Saint-Pierre et Miquelon is so far away from metropolitan France that one could think that the links between the two are frayed and ready to break.
On the other hand, the islands are so close to Canada you would think that life in Saint-Pierre et Miquelon is pretty much the same as in Newfoundland.
Officially, the island of Newfoundland is only 19 kilometers away. In fact it is even closer than that, since the closest Canadian piece of land, Green Island, is only a few nautical miles from Saint-Pierre.
Nonetheless, Saint-Pierre et Miquelon is French. Completely French, but with a strong regional influence thrown in!
The residents of Saint-Pierre et Miquelon have chosen the best from both worlds.
Through centuries of regional contacts, they have built a strong identity, a colorful and lively blend between the Tricolor and the Maple Leaf, at varying degrees. Much (maybe, all,) has been written on the matter, so the best thing to do is to experience this unique hybrid reality for yourself.
Our islands are the size of a large pot
A melting pot if you wish. Jump in first, and you will discover the following ingredients:
- European passports – République Française
- Euro bills
- Tricolor flags flying in the wind
- A Préfet in his formal and elegant dark blue uniform with golden straps
- Add a few Gendarmes and the first few lines of La Marseillaise (Allons enfants de la Patrie/le jour de gloire/est arrivé)
This is the administrative base. The islands’ residents are 100% French.
Add the condensed heritage of its first inhabitants.
They came to fish, of course, and they were from the Basque Country, Brittany and Normandy.
Next, throw into the pot an ingredient that gives real taste to a place and is a concentrate of time and people: culture!
- Traditional dances from the Basque Country, Brittany and Normandy, a folk dance like “L’aéroplane”, a musette waltz, a paso doble, gift of Spanish fishermen
- A shot of contraband rum, preferably an old demerara brought up from a damp cellar,
- good quality thick fog straight from where the Gulf Stream meets the Labrador current, ideal to add a pinch of mystery,
- Hundreds and hundreds of shipwrecks (they go hand in hand with the fog)
- A few pages on Saint-Pierre in Chateaubriand’s Mémoires d’Outre-tombe
- Acadian flags flanked by generations of Cormier, Poirier and Vigneau,
- Three pétanque balls, preferably already used on the playing area of le Cochonnet Saint-Pierrais,
- Crusty baguettes
- Accordion music in the early morning of July 15, the day after Bastille Day
- Foie gras producers and a micro-brewery,
- A dwarf forest, the one and only boreal forest in France, where elks abound, and one can pick Cocos d’anis.
- Lobster, taken from the fishing pots at 3 PM, cooked at 4 and eaten cold with mayonnaise at 8
- A few sips of spruce beer
- Basque pepper from Espelette, Lots of it, both for color and taste
- A bit of an accent, from Normandy maybe, or from the North of France, we are not sure… An accent that pronounces “on” like “an” and that is found next to the red, green and yellow fishing shacks on the shore of Saint-Pierre
Cover and simmer indefinitely.
Mix regularly, adding a brand-new dose of Atlantic sea salt every year.
Then, remove the lid…. Ta-Dam! On top of what you put in the pot, there is now:
- Colorful wooden houses, like Jelly Beans
- A yellow school bus full of rambunctious kids
- Ford 150 pickups, a Labrador or Beagle dog in the back
- Montreal Canadians, Boston Bruins or Philadelphia Flyers flags in the windows
- Betty Crocker Super Moist rainbow cake mix (add milk and 2 eggs)
- Brown sugar rolls, the iconic local pastry,
- The tiny blue tins of Maple Leaf Vienna sausages in every food store, right next to the traditional Castelnaudary Cassoulet
- Rabbit hunting trips
- Bags of ketchup potato chips, the kind that give you red fingertips!
And on and on, …. Everything together, just like the sea that hugs us all real close!
Intriguing, isn’t it? On the islands, expect to see such a patchwork of images and feelings.
“Is it French?”, “Is it Canadian?”, you’ll ask. “It’s Saint-Pierre et Miquelon” will be the answer.