Friday, September 4, 2009

Destination: St Pierre et Miquelon (final part)

Tour of Miquelon Island

After lunch we resumed our tour and drove to the island of Miquelon (see my post of 30 August 09) which is the island on the top part of the map above. The name Miquelon comes originally from the Spanish Basque language and was noted on a 1579 map. This island is a part of France and I explained the history of St Pierre et Miquelon in my post of 21-August-09, part one. There are about 700 people living on Miquelon, most are descendants of Normands, Bretons, Basques and Acadians. The history and culture of Miquelon is very similar to the one of Acadie. The story of the Acadians from the Maritimes area of Canada is a very painful one which I won’t attempt to recount here. You may read it here. The British either placed the French Acadians in jail for many years or expelled them if they did not pledge allegiance to the British Crown. Several years after the “Grand Dérangement” (Great Expulsion) from Acadie in 1755 a few hundred of them went to Miquelon and stayed there. Most of the Acadians were shipped back to St Malo and Brest in France later on. Some settled in France some were shipped back to St Pierre et Miquelon again but many went to Louisiana where they are called “Cajuns.”

Flags of France and St Pierre et Miquelon

As I explained in an earlier post when I was playing cowboys and Indians as a little girl in Paris I called myself a “Micmac” Indian – a name I thought I had invented. So I was very surprised to see an information billboard talking about the First Nation of Mi’kmaqs in Miquelon.

Click on pictures to enlarge them

Records indicate that there was a Mi’kmaq presence in St Pierre et Miquelon centuries ago. They traded with the French and got along well with them. In the 17th century they cooperated with France to fight the British and even brought back 20 British prisoners to Miquelon where they received a good ransom for the lot. In 1767 France sent two Jesuit priests to minister to the French population. Parish records contain various acts involving Mi’kmaq baptisms, marriages and burials. This went on for at least a 100 years (until there were Catholic priests in Newfoundland.) We visited the Miquelon church, pale blue on the outside and in the shape of a boat inside, with beautiful stained glass windows.

Janot drove us around the island in his van and close to a granite hill called Cap Blanc where Miquelon’s light house is located.

Photo courtesy of Andre Lafargue

Some horses are also left roaming on Miquelon, semi-free for the summer.

The sea is omnipresent – sometime calm and sometimes furiously assaulting the coast. There have been over 600 ship wrecks around these islands. Langlade (Petite Miquelon) and Miquelon (Grande Miquelon) are the right places to go if you are a nature lover in search of beauty and peace. As for sailing its water – you better be pretty good at it.

Our tour of Langlade and Miquelon was coming to an end, so Janot drove us back to his zodiac for the return trip to St Pierre.

Now I’ll talk about something my French speaking readers may not be aware of (if they live outside the USA.) Last year while I was researching information about Miquelon island on the Net I found a site called “” and thinking it was about the island I started reading it. It is not a tourism site but called “The Fighting French” and it says: “ is a watchdog group dedicated to documenting Anti-French activity in politics, news and entertainment.“ (If you click on the site you can watch a clip with example of French bashing jokes.)

I am French (dual French/US citizen) and went to school in England for awhile so I was aware of the Anglo-Saxon francophobia and knew that some segments of the US had inherited and embraced it but still did not know that there are web sites addressing it. For example many TV entertainers like Jay Leno uses french bashing jokes often to the delight of their audience. Many of the jokes I read tend to portray French people as weasels and cowards. My father lost a limb in World War II and many in my family were in the Resistance. My mother faced certain death if she had been found by the Gestapo saving as many Jewish girls as she did. Usually I just listen to all this and step back so I won’t get myself involved in negative thoughts but I still would like to mention a few facts.

France fought 3 wars within 3 generations. During World War I the US lost in France 117,465 men or 0.13% of the US population, France lost 1,697,800 or 4.29% of the French population (see Wipikedia) – for the American population of 1914 that would have been like almost 4 million casualties! By 1939 there were not many healthy French men left since a full generation had been wiped out. French soldiers were in the first Gulf War and are still dying right now in Afghanistan. France has 2,900 troops in the NATO-led international coalition battling Taliban guerrillas. This morning, Friday 4 September 2009, one French soldier was killed and nine others wounded when a booby trap exploded against their armored personnel carrier as they carried out a reconnaissance in the Showki region, north of the Afghan capital Kabul. The Francophobes forget the decisive battle of Yorktown in 1781 where Americans troops fought alongside a larger amount of French soldiers. French casualties were about 500 men in the Yorktown campaign (twice as many French casualties as the US.)

Painting of the Siege of Yorktown, Musée de Versailles (painted for French King Louis XVI)

I read this from “Our America History”: “The most decisive naval battle of the American Revolution was fought under French commanders with French ships and French sailors and marines”. The American War of Independence almost bankrupt France. Rear Admiral de Grasse came with an armada of ships. His command ship was the Ville de Paris, which was a gift of the people of France to America. It was the largest war ship in the 18th century. If France had not been there during that war America might have been British for a lot longer – wasn’t it until the 1980s that Canada ended their last legal link with Britain?

The ship La Ville de Paris, Musée Carnavalet, Paris.

I have heard people say “French people don’t like us.” I have gone to France with my English speaking husband many times and we did not speak in French yet we never encountered unpleasantness (but I did here in the US.) French people may distrust the US Government (at least the last one) but not the US people.

French jokes have become so ingrained in the American culture that no one will challenge them. After Colin Powell made a speech about the certainty of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq Fox News reported: “… Only an imbecile or perhaps a Frenchman could be insensitive to Colin Powell’s arguments.” Just think what the Irish would have said if the word Frenchman had been replaced by Irishman, or Israeli or Japanese! If the US public would denounce these openly French bashing jokes politicians like John McCain, entertainers and newspapers would have to apologize. It is easy to say “just ignore it” but the problem is that in a country were few people travel overseas this type of racism, repeated so often starts to shape their perceptions, and it is unjust and deplorable.

I had forgotten about but researching for my post this week I found it again and this is why I thought to write about all this. I just would add that the people I know here in the United States do not have anti-French sentiments; it is just a vocal minority of uninformed people who believe in bad stereotypes.

Well – we arrived in St Pierre for our last night before ferrying back to Newfoundland. I was very sad to leave these French islands nestled so far away in North America. They are fragile and vulnerable in a way but genuinely French. I shall talk about beautiful Newfoundland in future posts.

View from our window of the sunset over Iles aux Marins


DJan said...

VB: please let me say I am sorry for the ignorance of my fellow Americans about French contribution to our culture. I for one think it is more sour grapes than anything; i.e., they realize that the French are courageous and want to diminish them in order to build themselves up.

I apologize for them, and beseech them as Jesus said when nailed to the cross: "Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do."

Something has happened in America, and for whatever reason, we feel it in our bones and instead of rising up against the demons that assail us, we embrace them. It will be our downfall.

Elaine said...

A nice finish to the tour! I love the rainbow shot and the church is just gorgeous and very unusual. Your story of the Micmac Indians is very interesting. Perhaps some of your ancestors lived on the Islands and you really do have a connection with the Mi'kmaqs, thus your strong desire to visit there, or perhaps there was some mention of the Indians on your stamp collection. It seems too coincidental for there not to be something that caused you to play at being a Micmac Indian. The sunset photo was the perfect way to end the journey. Thanks for taking us along. I enjoyed the tour very much.

""°o.O Nancy O.o°"" said...

*** Bonjour Vagabonde !!! ***

Quel plaisir de venir sur ton blog !!!
C'est intéressant, instructif et les photos illustrent bien le tout !!!


Nancy - Blog :

Celeste Maia said...

Very good post, Vagabonde, and excellent reading. I was transported to those islands, loving and staring at each enlarged picture you showed. The story of the Mi'kmaq is fascinating,and how interesting that you were always the Indian "Micmac" as a little girl in Paris. As for the French bashing jokes they are nothing but racism wearing a funny hat. Xenophobia with a punchline. Fox News presenters are despicable people. Your defense was excellent.
Now you have me dreaming of a trip to those faraway and fascinating islands. What a fantastic journey this was for me, Vagabond, thanks for sharing it so vividly with us.

Kenza said...

Bonjour Vagavonde,
Merci pour cette très belle balade en ta compagnie à St. Pierre et Miquelon et merci pour les magnifiques photos!
Je te souhaite un bon week-end

Fennie said...

Your blogs are so interesting, Vagabonde. I am fascinated. So much history. My own surname is Basque and comes via French Canada and I am a francophile so I have a lot of sympathy with the French when they are the butt of misconceptions and prejudice. They also face the language problem in that too many English speakers are monoglot and just do not understand the point of any language that is not English.

The Arcadian story also needs to be more widely known.

I look forward to reading what you have to say about Newfoundland and to say thank you for diverting me to this part of the world - for it was largely on account of what you had written that I came to write the story of the Old Woman of Hvalsey.

TorAa said...

First: Thanks for your comments to my latest ABC-post. Well, if you add a pessimist with and optimist, I think the result will be Normal;-)).

As you may recall,I have family and friends in USA.
And I know about Francophobia.

When they say: I'll never return to Paris, they even don't speak amarican..
I replies: Do you speak french?

When they say: I tried
I say: Let me hear.

hahahaha - most frenchmen speak american far better than american speaks french.

Funny then: Americans loves French parfume, Champagne, cognac and Wines. They even use FRENCH WORDS WITHOUT KNOWNING IT. They live in places with French names, they pronounce it hahaha -

The thing is, most Americans loose control if they are in a place where people does not speak their own language.

But I feel pretty balanced about this matter: It all ends up with individuals. And lack of knowledge.


Back to this small part of France Outre Mer. I'm really fascinated by your story and all the information you share. I also ponder if the Vikings did visit the Islands, since we know they were in New Foundland more than 1000 years ago.
The glass paintings in the church are really great and beautiful.
(I'll soon post from the Cathedral in Bourges)

OldLady Of The Hills said...

Very interesring post. I know what you mean about Francophobes...I have never understood it...Growing up during WW2 France was this amazing place to me and I always had a very positive feeling about the Country and it's people. My visit to the South Of France in 1969 was memorable in every way..(I wrote many posts about it this past Spring..I LOVED IT THERE!) Having a problem with certain policy's of a country and because of that putting down the whole country and it's people is disgraceful---after the last eight years of our "policy's" the US is hated all over the world....But one hopes that this doesn't spill over into hating the actual country and it's people, and also that THAT can be turned around at some point by this different administration.

That Church that looks like a Boat inside is really something...!
The Stained Glass Windows...MAGNIFICENT! What an interesting trip this was....!

Vicki Lane said...

Hello, Vagabonde,

Thank you for your visit to my blog. I'm wandering about your domain and enjoying myself. Your comments about American stereotypes of the French were most interesting. I know I have some myself -- French women are all thin and stylish and all French food is delicious. I apologize for the previous administration's Francophobia; in fact, I apologize for the previous administration.

Reader Wil said...

You are right to be upset if people make generalizations. Right after the war we didn't like the Germans and the Japanese, for we had been in a Japanese concentration camp, but now I have met so many people of various nationalities. Among thewm were many kindhearted and helpful people. I noticed in Indonesia that there is still some feeling of hatred against the Dutch, who colonized the Indonesian archipel for so many years. I am against colonization and I am not proud of my country in this respect, but there are also good things in the Netherlands. Little by little we get to know other nationalities and respect each other.
Well anyway, your post is great! Thanks for sharing!

Merisi said...

Fascinating post,
thank you for that!

I came over here from Vicki Lane's blog. We have in common that our mothers cooked great food, but learned how to cook from Julia Child. ;-)

Darlene said...

Stereotyping another country, or its inhabitants, is a shameful practice and one, I am ashamed to say, has always been a part of the American culture. The poor Chinese were dubbed "Chinks", the Irish "Mics", the Italians "Dagoes", etc.

The Bush administration decided to use the French as their whipping boy. I have always believed that demeaning another culture is the mark of a small man who feels so bad about who he is that he has to find someone to run down that he can feel superior to. The Blacks can certainly testify to this mean spirited trait by the uneducated Americans. Sorry that the French, who are such a civilized and wonderful people, were, and still are, the butt of jokes by these dimwits.

The best thing to do is to correct the stereotyping when you hear it. My daughter has a clever way of shaming people who make jokes of this type. If they make a Jewish joke she will say, "I'm Jewish, you know."

Friko said...

Thank you for the final instalment.
You know, I have come across foreigner phobia everywhere, but always only from the people who have little genuine knowledge of other nations. It no longer bothers me.

wenn said...

hi, beautiful pictures!

Ruth said...

I wonder if Micmak is related at all to our Mackinaw/Mackinac/Michilimackinac. I think it must be.

These ridiculous generalizations and stereotypes are born out of fear of the unknown. When someone behaves differently from what we are used to, it is easy to judge, I guess. I wish more Americans would foster understanding. There is this voice getting louder and louder that irrationally condemns the unknown and misunderstood. It is frightening and debasing.

If I ever hear anyone say they are afraid to go to France because of the "rudeness" or anything like that, I quickly tell them about my wonderful encounters of supreme gentility and courtesy.

Your images are beautiful. I am staring at that last setting sun and it soothes me.

Baino said...

Fascinating, I've really enjoyed this journey and your wonderful explanations and photographs. I travel vicariously at the moment and am discovering potential destinations that I would otherwise never have considered. Just lovely.

Jenn Jilks said...

In Canada, with one province made up of Francophones, for the most part, and with many, many francophones across our nation, the sentiment is quite different. We are a bilingual country. My son-in-law is descended from Acadians from our Maritime provinces. They are raising our granddaughter to be bilingual, as many of their friends are.

Have you read the poem

Evangeline, A Tale of Acadie is a poem published in 1847 by the American poet Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. The poem follows an Acadian girl named Evangeline tells the story.

dot said...

Interesting post with beautiful photography.
Thanks for the visit and comment. Hope you are able to make it back to Berry College. There is a lot to see in Rome. I would like to visit each of the 7 hills. Maybe one day!

Doctors by night said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
claude said...

J'ai un fabuleux et intéressant voyage dans ces iles françaises.
J'avais un reportage à la télé qui m'avait bien plu.
Tu as raison de pousser une petite colère et défendra la France et les Français.
En 2000 lorsque nos amis Américains sont venus chez nous pour la première fois, nous avions planté la bannière étoilée dans notre cour qui devenait un peu territoire américain l'espace de qq jours. En 2003 lorsque nous sommes retouener à SLC, en pleine d'Irak que nous n'avions pas voulu faire. avant d'arriver devant leur maison, mon Chéri me dit, cela m'étonnerait que Larry ait mis notre drapeau (acheté en 2000 à Vierville en Normandie) dans sa cour.
Dans leur cour sur la façade de la maison étaient supendu les deux drapeaux l'un à côté de l'autre, tout comme cette année d'ailleurs.
Nous avons même eu la visite d'un voisin qui avait été professeur de français, et qui voulais parler un peu avec nous.
Pendant tout notre séjour là-bas nous n'avons ressenti aucune animosité envers nous de la part de tous les gens que nous avons rencontrés.

Ned said...

I have neglected my "blog garden" recently first because of my recent "Passage to India" and later "catching up" with the devastation in my vegetable garden (Le potager) caused by neglect and the unbearable Texas heat.
Today I read your comments on my blog.
Merci mille fois pour la visite et a bientot.

Ignorance ignores national boundaries - perhaps Americans are a bit more strident than others but probably no more frequent than other places. Even the French can be obnoxious at times. I first lived in Paris in the fifties and have been back many times and to paraphrase Mr. Dickens, my Parisian sojourns have been some of "the best of times and the worst of times"

I live in Austin, Texas now and it's as good a place as any.

I enjoyed your reportage.

Vagabonde said...

DJan, Elaine, Celeste Maia, TorAa, Reader Wil, Darlene, Friko, Ruth, Baino, Dot – Thank you dear friends for all you kind comments. I do look forward to read them and am grateful for them.

Vagabonde said...

Kenza – merci de ton gentil commentaire.
Claude – comme je le disais dans mon post, la plupart des Américains ne sont pas anti-français, il n’y en a que quelques-uns, mais ceux la sont très vocaux. Je suis contente que tu aies des bons souvenirs des USA.

Vagabonde said...

Fennie – I am behind in posting my last trip to Alaska, so I don’t know when I’ll tell about our Newfoundland travel and this week we are going to New Brunswick, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton, etc. Thank you for telling me that I gave you the inspiration for your story. I am much honored because your story of the Old Woman of Hvalsey is excellent

Vagabonde said...

Lady of the Hills, Vicky Lane, Merisi, Wenn and Ned – Welcome to my blog. I appreciate your stopping by and taking the time to write a comment. I always read the comments with much pleasure and attention. I hope you will come back to my blog in the future.

Ruth said...

Vagabonde, here is your answer about the Atlanta restaurant where fried green tomatoes were served:

Amy says, "Canoe, which is one of our all-time favorite restaurants. Right on the Chattahoochee River, it's a very romantic setting.

And the food is always amazing. Tell Vagabonde she can check it out at :-) "

Marguerite said...

Bonjour Vagabonde! This was an outstanding tour of these beautiful islands and I enjoyed all of the posts very much. My Acadian ancestors, on my father's side,(his mother's family) lived on St. Pierre among the Micmacs, after the deportation. They were later sent to St. Malo and came to Louisiana in 1785, from there. Your photos were fabulous throughout and your narrative was so well researched. Bravo!
Bon Voyage! Have a bon temps, cher! I will miss you, but will really be looking forward to your posts of this trip!

Celeste Maia said...

Chere Vagabonde, Il y a un petit prix pour toi. I sat with brushes and paper and created a prize for the blogs I enjoy the most. Come get yours anytime. A bientot, Celeste

Louis la Vache said...

Very interesting history. «Louis» thanks you for reminding us of the French participation at Yorktown. It seems very few know (or remember) this.

ceecee said...

A fascinating post, Vagabonde! I have never heard of this island. I especially loved the photo of the horse on the beach, something I have never seen before (in real life, anyway).
I thank you so much for your visit.
I'll stop by again.

Jenn Jilks said...

I posted a shout out for you. Excellent post!

Vagabonde said...

Ruth - Thank you for letting me know about the restaurant – I knew the name of it but I have never been there, so now I’ll make sure to go and try it.

Marguerite – I am pleased that you enjoyed the trip to St Pierre et Miquelon. I find it fascinating that you ancestors lived there for a while. Thank you for letting me know about your background.

Louis la Vache – j’apprécie votre commentaire et vous remercie de votre visite.

Nancy - J’ai preparé notre voyage au Canada et je ne suis pas venue voir ton blog mais à mon retour je me rattraperai. Merci de ton gentil mot.

Celeste Maia – I went to look at the Moonlight offering at your blog and I am speechless. You are a great artist and I am humbled that my little blog is getting such an honor. Thank you very much.

A Thousand Clapping Hands – welcome to my blog. I hope you will come back and give me more comments – I appreciate them very much.

Jenn Jilks – Yes I know the story of Evangeline and have a copy of it. I hope that when we return from Halifax we can go and visit Longfellow’s home in Portland, Maine.

I did not realize you had other blogs – don’t know how you can keep up. I visited your other blog, My Reflections and Musings – thank you for the plug to my blog. I’ll have more time when we come back to read the past posts on this new blog as I thought you only had My Muskoka.

I’ll be going on a trip to Canada, the Maritimes and shall not have a computer with me, so I won’t be able to go to your blogs and post comments. My daughter will administer my blog and publish any comments you may have on the two posts that I have prepared for publication this week and for next week. Thank you for your visit and see you all when I am back.

Unknown said...

Thank you for those very nice words about and your great entry about my native islands. Merci du fond du coeur.

Unknown said...

Thank you Vagabonde for taking us on a wonderful visit to our tiny Islands. Your comments were thorough and well researched! I had the surprise and pleasure of noticing that you used one of my pics taken in August 2002 (Lighthouse of Miquelon)... I could send you the version where I corrected the Horizon! :-)
Judging from the positive comments each of your posts has received you have succeeded in enlightening quite a few people. With any luck some of those readers will want to go and visit! Best regards, Andre Lafargue

Vagabonde said...

Merci André pour votre gentil commentaire. J’ai trouvé votre photo sur le Web, si j’avais su votre nom je l’aurais inscrit – d’habitude je marque que la photo est “courtesy de…” J’avais cherché une vue du phare car quand nous y étions il y avait du brouillard. Cela faisait des années que je voulais visiter votre caillou – depuis mon enfance vraiment. J’espère avoir fait un peu de promotion. Je serais ravie d’y retourner quelques jours. Ici aux Etats-Unis SPM n’est pas connu du tout, et c’est vraiment dommage car c’est un endroit très pittoresque et les habitants sont vraiments accueillant. Revenez lire mon blog – je pars pour la France bientôt alors ils ne seront pas si longs, mais je reviendrai vite.

Anonymous said...

When Sieur de la Rocque took the French Census of Ile St. Jean in 1752 Joseph Deschamps and family were living at a place called Ance Au Comte Saint Pierre (Keppoch Bay), or St. Pierre’s Cove, near the modern city of Charlottetown, Prince Edward Island. According to the Census four (4) families of thirty-one (31) persons – all from Acadia – were settled in this Cove. (Published Report on Acadian Archives 1905, Vol. II, page 108, b Placide Gaudet)
I am a descendant of the families from St Pierre, living in north Carolina. I would love to write to you1

Vagabonde said...

My email is in my profile, on the front page of my blog. It is if you would like to write to me.

It is interesting that you have been able to go so far back to find out about your family. I hope you travel to St Pierre et Miquelon some day. Thanks for the comment.

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