Posts Tagged 'france'

Brittany

If you’ve never been to Brittany, here’s a tiny word of advice. Don’t.

Don’t, because you’ll only help to fill almost empty roads.
Don’t, because you’ll take up emplacements we might want to use shortly.
Don’t, because the dearth of typical English campers is a delight.
Don’t, because we loved the place and fear you could spoil it.
Don’t, because I want to be selfish and keep it to myself.

We journeyed for three weeks, pottering the lanes and roadways of the Atlantic coast. Apart from the initial drive to get there and back, we covered very few miles. Probably, we walked further than we drove. From Brest to Concarneau, we encountered jagged granite cliffs, white sands in remote coves, fishing villages in rocky bays, misty islands ghosting off-shore, enigmatic statues on bluff outcrops, miles of footpaths free from people except us four, rural campsites and aires almost empty – and entrancing towns half asleep until beyond midday.

In those three weeks, I rediscovered Jacques Prevert, tasted and relished my first ever Breton beers, tapped feet to the stimulus of Breton music, ate crepes in tiny bistros, missed out on moules frites because of a serious case of mistiming (they disappear on 1st May – the very day I tried to order the dish), learnt the difference between the French verbs for ‘to buy’ and ‘to sell’ much to the puzzlement and amusement of a patient shopkeeper at Cleden, drank more cheap French wine than I should have done – and walked about 150 miles of GR34, the coastal footpath around Brittany.

At St Malo, we wandered through the awe inspiring medieval town immured by ancient high stone walls. At Paimpol harbour market we rummaged among stalls laden with marine paraphernalia. At Landrellec we found a strange green frog (that’s not a joke). At Brest we saw penguins. At Pors Peron a swallow-tailed butterfly passed within a few inches of my head. At Pointe du Raz we watched fishing vessels bouncing in the wild tide. From Audierne we walked up the winding river to Pont Croix, where we drank beer, ate our first crepes and saw our first heronry in the trees. In Quimper, we became acquainted with Rodin. At Concarneau, another ancient citadel, we had more crepes while the flags of European nations fluttered above us.

And we brought home a few lasting impressions of Breton life. They like to hang bedding out of windows to air. Trees are pollarded into tight symmetrical balls. LeClerc supermarkets are probably the best in the world. Colourful wooden shutters on windows, often closed against the sun. An absence of ‘no camping’ signs – even small villages provide extraordinary services for motor homes, unlike the anal antediluvian attitude of most British towns. An absence of toilet seats. And a scintillating Atlantic Ocean, blue to green and as clear as vodka. A countryside as rural, green and clean as Kent was in the 19th century.

When I get time, I’ll post a few more thoughts on this fascinating part of France. In the meantime, please keep trying to find a Caravan Club site in England able to accommodate you on a Saturday night. In all we stayed at twelve camp sites in Brittany – and booked at none.

two weeks to go

Two weeks to go. We’re meeting friends and will travel to the Pointe Du Raz area of Brittany. That’s the most westerly point of France. To cross the channel, we’re taking a ferry from Dover to land in the most easterly port of the country, Dunkirk. That gives us several days to wend our way along the coastal route through Normandy.

So I, in my appalling ignorance, asked why we’re going due east to end up more or less south-west at the far end of the spectrum – that’s surely taking extremities to the extreme. The answer is found in ferry tariffs. Norfolk Line will carry us, and our motor home, for little more than the cost of a new hat. Their competitors will charge a full wedding trousseau including silk ribbons and Calvin Klein underwear. The decision was made; we’ll go under-dressed and spend the savings on seafood, red wine and cheese. It’s an old age wedding; who needs frills?

Our intention is to walk around the coastal fringes of the region known as Cornouaille. With our friends’ pronunciation, the area sounds to me suspiciously like Cornwall. It will be a very short joint holiday if they’ve misunderstood our intentions. Around the edge of Cornouaille is a long distance footpath skirting granite cliffs, white-sand inlets and plangent Atlantic waves. Between us, and maybe even together, we’ll tackle as many of these wind-hewn tracks as practicable.

That’s if time and weather permit. We’ll walk as far as you like on a warm sunny day. However, the only lashings we like are of wine, so if rain persists, we’ll fall back on a selection of DVDs, good books and cosy interiors. It’ll be just like our usual holidays on the west coast of Scotland only without midgies.

All we need to do now is buy currency. We’re leaving that as late as possible. Rates of exchange seem to be moving in our favour. No doubt another crisis will hit just before we leave and the pound will drop into the Atlantic again. But the really good news is that with a little luck, we’ll be away while all those ugly and execrable politicians find new ways to throw mud at each other in support of their twisted and corrupted notion of democracy.

Mais c’est la vie.

ici la post premiere sur France

un hoboWe’re preparing for our first ever trip abroad. A few years ago we went to Eire for a few weeks, but that doesn’t really count as abroad because they drive on the left. But in April we’re heading for France where they drive on the right. This will be the first time I’ve driven on the right in other than a left-hand drive vehicle.

Hobby is German, but she’s right-hand drive. I take a little comfort from knowing that the gear stick will be in the same place even if the roundabouts are a challenge to my sense of balance and direction.

Our French is poor. Michel Thomas is trying to rekindle dim memories of schoolboy GCE French (failed) but I can’t move beyond “comfort-A-bler.” Why are educationalists so obsessed with pronunciation and precise grammar? Most who are proficient in English as other than their mother tongues speak English as it is spoken in their home towns. They speak the language but their accents always betray their true origins and we always know what they mean when they say “I be here tomorrow.”

Everything is more or less gathered together now. The ferries are booked; insurance has been arranged. Spare light bulbs have been acquired. We have a pair of day-glow yellow waistcoats and our health cards and Camping Card International are fully valid. An emergency triangle is in the post from that nice company on E-bay, together with a set of headlamp adaptors. The ‘van has had a full service and I can feel her straining at the leash to enter the breach once more.

The satnav has French roads pre-loaded and we’ve bought an atlas so we know what we’re missing when we follow instructions slavishly. The dust has been brushed off the passports and I’ve checked my stock of khaki shorts, white socks, rainbow braces and knotted handkerchiefs. The first-aid box is loaded with Factor 800 and we can’t decide whether or not to take the mosquito repellent so useful in Scotland. Being “comfort-A-bler” is very important to us. The English abroad, eh?

I’m assured it never rains in Brittany during April and May. The man who told me is normally very reliable. His brother knows a man who read it somewhere on Wikipedia I think. Should we take waterproofs?

Oh dear. Only three weeks to go.


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