St-Pierre part 2
Good news! It’s windy, so the fog is gone, but the sun is still not making an appearance, it’s probably half an hour behind on NL time. Yes, Saint-Pierre-et-Miquelon even has its own time zone! This morning, we’re going on an Architecture and Heritage walking tour, including a visit to the Musée Arche. For a town of only 5,500 inhabitants, their history is amazing.
Whether on streets, lanes or coulines (alleys between houses), the architectural style of the houses is quite varied. You can see older shingled homes, then brick and wood construction which were “mandatory” in the 1920’s, then concrete and now back to clapboards. But it is in the details that you learn the most interesting facts about to the past. On the corner of one house stands the last 3-foot tall angular rock designed to prevent the heavy, horse-drawn carts from bumping into the house as they turned around the corner back in the 1800’s. High against another house is a statue inside a small encased frame and, nearby at street level, is a cross nailed to a fence; both were erected in gratitude to St. Mary for stopping the spread of fires further into the town.
Many houses are set directly against the sidewalk (in other words, they don’t have front yards). At one time, their owners were permitted to erect on the sidewalk, makeshift “porches” or tambour to prevent the cold of winter from blowing at the front door directly. The condition for this leniency was that they had to dismantle them with the arrival of spring. Over the years,, the tambours became permanent. So now, when you walk on most sidewalks in St-Pierre, you have to veer onto the street, past the porches and return to the sidewalk on the other side. However, the bright, contrasting colours of the facades, windows and door trims make the inconvenience worthwhile. Just lovely!
So when you walk in the downtown area, watch where you’re going!! Look down on the sidewalk to see where it stops, look up at the colors of the houses and lace curtains in the windows….look to the right at the little perfume shop, to the left at the liquor store, down at the sidewalk again, up at the chocolate store Art et Délices….so much to see once you know the history.
The sun popped up through the clouds and our previously cancelled minivan tour was on again. Jean-Claude, the operator of Le Caillou Blanc tours shared his vast knowledge of the island and took us “out of town” in Savoyard to see the cliffs of the neighbouring island of Langlade. A ride up on l’Anse à Pierre allowed us to see both Langlade and Miquelon and another point of view overlooking l’île aux Pigeons, near the cruise ship dock. All these roads are also the start of many hiking trails that take you all around the island. What a difference the sun makes; same scene, different feeling.
Our last outing, a visit to l’île aux Marins was the dessert!
Jean-Pierre, my guide, took me with a zodiac across the harbour.
Time stands still.
200 homes once stood strong against the winds. 680 people lived there around 1892 and over 300 dories were around the island. There was traffic my friends!!!
It is today, the only place where you can still see the “graves”,a French word that describes square shaped lots lined with volcanic rocks on the ground where fishermen laid their cod fish to” dry over 6 to 8 suns”. They needed 6 to 8 sunny days to dry the salted fish.
Read my lips, I did not say 6 to 8 days, I said -sunny-days, that meant a lot longer if they had rain and cloudy days!!
You can visit the large church, the small museum, the cemetery and walk around the island and enjoy the 30 or so houses still left standing.
Not if, but when, you come to the islands, you will be immersed in the French culture and even better, St-Pierre’s particular culture and accent. When you know more about their history you appreciate everything and everybody you meet.
The crossing back to Newfoundland, by the way, was like sailing on a mirror.
What a trip!
Tonight we made it to the Wheelhouse Inn. It has a very nice view overlooking one of the bulbous(I like that word) islands and coves around Burin.