up the trail over rocks, sand, and wet soil until we came to a small lake. The scenery was of a wilderness, few trees, no houses or other people. The weather was cloudy and cool but no rain or fog.
The day we returned to St. Johns was rainy, more like an english misty rain than a downpour. We walked back to the airport with our umbrellas up. When we arrived, a plane was landing so we had to wait for its passengers to leave the terminal before we could enter, go through the scanner, and board our plane. This time it was much smaller - a 2 engined turboprop seating 8 passengers. It was the plane normally chartered by the premier of NFLD so 5 seats were fully upholstered in Red Leather, the next 2 passengers would share a red leather bench and the 8th would have to sit on a red cushion on top of the toilet. The luggage was placed just inside the enterance to the cabin. We were only 3 passengers leaving the island that day so it felt like having a Private plane to ourselves.
We didn't make it to the island of Miquelon. There is just one settlement there - 500 people in a village with 1 street. There is a air connection in a very small plane twice a day, I think. You can also travel by boat - A Zodiak type - a very wet experience I would think due to the heavy seas in the area. If you like walking along sandy beaches in remote areas, you would like Miquelon. I believe there was a B &B in the village too but no hotels and probably no restaurants (at least in '94)
Now just a few notes:-
1. Fog can be a problem on the islands. If it is present on your flight day to the island, you won't get there. If it comes in while you are on the islands, you may be stuck there.
2. All the hotels and restaurants accept payment in either Canadian dollars or French francs. US Dollars are accepted too, I believe.
3. A B&B option was available at the hotel where we stayed. There are also private homes which offer Bed and Breakfast.
4. The weather in September is said to be very good - clear and fairly warm.