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MIQUELON-LANGLADE TOUR - GETTING THERE & WHAT TO SEE

Story and photos by

Map of flight and ferry routes to Miquelon
Map of flight and ferry routes to Miquelon
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

The French islands of Miquelon and Langlade cover 200 square kilometers and have a population of 614. Dumbbell-shaped, they are linked by a road-topped,12-kilometer-long isthmus, locally known as La Dune.

Langlade is located five kilometers northwest of the island of Saint-Pierre. Miquelon is north of Langlade.

Flights & ferries

SPM Ferries travel between Saint-Pierre and Miquelon and between Saint-Pierre and Fortune Newfoundland. Crossing time is 90 minutes. The ferry crossing between Saint-Pierre and Langlade is 75 minutes long.

Flights on Air Saint-Pierre between the towns of Miquelon and Saint-Pierre are 15 minutes long.

Maritime heritage

It's impossible to think of Miquelon without pondering its sea-faring past. Crab traps and coils of rope rest on docks beside fishing and pleasure boats in the harbor.

Boat parked behind Miquelon home
Boat parked behind Miquelon home
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Vivid tangerine, sky-blue, lemon-yellow and lime-green paint—the colors of traditional fishing dories—brighten the wooden houses.

We saw sheep and horses grazing beside Miquelon homes and boats parked in backyards. Dogs barked and roosters crowed. The ambiance is bucolic.

As in Newfoundland, fishing declined after the Canadian government's 1992 cod-fishing moratorium. Nowadays, only 40% of Saint-Pierre and Miquelon residents work in fishing and tourism. The remaining citizens work for the French government.

Tour of Miquelon-Langlade

To see Miquelon-Langlade, we took a bus tour guided by a long-time resident, Roger Etcheberry.

Models of fishing dories in Miquelon Museum
Models of fishing dories in Miquelon Museum
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Showing us a sketch of some dories in a book, he explained: "Miquelon dories had cabins on top because fishermen needed shelter when they traveled three hours out to sea. Fishermen in Saint-Pierre didn't require cabins because they fished closer to shore."

Shipwrecks and lighthouses

At the Miquelon Museum, we viewed models of wooden dories with and without cabins. The museum also displays marine artifacts, including compasses and telescopes salvaged from the 600-to-700 shipwrecks around the islands.

What's the connection between Queen Victoria and Miquelon-Langlade's shipwrecks? "After the wreck of a British warship in 1874, Queen Victoria offered to pay for a lighthouse to prevent future shipwrecks, but the French king decided to fund it himself," said Roger.

Miquelon Coat of Arms
Miquelon Coat of Arms
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

"The only casualty was the ship's cook, who drowned when the rescue boat capsized before he reached the shore. He was buried in the Miquelon Cemetery."

Fog prevented us from seeing the lighthouse, but we later admired a beautiful glass engraving of a lighthouse on a door in the village of Miquelon, not far from the cemetery with the cook's grave.

Miquelon Coat of Arms

The ancestors of most of the people buried in the cemetery came from the Basque Country, Brittany and Normandy. "My surname Etcheberry is Basque," said Roger. We later noted a boat named La Bretagne in the harbour.

Acadian flag and Grand Derangement monument by Notre-Dame des Ardilliers Church
Acadian flag and Grand Dérangement monument by Notre-Dame des Ardilliers Church
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

The Coat of Arms of Miquelon displays fish in the sea and the flags of the three regions, as well as the Acadian flag, which features a yellow star set on the French Tricolour flag. Acadians settled in Saint-Pierre & Miquelon between 1763 and 1814.

Outside Notre-Dame des Ardilliers Church, we viewed the Acadian flag and the Grand Dérangement monument commemorating Britain's 1755 deportation of nearly 10,000 Acadians from Nova Scotia.

The black-and-white bird on Miquelon's Coat of Arms is a long-tailed duck, known locally as the kakawi. Along with fish, it sustained the first inhabitants.

Notre-Dame des Ardilliers Church (named after the first priest who arrived in Miquelon after the signing of the Treaty of Paris) depicts dories in a beautiful stained-glass window. A model ship hangs over the lectern.

Guided eco-walk
Guided eco-walk
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Hiking trails

Roger, a self-taught naturalist, does annual bird counts on the islands. The unspoiled landscapes of Miquelon-Langlade are havens for birds and wildlife.

"You can see thousands of ducks and shorebirds here," said Roger. "From April to the fall, harbour and grey seals haul out on the sandbanks of the Grand Barachois, a saltwater lagoon on the south end of Miquelon."

Fisherman views salted capelin on rack
Fisherman views salted capelin on rack
Photo © Barb & Ron Kroll

Several hiking trails and guided eco-walks offer opportunities to birdwatch and view wildlife, including white-tailed deer.

Many residents of Saint-Pierre spend their five weeks of paid vacation in summer homes on Miquelon-Langlade.

They fish, walk along the beach and pick wild strawberries and bakeapples (cloudberries) to make delicious jams and tarts.

Meeting the locals

As we strolled through the village of Miquelon, we encountered a fisherman salting capelin. "I mix one handful of capelin with one handful of salt in the bucket. After I dry the salted fish on racks for two days, I smoke them," he said. "They're very delicious to eat."

He explained that fishing isn't as good nowadays as it was when he started fishing at the age of 13. "There's not much cod anymore, but we still harvest lobster, crab, scallops and halibut, as well as capelin."

His stories gave us glimpses of a way of life that drew fishermen from France to Miquelon-Langlade more than 400 years ago.



TRAVEL INFORMATION

Tourism Saint-Pierre & Miquelon