Sunday, July 31, 2011

25. BIke to English Channel, eat some more!

Easy-going day today, that’s how to spend our last Sunday in Dinan, huh? Fantastic weather so it was perfect bike riding time. Today’s plan was to head west toward Plancoet, to a forest just beyond, and see what was over there. Plancoet was a good destination, because many good small roads intersect there. Fantastic ride through thousands of acres of wheat and corn again, plus some lovely small towns. 

When I got to Plancoet, I leaned my bike against the café where Lynn and I ate lunch a few days ago, to check my map for my next move. A local bike rider came out and spoke to me (!!! That NEVER happens spontaneously, in my France riding experience!). He spoke almost no English, and with my terrible French we were a funny pair to listen to. BUT: he was a resident of Dinard, on the English Channel near St. Malo, and was heading that way from Plancoet…so I changed my destination to a little beach town near Dinard called St. Jacut-de-la-Mer, and followed my new riding buddy out of Plancoet. Cool guy, who really wanted to talk while we rode. He must be 75 years old, serious rider, good pace for me to match, and so talkative! (What a shock!) We had a blast trying to understand each other for 10 miles or so, then he showed me the best place to turn off and I headed to the beach town. Before we parted, we agreed that even though we didn’t understand each other’s French or English very well, our common language was really the “velo”.

St. Jacut-de-la-Mer was a pretty town, on one of those Pointes we’ve been visiting all over Brittany, which stick out into the English Channel (La Manche) with beautiful views, and making good ports for sail boats. This place was totally set up for vacationing beachgoers: streets lined with rental units and parked vacationers, beautiful wide beaches, and lots of little cafes. You could see out into the English Channel, and see probably a hundred sailing boats under way out there. I found two parks on the farthest tip of the Pointe, and took some lonely-guy bicycle pictures, then headed back to Dinan. My bicycle route through town which ended up being mostly a dirt and grass path…good thing I got those FATTER tires before this trip, bike worked perfectly.

After the ride, Lynn and I were stoked for lunch, so accomplished another of our list of “things we intend to do but haven’t got around to yet”: w ate at the classy restaurant several folks have recommended to us Chez la Mere Pourcel, right on the middle of town. We sat outside for the fantastic atmosphere, and ordered an aperitif and fancy lunch. It was good, served in little individual cast iron pots, but we both felt we’d have enjoyed the lunch more at our favorite restaurant Le Cantorbury…this place was kind of a disappointment. Afterwards, Lynn found the carved Monk on the side of their building we've seen in all our Dinan books, so we took a pic!

Not much else exciting to report. We did some laundry, read more on our books (BOTH of us have now finished “Water for Elephants” and LOVE IT!), and had a light supper in the English Garden. 

We saw two local guys playing  "Petanque”, a French ball game, kind of similar to 

 horseshoes, behind Basilica St. Sauveur, which just added to the ambiance. Tomorrow: heading to Vitre, another ancient walled city similar to Dinan, but supposedly even better preserved and more beautiful. AND we get to ride the train system again, which I really like. Thanks for reading this stuff!  

PIC captions:  Park at tip of Pointe at St. Jacut-de-la-Mer.
      Lynn found the carved monk statute at Chez la Mere           Pourcel in Dinan.   
        Petanque players, throw and roll heavy balls at Basilica
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2011 Dinan and Paris French Adventure

Saturday, July 30, 2011

24. Dinan Museum and Awesome Bar Band!

What an unexpectedly cool day! We got up late, cause it is vacation and we don’t have to get up early if we don’t want to.  We got some breakfast and set out for the Dinan Chateau Museum…another place we’d put off seeing for too long. 

It is in the big castle keep just behind the Tourist Information office. We headed in and found that mostly the museum required a lot of circular stair climbing and descending. Lynn handled it with super aplomb; her broken ankle is strong like bull! Anyhow, we climbed to the top of the keep, looking at the displays in several rooms along the way. Most impressive of the displays was the art room, with paintings of Dinan from over 100 years ago, showing the same scenes we love of “our” wall of the ramparts. Beautiful that artists from long ago saw the same scenes that have so captivated us our entire stay.

We made it to the top of the keep and checked out Dinan from on high, then headed down to the lowest dungeon under another part of the rampart to see the sarcophagus display. For some reason, they have a lot of sculptures of dead notable people, taken from their tombs somewhere else, and placed in a dank dark dungeon room way underground. Hmmmmm. 

Lynn wasn’t going to give up til we saw the sarcophagi, so we worked our way down the dark stairs and checked em out. Lovely! My favorite part of the visit was the fire department! They were conducting training on the ladder truck against the castle wall. We told them our grandson Jack loved firemen and trucks, so they were happy to have us take pictures of the rigs. 

Lunch was at our favorite restaurant in Dinan, Le Cantorbury, then we headed to grocery shop at Monoprix, the answer to every “where do I buy necessary stuff?” question in France. They sell clothes, Xerox copies, school supplies, and everything else on the bottom, and groceries and sundries on the second floor. We stocked up and headed home. Later, during our relaxation stop at Pub St. Sauveur, the Basilica bells started their  7:00pm pealing, so I caught it on video while watching a restored classic Citroen back out of a parking space…it seemed pretty cool at the time! 

We ate a light supper of fruit and sandwich at our favorite spot, the English Garden, then headed to another local bar to figure out a mystery: There’s a bar downstairs from the rear of our apartment. Almost every night, it’s hopping pretty loud, sometimes with terrible music. We wanted to find out if they do crummy karaoke or what, so walked over. WHAT A SURPRISE! There was a live band kicking hard inside the tiny bar space, and they were so cool! We jammed in and got a beer to watch. They are pretty much indescribable, so I took some video’s you can check if you like. All I can say is: wash-tub string bass, bowed saw blade, clarinet, squeeze box, guitar and suitcase drum, with loud expressive singing in French that NOBODY could understand! We loved them! 
At their break, we talked at length to a girl and her boyfriend who knew the band. They are street musicians from Belgium, which explains the expressive performances. We paid our tab, and went out to talk to the musicians – fantastic!~  The wash-tub bass was a PLASTIC trash tub, which the owner WISHED was the typical American galvanized steel product. The guys were so fun to talk to, and getting jazzed for another set later. I might go back down!

PIC captions: We are FINALLY going to the museum!
                      Lynn checks out the sarcophagi in the  dungeon.
                           Firemen save the castle.
                            Awesome bar band behind our apartment!
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2011 Dinan and Paris French Adventure

Friday, July 29, 2011

23. Boat the Rance, Return to Plancoet

We became ambitious yesterday (Thursday) after I got in a good bike ride and Lynn thoroughly shopped the “Every Thursday Dinan Market”. First, the market: hundreds of merchants set up their tent stores on the Dinan municipal parking lot, and everybody goes down there to buy fresh produce, meat, and almost everything else anyone can imagine. We went together and bought a lot of fresh produce to eat, then came home to eat it for breakfast. GREAT! Later, I headed out for a bike ride and Lynn went back to the market for more shopping…they sell clothes, paintings, etc. Glad I didn't have to go too!

Ambition caught us later that afternoon when we walked back down the Rue de Jerzual to Port Dinan and hopped the Rance tour boat. It was a pleasant 1 hour river cruise up the Rance, under the viaduct and past some pretty, placid, idyllic woodsy scenery to an old Abbey founded by monks long ago, no longer in use.  We got to use one of 87 locks on the river to raise the boat to a higher level for part of our ride, then used it again to descend when we came back. Napoleon III  ordered the Rance to be canalized long ago, thus the tow path along the side of the river and the locks. The weather was perfect, boat ride was nice, walk down was long, and we were hungry!! SO, went back to our riverfront restaurant from last week and had supper again. It was about perfect.

Today (Friday) we “returned to the scene of the crime”. We caught a bus to Plancoet, the town we stayed a few days in during a student trip Lynn led in March, 2010. This started our whole love affair with Brittany, as the area was so clean and pretty, and everyone was so friendly and open to having the kids speak French with them.  Lynn liked it so much that when we returned home in 2010, she researched the possibility of renting an apartment in Brittany for summer 2011…and here we are.

Anyhow, the bus service to Plancoet went without a hitch (love the French transportation system so far), we arrived about 10:45 a.m….and pretty much finished all our sightseeing at Plancoet in 2 hours! The town center is smaller than Dinan, and we walked all over. 

Main problem with Plancoet is, unfortunately, they don’t really have any sights or sites for tourists to see! We checked out their wonderful park in the center of town, so we could “promenade” as it’s called, but after that it was pretty much over for us! So, we changed plans and decided to take the commuter train back to Dinan rather than wait another 4 hours for the bus. We ate a great café lunch at a local tabac, met a Belgian family who were fun companions to talk with while waiting at the station, then saw the cool little train arrive right on time. It’s styled like a mini-TGV, only 2 cars long, and more comfortable inside than a plane, bus, or station wagon. We loved it, and made it “home” in ½ hour. 

Had a great stroll back from the Dinan Gare; visited our boulangerie for a baguette and our friendly boucherie for some ham, so now we have ingredients for a supper sandwich. We also got a great picture of all three waitresses we have gotten to know at "our" pub down the street, Pub St. Sauveur. These are folks who have made us feel  so at home, like "regulars" living here for a month, instead of like "tourists".

We spent the rest of the afternoon reading in the English Garden.  Lynn made friends with an elegant French lady who has lived in Dinan most of her life, and was a delightful conversation partner (great French-speaking practice!). That’s it for now. We may try to find some other places to go on that cool commuter train next!

Pic captions: Part of our loot from the market.
                          Lynn in Plancoet, main street.
                          Commuter train arrives in Plancoet.
                          Our waitresses at Pub St. Sauveur.
                           Lynn with our buchier.
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2011 Dinan and Paris French Adventure

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

22. Tower, Flea Market, Leftovers

The big activity today was climbing the Clock Tower to get an aerial view of Dinan. Lynn can’t climb lots of strange stairs because of the broken ankle thing, but I was ready to go. So I did, for 3 Euro admission!  First 75 steps or so are old stone spiral steps, which are just so pretty to see as they arc up and down from you. Then, as the tower got higher and narrower, it became a wooden structure, with more modern-built wood stairs. They kept the ancient hand-hewn ladder-type stairs the old tower keepers used, but chained them off so no one could use them. 

At the tippy-top, I climbed up the final ladder to the tower observation platform. Not a lot of maneuvering room up there, and I’m scared of heights, so it was a little tense for awhile! I took pics of Dinan from up high, including the area of our apartment and some of the ramparts. The most interesting thing was the sort-of crummy bell up there! It was given to the City by Duchess Anne in the 1600’s, and they’ve used it ever since. But it sounds so tinny and feeble: perhaps because they use a crummy-looking electrical motor to swing the clapper. If I was the King of Dinan, I’d use some of that 3-Euro per adult admission revenue to buy a better bell-striking apparatus! 

Lynn visited the antiques flea market that comes to our plaza every Wednesday, and found a perfect souvenir: an OLD Quimper pitcher we can use for hot chocolate. She bargained the guy down, and is totally happy with it. Now to get it home in one piece…she’ll do it, I remember her successfully dragging 2 huge ceramic dogs home from Ireland a few years ago, which I predicted would disintegrate!

We were having a drink on the Place du Clos after the excitement when some people Lynn met yesterday on the Rue de Jerzual overheard us at the next table, so we got to get better acquainted. They are from the Isle of Guernsey and Texas, and were heading back to Guernsey, waiting for the bus to St. Malo. We hung out til the bus arrived, and made tentative plans to be in touch if Lynn and I end up in Guernsey on this trip. We might do it!! It’s just a ferry ride from St. Malo, and is supposed to be beautiful. 

On the way home we VIDEO'D the lady I call the Dinan Municipal Band. She's an amazing street musician, constantly playing all over the city. Check her out. Lunch was our go-to meal: baguette ham and cheese sandwiches with a diet coke, served out of a picnic bag in the English Garden downstairs from our apartment. It is the prettiest viewpoint in all of Dinan, and today’s weather was spectacular.
We’re reading some books, eating leftovers for supper, and totally chillin’. 

PIC captions: Basilica St. Sauveur with flea market in front, and our apt. on left side!
                      Lynn's Quimper pitcher bought in flea market below.
                      Mom, we couldn't buy it (yellow rose painting), so took a pic!
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2011 Dinan and Paris French Adventure

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

21. Dinan exploring, bike and River Lunch

In our quest to stay low key and unplanned, we decided to pick one or two things each day we’ve been meaning to do, or something we read about in our Dinan book, and DO IT. Still no schedule, just some direction!

Monday we did a few: found the statute and birthplace of an explorer named Pavie, born across “our” square in the oldest building in town. We also visited inside Basilica St. Sauveur, the enormous church next to our apartment, and found the place where the heart of a  warrior named Guesclin from the Crusades was buried. He wanted to be buried in Dinan, but the only thing left of his body by the time they got here was the heart. So it’s in an urn in a side room of the cathedral. We also found ancient carved writing on some of the floor stones, so old that it’s been worn away from the thousands (millions?) of feet walking over it during the centuries. This place was built starting in the 1450’s…unbelievable. 

Later, Lynn cooked a great spaghetti dinner with fresh-ground beef from our bucherie. The buchier has become Lynn's pal, and explained that France does not allow pre-packaged ground beef, it must be done only to order. So, it's fresh and delicious. Which ours definitely was!

Tuesday was fun and laid back too. Weather was the warmest and sunniest since we arrived in Dinan. So, I had a great bike ride in the countryside while Lynn did laundry (it’s best when it is sunny, so we can hang the heavy stuff outside on the clothesline to dry).  The bike ride was my favorite kind: I headed for St. Malo as my destination, but never made it. I meandered all over the countryside exploring any road that looked promising. Found a fabtastic hardpack dirt bike/hiking path  along the banks of the Rance for about 8-10 miles, then headed for pavement and many deadends into French Gittes, which we will explore for future use, perhaps. Got hugely lost a bunch of times, but it all came out fine.  Man, they grow a LOT OF CORN here, I rode past hundreds of acres of it! Stopped when I was starving and got directions to a boulangerie/patissierie from a friendly postman on a motorbike, then bought my snack from a nice lady who tolerated my French-mangling order, and ate at a wonderful park across the street. All in some small town that I can’t remember the name of now. Parfait!

Lynn and I were in touch by phone, so made plans to meet for lunch at Port Dinan, on the river straight down the hill from the walled town of Dinan. There was a pizza place we’d been meaning to try there, right on the river, so that’s where we planned to meet. Lynn had to hike solo down the ultra-steep cobblestone street Rue de Jerzual, carrying a change of clothes for me so I could eat after getting out of my bike kit. She met a couple from Texas and the Isle of Guernsey on the way down; they took her picture on the Jerzual. We linked up after I rode in across the incredibly scenic little bridge in the middle of town. The ride was around 50 miles, just time to quit! THEN, it turned out our pizza place was a great restaurant, with a sunny terrace and full menu. So, I got some moule and beer, while Lynn got a scrumptious turkey, ham, cheese with cream sauce menu item. After we ate, we accomplished another thing we’d put off: got information for a boat cruise on the Rance…probably do it sometime this week!
Walked around town enjoying the perfect weather, and checked out the children’s park which is always hopping. That’s the place with the petting zoo and collection of unusual chickens (who knows why?). Angie, we took a pic of what I call the “Shitzu Chicken” just for you... it looks like a feathered Simon; you can’t see its eyes or beak anywhere!  No more excitement, we’ll let ya know if anything happens.

PIC captions: After lunch at the River Rance, Tuesday 7-26-11.
                     Yes, this is where they buried Guesclin's heart.
                     Lynn's awesome spaghetti dinner.
                          Typical scene country riding.
                          John at Port Dinan bridge.
                     More moule for lunch by the bridge.
                     Lynn lunches at the terrace under the viaduc into Dinan.      

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2011 Dinan and Paris French Adventure

Sunday, July 24, 2011

20. Pointes and Plourhan Car Show!

After getting almost no sleep at our super hotel at Paimpol Saturday night (apparently they allow drunks at the waterfront under our window to scream and explode fireworks all night til 5:30 a.m.!), we woke to rain and no bike ride. Bummer! So, we ate our usual continental breakfast at the hotel, and headed out to see some "Pointes" in the car. These are points of land that stick out into the Channel, usually with beautiful views of islands and the mainland all from the same place. We found the first Pointe L'Arcouest to be totally picturesque, so took photos and moved on. Next victim: Pointe de Guilben. We found it after some dirt road driving, high above the water in a park. Wonderful, so we took pics and moved on. We missed finding the next pointe AND the old Abbey decided we'd had enough water and scenery and drove on to Plourhan!

Plourhan was a mystery destination, suggested by a new friend on teh Factory Five forum. It was hosting an old car show today, and that's about all we knew. On arrival, we found a total local folk happening! They had folk dancers and folk bands warming up under the trees to perform at the show, while waiting for the old cars to arrive. The old cars were actually taking part in a 45 km tour along local country roads, so these were no trailer queens we'd be seeing. There was a horse demonstration area, petting zoo, tractor and farm implement show area, and a small swap meet. While we waited for the cars to arrive, we bought a small model Citroen 2CV which has become Lynn's favorite French car. We also eventually got a souvenier for me: a car show plaque like the participants mounted to their cars. (Lynn had to speak French with the friendly  show promoter, and hand over 8 Euro to get that accomplished!). The cars eventually came before the rain got very bad, and it was really worth the wait. They included every kind of Renault, Peugot, Citroen, Simca (including the Aronde)  from the late 1940's through 1980's, and lots of specialty cars like Westfield, Alpine, TVR, Morgan, and a smattering of American muscle like early Mustang and 1960'2 era lots more.

Then, the TRACTORS started rolling in, very slowly as you can imagine. Lots of unique working machinery, and motorcycles too! We walked the display parking areas, then left as the rain got more agressive.

Final destination was "home" at our apartment in Dinan. Everything was still the same, so we unloaded, I turned in the rental car, walked back to the apartment, and we just snoozed awhile. Felt good to finally be rid of the car and responsibilities it entailed. Now we're back to foot, bus and bike transport for 2 more weeks. Great! Bike ride tomorrow if weather holds up. Supper tomight at our favorite pizza place "La Tomate", and talked a bit with the guy working there. I got my pizza with LARD on it...that's the French word for "BACON"! Tomorrow regular life: boulangerie, bucherie, fruit market, laundry, and read some more books. Plan some more mischief, but probably lay low a couple of days.

PIC captions: Lynn with favorite car at Paimpol  outside hotel.
                      Pointe de Guilben-John.
                      Pointe de L'Arcouest-Lynn.
                      Westfield 7 in proper Lotus racing colors, just like my old Cobra!
                      Old cars come in past Plourhan Town Hall (Mairie).                

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2011 Dinan and Paris French Adventure

Saturday, July 23, 2011

19. Kersaint, Les Abers, and Paimpol

Story of SATURDAY 7-23-11 activities

John took off this morning from our very quaint – very old – hotel in Kersaint for a bike ride around Les Abers…several of which are in the area of our hotel and we took off together towards others when we left. They are fingers of water from the ocean extending inland similar to a fjord.  

John writing: I started my ride at 6:45a.m. and had all the roads to myself. The tide was out, animals were grazing along the road and along the beach, and I could see for miles! The nice part of the ride was the scenery, as the roads followed the shoreline of the most southern aber, with lots of ups and downs. As I passed a road sign my eye caught the word “Menhir”, so I had to follow. I found the tallest standing menhir stone in  France (31 feet!) in a farmer’s field, surrounded by electric fencing, so just took a pic from across the ditch. This thing was a fertility symbol, obviously, with all kinds of kinky legends about rubbing against the stone’s two humps. WooHoo! Rode back to the hotel and got our day going. Oddly enough, we also ended up out to France’s tallest LIGHTHOUSE later in the day. We couldn’t visit it, being on a tiny island, but we took a pic from afar. What a day…two of France’s most prominent phallic symbols, and we saw em on the same morning!
Lynn writing again: We packed up and ate breakfast at the hotel thinking it would just be ordinary –oh lalalala noooon! The dining room of the hotel was huge and very ornate…with odd touches such as an aquarium in the entry…and everything else looking as if it came out of a time warp from about 75 years ago furniture wise and decorations…very interesting and we were served at our seats, even though the breakfast was just your typical Continental breakfast of bread and jams, it was very elegant. No wonder he wanted to know at what time we would like to eat our breakfast at check in…. there were only a few others patrons staying.
Trying to drive close to the water was a frustrating experience as John had seen the Abers very closely in the morning bike ride and we were unable to repeat that with our car on the ones we were trying to follow…and I was not comfortable with some of the driving situations we got into and John was not comfortable with my reactions!! 

SO …. We gave up trying to stay close to the water and went on to find the tallest light house in France. We did find it and to quote a good friend of ours, Allen Tays…we were kind of underwhelmed LOL  
We decided to get off our destination route and stopped in Moraix – walked around a market which was conveniently going on under a huge viaduct…quite impressive! Not the market J but the viaduct sure was! We continued on our journey to Giagamp for lunch. It was not a distinctly impressive town but we did have a nice lunch in a creperie named Duchess Anne for some unknown reason. 

I was to think we were going to have our first less than exciting day during our trip when we got to our destination town of Piampol. Doesn’t sound like it would be much, does it? But….it is a very cool port community with a beautiful Port de Plaisance and our hotel is right on this port and our room overlooks this bustling center.  There is a festival starting tomorrow and boats fill the harbor. We walked to the Tourist Information Center and found out that a steam engine pulling a train ( La Vapeur du Trieux) was going to be arriving in 5 minutes! I hustled John on to the gare with me following as quickly as I could because we just know that Jack will love to see that steam engine….John made it exactly on time to set up camera with my arrival also on time to see it roll in… fun!!

Our luck has definitely changed and we are thrilled with our day…and looking forward to exploring our environment. We walked around checking out places for dinner this evening and found a great restaurant on the waterfront which we returned to – John and I both had been so impressed with a fish called bar that we had it again tonight. YUM…. But it was a little better at Jean-Marc’s and Pascale’s! I shopped some in the cute stores while John had a Guiness at a closeby pub…he said it definitely lost something crossing the Channel…worst he ever had.  

 But our day ended fantastically…we can hear the activities outside as we relax upstairs and see some news on the tv in English for a change….so sad to hear about what has happened in Norway…unbelievable.
Tomorrow we are going to stop by an antique car show in a nearby town that one of John’s internet friends had recommended…John is taking off in the morning for another bike ride out to pointes on the coast before we leave. We are returning to Dinan in the afternoon and life will become considerable more laid back and less eventful…but it is still France and life will be good!
PIC captions: France's tallest menhir rock! 35'.
                      Lynn marvelling at France's tallest lighthouse!
                           Moraix market under Viaduc.
                           Steam train in Piampol.
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2011 Dinan and Paris French Adventure

18. Cliffs, Bridges and Ocean

Concarneau was a wonderful place to begin today (FRIDAY 7-22-11). Hotel Kerr-Moor threw an extensive breakfast, so we lazed over it long into the morning, using the internet to update our lives and watching the beach life begin. Windsurf class, fishermen, water skiers all in front of our huge picture window and oceanliner-like breakfast table and benches. This town has 5 different beaches, we were at Sables Blanches, all part of Baie de la Foret…I’ll never pronounce all this stuff!

After a surprise charge for the premium breakfast (!) we headed out for Quimper, so Lynn could visit the factory where her favorite French old-timey plates and decorative pottery stuff are made – it’s called “faience”. Over the years she’s acquired a nice small collection of old Quimper, so this was a good chance to see how it’s made. THEY WERE CLOSED for vacation! So, no tour and we couldn’t even see inside the windows. Ah well, the STORE was still open, but held no treasures. Lynn really prefers the old Quimper stuff, so we left empty handed.

 Figuring we didn’t want any more big city for awhile, we decided to skip Brest, and set our GPS for Crozon, so we could tour the Presqu’ile de Crozon. It’s the point of land extending into the Atlantic Ocean (“almost an island”, thus the name), from which you can see forever, including 3 or 4 other named Pointes of land, bays,  beaches, etc. A high promontory, almost impossible to scale from the sea: you can see why it would have been so important to all the armies who warred here over the centuries. The drive in was fantastic, through rolling farmland and sea views, when suddenly we crossed the most fantastic bridge I remember ever seeing! 

We took a lot of photos later: Pont de Verenez. It is a curved bridge, 220+ meters above the valley floor, all suspended from steel cables, supported or strung from two beautiful concrete towers curving gracefully up from the valley floor. EVERYTHING is asymmetrical, the towers, the cable attachment points, the feet of the bridge supports which go to the valley floor, and the bridge curves beautifully so you are able to take in the whole structure with one eyeful. I loved it. We played around on this bridge a long time later in the day, but not enough!
Onward to Crozon, which was not a scenic town at all, but in a picturesque water setting…so we took off to Morgat down the road. It’s a small beach town, set in a beautiful protected cove. We found a sidewalk café for lunch, and watched the action a couple of hours, eating our way through a bucket of fresh moule for me, and house specialty pizza for Lynn. Moule-eating is my new French skill: You take an empty moule shell (2 shells joined together), and use them like pinchers to pull the meat out of another moule shell, and pop em in your mouth to eat. Great stuff to know…you DON’T use a knife and fork! Pizza, well you DON’T eat it with your hands here, generally. We finished, bought some supplies for later at a nearby boulangerie (baguette, cidre, cheese, and an éclair for dessert), took a pic at the CRAPATOLA bike shop (!), and headed for Pointe de Penhir.

Pointe de Penhir was another unexpected fantastic piece of scenery. Massive stone cliffs with huge rocky bases rise above the Atlantic Ocean, giving you unlimited views in almost 360 degrees. This was well worth the trip. I tried to take a set of panoramic pics with my phone cam, by revolving around the same point while shooting. I HOPE there’s an app for stitching these shots together properly. We were so blown away by this place. 

Then, on the way out, we spotted a field of MENHIRS!(Alignments de Lagatjar) Wouldn’t have thought anything about it except we saw huge fields of menhirs at Carnac just a few days ago. This was a small field full, no less mysterious, but fun to walk around.
On the way out, Lynn found us a hotel at a tiny town (crossroads would be a better description) called Kersaint, so tomorrow we can drive Les Abers, the Coast of Legends. Abers are like fjords, deep incursions of the ocean inland, with mountain on the sides. There are a couple of roads that follow the abers, recommended by Jean-Marc, so tomorrow we try them. I still have my bike, so hope to ride a loop of one of the abers tomorrow before breakfast…the weather must cooperate. 
Lynn addition: tonight at our hotel we had a picnic in their garden under the tower of the neighboring church…. And while we were typing this up in the room we were listening to a play/concert coming from the church which was beautiful…how many fun things can come together purely by accident like this!!

PIC captions:  Lynn says "IT'S CLOSED for vacation!"
                            John digs the Pont de Verenez bridge.
                            John at crappiest named bike shop ever!
                            Lynn at Pointe de Penhir.                                                  
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2011 Dinan and Paris French Adventure

Friday, July 22, 2011

17. Sarzeau to Concarneau

Wednesday evening as we had eaten such a lovely and complete lunch at St Gustan – we ate fairly lightly but magnificently at Pascale’s hands. The best gazpacho soup with seaweed pate and small very flavorful pickles…hmmm I know you what you are thinking as I would have before trying – but it was fantastic!! This is why you always stay open to new experiences when traveling and find so many things you never knew you would like.
Thursday was just about the best day we could have ever imagined. We spent a restful night at Jean-Marc and Pascale’s home, then woke to perfect weather. After breakfast (Nutella on brioche!) it was time for John and Jean-Marc to finally get a bike ride together, and Lynn and Pascale to attend the local market.
Our bike ride was fantastique…we rode all over the presque-isle where Sarzeau is located, on small roads without much motor traffic. What a joy, the scenery was spectacular with woods, tiny towns, and constant views of the Golfe du Morbihan or the open sea, without constant fear of death by auto collision. I continue to love the riding environment here, where cyclists are not viewed as targets by angry drivers.We took some photos, but no action shots…we were too fast for that! Jean-Marc and I are well matched as cyclists; his love of music was a constant pleasure during the ride. We ended our ride about the time the ladies returned from the market.
Lynn writing: Pascale and I spent the morning in the market – she bought fish so fresh from the market – the shrimp were still moving around!! And another filet of fish called bar…later as we ate this magnificent feast on the porch of their lovely home in a nice warm sun…it was just heavenly!! The other highlight of the market morning for me ( Lynn) was being able to buy an entire Mariniere outfit of clothes--- horizontal stripes are the thing here and I was completely tired of constantly wearing black or brown! It was just so much fun to spend the time with Pascale looking around the market and chatting in French…
John writing again: Later in the morning , Pascale drove us all on a tour of some beautiful ports or harbors near Sarzeeau. Jean-Marc is a sea dog of long experience, having sailed across the Atlantic 2 times (once with Pascale as his crew), plus other sailing adventures all over the world including Antarctica. His love of sailing and the sea infused us with the same enthusiasm. First stop was Port Navalo, with hundreds of pleasure boats moored in a perfect harbor. We could see several of the other islands in Golfe du Morbihan, including one owned by a friend of Jean-Marc and Pascale. That one is “Ile Longue” (Long Island), where they live without running water or electricity! Jean-Marc showed us the incredibly strong tidal current that runs along the port, where boats can really zoom in or out with fast-rushing water during the tide changes. The scenery and company were perfect. We walked, we looked, and moved on.
Next stop was Port du Crouesty, largest port in Brittany. It was crammed with pleasure sailing boats, plus many larger ones capable of trans-Atlantic trips. I took a pic or two showing the forest of masts at the slips. We stayed a very short time, as the ambiance was crowded and a bit touristy away from the boats!

Last of our stops was a small harbor we can’t remember the name of, but memorable in every other way! This one had lots of small sail boats tied up, and people living aboard a few. There were dozens of colorful plastic dorys leaned up against a wall on shore…they are the boats that owners use to paddle out to their sail boats and then back to shore. It made a beautiful scene. We walked out into the harbor a bit on a concrete oyster pool, watched some children catching and playing with crabs, soaked in the sea air and sounds, then returned “home” for lunch and farewells. Our new friends Jean-Marc and Pascale have been unbelievably kind and generous with us. We had the best days of our trip with them, and can't thank them enough for everything.

After leaving Sarzeau, we steered for Lorient, hoping to see the  German U-Boat harbor and facilities there. The town of Lorient ended up looking very drab and uninteresting, with lots of slab-sided buildings and boring architecture. Then we remembered: this place was probably flattened by Allied bombing during the world war, so all the buildings were relatively new. We found the tourist office, and learned that the U-Boat installation has been converted to commercial and pleasure use, with nothing much remaining of the wartime facilities. So, we passed on riding a boat out to see, and resumed our drive to Concarneau.
Concarneau was a short haul from Lorient, so we followed the GPS instructions and drove all over this port town until finding our unique hotel. Wow! It’s right on the beach, with a terrace room for us overlooking the sea. The unique thing about this place is the rooms and public spaces are all done up as though you are on an old oceanliner! Our room has a bulkhead door into the bathroom, porthole in the door, old steamliner fittings and antique furnishings, etc. Even our terrace is trimmed out like the railing of an old liner! 
We walked Cancarneau, and visited the ancient walled fortress town on a small island in the harbor. We survived the crowded touristy main streets inside, packed with shops and people. Our escape was walking the ramparts…you can stroll atop the thick walls. They were at least 6-8 feet thick. We looked out the mouth of the harbor like ancient defenders would have done, and took pictures instead of firing cannon from the walls. There was a really cheesy circus inside the walls too, but we passed.
Walking back to our hotel, we realized we waited too long to buy a baguette, cheese and wine for a snack supper....everyone closes at 7:00pm. So, we found a place to buy a bottle of Cidre (Brittany’s specialty, fermented apple cider), and picnic’d on our terrace with the fruit Lynn bought at the market this morning.

PIC captions: John and Jean-Marc - 2 cool guys ready to ride.
                          Trois amis with dory collection in background.
                          Good-bye pic. Note how EVERYONE dresses en Bretagne...except Jackson the dog.
                          Lynn on terrace Hotel Ker-Moor, Concarneau.
                          Concarneau pleasure craft port.
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2011 Dinan and Paris French Adventure