My goal for my second day on the L’iles-aux-Marins was to go to the northern part of the island joined by isthmus to a large hill I planned to hike as I had seen others do.
I followed the path closest to the cliffs facing St. Pierre right behind an older man. As we made our way practically in tandem, I worried that he lived on the island and I was stalking him to his front door. However, we both made it to the top of the hill ringed by cannons. On a bench facing them sat the small elderly gentleman. I went from one end to the other to capture the view of the cannons stretched across the horizon.
We both turned to leave and fell in step with one another. He told me in French that he had been a wounded soldier, so every day he made the voyage to I’ile-aux-Marins to honor his compatriots. He put up with my limited French telling me he knew English which he encouraged me to use, but he didn’t understand much of that either.
I got to the isthmus and realized getting across it and up the adjoining hill would prove more challenging than I imagined. Stubbornly, I started out anyway. Then, it occurred to me that I would be out there alone and since my phone wasn’t working, I might find myself in trouble. Dejected, I turned around and decided to go to the other end of the island to the lighthouse.
A woman with a 6 year old passed me. He started speaking to me in French and once again, I had to say, “Je ne parle pas bien français.” She responded, “So you don’t speak French?” in English and I answered in French, “Un peu,” a little. I liked looking at her. She was the spitting image of Vanessa Redgrave, in her late 50’s maybe early 60’s with a mane of dark blond hair, a series of colored earrings in both ears, and a small piercing under her bottom lip. She told me the boy was telling me he was going to play in the sand. When I said good-bye, she turned, held up two fingers in a V, and said “Peace.”
I spent the next two hours walking to the lighthouse, looking at wildflowers. Could I do this every day I wondered as I passed a resident sitting in a beach chair on their deck? Would it be enough? I’m so taken with the landscape I ask everyone I can if it’s possible to rent the few houses on the island. No, they say. They are only for residents.