Day 5 |
Aug 19, 2008

St. Pierre, France

By Claudia Holgate, Environmental Lecturer

Temperature: 15.3C 59.5F

Pressure 1012hPa

Wind: 47.1km/h North westerly wind

Co-ordinates 46° 47’ 08’’N 56° 09’ 50’’W

We spent the morning at sea on our way to the quaint little islands of St Pierre and Miquelon, which, at its closest, is 25km (13 nautical miles) from Canada, South of Newfoundland. As always, our time at sea was just as busy and interesting as when we are ashore and today was no exception. After a leisurely breakfast, Dr Susan Langley, our resident historian, gave a lecture entitled “Whaling and Codfish and Basques, Oh My!” In the lecture, she explained how whaling and codfish were two of the most powerful economic forces driving expansion and exploration of the world’s seas. The Basques, who were famed for their seamanship, led the field in the North Atlantic, harvesting whales and fish long before permanent settlements were established.

At 11h30, we all joined our head Sommelier, Karolina Deric, for a martini tasting before the traditional Fruhschoppen (German sausages and sauerkraut) and an early lunch, so that we were ready to go ashore as soon as the ship had docked.

Shortly after arriving at St Pierre dock at 1pm and clearing customs, we split into our different groups according to the activity we had chosen. Some guests decided to wander into town at leisure; others were on the first buses to the ferry to go to Sailors Island or Ile aux Marin, then the bus picked up the guests for the first island tour.

St Pierre is a little piece of France, 4500km away from its European colonists. It is completely different to the many other little towns we have visited in Newfoundland, as it is completely French in language, architecture and culture. The island tour was repeated hourly throughout the afternoon, allowing all guests the opportunity to see the island and explore the town without any time restrictions. The one bus on the island took us through the town, which had a delightful vibe with brightly coloured houses, all in excellent condition, and children playing. The island has a population of 6,000 inhabitants and it has 4,000 cars, even though there are only 25km of roads and one filling station. The tour took us to the western part of the island where we had magnificent panoramic views of the coastline. On the way back, we went past the brand new airport, where they have flights once a day, and to a great lookout point where we could photograph the harbour and see our ship in the distance.

As a number of us boarded the small ferry for the 10-minute ride to Isle aux Marins, lying just off the town of St. Pierre, the sun broke through the mists. By the time we assembled, it was becoming pleasantly warm. Our guide Beatrice provided an in-depth background to the island’s history as the signs and museum labels are all in French. After showing us a few buildings and exhibits, she gave some general guidance and time frames and everyone dispersed to explore at leisure. Many of the buildings remain privately owned and serve as summer or weekend residences but several have been furnished to represent the period of the cod fishing heyday. The school has 20 small rooms of exhibits on various themes and the beautifully maintained church is still used once a year for services and is available for Christenings and weddings. Some of us went to the cobble beaches to probe the tide pools while others roamed the higher reaches on which are situated war memorials, a grotto, and the Stations of the Cross; from this higher ground no fewer than three lighthouses are visible as well as the wreckage of a vessel that failed to heed their warning. The time flew by and shortly we were disembarking back in St. Pierre and heading off to join one of the island bus tours or to wander around the town.

All too soon we had to head back to the ship, which was a pleasant walk past the lighthouse and the beautiful, colourful buildings that lined the streets. We ended our day the “Silversea way” with exceptional dining and relaxation before going back to our suites for a well-earned rest.