Thursday, July 14, 2011

11. Bastille Day Bike and Rattatouille

What a Bastille Day we’re having! Almost all the businesses are closed, so nothing to do but hang out at the apartment, cook Rattatouille for supper and go for a bike ride. First, let’s remember last night’s B - Day FIREWORKS!
It got dark about 11:00 p.m., so people started arriving at “our” park just down from our apartment at about 9:30 or 10:00 p.m. By 10:15, you couldn’t get a place at the wall overlooking the aquaduct and River Rance down below. I bet way over 1,000 people crammed into our park for the fireworks. We found a spot at the wall behind some friendly-looking people, so Lynn got to have some great French conversations with local folks. At 11:00 p.m., fireworks started down in the valley along the Rance, and shot up higher than our place on the wall. Really cool fireworks, similar to what we’re used to on 4th of July celebrations. The difference I saw was not as many colors in the explosions…they seem to like whites, silvers and golds in their explosions.

Even though the French national colors are blue, white and red, you couldn’t tell from the fireworks, and NO ONE was wearing anything with those colors showing, and this is their most important national holiday, go figure. The display went on for about 20 minutes, ended with a real finale burst of every kind of fireworks, then was gone. Great! We walked ½ block home to our place, listened to crowds of people, then crowds of drunks as time passed on, and finally fell asleep.
Early this morning, weather was perfect, so I headed out on the bike to find the elusive “vois verte” converted railroad right-of-way bike paths. We’ve got non-specific maps showing they exist, but nobody I’ve run into has ever SEEN one! The lady at Tourist Information told me to get on the path at St. Samson-sur-Rance, about 10 km from here, which didn’t work. I finally found it at Pleisin-Trivagou, another 8 km up the road. (BTW, road riding here is pretty good! Drivers are courteous and non-threatening, the terrain is rolling hills, the roads near Dinan are not high-traffic ones, and the countryside is beautiful). Once I plugged into the Vois Verte system, I boogied. It is nearly flat all the time, straight as an arrow mostly, and no motorized traffic is allowed. The paths are loaded with locals running or riding, mostly mountain bikes. Surface is unpaved, finely-crushed stone hardpack, scrupulously maintained to a perfectly smooth surface on the parts I rode. My road bike with 28C tires did fine. I went to Dinard on the English Channel, then rode back to Dinan, about 35 mile roundtrip. I found a better way to get on the vois verte nearer Dinan, so will try again later to see what it looks like the opposite direction.

While I was riding, Lynn got ready to cook her rattatouille, and went back to our park to read awhile. She got to talk French to a local guy about his dogs on the way back, and figured the day was a success. Now, she’s making the rattatouille, our apt. smells fantastic, and we’re heading out to see how people in our little town are celebrating Bastille. I have the feeling the town is mostly full of people on holiday, so we’ll see mostly tourists, but what the heck, they might speak some French with us anyway! No matter what, we have an awesome homemade supper to look forward to.

Here’s a TIP: if you’re travelling in France, always say “bonjour” to everyone, when you walk into a shop, or want to talk to a person: they really like it and think you’re rude if you don’t. If you start talking without saying “bonjour” first, like asking a question or something, you will likely get a rude or indifferent response. Using the “bonjour” technique scrupulously, we have had such wonderful encounters with local folks here and in Paris. On my bike journey today, I passed hundreds of runners or riders along the vois verte, and many of them said “bon jour” to me just as a matter of course, even though we weren’t doing anything other than passing on bikes. Even our butcher told Lynn that he is always nice to people who are nice to him, commenting on Lynn’s “bonjour” and courtesy when in his shop. Oh, say “Bonsoir” if it’s evening, or you look stupid.

Adding a little bit from Lynn: I spent a couple of hours in our English Garden nearby reading a book (The Time Traveler’s Wife) and enjoying watching the world walk by – it is so nice to see and hear conversations and realize that we are not on a time schedule and those going by are! Ha – little things are good! Some who pass by are British and most are French. I especially love hearing the children play their games and brief but nice opportunities to interact. I am smelling the pot lightly boiling now and sitting in the window continuing my book….life is good and this is a wonderful trip!!

PIC captions: Bastille Day fireworks on River Rance.
                      Rattatouille par excellence, Lynn's specialty.
                      Us by another section of ramparts we'd not seen before!
CLICK here for all photos and vids:
2011 Dinan and Paris French Adventure

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