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A bit of France, only 26 kilometres from Canada

A bit of France, only 26 kilometres from Canada

France : On a clear day, stand on any westward-facing beach near Point May on Newfoundland’s wind-scoured Burin Peninsula and gaze seaward.

While Paris lies 4,300 kilometres to the east, the eight small islands of St. Pierre and Miquelon, a French possession and the last remnant of France’s once-vast colonial empire in North America, float like rocky lily pads barely 26 km off the Canadian coastline.

But this wasn’t a clear day. Thick fog, a constant presence in June and July, obscured the islands as my wife, Roxanne, and I prepared to board the ferry at Fortune, Newfoundland, that would take us to St. Pierre. The only hint of what lay ahead were a pair of eyebrow-raising signs, one in English and the other in French, that hung over the entrance to the customs office in the ferry building: Canada France Border Crossing.