We departed St. John’s last night, and this morning, we awoke south of the Avalon Peninsula, off Newfoundland’s south shore. We met the hotel manager and staff for the voyage, including naturalists, historians, and photographers. Following introductions, certified photo instructor Jen Guyton gave a very informative, hands-on workshop on smartphone photography. We all learned new tricks for taking better images with our smallest, handiest cameras–our phones.

We spent the afternoon in a little bit of France surrounded by water–St. Pierre. The island of St. Pierre and nearby Miquelon are just sixteen miles from Newfoundland, but they are home to nearly 6,000 people who speak French, fly the French flag, and use the Euro for currency. As we disembarked the ship, local musicians greeted us with traditional accordion music and song.

Many of us visited Ile aux Marins, the site of a former fishing community. Local guides led walking tours around the small, picturesque island. One of the highlights was the old schoolhouse, the interior of which has many period items donated by St. Pierre residents. We also explored the town of St. Pierre and walked among its brightly painted homes. We browsed shops that carry French pastries, wines, and other specialty foods.

Some of us hiked on trails that led up into the beautiful landscape of glacially smoothed rock, gently rolling hills, small ponds, and low-growing vegetation. There were blackberries, blueberries, crowberries, mosses, ferns, and alders. Nearly all the plants were short and quite stunted, due to strong winds, the acidic soil, and the lack of nutrients. We found some plants with highly unusual adaptations–they are able to obtain some nutrients by trapping and digesting insects! Sundews and pitcher plants were scattered around the boggy heathland. The spruce and balsam trees were lopsided and short, sculpted by the wind.

At Captain’s Welcome Cocktails, we enjoyed drinks and hors d’oeuvres, and we met the captain and many more of the ship’s officers. Following Welcome Dinner, National Geographic photographer Phil Schermeister gave a presentation on photography tools and techniques. After our few hours spent in France this afternoon, we will return to Canada tomorrow morning.