Tues, Sept 27, 2005
Apparently, a number of people were out late mugging up and whooping and hollering, because the ship is fairly deserted at this late hour. It's sunny outside, but the seas are somewhat rough and it's windy.
The wake-up call comes, and tells us that we have 35 to 40 knot winds. We are headed to a separate country altogether (France) at a city called St. Pierre.
The French insist that we use their pilot to come into port, and his main job seems to be to tell the captain to go in circles, as we have been going back and forth in the same place for the last 30 minutes.
We are on the way to shore on a zodiac along with Brodie, who is about 9 months old. He's on the trip along with his parents, and this kid is one sailor baby. He's all bundled up in his life jacket and pacifier and looking around as the rest of us cling to the zodiac and try not to fall overboard.
When we first saw that there was a baby on board, our eyes practically rolled right out of our heads, but we have to admit that kid is one seasoned traveler. We hardly ever heard him squawk (even when all the grown-ups were complaining).
So, if you ever get a chance to travel with Brodie, don't worry about him fussing.
We are now on shore at St. Pierre and we feel like hicks in the big city. Wow! Look at all those cars, there's more than four! Criminy!
Mike the Labradorian tells us that there are 6500 people in St. Pierre, but 6600 cars. Since more than 10 cars is a massive amount to us at this point, these numbers don't mean much.
The ship has arranged a wine and cheese snack at the Hotel Robert ("Hey! Welcome to my hotel!" proclaims Robert). We get some cheese and some wine ("vin exceedingly ordinaire" says Laura).
We are wandering through a ghost town. Nothing is open. All we see are other people from the ship. We check the shop signs and they insist that they are open today until noon, when we can clearly see that they are not. There's no notice about today being a holiday of some sort (and we figure they should post some kind of sign about it).
Perhaps they've all been attacked by vampires and can't come out in the daylight?
Just in case, we check the church, but it's locked up, too. Oh no! We can't even get to crosses!
We have found a restaurant that is open (perhaps the garlic protects them?) so we decide to have lunch before they close. Plus, this place has PIZZA! Robert has been feeling pizza-deprived, because there has been no pizza to eat on board the boat.
Of course, the French couldn't just serve up normal goddamn pizza with pepperoni and sausage. Oh, no, they have to make a goddamn gourmet experience out of it, and serve up such pizzas as "chicken and cream" (really, "poulet and creme fraiche") and "swiss cheese, blue cheese, parmesian, and mozarella."
Still, even bad pizza is better than no pizza, so Robert orders up some snails and a ham and goat cheese pizza.
D'oh! We finally figure out the deserted street thing! These guys are one hour later than ship's time, so when we were wandering around saying, "It's 11:30 am, why are they closed?" they were lounging around in cafes smoking cigarettes saying, "Mon Dieu, what a hard morning we have had, no?"
We've been zig-zagging across time zones on this trip, and to save seriously confusing everybody, this ship has stayed on "Atlantic Time" (one hour later than Eastern).
To further confuse things, Newfoundland is on a half-hour time zone, so when it's 9:00 am in Labrador, it's 9:30 am in Newfoundland. (They say, "The world will end at midnight, 12:30 in Newfoundland.")
Usually, it doesn't matter, because there's only 100 people in the whole town, and you could just yell across at them. But in this teeming French metropolis, it does matter.
We feel better now that we know we're not surrounded by vampires.
In one last French insult to pizza, it arrives uncut. Robert sighs, and realizes that he could never be happy in St. Pierre, but, hey, at least it's got a crust, cheese, and tomato sauce.
The other thing odd is listening to Ray Charles on the Muzak system. We realize that all the music that they play is American music.
We are in a French paper store that also sells electronics, luggage, and purses (why not?). Here the music system is playing French Rap music, which sounds very strange (it's hard to sound tough and gritty in French).
We are on a tour bus for a tour of St. Pierre. The tour commentary is by the driver, who speaks weeth a heevy Frinch ax cent teh, which is almost unintelligible. Fortunately, St. Pierre isn't that interesting, so we figure it balances out.
The main industry here is fish processing, although they have three (3) soccer fields. They also have many colorfully painted houses.
We are leaving the town of St. Pierre, although we're still on St. Pierre island. The island is volcanic and rocky and not much good for growing things on.
They have had more than 635 shipwrecks, but we guess that the Madeleine Islands have a better Press Agent, because hardly anybody knows about all the shipwrecks on St. Pierre. The big claim to fame is that Al Capone had a summer house here (this was a popular starting location for smuggling rum during Prohibition).
Everything here has to be brought in from Halifax, even French things (so they come from France, go to Canada and then get brought back to the French town of St. Pierre).
The bus stops at a very windy place, where we can see the town of St. Pierre and surrounding areas. We let the wind blow on us for a while, and then we blow out of the place.
The bus driver cheerfully points out where the electrical boxes connect to each house, just in case we ever need to check the electrical consumption of houses in St. Pierre.
We drive past the St. Pierre International Airport (it flies all the way to Canada, eh?) and the driver runs through all the flights ("four per week to Halifax, three per week to Sidney, and two per week to Toronto").
We are on our last zodiac ride of this trip, which brings a tear to our eyes, until the zodiac stops in the middle of the harbor. Our driver, Tyson, goes forward and opens a hatch, at which point he says, "Oh geez!" and we start getting nervous.
It turns out that somehow or another we had run out of gas, but all he needed to do was to switch to another tank and we were on our merry way.
We are sitting in the bar, and the crew is battening down the hatches (putting the metal shutters in front of the thick plexiglass windows at the front). They haven't ever battened down the hatches before, so we're not too thrilled to see them doing this.
The days' recap has been moved from the front of the boat to the back. Apparently, the front part of the boat bounces around a lot more than the back of the boat, and the front part is about to head into orbit.
Mike the Labradorian moves through the room passing out seasickness bags, and we barely make it through the lecture. We head down to our room, feeling pretty dang queasy.
Because it's the captain's farewell dinner, we stagger up and try to shove some of it down our throats. Our stomachs, however, have a completely different idea about the direction food should go in. We make it about halfway through the meal before we both have to bail out and down to the cabin.
The thing about rough seas is that it's not regular. If it were regular, we could adapt to it. What happens is that first you're pitched forward, then backward, then right as you're ready to be pitched forward again, you get sent sideways. Nothing happens at regular intervals, so you're mostly off balance.
We learn later that we're passing through the remnants of Hurricane Rita, which caused some problems in the US we heard.
At various times during the night, we find ourselves leaving our beds altogether, flying a foot or two up in the air and then landing back on our bunks. This isn't amusing the first time it happens, and by the 27th time, it is positively unfunny.
Laura & Robert