A little piece of France with a very big heart


24 November 2013

A few days ago Saint Pierre and Miquelon meant hardly anything to us – just a tiny French territory lost at sea, somewhere near Newfoundland. But now Tara’s deck resounds with all sorts of stories about the archipelago, warmly recounted by residents happy to share their secluded life.

Upon our arrival we didn’t know much about St. Pierre’s inhabitants, but they were already well informed about us. At our very first encounters with people, we were greeted with a warm  “So you’re the Mailloux from Tara!” (= metropolitans). For 10 days, the archipelago had already been aware of our stopover via newspapers, local television and radio. Visits to the archipelago are rare, so our arrival was anticipated with great curiosity.

This interest in Tara was confirmed during visits on board: school children and students of all ages were welcomed aboard, and public tours of the boat were so successful that we had to schedule an extra half-day.

 Between each official presentation of the schooner were individual visits for those locals met by chance during the week who had shown us the archipelago’s legendary hospitality. The first contact was always spontaneous, simple and sincere, quickly followed by engaging conversation about our expedition, life on Saint-Pierre, its history and the origin of its inhabitants. Among these descendants of people from the Basque country, Brittany or Normandy, we had the pleasant feeling of already being back home, a little ahead of time.

Friendly exchanges often extended far beyond a simple conversation. An ornithologist invited us to wander the island to discover the local wildlife, and a photographer drove us around,  passionately explaining the rich history of the archipelago. Aboard Tara, gifts piled up in the main room: picture books, CDs by local artists, fish offered by a fisherman, deer meat from a hunter–to eat raw as an appetizer.

Receiving so much kindness and attention, it was sometimes difficult to show the full extent of our appreciation. Besides expressing our thanks, one thing is certain: back in France, the entire crew will be praising for a long time the warmth of this very cold land.

Yann Chavance