St. Pierre… Almost? Finally!

August 21, 2011

D’Arcy & I both slept through our 5:30 alarms.  I awoke with a start at 6:50 a.m. and realized we were LATE!  We flew around getting everyone up and the van packed, and were out the door and on the road by 7:10.  We knew that our 6:00 starting time had allowed us time for delays, but our stress level was high that we wouldn’t get to the ferry terminal on time.

We made it to Goobies before we stopped to drain the kids and fill the van.  We had put Sarah, still sleeping, in the van in her pyjamas, so got her dressed at the gas station.  We got the kids each some juice and they ate cereal while we drove.  This was one time we hoped we would not see a moose!  All went well and the little traffic there was flowed steadily until we got just outside Marystown.  A woman pulled out in front of us and drove between 30 and 50 km/hr.  We couldn’t pass her, and I eventually started to giggle because what else could we do? Marystown is one place we will never forget!  I called the Tour Company and told them that we were coming and would be there shortly.

It turned out that we arrived at the ferry terminal in lots of time.  The ferry wasn’t scheduled to leave until 11:30 and we were there at 10:45.  We got our tickets and boarding passes and went to the dock.  There, the kids & I sat with our luggage while D’Arcy took our van to a secure parking lot for the night.  The ferry was late coming in from St. Pierre and everyone was already lined up to get on board when it docked.  I gave each of the kids Gravol – just in case, knowing that this crossing would be much rougher than the ferry to Newfoundland was.

We chatted with a father & son from the Miramichi while we waited.  They had driven from Bonavista that morning. The captain came over to the gate and announced that they were considering cancelling the crossing due to high winds and rough water.  He said that they would make an announcement at 12:30.  I could see look of panic on Alex’s face as he asked, “You mean we might not get to go?”  We went in to the information centre and had some lunch while we waited.  It was out of our hands.

Before long the word spread that the winds had died down and the boat would cross.  We gathered up our things together and off we went.  It was windy with light rain, so we went downstairs into the cabin.  The captain announced that it would be a rough crossing and would take longer than normal.  We settled in and played cards, watching for whales.  The girls drew pictures on the barf bags.  The crossing was definitely rough and the kids described it like being on a roller coaster.  There was a family on board that three out of four were sick.  Also, there was a kids’ soccer team from Miquelon and a number of them were sick as well.  The family was made up of a man in his late 20’s or early 30’s, his mother, his pregnant girlfriend and his pre-teen son.  He totally flipped out when they were getting sick and every other word out of his mouth was the f-word.  He did absolutely nothing to help them , and it was the coach of the soccer team who took over and aided them.

Our family fared well, but by the time we docked, Evan told me that he was starting to get a bit queasy and was sweating.  Olivia slept through most of it!  We docked and went through French customs and got French stamps in our passports.  The kids were so excited to have finally arrived!  We headed towards our B&B which turned out to be right at the top of the hill.  We had a map which wasn’t very good (no street names!), so we did stop at a hardware store to ask directions.  The kids are good walkers – I have to give them credit – they didn’t complain, even when carrying things.

We made it to St. Pierre - Finally!!

We got to our B&B, Auberge Quatre Temps, to discover that they had us in two rooms which were not connected, but were side by side.  The rooms were small and each had a double bed and a set of bunk beds.  They weren’t fancy, but we decided that they were adequate as we would only be sleeping there for the night.  We showered and got ready to go exploring.

We walked back downtown and went to the Visitor Information Centre.  As we opened the door, I noticed that they were TIANS members!  We got some information, along with a better map of the town and set out to find a place to eat.  I already had a restaurant in mind, La Feu de Braise.  We stopped at a bank machine and got out some Euros so we would have cash, and realized that the restaurant was right there – but didn’t open until 7:00.  We made the decision to go on the bus tour of the Island to pass the time, and then come back for dinner.

The TIANS membership sticker, although hard to see in this photo, is located between the two "Hours of Operation" signs!

The bus tour was run by a man named Hubert and his granddaughter Emilie.  They were 4th & 6th generation of their family to live on the Island. We were glad we took the tour and learned some interesting information.  There are just over 6,000 people who live in St. Pierre and over 4,000 vehicles! Over 90% of the population is Catholic. Over 65% of the population works for the government and the rest work mainly in construction or tourism.  There are over 400 horses on the Island, used purely for the pleasure of horseback riding.  Most of their food is delivered to the island via Halifax, Nova Scotia, once a week.  They start school at the age of two and if they wish to go to university in Canada or in France, their education is paid for.  The government gives them an allowance of 450 Euros per month and pays for a flight to return to St. Pierre once per year.  The French Gendarme are responsible for policing and come from France with their families for three year terms.  (We didn’t see any while we were there!)  The jail on St. Pierre has only five cells and only one prisoner!  (We were wondering what he did…)  The crime rate is extremely low. I think one of our favourite facts was that they paint their houses such bright colors because they have so much fog and bad weather that they need something to cheer them up!

Zazpiak-Bat, a wall in the centre of town where three different handball-type games are played. This comes from the Basque culture.

The cemetery. There is no cremation, nor embalming. Family members' are buried four deep, the caskets one on top of another.

Just one example of a brightly coloured building!

One of the 4000+ cars on the Island! (They also drive very quickly!)

Normally, the bus stops at four different places along the route for photo opportunities, but it was so foggy that we only stopped at one.  Sarah fell asleep early on in the tour, and Alex napped through the second half.  After the photo opportunity, Olivia was pretty pleased to go sit in the very back row of seats.

Beautiful St. Pierre - This was taken on the west side of the Island

Sarah, so excited to go on the bus tour, fell sound asleep for the entire ride!

Olivia at the back of the bus

After the bus tour, we woke Sarah and walked up to the restaurant.  The girls each had pizzas (after we were assured that the dough was safe for Olivia), Evan had a calazone, I had scallops in puff pastry and D’Arcy & Alex shared prime rib for two.  It was delicious and the setting was wonderful.  After so many barbeques and ready-made meals, we were happy to have a decent dinner made for us!  D’Arcy & I even shared a bottle of French Beaujolais.  We talked about the adventures we’ve had on the trip so far.

At dinner

After supper, we explored more of St. Pierre as we walked back up to our B&B.  At the B&B, there was no one to be found.  D’Arcy rang the bell to get some ice and we went to our rooms and got ready for bed.  Earlier in the day, we had thought that the boys could share a room and we would share the other with the girls, but then Olivia decided that she wanted to sleep with me.  Alex went back & forth between rooms and ended up pulling out his tooth in our bathroom!  It had been loose the whole trip, but he was determined to lose it in France. D’Arcy went in to one room with the boys and I slept in the other room with the girls.  It was really warm and because there was no screen, I couldn’t open the window.  We watched a couple of the girls’ favourite television shows in French, and Olivia and I were asleep very quickly.

In the morning, Alex was quick to come in to tell me that the Tooth Fairy had come and had brought him Euros!  How exciting!  We got dressed and went to the B&B’s restaurant for breakfast.  We had coffee, juice and chocolate milk along with bread, jam and pastries.  I was pleased that they had made up one basket with bread that was safe for Olivia’s allergies and another basket (with croissants!) that was not safe for her.  We used our french and chatted with the girl who was serving us.  There was a huge rack of postcards, so the kids were excited to choose and buy some with their Euros!

Check out time was 10:30, but we were packed up and ready before that.  We walked back down to the Visitor Information Centre (And Olivia lost some of her money in someone’s long grass along the way!) to store our bags until we caught the ferry in the afternoon.  We spent time there writing postcards and looking up postal codes on the Internet.  D’Arcy also looked up a couple of geo-caches on the Island.  The girls – of course – had to go to the bathroom, but they were not located in the Visitor Information Centre.  We went on a wild goose chase to find the public bathrooms, located across the street! When we met up with the boys again, who were starting to worry about us, we realized that unless we rented bikes or took a taxi, we would not have time to get to the geocache.  We took our postcards to the Post Office, bought stamps and mailed them.

The wall of the soccer field.

Writing Postcards at the Visitor Information Centre

Looking up information at the VIC

Mailing her postcards!

We explored the town, stopping in at many shops along the way.  The streets and sidewalks were very narrow and it was difficult to hold the girls’ hands.  We ran into the ladies from our B&B, dropping the laundry at the laundromat before lunch, but they weren’t very friendly!  (We wouldn’t go back there again!)  Everyone was starting to get hungry and we realized that it was almost Siesta time (12 – 1:30) where all shops, museums, etc. close and only restaurants & pubs are open!  We happened to run into the baker from the bakery who was very friendly and gave us options & directions for lunch.  We ended up going to the Hotel Robert for lunch, which was near the VIC.  As soon as Alex & Sarah heard “Creperie”, the restaurant was decided!!  Olivia was able to have a plate of french fries that were safe while the other kids had hamburgers, D’Arcy had a sandwich and I had Coquilles Sainte Jacques and a salad.  They made sure to save room to have crepes for dessert!

With Alex at lunch

Crepes! Alex & Evan shared one filled with bananas, whipped cream & chocolate sauce; Sarah's had maple syrup and whipped cream!

We went back out into the town.  I really wanted to go to the supermarket to see how it differed from ours, but we had to wait for it to open.  I peeked in and then we started back towards the ferry terminal.  The kids really wanted to do some souvenir shopping.  We walked back downtown and picked up our belongings which we had stored at the VIC.  We went into a couple of stores and then ended up at one close to the ferry terminal where we bought a flag, some stickers and badges for the boys’ campfire blankets.  We had to go to catch the ferry, but the girls had really wanted to ride the carousel and it was finally open.  D’Arcy took them for a ride while the boys and I kept our place in line.  Sarah tells us that the carousel was one of the best parts of the entire trip!!

A view one part of town from the running track.

We think this sign means "no parking" but we didn't ever find out for sure!

Amusing themselves with the telephone, waiting for the supermarket to open after siesta.

The "best part of the trip"!

After the carousel ride, D’Arcy & the girls came back to meet us in line and we waited to board the ferry back to Newfoundland.

We wished we’d had more than just the one day in St. Pierre.  It was definitely a highlight for all the kids and we would have liked to have explored and learned more.  D’Arcy would have liked to find at least one of the geocaches hidden on the island as well.  Another reason I think we’d have liked to stay longer is because we knew that as soon as we got back to Newfoundland, we were essentially on our way home, and none of us was ready for the trip to be finished!

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