Just ten kilometers south of Newfoundland, Canada, floats a tiny piece of France. Saint Pierre and Miquelon are a group of little islands belonging to France but located in the North Atlantic just offshore of eastern Canada. Saint Pierre is the more populated island with the majority of its 5700 people living in the picturesque brightly colored town of St-Pierre. The other island, Miquelon, is geographically larger but has just 700 citizens. Other smaller islands make up the archipelago and have few people. Saint Pierre and Miquelon are the last remaining remnants ruled by the once-powerful colonial New France. And keep in mind that these islands aren't French as in Quebecois French, but French as in the real France, complete with morning baguettes, berets, Bordeaux, Renaults, Peugeots and Citroens, brie and camembert cheeses, and the euro currency. It's France, only colder. It's also a world away from the nearby fishing villages of Newfoundland where English is spoken with a strong "Newfie" accent. Truly, these islands are like none other in the world.
The foggy islands have a colorful history. Jacques Cartier claimed Saint Pierre and Miquelon in 1536 for France although they were 'discovered' ten years earlier by the Portuguese. When Britain won the Seven Years War against France in the late 1700s, the islands (and the rest of New France) were turned over to the UK, but strangely, in 1816, Saint Pierre and Miquelon were given back. The French have been there, for the most part, ever since. The islands experienced a great economic boom in the 1920s during the American Prohibition of alcohol when Saint Pierre and Miquelon became a base for alcohol smuggling. Sadly, this all ended when Prohibition was repealed in 1933. Their economy sank into a deep depression after that.
The city of Saint Pierre pulses with vibrancy and good times. The culture is Creole so you know the nightlife will be energized into the wee hours. During the day, be sure to take in the colonial architecture and the beautiful seafront. Terre Saint district is also fascinating to explore.
It's almost always windy and damp on the islands, and like Newfoundland, winters are long and harsh. Things don't really heat up until July and fall comes all too soon. If you're interested in North Atlantic wildlife, make sure you watch for seals and other wildlife in the Grand Barachois Lagoon. Whales migrate every spring on their way to Greenland and are almost always visible from the coasts of the islands. Whale boat tours are also plentiful.
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