The islands were both what I expected and yet completely different! Saint Pierre shows all the signs of a boom/bust economy – boarded up shops & empty houses but bustling restaurants and bars. I can’t say I found much appealing about it really. Ile aux Marins (or Ile des Chiens as it was once known) was a delightful visit. The island is no longer inhabited except for some hardy summer visitors but quite a number of the homes have been preserved and there is a very idiosyncratic museum which contains all the daily ephemera of life there.
OMG – what a hard life it would have been! In its heyday the population reached 683 souls. Fishers of course and everyone, young and old, men, women and children were involved in drying the cod on carefully laid out fields of stone. The sun would warm the stones and that in combination with the ever present wind would dry the cod to “premium”.
No trees, the merchant’s house was shipped from France in several pieces and everything else built by hand with wood brought over from NL or NB or NS. There is a large, beautiful wooden church – a testament to the skills of the ship wrights and residents who built it – still standing strong despite all the weather and time. There’s a cemetery with fascinating iron crosses – some with bumps on them (?) and some with what looks like vines. Lots of children’s graves, lots of young women dying from childbirth and young men from the sea or war… apparently old families still bring their dead here to bury which I find oddly sweet.
Despite all, the island has such calmness and tranquility that I could easily see spending a meditative week there – no electricity, internet, stores or running water (well maybe not that last) just solitude, the wind and the birds. And the fog of course. Can’t forget the fog – it builds up in rolls and banks and swooshes down willy nilly – doubtless I’d get tired of it but it really is atmospheric!