Miquelon, the other major island, is a small-town version of St.-Pierre. Langlade, an almost-island attached to Miquelon by a stretch of dunes, is the country—a few houses in a fairly wild setting, with a road that doesn't even try to get to the heart of the place. I saw enough of Langlade—water that goes from emerald to jade to blue, people playing pétanque on the beach, cranberry bogs, tall grasses bending in the breeze—to know where I'll end up if I return to these islands.
But if I do go back, my St.-Pierre may no longer exist. Here, then, is the tiebreaker on my to-go/not-to-go list: See it before it goes the way of all undiscovered places. There's been a late-breaking oil rush in the region, and ExxonMobil is drilling for black gold in an offshore region called "the French Baguette." It seems the oil companies find it easier to negotiate with St.-Pierre than Nova Scotia or Newfoundland. Being French in North America has its advantages after all. St.-Pierre's ship—be it the Love Boat or an oil tanker—may finally be coming in.
To get in the mood, watch The Widow of Saint Pierre, possibly the only major motion picture ever set in this locale. It stars Juliette Binoche and will be released on video later this year. For general information, including air, ferry, and tour schedules, call 800/565-5118. And remember, there are no ATM's.
WHERE TO STAY
Hôtel Neptune Place Général de Gaulle, St.-Pierre; 800/563-2006, fax 709/738-3775; doubles from $92. Kind of like a Best Western, it's the islands' top hotel.
WHERE TO EAT
La Brasserie de l'ële Hôtel ële de France, 6 Rue Maître Georges Lefèvre, St.-Pierre; 508/41-03-50; dinner for two $43. The most popular restaurant, serving breakfast, lunch, and dinner.
Guillard & Fils 23 Rue Maréchal Foch, St.-Pierre; 508/41-31-40. Excellent croissants, brioches, and pastries.
Girardin 16 Place Général de Gaulle, St.-Pierre; 508/41-41-97. Serves tasty panini and quiche.
Snack Bar à Choix 2 Rue Sourdeval, Miquelon; 508/41-62-00; lunch for two $22. A quirky lunch spot.