Wednesday, July 29, 2015

All the way to France and back

[Tuesday, July 28 and Wednesday July 29, 2015]
Frenchman’s Cove, NL – Our 24-hour trip to Europe was like stepping into an alter-nate universe and back out again! It’s good to be back in Canada again, and in our little home on wheels. I’m going to squeeze two days into one blog post to save you some reading time.

Yesterday the idea of traveling to France for a day did not appeal all that much, simply because we awoke to pour-ing rain and wind that kept on all morning. Our ferry ride wasn’t until 2:45 in the afternoon, but it sure didn’t look promising even by lunchtime.
On the way to the town of Fortune, where the ferry was, we stopped in Grand Bank to see the Seamen’s Museum. Housed in a building that looked like several triangular sails in a row, the collection of nautical artifacts was very interesting to look at. The instruments and boat equip-ment were set out on the floor within roped off sections, so you could have a close look. Similarly, upstairs we saw land-based items such as sleighs, printing presses and other equipment from bygone days.

The rain continued as we drove to Fortune, got our tickets and settled the car in the compound where it would stay till our return today. Our ferry seats were indoors, and the crossing was so rough that boat personnel were scurrying about with barf bags and paper towels for green-looking passengers. It felt like we were riding on a mechanical bucking bronco, but we were OK thanks to Gravol! Today, Val overheard a woman who goes to St Pierre frequently say it was the roughest crossing she’d ever been on.

To our relief, when we disembarked on the island an hour later, the skies had cleared. Our hotel was a short walk from the pier, so we got settled there before going for a short stroll. It was strange to see the French tricolour flag flapping on poles here and there, and all kinds of European cars on the streets.
The town looked rather scruffy, with public gardens gone to weed and buildings with peeling paint everywhere. The streets, sloping uphill from the wharf, were narrow, with brightly-coloured shops and homes tightly packed on either side.

We ate our dinner at the hotel’s restaurant – very tasty, but expensive. Our server, Aurélien, had just come over from France a month earlier, hoping to earn enough money to buy a larger sailboat back in Normandy. He hadn’t seen anything beyond the island of St Pierre yet, let alone had a look at Newfoundland.
He was back on the job this morning when we ate our “Frenchie” breakfast (cornflakes, baguette, croissant, orange juice and yogurt). We were planning to take a bus tour, scheduled for 11 o’clock, so we stopped by the tourist information office and got a map for a bit of a walking tour while we waited. We saw a Basque playing field with a high wall where they play “pelote”, involving bats, a ball and the wall – it will be a busy place next month when the Basque festival takes place.

We also had a look inside the large cathe-dral, and then headed back for the bus. It was parked near the square, so we went over to climb aboard, but the driver told us it was fully booked by a tour group and we’d have to wait till 1:15 for the next tour! Back to the tourist office we went, and they kindly called Le Caillou Blanc tour company to come and pick us up instead. So we got a personalized tour in a small van with Maryvonne, a very friendly woman whose “Anglophone” tour was 80 per cent French and 20 per cent heavily accented English, but very informative nonetheless.
It was great to go through the narrow streets with Maryvonne at the wheel, explaining everything we were seeing, and then to go around to the other side of the island to see where the fishermen used to sail off in their dories, where horses graze on grassy fields, and where more affluent citizens live in gracious homes. We could also see the islands of Langlade and Miquelon across the way. These are joined by a narrow isthmus which was formed in part by the accumulation of some 600 shipwrecks over the years!

We also saw the new airport, where 737 aircrafts can now land – though rare-ly – and the new hos-pital, built on the old airport location. Maryvonne drove us back into town in time for us to have lunch at Joséphine’s tea house, where we enjoyed quiche Lorraine, salad and tea, for 42 Euros, or about $60! Our neighbour at the next table was a young French woman named Aurore, who is an engineer in town for a week to check on the construction of the town’s water treatment plant.
In no time, it was time to board the ferry for the return journey, and this crossing was much calmer, thank goodness. We’re glad we went, but home is awful nice too.

1 comment:

Len said...

Wow. I am envious. Sounds very worthwhile and just the right amount of time, too.