Saturday, July 16, 2016

St. Pierre - across the sea: A Newfie Blog

July 13, continued: At first glance, the harbour of St. Pierre appears similar to Newfoundland, with its clapboard houses and jellybean colours. Once we begin walking around, however, we notice the European/French architectural differences: doorsteps right at the street, small enclosed porches at the front, narrow roadways.

People are friendly and greet us with smiles and "Bonjour!"

We find Hotel Robert quite easily, a white clapboard building that has been a hotel for years. Their own description contains everything you need to know: " Located along the ocean, it was built during Prohibition era in the 1920's and has counted among its clients the famous Al Capone. 3 minutes walking from the ferry terminal, spacious and comfortable rooms." We are pleasantly surprised by the size of our rooms: they are nothing like the tiny Parisian hotel accommodations. Our rooms have been nicely redone, with laminate flooring that is easy to keep clean - and they are.

And across the hall - Elmer and Veronica - the other couple from Abbie's B & B.

The sky is clear and blue, those little white clouds following us, the gulls' wings etched across them.
After checking in, we look for food, but in this way they do follow the European tradition of eating later. We are forced to have barley sandwiches at a local pub. That's okay with the women, as our bartender looks like the lumberjack out of a movie that escapes me right now.

Afterward, we return to our hotel for a great dinner in the restaurant.

July 14: Bastille Day

During the night, a foggy rain has moved in that almost - but not quite! - spoils the day's festivities.

First thing, we embark on a mini-van tour of the island and learn so much from our guide, Marival (we think that's how it's spelled). There’s quite a stunning war memorial just in front of the St. Pierre Museum, a tribute to 132 men from the island who died in world wars. That’s a large number when you consider the small population at the time. 


Weaving in and out of the narrow streets,
Marival points out many interesting structures and places: 
the Daguerre barracks – a building that has served many purposes, including storage of alcohol during the North American Prohibition; 
the cathedral; 
the cemetery with its above-ground monuments and vaults; 
Ile aux Marins across the strait – a small community that has become a museum village; 
stunning views of the sea; and, like the ad says, a colouring box of houses and salines (or fishing sheds). 

 Rolling hills straighten out into flat green plains or cliffs where ocean waves crash. Now and then a horse grazes in a meadow and I think of Owen. Marival gives us each a rock from the seaside, for good luck.


We meet Marival’s sister and daughter on the roads. We get a good sense of the community from our guide, the warmth and closeness of the various characters.

After the tour and a comfort stop at the hotel, we walk to the Place du General de Gaulle. This large meeting place was once the drying grounds for cod, but is now used for celebrations. Today is Bastille Day!

 We join the festivities with gusto. Free wine, bread and sausage, flags, music and laughter. Here is the bartender from our first pub! There is the guy who works on the ferry. Marival’s sister is here with her family. We almost feel as though we belong. 
News reporters interview the Mayor; they don't see famous author Catherine Astolfo passing by.


Mid-afternoon we have fun watching the boat race. The theme this year is recycling, so all the boats are made from used material, like empty water bottles, large and small, potato sacking and pool floats. They splash one another, try to block their progress, and generally have a blast. Along with the crowd we yell allez, allez! The winning team is the only one who has a woman on it. YAY.

Cold beer and hot chili keep us watching the entertainment and waving our flags. 

As the time for dinner nears, we leave the fun and freshen up at the hotel. We’re a bit early and are denied entry at Le Feu Braise. See my review on Trip Advisor.
After dinner we head back the Place de General de Gaulle hoping to see the fireworks. However, the wind and rain a heavy fog have set in and halt those proceedings. We listen to some of the music and eventually wander back to the hotel. 
What a fabulous day!

We don’t know until we turn on the television in our room that the Bastille Day celebrations in Nice, so similar to the wonderful time we experienced, has been turned into a dreadful tragedy by a terrorist. Not to mention the fact that my cousin Sean and his wife are in the city, but safe, thankfully. We feel so badly for those who were killed or who lost loved ones, people just wandering around enjoying life and one another, exactly like we were.
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