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breton11THE TRIP TO FRANCE  2014.

The morning has arrived.

We have been preparing for nine weeks now. The booking was made with LD Ferries from Rosslaire to St.Naziere. They cancelled a week later due to operational difficulties and offered alternative arrangements with Stena Lines to Cherbourg. We now travel one day earlier and return on the same date. 

We are traveling as a trio, our friend Dave is taking time out to join us for a this trip.

The garden is our primary concern. So for nine weeks, sowing, planting and weeding are undertaken with a view to the coming season. Most of our food is now grown in polytunnels, with the exception of garlic onions and winter brassica's. If we sow seeds too soon then cold nights ahead may kill the young seedlings, too late and they will not mature in time to plant out before we leave. If we wait until we get back then the season will be delayed and there will not be any food ready to eat in the coming months. 

At last we are happy that we seem to have all our fruit and vegetables to a stage where two weeks away will not be harmful for them. We set up a watering system that our neighbour can switch a timer on each day if the weather is very hot or dry. Only the cold or unwanted visitors can harm them now. (fingers crossed)


The bags are packed, the final watering is done in the two polytunnels and the glasshouse, we take our morning dip in the Dubh Linn (our river bathing spot)  and we are off.

As always, we are sad to leave our little place so we say our silent farewell for now.

We travelled to Rosslare in Dave's car as Rosie (our Land Rover) is not as comfortable for three people on a long journey.  We will spend most of our stay in Trevignon south of Brest and to the north of Lorient in Brittany, as Breton musician friends have offered us the their house there.  

We took our time driving south to Rosslare as we had lots of it, we sail at 9.30pm. We travelled the smaller Irish roads as we don't like using motorways. They are the same in every country, just mile after mile of road. In Wexford town we spent some time walking around the little narrow streets, Jimmy was reminded of all the times he spent there with his cousins in his youth. We eat traditional Fish and Chips. Then we bought rings of white pudding and Barry's Tea as requested by to our friend Ann in Brittany. Next stop was a visit to Jimmy's Aunt Josie for a cuppa, she lives just outside Wexford town. She and Jimmy's cousins were happy to see us, and she plans to come and stay along with Maureen Jimmy's mother soon after our return. Slan tamall.  

The Ferry,

Well where do I begin !

P5090009There were very few cars travelling, so we were directed up onto the top deck, yes I do mean top. Onto the open deck, and if that seems unusual we got an even bigger surprise when we docked in Cherbourg when all cars had to reverse before driving down the ramp. Well it was a first for us. It seems that Stena Lines have recently purchased this Ship The Horizon and  it is a work in progress. On board paintwork was taking place and furniture was been upholstered.

The sea was rough. So for me that meant travel tablets and to lie flat on my back in the cabin bunk. Dave and Jimmy took a walk. They said it was not easy to keep balanced as the boat was slapping down on to the waves but they managed to hold on tight to a pint of Guinness.P5090019 After a nights sleep all was much calmer in the morning, the sky looks cloudy but the temperature is warmer than at home. The car was completely covered with salt, from the rough seas the night before. So a trip to the car wash seemed a must, but heavy rain did the job for us. 

As our new destination is Cherbourg in the north of France, we have decided to visit the burial sites where both Dave and Jimmy have Great Uncle's buried. They fought and died in the First World War and no member from either family has ever visited their resting place. Before we left home we booked a bed for the night in St.Eitenne du Rouvray Near Rouen in a Premier Classe Hotel. As always we took the smaller roads so that we could see the countryside and visit the small towns and villages. We were stopped by the Gendarmarie along the road and I was breathalised, it was about 6pm so for us this is an unusual time of day.  I am the driver for the holiday, Jimmy is the navigator, Dave has never driven in France so he is happy to be the passenger in his own car.

Remembering the Ancestors

Dave had an address in Nieppe, a small town between Lielle and Armentieres on the Belgium border. Next morning we made our way towards Nieppe. We stopped in Neuchatel en Bray for Breakfast. Some old men were playing dominoes in the cafe bar and the bar woman went down the street to get some croissants for us to eat. They were so surprised to see the woman pay. We had a communal purse for the holiday and as my French is`slightly`better I was assigned the purse strings.  There was a little market in the town square. We bought Bread, Butter, Cheese, Fraise (strawberries) and Cidre, all locally produced, yes we have arrived.

P5100025We arrived in Nieppe just as the rain stopped. After first finding a memorial dedicated to veterans of the Second World War we made some enquiries in a local bar. A customer there soon pointed us in the right direction. We found the grave and marked headstone of Dave's Great Uncle. P5100031It was an emotional experience as Dave signed the visitors book and we reflected on our forefathers and the part they played in shaping "Our World" .

The Address we had for Kamill in Belguim was just 10km. from here. We found it easily, and like Nieppe the graves are well cared for and well marked. It was a very good experience for all of us and heightened the reality of times when they lived and died.  

We went into the nearby town of Poperinge. We took a look around and came across some strange looking creatures...... scary.... 

P5100053 good thing that the shop was closed.

P5100076 Poperinge is famous for it's Hop Plantations, and they are having their annual Beer Festival in September. And with the  luck of the Irish, The Old Fiddler was just around the corner. We tried out some good local Belguim Beers Jupiler and Varso.P5100086 The pub had a good beer garden and a pet's corner. It had very fast P5100101broadband also so we were able to go on line and find a bed for the night in Loon Plage, again a Premier Classe hotel. After a good Chineese meal in Dunkerque we had an early night.

P5100075Our plan was to tip toe on back roads slowly down to Brittany over the next couple of days. But just as we set out we received a message that our friend Christophe would be at his house with the key later that evening.

So we set a course for Trevignon near Pont P5110105Aven in the west of Brittany. We stopprd off in Montreuil -sur -Mer locted on the north west coast, south of Calais. We visited this town in 2005 where we had enjoyed some cpepes, and later the waiters entertained us with some blues haromica playing. This time the Creperie was closed so we enjoyed some chocolat chaud and croissants in the nearby hotel. This is a very beautiful town with a 13th century Citadel which has had many restorations over the seven centuries, well worth stopping here if in the area.P5110113

From here we drove in Strong Winds, through Torrential Rain and even Hail Stones. It was not a day for sightseeing. At times the visibiliity was so bad that we had to drive very slowly. It was Sunday and everything closes on Sunday. Even the garages, last time the 24hr. garage machines wouldn't  accept our Irish Cards, but thankfully things have changed and we were able to refill the tank and continue our journey.

Eleven hours later we arrived at our destination. We enjoyed a well earned Beer and a large Cheese sandwitch in a pub on the Pier in Trevignon with Christophe. He took us to the house and we talked over a glass of wine before hitting the hay (going to bed).  Christophe too was tired as he was coming from a weekend music festival, and had to leave early for work the next morning. 

The next day we settled in, and found our way around. The weather was beautiful. We cooked prawns for dinner. We walked through the Site Natural Protection (nature reserve) to the beach and had a dip in the clear blue Atlantique. We took what seemed like a short cut home, we walked through an overgrown disused pathway where a wild deer was grazing and there was a feeling of eyes peering at us from the undergrowth. When we finally saw a clearing and emerged from the shadows thirty minutes later we realised that we were back where we started. Maybe not a short cut after all, but a beautiful experience. We knew then that we were going to enjoy our time here. 

P5130127Next day we took a drive south to Carnac, this was a place where we felt sure Dave would enjoy seeing, with it's ancient Menhirs, standing stones, Tombs and alignments. He like us was impressed with the expanse of the area and the size of the stones.P5130160

We also took him to Etel, Erdeven and Auray all places where we had enjoyed spending time on previous trips. The weather is favouring us and temperatures are on the up and we are enjoying the beautiful sunshine.

Next day we experienced the market in nearby Quimper. We got some sardines for dinner. It is a holiday for relaxing, eating, walking, reading and painting. Some new paintbrushes, paints and drawing pads were purchased in Quimper. There is a Picasso Exhibition 'The Eternal Feminine' being held in the Musee des Beaux-arts de Quimper later in the month, sadly commencing the day that we leave for home. Later we walked along the beach, and talked to a local very relaxed looking fisherman,  we collected cuttlefish shells. Home again and time for Jimmy to try out his new brushes. 


There are markets most mornings in nearby towns, this time we went to Pont L'Abbe. The was a great food market with hot and cold food to suit every palet, as well as all the stalls selling habidasery, household items, clothes etc.



Later after our now daily dip we enjoyed some Crepes and Cidre in the creperie on the Pier Point de Trevignon. We took some photo's and collected some coloured glass along the shoreline.P5140001

Next day we took a shopping trip to an outdoor activity shop Decatalon to buy some equipment for a planned forthcoming walk around mid-summer  when we get home. We got light weight sleeping bags, shorts sunglasses and a tent that pops up in 2seconds and folds away almost as quickly.  Just the thing for those damp  Irish mornings.

P5140016Again we walked through the nature reserve to the beach for our swim. The melodic sound of the flute accompanied by drumming captiveted our senses before the now daily magical sound of the frogs in the' Lac' lured us once again. We can even hear them from the house. So today it is time to record them. We walked quietly to the back of the lake, not to disturb them or a snoozing swan. We were later to find out that it is necessary to wear boots  and to make plenty of noise as this area is full of black snakes who will bite if they are startled, but hide if they hear noise and we were wearing sandles , how lucky are we ? ..... P5150012

It was time for some more painting beautiful grasses this time. some of our friends were arriving later for the weekend. F5.....

P5160041Next day was a day of tunes and chat as some more friends arrived. Our friends liked to play music outside in the garden but under the bushes in the dark away from the sun. We Irish like to stay out in the sunshine as the fear of sun deprivation when we return home is looming. Later there was time for a walk to the beach, and then some more tunes with the odd glass of Wine, Cheese and Bread. Not too early to bed.WP 20140518 021

Next morning we were up early as we wanted to visit Concarneau a nearby town. We crossed the bridge of this town almost everyday on our way to other places. Today was our day to visit. We crept out of the house quietly and left without breakfast, as we didn't want to disturb anyone. We sat in the sunshine and had breakfast near to the town square. A lot of people were arriving with children dressed in Local Costume and with amazing hairstyles. We watched as musicians arrived. Then we noticed a number of people walking towards a stone walled castle, so we followed. To our surprise we entered a Walled City.

WP 20140518 020  Tall Beautiful houses and Shops in narrow cobbled streets. Before long, marching bands arrived with a parade of the children in Costume. We were in the right place at the right time, and the sun shone ! We were reminded of a previous trip to northern Brittany when Christophe took us to a Fest-Noz Ceilidh in Landerneau. AN ACCOUNT  HERE...

WP 20140518 019

Back home to enjoy the company of friends and the sunshine. We had a relaxing evening of food and chat, some had to leave as they had to get up for work next morning, everyone else left next morning. We too were ready to leave today as there is more places to see and only a few days left berore returning home. After our dinner we bade farewell to our surroundings and as it was a cloudy day it was a good day for travel.

We are on the lookout for some plants to bring home. Dave is a keen gardner and Christophe has already given him some cuttings and roots. Ann has also suggested taking some cuttings from her garden so her house near Baud is our destination for the night. We arrived in the evening and she took us to a Cider farm where we sampled some home brew and some Lambig.

P5190022The taste was good so the back of Dave's car was fast filling up with sustanence for summer days and long winter evenings ahead. 

Later we had a beautiful meal and met Ann's wonderful family, who made us feel so welcome. Christophe has created a magical space for his children, we were soon transported to Faery thoughts and places within our imagination.P5190024 Off early next morning with more roots and cuttings. Also a citronella plant for me to keep away those little creatures that find me so tasty. The car was fast resembling a jungle soon there wouldn't be room for three.

We spent the next day tip toeing through small towns and villages, stopping for breakfast.

We booked into an F1 Hotel in Avranchesl near Le Mont St.Michel and had a beautiful dinner in a Hotel next door.

P5210044I took a stroll afterwards and picked some wild flowers while the lads had a glass of wine.

Next morning we drove out to Le Mont St.Michel to take some pictures. It was very dissapointing to find that all the roads are blocked off to cars except into large car parks, where you then join throngs of tourists on guided trips to the Island. It is the same the world over, where there is money to be made, The Cliffs of Moher, The Giant's Causeway etc.  This was not the place for us.

 Again we travelled the back roads and had breakfast in a tiny village coffee shop run by two local women, they sold locally pickled and bottled jams and preserves. Later we had midday dinner in Brehal close to the coast, with Kir to start and fresh fish this was a really good meal and was well supported by workmen and locals. 

We stopped off at almost every Gamm Vert and Garden Centre along the road as Dave still has a few inches of space in the car to fill. .P5210056 

 When we arrived in Cherbourg it was evening and the town was busy with people leaving for home after their days work. We had a beer and picked up some food for our journey home. We boarded early and had a very smooth crossing.  


Jimmy is still in painting mode and his paintings reflected his mood.




 Every trip to France and Britanny have been so different. This time rest and relaxation were our focus. Music was part of that relaxation this time as there were no sessions, gigs or deadlines. 

Home again to strong wind and it feels cold, but the garden is in full growth and the polytunnels are abundant with flowers and vegetable.

The tigin Liath looks amazing inside as if a transformation has taken place. The welcome of mother nature is tangible.

Theres no place like home