Thalassotherapie and Spa, Roscoff

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For my birthday this week, my friend, Barbara booked Body scrubs and massages at Institut Spa Valdys in Roscoff, a town about one and a half hours west of Perros Guirec, Brittany.  I was quite excited and kept telling people that I was “taking the waters” at the Spa.  Finally she said to me, “Have you never heard of Thalassotherapie?  I can’t believe it.”                                                                                                                                                              I hadn’t.  I wasn’t sure I’d even heard the word.  It looked Greek and that was about it.   Thalasso means ‘sea’ in Greek.  Thalassotherapy is the use of seawater as a form of therapy.  So I may not have known what I was talking about, but I wasn’t that far off the mark.

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After chatting away happily for a one and a half hour drive, we arrived in Roscoff.  The landscape had changed about ten minutes before entering the town.  It seemed flat and grey.  Although we could see the sea, there wasn’t much attractive about the geography.  We followed the directions on my iPhone to the Hotel Tulip next door to the Spa.  We found parking and began our day at Noon.  Unlike American spas, this spa checked us in and left us on our own.  No ‘Welcome, let me show you around’.  No ‘First you go here and change, then you go there and’ …..American Spas, at least the ones I’ve been in, treat every person like a Queen.  I wasn’t sure if this was the french way or just this Spa.  We wandered around a bit lost until we finally asked someone what we do.  She explained where to change our clothes and get a robe.  Then to come back to her floor and sit in a jacuzzi or steam bath or swim in the swimming pool.  Upstairs on the 4th floor was a gym with bikes and walking machines.  No one was there!

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Swimming Pool–high tide outside

At 2pm, we sat in waiting rooms waiting for our names to be called.  When called, I was asked what kind of scrub I would like.  I asked her what the difference was.  One was for sensitive skin which I don’t have so she suggested the ginger scrub.  The word in French is Gommage.  I hadn’t asked for a translation so I wasn’t quite sure what I was in for.  It turned out to be delicious.  She rubbed my entire body with this oily exfoliating scrub and after showering the particles off, I was left with  glowing sweet smelling skin.  I wanted to keep the oil on forever.  She took me back to the waiting room where I found Barbara and we compared experiences.  We had picked different scrubs but the looks on our faces probably said to anyone looking that we had both loved it.

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My name was called again and this time I was led to a massage room. My massage was good but not great.  At the end, I was relaxed and happy.  Barbara had a great massage and couldn’t believe how effective it was.  Her masseuse had told her go to the Solarium and relax.  So I followed along.  The door that said Resting Room opened up to eight chaises longues with buttons to push for music or heat.  I tried to read but promptly fell asleep.  Barbara’s chair had a view of the sea at low tide.  There were tide pools, tons of algae, three large pools for swimming that filled up at high tide.  We decided to get dressed and go for a walk.

The sand had the strangest little curly-que details.  It was like pieces of thick string wound up and dropped.  I thought maybe it was droppings of some sort but when I put my foot on it, it collapsed into sand.  They were everywhere.  I was trying to imagine how the water would roll in as the tide rose to make those little ‘decorations’.  I was stumped, it was beyond my imagination.

So what exactly is Thalassotherapy?  This is what Wikipedia has to say:

“It is based on the systematic use of seawater, sea products, and shore climate. The properties of seawater are believed to have beneficial effects upon the pores of the skin. Some claims are made that thalassotherapy was developed in seaside towns in Brittany, France during the 19th century.[3] A particularly prominent practitioner from this era was Dr Richard Russell,[4][5][6]whose efforts have been credited with playing a role in the populist “sea side mania of the second half of the eighteenth century”,[7] although broader social movements were also at play.[8] In Póvoa de Varzim, Portugal, an area believed to have high concentrations of iodine, due to kelp forests, and subject to sea fog, the practice is in historical records since 1725 and was started by Benedictine monks; it expanded to farmers shortly after. In the 19th century, heated saltwater public baths opened and became especially popular with higher classes.[9]Others claim that the practice of thalassotherapy is older: “The origins of thermal baths and related treatments can be traced back to remote antiquity. Romans were firm believers in the virtues of thermalism and thalassotherapy.[2]

In thalassotherapy, trace elements of magnesium, potassium, calcium, sodium, and iodide found in seawater are believed to be absorbed through the skin. The effectiveness of this method of therapy is not widely accepted as it has not been proven scientifically. The therapy is applied in various forms, as either showers of warmed seawater, application of marine mud or of algae paste, or the inhalation of sea fog. Spas make hot seawater and provide mud and seaweed wrapping services. This type of therapy is common in the Dead Sea area”

Well, whatever it is, I enjoyed it.  I didn’t wash the oil off my skin for eighteen hours!

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And here we are oily, relaxed and very happy!!!

A bientôt,

Sara

 

 

 

https://www.thalassa.com/gb/spa-hotel/1114-dinard-novotel.html?source=SEA&campaign=ppc-ath-mar-goo-ww-en-din-bro-sear-bp-cen&xts=201912&xtor=SEC-41-GOO-%5Bppc-ath-mar-goo-ww-en-din-bro-sear-bp-cen%5D-%5Bath-v1089-dinard%5D-S-%5B%2Bthalassa%20%2Bdinard%5D&gclid=CjwKCAjwq57cBRBYEiwAdpx0vd5Y7-sprOpw038aGHGxj4dR9z5UvqFqSQy5iNTecRzJNXdZnf64jRoCIUkQAvD_BwE

A birthday in Nantes–Part 2

Sunday morning, the morning after setting our clocks forward.  Of course, I slept too late.  But as it turned out, we had the perfect day to look forward to.  The sun was out, it was warm and we were headed to the water and Ile de Nantes.

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Ile de Nantes is somewhat like Ile de la Cite in Paris.  The Loire river divides in two and goes around a large tract of land.  Much of the old shipping and slave trade took place on the island.  The shipping yards closed in 1987.  Slave trade doesn’t exist anymore (there is a wonderful museum recounting the years that Nantes led Europe in slave boats that left this continent.  We didn’t have time to go but it’s on our list for next time).  Now there is a large park, Parc des Chantiers, and the fabulous Machines de l’ile.  A Parisian friend had told me to be sure to see the machines that look like animals.  That is all she said.  A bit of an understatement!!!  Nantes is the home of Jules Verne so it probably shouldn’t come as any great surprise to see wondrous creations out of all sorts of material.  As we crossed the bridge, we saw the Carrousel des Mondes Marin–“a universe of strange and disturbing marine creatures which revolve in a huge three level structure” -Tourist brochure.

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I wanted to see the Grand Elephant first.  I love elephants, for many reasons, and one doesn’t get to see many outside of Stomper, the mascot of the Oakland Athletics baseball team.  We wandered towards the gift shop and suddenly there it was before me: A majestic animal of steel and wood, 40 feet high, 26 feet wide and 21 feet long weighing in at 48.4 metric tons.  I literally gasped.  It looks like a real elephant.  When it goes for a walk, it is “architecture in motion”-tourist guide.  The trunk can blow like a trumpet and shoots water at a great distance.  It seems to use the water to get children to move out of the way of it’s movement.  It would not be fun to be stomped on by one of those huge feet.  I took photos and videos and smiled like a kid.  The eyes looked real and seemed to be looking at me as I walked backwards trying to get the best shots.  I had wanted to take a ride but there was a line and I had so much fun just watching the elephant stroll.

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We did buy tickets for the Carrousel, which opened in 2012, and went to all three levels to pick the marine animal we wanted to ride.  Of course, we weren’t nearly quick enough.  Children were fast and found their favourites. I chose the tortoise.  I had to climb up tiny little stairs and swing my aging knees on either side of a saddle. The turtle was made of steel and had four distinct parts: the body that I was sitting on, the head that I could swing back and forth with a handle and two side handles that moved the front legs.  By the time I figured out how to make the tortoise look like a live being, the ride was over!  In front of me were two flying fish each one built out of a bicycle.  Next to me were two giant horses pulling a carriage that held a family.  Barbara rode a giant snail.  She was sad because she wanted the horses.  They rode up and down – about the only things that moved similar to the carousels you and I are familiar with.

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Even after the ride was over, it was hard to leave.  The park is an extraordinary creation.  It was founded by Francois Delaroziere and Pierre Orefice.  they are major figures in Street theatre and urban performance in Europe.  Today, Pierre Orefice is the director of Les Machines de l’Ile.  Francois is the art director of the company Les Machines and dreams up live performances.  The structures are built in the workshop before the public’s eyes.  The Machines first opened in 2007 and have given thousands of people, old and young, a great deal of pleasure.  Go see it!

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Across from L’Ile de Nantes sat the Belem, originally a merchant ship and now berthed for all to see on the Quai des Fosses.  Right behind the Belem was a 40 foot sailing boat that belongs to Antoine and Marion, friends of Barbara’s oldest son, Mathieu.  They are getting ready to leave on afive year trip around the world.  They invited us on and into the cabin of their boat for a coffee.  Marion showed us where she is renovating the ceiling with wood which she will then paint.  Antoine was working the outside.  I asked them if all this had to be finished before they left.  They said the proverbial answer: it is a work in progress!!

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I applauded them their courage to do a trip like this before they start building careers and a family.  I also took a couple of years off between university and Graduate School and hitchhiked around Europe.  My parents thought I was crazy and it’s true that it is a luxury to be able to take off like that.  Not everyone can.  I have never regretted it.

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We left in time to get ready for our final adventure of the day: dinner at La Cigale.  Our AirBnB host had told us not to miss it.  It is Art Nouveau at it’s most extreme.  Barbara had made a reservation when she was told she couldn’t have her birthday dinner there.  La Cigale was built by Emilie Libaudiere and opened in 1895.  It quickly became the place to meet and greet for the bourgeoisie, aristocracy, dancers and actors.  It is now an historical monument.  In 1961, it was chosen as the film set of ‘Lola’ by Jacques Demy.

We walked in and were seated near a window looking out on the Cours Cambronne, a beautiful terraced walkway.  We quickly ordered then both of us were up taking photos of everything.  The waiters didn’t blink an eye.  They must be terribly bored of seeing all the tourists repeating the same things over and over again day after day.  But it is an eyeful.  Tiles everywhere of cigales and family shields and basic blue and yellow strips.  An old wooden standing clock perched on the bar and was topped with a Cigale.  The Cigale is good luck in Provence but has brought it’s luck to this restaurant.

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We ordered cabillaud again and bar and grilled vegetables.  It was good but so was my dinner that I’d cooked the night before!!  But I couldn’t top the atmosphere of fun at La Cigale.  When we left, we walked to Place Royal and were able to see it without the stalls. A centre fountain was bathed in blue light and again, I thought of Rome.

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The next morning, we went full circle.  We walked back to the Chateau and strolled along the ramparts getting a good view of the city.  It was impossible for me to imagine what the scenery would have looked like in the 15th century and what a person standing on the ramparts would look out on.  As we came down into the Courtyard, Barbara realised that with all the photos we’d taken, we had none of the two of us together.  So, in French, she asked a woman who was sitting next to us to do the honours.  “I am English and would be happy to take your photo!”

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With that, we went to get our suitcases and take the bus to Gare de Nantes.  Two and a half hours later, we arrived at Gare Montparnasse.  For me, I love to visit everywhere in France and I love coming home.

After you hear the elephant roar, turn the sound down, it’s a poor choice of background.

A bientôt,

Sara

A birthday in Nantes–Part 1

On the train riding home from Nantes yesterday, I asked my friend Barbara, should I title my Blog ‘Nantes’ or ‘Barbara’s Birthday’ and with that cheshire cat smile of hers, she said ‘Barbara’s birthday in Nantes’.  So I compromised.  For no good reason, I just like the title!!

Nantes, the sixth largest city in France, holds a unique place in French history.  Originally in Bretagne, it is now the administrative seat of Loire-Atlantique department.  In the mid-20th century, France changed the regions of France and made Rennes the centre of Brittany and created Pays de la Loire with Nantes as its centre.  The vast majority of Nantes would prefer to be Brittany and consider themselves Bretons.  Pays de la Loire says it could not exist without Nantes as it’s largest city and port.

Whatever its history, Barbara picked Nantes to spend her birthday and off we went last Friday.  We stayed in an AirBnB in the heart of Nantes, walking distance to all the attractions, of which there are many.  We could have easily stayed another 2 or 3 days.

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One of the drawbridges and the moat surrounding the Chateau

Our first stop was to the Chateau des Ducs des Bretagne or Chateau d’Anne of Brittany.  It was late in the day after the trip from Paris and rather than take the 10euros tour to the large and informative museum inside, we opted to walk over to the Tourist Office–Barbara’s favourite first stop! We stood in the courtyard and knew we’d like to walk the ramparts at some point.  The chateau has been completely renovated.

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Inside the courtyard

At the tourist office (french tourist offices for those that don’t know are a must stop.  Kind people will pull out a map and show you how to get to suggested sites.  There is usually a gift shop with wonderful postcards and things from the region.  I always leave with lots of little booklets that I end up tearing apart and putting the photos in my journal!), we decided we’d return in the morning and take a self-guided tour with a talking box.

We headed “home” stopping at Monoprix, which was conveniently placed on the RDC of our building, for good food that would make a quick dinner.  After eating, out came the map and the booklets and we plotted when we would do what.

The next morning, Barbara’s birthday, I called on Paul McCartney to serenade her with “You say it’s your birthday” in true rock and roll style.  Then I looked out the window.  Everywhere I looked, every space of sidewalk, every inch of street and concrete was full of tents and floating stores.  It was the once a year Braderie de Nantes/Giant Sidewalk Sale.

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Barbara opening up cards and presents

After a pow-wow, we thought there was no way we could do the self-guided tour.  We’d be caught up in a sea of people wherever we turned.  We thought we’d brave the crowds immediately and go to Passage Pommeraye.

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Paris’ many passages had nothing on this three story passage.  As with the Chateau, it had been completely renovated and cleaned up.  In fact, what struck me during the entire day was how clean and new Nantes looks.  Nantes’ city centre was destroyed by American bombs during WWII.  The Allies eventually took back the city but the decades following weren’t kind to Nantes.  It wasn’t until 1989, under a new Mayor, that Nantes finally experienced economic growth and developed a rich cultural life.  And in the years since 2010, Nantes has been cleaning to show off it’s rich history.  Between the cleaning and the 20th century building, Nantes has the feeling of a newer, contemporary city.  It’s median population is the youngest in France.   But Nantes puts money into small everyday things to keep the city clean.  At the end of Saturday, around 10pm, I looked out the window and there wasn’t a trace left of the huge sale.  Fifteen boxes were piled up at the corner to be taken away by the garbage truck and a machine with rolling brushes was covering the sidewalk, vacuuming into its insides any debris that could have possibly been missed.  Very impressive.

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Parvis of Musee d’Arts de Nantes

From the Passage we went to Place Royal but there were too many stalls and too many people so we pushed through that and found our way to the Musee d’Arts de Nantes, another icon that has recently undergone a huge renovation.  The museum houses art from the 13th century to the 21st century.  The modern art is located in a part of the museum appropriately called the Cube and looks nothing like the rest of the museum.  It is large enough for installations yet paintings and photographs don’t get lost.

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From the museum, we worked our way up to Cathedral de St. Pierre et St. Paul.  We really wanted to make it to the Prefecture by 4pm at the latest.  I had learned that there would be a March for our Lives in Nantes and both Barbara and I were anxious to be there and march.  So we gave the Cathedral short shrift as they say.  Our hearts weren’t in it.

IMG_0595.jpgSo we wound our way to the Prefecture and spotted a small crowd of people huddled together.  There were probably 20-25 of us but that is a lot when you think it’s France and not Paris where most people are paying attention to American politics.

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The middle banner is Unicef

In fact, we didn’t march at all but formed a circle while Alison, the head of DA, read moving excerpts from speeches, from the surviving HS kids and a wonderful letter from the Obamas to Parklands School. As I stood there listening,  I was remembering that it was 50 years ago that I was protesting the war in Vietnam, campaigning first for Gene McCarthy and then Bobby Kennedy, that MLK was murdered in April or May of ’68 and Kennedy in June.  I prayed that these High School kids could do for Gun control and murdering children what my generation did to stop the war in Vietnam.

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Extraordinary statistics were cited.  Since 2001, the number of school killings in each country one by one were mentioned.  The largest being five, I think.  Whereas in the US, we have had 217 since January 1, 2018.  It’s hard to write that.

We made our way back to the apartment a bit thoughtful.  Stopped at Monoprix for the birthday dinner (we wanted to go to La Cigale but it was full so you will have to wait to hear about that wondrous place till tomorrow).

Le Menu:

Cabaillaud cooked in demi-sel beurre and herbes de provence.

Roasted rutabaga cut up to look like french fries.

Green salad with dressing of oil, vinegar, and mustard.

The final present of the night was that we lost an hours sleep BUT no longer had to do mental acrobatics trying to figure out how to align with the US who changed clocks two weeks ago.

Stay tuned for Nantes–Part 1

A bientôt,

Sara

Brittany Part 2–Kerprouet

When we left Perros-Guirec, we went to my friend, Roland’s, house in Kerprouet.  Kerprouet is hard to find on a map.  That’s because it is a small hamlet of six houses. One family lives there full time, Roland comes and goes from his home in Perros-Guirec, there are two English owners who don’t seem to come very often.  The other two homes are owned by members of the family who live there full time.

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Entering Kerprouet

Kerprouet is near the town of Huelgoat and lies on the eastern end of the National Forest in Finistere.  Each day, we lingered around drinking coffee in the morning then made a day trip to somewhere on the coast.  Every trip was a minimum of an hour!

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House owned by an Englishman but the gardens done by Yves and Josette who live there full time

The first day we went to Presqu’Ile de Crozon where the Atlantic ocean hits, sometimes with intense savagery, the cliffs of this peninsula that is almost the most western tip of France and Europe.  My photos will not do it justice.  There is heather on the moors that lead up to the cliffs.  The water is turquoise where it comes into safety in inlets and beaches.  And there are lighthouses on almost every tip manned twenty-four hours a day by the French navy.

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Pointe de Pen-Hir on Presqu’ile de Crozon

 

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Walking on the GR 34 out to the Pointe de Pen-Hir

The following days we visited the town of Locronan, named one of the most beautiful villages in Brittany.  It reminded me a lot of Mendocino, a beautiful place completely taken over by retail shops selling souvenirs.  However, we were lucky enough to see a religious procession of Britons in their native costume.

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Town square in Locronan with Church on the left

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We went to Pointe de Raz “le bout du Monde”-the end of the earth.  I love the faience that comes from Quimper. So we went to Quimper one day, did a tour of the Henriot factory, I bought some faience and then went to the Musee which exhibited years of beautiful work.

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The end of the earth with the lighthouse

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The heather on the moors

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On our last full day in the Finistere, we went to visit another friend of mine, Philippe, in Pont-Aven.  Pont-Aven once was the home Gauguin and friends who took advantage of the beauty of this village that sits at the tip of the Aven river.  Philippe took us on a wonderful walk along GR 34 that took us out to the sea along the Aven river, around the tip and back along the Belon river.

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Barbara, Sara and Philippe’s friend, a true Briton born and raised.

There are so many more photos but that’s enough for today.  Time to come back to Paris, to the 16th arrondissement and the further adventures of Bijou the cat!

A bientôt,

Sara

 

 

Brittany (or what I did on my summer vacation)

In Paris, summer vacation is sacrosanct.  From June 15 to August 15-30, the majority of Parisians leave Paris for three weeks to two months.  In August, Paris is dead.  Only the tourists walking around in the summer quiet.  Half of businesses close, either because the owners vacation or for renovation.  The train lines use the summer to do work on the tracks.  Many Parisians have country homes in Normandy and tend to go there for the summer.  An equal number will have second homes down south somewhere in the sun.  And a smaller number go to Brittany.

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The hydrangea or hortensia, as they are known in French, are magnificent in Brittany.  There is a Fete de Hortensia every summer.

I discovered Brittany last summer.  I wanted to go somewhere in France that I’d not been before for my August birthday.  My friend, Barbara, suggested Perros Guirec on the Coast of Pink Granite (Cote de Granit Rose).  She’d been there many, many years ago.  So I found an AirBnB and off three of us went to Perros Guirec.  By the end of our five days there, I was so in love with Brittany that I convinced the owner of the home we had rented to do a house exchange with me.  I would come to Perros Guirec for 4 weeks this summer and he and his girlfriend could have a month in the Bay Area.

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My “home” in Perros Guirec

 

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The view from the bedroom window

Brittany, to me, is an extraordinary place.  It’s not like anywhere else in France.  I’m told that the catholic English, Irish and Scottish escaped there at one point in British history.  I’m guessing it was during the reign of Henry VIII when being Catholic was outlawed.  Not only is Brittany exceptionally Catholic but all the dialects have Celtic in them.  The people are as friendly as they come and love their land.  Only sixty years ago, if a visitor from one village came to another, he was called a foreigner just like I am a foreigner.  It doesn’t mean they don’t like you, it just means in the end, you don’t belong.

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Marker on GR 34

 

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Typical Bretagne home with a beautiful garden

Brittany has a coastline on three of it’s four directions.  There is a hiking trail, GR 34, that follows the coast line and attracts day trippers and backpackers all summer.  Many other trails criss cross Brittany.  But enough, they say a picture says a thousand words so I’d like to share some of my best photos from this summer.

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One of my favorites parts of GR 34–the Sentier to Ploumanc’h (the path of the customs workers)

 

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Sentier des Douaniers along Le cote de Granit Rose
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Sara and Barbara in the Perros-Guirec harbor
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Church in Treguier
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One of many harbors

 

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Port of Perros-Guirec in low tide
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Beginning the Sentier des Douaniers trail looking back on Trestraou beach
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Harbor at Paimpol
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The old Washing Area in Pontrieux–the washing women for private homes would come down here and do the wash.  The city and home owners have decorated it so it is quite special

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IMG_6960.jpg Sara and Barbara on the 4th of July headed to Ile de Brehat

If you see that every single house and building is an A frame, good observing.  They do not have flat roofs in Brittany!!!

The last week I was there, I went to the Finistere and stayed in a six house hamlet in a National Forest.  I will put those photos up over the weekend.

A bientôt,

Sara