Kêr, Mor and Krampouezh (City, Sea and Crèpes)
Parler Paris–your taste of life in Paris and France
Monday, March 28, 2005
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Dear Parler Paris Reader,
We’re an hour ahead as of yesterday (“spring forward, fall back”), so the mornings are darker, but the days are longer. I awoke early on this holiday morning to return the rental car to the Gare de Lyon agency — easier to return than to pick up and get out of town.
In fact, I have found that the hardest part of any weekend excursion out of Paris is the ordeal of actually leaving the city. Paris seems to want to hold on for dear life, not letting you find the entrance to the “Périférique” or suffocating you from exhaust fumes as you’re lodged bumper to bumper with all the other Easter weekend vacationers trying get out to the countryside, too.
Bretagne (Brittany) was our destination for three days of exploration — by Autoroute via Le Mans to Rennes (capital of Bretagne in the department of Ile-et-Vilaine), from Rennes circling southward to the Morbihan, working our way north along the coast through Finistère and back via the Côtes-d’Armor.
There is no better way to “sleep” France than to stay in “Chambre d’Hôtes” (Bed and Breakfast) in the countryside. Becoming increasingly easier to find via the Internet, comfortable rooms can be rented for one night or more in the homes of deeply-rooted country men and women who love playing host to people from all over the world. The welcome and hospitality is always warm, the accommodations usually very adequate and clean, the price unbeatable.
Three of us shared a large room the first night in the home of Jurgen and Jocelyne Heiligtag near Carnac (http://www.kerkristal.com/) for 60 euros (total) including a full breakfast. The second night we were generously accommodated with two rooms at a newly renovated farmhouse between Pont l’Abbé and Quimper, owned and run by a young couple with three adorable children, Nathalie Le Goff and her husband (http://www.itea1.com/GDF/fiche_ch.php?dpt=29&num=52830). We paid a mere 53 Euros for outstanding accommodations and breakfast.
This is the practical side of discovering La France Profonde. Once you’ve got that covered, let your whim and a good detailed map (tough to beat the Michelins) to take you where your heart desires. There is endless wonder in the French countryside and Bretagne is rich with culture and varying landscapes.
The first culture shock you might experience is getting used to the Breton language — descendant from Brythonic, although often mistaken for a modern-day descendant of a Celtic language. Spoken more in lower Brittany, it was the language of the elite until the 12th-century and since Old Breton has left some vocabulary in the present day. Names of towns, streets and houses abound with it and learning how to pronounce them is part of the adventure.
Tasting Bretagne is yet another important part of the adventure. Before setting off for the coast, I had visions of delicate oysters dancing in my head and on my tongue. Fresh Brittany oysters come mainly from Cancale, Saint-Brieuc, or Morlaix on the channel coast. Atlantic oysters come from the Morbihan estuaries. I ordered up a platter of “Fruits de Mer” at Le Bistrot du Marin at the tiny port of La Trinité-sur-Mer our first evening where the Spi Ouest France Bouygues Télécom 2005 regatta was taking place with 500 sailboats more than 7 meters long competing for prizes.
No trip to Bretagne is complete without the typical specialty — “crèpes”(pancakes). “Crèpes de Foment” from the west of the peninsular, and black flour “galettes” from upper Brittany, were both eaten by peasants in the 19th-century, either with a slice of butter or simply an egg. On Easter Sunday, the church bells in Locranon rang for a very long time, filling the cool damp air with sweet music. As they tolled, we strolled around the preserved medieval town until we found a little “crèperie” where we cut into crisp, paper-thin galettes cooked with eggs, cheese, mushrooms and tomatoes.
Cider was the perfect drink to accompany the crèpes. Obtained by fermenting apple juice, it is made with Muscadet and wine of the Rhuys. The best vintages come from Fouesnand et Beg-Meil in Brittany and those from the Val d’Auge in Normandy.
Some of the oldest human monuments on Earth are the megalithic tombs and stone circles of the Neolithic Revolution (planted over 5000 years ago to mark burial sites), set amidst the picturesque countryside, traditional Breton villages and strikingly beautiful coasts. The area around Carnac, near Gulf of Morbihan, is famed for its megalithic remains. In addition to 2792 “menhirs” (massive stones erected by tribes who inhabited the region before the arrival of the Gauls), the area is studded with burial places, semicircles, and tumuli. They remind us of the wonder of life itself. I took dozens of photos as if in a trance under their spell of mysticism.
Later this week in the March 31st issue of French Property Insider, we’ll explore Brittany in much greater depth, including life on the coast with a view of the sea or in an old stone farmhouse surrounded by rolling hills anchored by ancient stone gothic churches in village centers.
For now, take it as a glimpse of a weekend filled with treasures and be sure to add Brittany to your list of wonders of France not to be missed.
A la prochaine…
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“Kêr, Mor and Krampouezh (City, Sea and Crèpes)”
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