La Bretagne

After almost three months of lockdown in Paris, being in Brittany was a breath of fresh air-literally. I stayed with friends in Louannec on the Côte de Grânit Rose. That area is a large peninsula jutting out of the north side of Brittany just under the UK. The ink was barely dry on Macron’s decree that we could travel further than 100 kms, that I bought my ticket, packed my suitcase, put on my mask, and headed for Gare Montparnasse. The TGV car that I sat in was half-empty. If one wasn’t a couple, we sat, either as the only passenger in the double seats, or in the single seats along the other windows. J’adore le voyage par train en France. I have come to love train travel so much that it only seemed natural to take the train from Chicago to Ann Arbor to see my sister last summer!

This was a vacation like none other that I’ve ever had. The first two nights I slept so long that I realized I was far more tired than I had thought. My hosts didn’t change their lives for me. It wasn’t their vacation. They just wanted to give me a place to breath, to see the sea and walk without breathing in car fumes. So, for the next thirteen days, after I awoke, I made a breakfast and read the news on my computer, went for long walks along the sea (five and six miles), had lunch, took a nap in which I usually fell asleep, read, took another walk, wrote some e-mails, had dinner at 9pm then went back to sleep. On the weekends, we went to a tiny hamlet that isn’t even on the map where my hosts have bought a small house. No internet, no WiFi. So my day didn’t change much except I walked beside wheat fields instead of the sea.

View from my bedroom window: looking out on the Bay. The port of Perros is to the left.
The port of Perros Guirec

Brittany wasn’t hit with much Covid 19. There was one incident, before I arrived, where someone was admitted to hospital with an unrelated condition. It turned out that person had the virus, and within a week, fifteen people had it. My hosts believe that no one died. That was the biggest outbreak. One is required to wear a mask at outdoor marchés and inside any store. I saw no one break that rule.

Walking the Sentier des Douaniers, a summer ritual. Everywhere large and small boulders of pink granite.
Inside the small stone house in Kerprouet.
Back in Louannec: 11:15pm!

Within days of being in Louannec, it was hard to remember that there was a deadly virus in the world and that it was making a comeback in a number of countries, the US being the worst of the rising cases. I had gotten used to keeping a clean mask in my purse. If it hadn’t been for that, I wouldn’t have been able to go into a couple of stores. It was so hard to remember: purse, keys, mask which has gotten automatic in Paris.

Picking the first lettuce (known in French as salade) in Kerprouet. Two families together have planted lettuce, tomatoes, winter squash, corgettes, rasberries, potatoes, put in apple trees and plum trees. They will be eating will all summer long.

One plant that grows beautifully and prolifically in all of Brittany is the hydrangea (hortensia in French). They become hedges in front yards, climb up walls near many of the beaches, and there is a Hortensia festival every summer. Maybe not this summer. I’m told that it loves to be sprayed. So though it’s important to water it regularly and deeply, it’s also important to spray it. In Brittany, water drops fly in from waves. It can cool down at night and there will be mist. They come in pinks and reds and pale blues and deep, vivid blues and violets and white. Each one of these colors will have different species. The hortensia known in France as hydrangea is a delicate flower with star-like shoots coming from the stamen and at the end of each little finger are four petals. Looked at from above, the flowers look like lace.

My hosts tell me that Bretons are not really french! There is France and there is Brittany. It’s an ages old joke that, like most of these kind of folk jokes, have a lot of truth to them. Bretons don’t like authority and if the government says ‘black’ Bretons will do ‘white’ on principle. It is the only department in France that does no allow any paying highways (because it’s not right). On the whole, they are extremely kind and generous people. Like much of France that isn’t Paris and Lyon, the majority are hurting financially. You would never know it by looking at their homes. They don’t get extreme cold at winter so they can garden all year around and it shows. Every house and its garden is clean and manicured to perfection.

It’s July in Paris. That means that everyone is either planning their getaway for August or have already left. School ended last week. The next seven weeks are a French specialty: “Leave Paris”. It is heavenly. So I’m already plotting my next trips to Normandie and then Le Gers. First, I have to put in a drip system on my terrace. Then I will have plants to come home to.

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