31ST JULY TO 4TH AUGUST
31.07.2014 - 04.08.2014 24 °C
Set off from Bayeux about 10.30, said goodbye to the horses, taking the D road to St. Lo. This town was competely obliterated during the liberation battle, so we wondered how it looked 70 years on. Sadly there are precious few stone buildings around, whether they chose not to use stone to rebuild the central part of the town, or whether the stones themselves were pulverised by tanks and blasts or maybe the stones were "recycled" elsewhere in the district? The modern St. Lo is concrete post war, very neat and tidy, but not a lot of character, which can only develop over centuries. Couldn't find a parking spot other than the locals blue ones, so we continued on our way.
The motorway took us swiftly down to Dinan, sorry Will, didn't go in for your lemon tart! Maybe another day?
From Dinan it was back to country lanes and got to Langourla ok, for once on the target time. Very little traffic around except agricultural wagons bringing in the harvest. Took a walk into the village to explore the little place, and had a cider in the bar before returning for supper.
The converted bakery is an interesting it house, because it was a bakery, with a staircase up to the staff quarters and had a cottage attached with another staircase, now it is one building and the two old wooden spiral staircases sit side by side and both start from the entrance lounge. Great fun getting cases up them! The house is furnished in the old style, old furniture and creaky floorboards. There are 3 letting rooms and they cater for evening meal if you would like. Philip is a great chef, had a gorgeous piece of fish, which he said was Black "?" a fish cross between cod and pollack, which they sourced from Erquy, up on the north coast near st. Malo, where we saw the showjumping setting up last year. This year the World Equestrian Games are in Normandy at the end of September. Quinoa we had in place of potatoes, must say it is the first time we encountered it, and it was great. Looks similar to couscous but has more bite and flavour.
Now put in forward order for lamb on Sunday. Saturday night is French Fish and Chips and Jazz at the bar up the road.
Feeling that we ought to do something to work off this food, we took a walk down to the village lake. The track round it has various points where timber frames have been set up with exercises to do at each one. Oh, got so feeble, trying to bend and twist between and under the poles! Still no one around to laugh at us and it was fun to do. Lots of fish in the lake which you can fish for between 8 and 8 until October 1st, but no swimming allowed , shall have to go to the pool for that.
Nice climb back up to the village passing 4 horses in fields along the way.
Langourla, during the war, had the Gestapo billeted in one of the large buildings of the village and at the other end of the village the SS had taken over another. They said they don't see many Germans here normally and this year none have been seen in the village. On D-Day Anniversary and Remembrance Day we are told that there is a huge crowd, young as well as old who come to the monument in the centre. Our host reads a memorial poem, which now he had been here some years, he translates into French, and there is a blessing from the priest at this village commemoration. He says he is always taken aback at how many turn up, because on a daily basis, the village seems to be populated by about 50 people.
Visited Moncontour, medieval village which has had a great deal of restoration work carried out to its buildings. Compact and difficult to find parking, but once you are in it is well worth a walk around. Found a tea shop run by an English woman - what a surprise! Hiked up and around the battlements or what is left of them, so walked off the ice cream. No scones though.
A couple arrived at B&B from Germany, he is English, but has lived in Germany for 20 years and his wife is German. They have family here locally, but the son's house is still undergoing major upgrading so they needed to have B&B close by. Delicious meal again by Phiip, he was a chef in UK then worked in the hospitality arrangement offices in Hiltons there before coming out here 7 years ago.
Hadn't been to Josselin for years, it was really busy and the years have been kind, lots of Brits seem to have bought places and done them up. Saturday is market day there and it was HUGE, spent ages wandering round the stalls and was so tempted to buy fresh stuff but it is too soon. They do a terrific trade there, on our way down into the thick of it, we passed a stall with two enormous pans, one a paella and one a tagine, must have been a metre diameter and the sides about 9" high. On our way back up, both pans were empty! Mostly it was a practical market, not many gift or craft stalls, but interesting all the same. The fish counter was marvelllous with a great choice of fish and shell fish. Got a bit of a watering during our stay there as the forecast, though it had said storms, turned out just to be showers, one of which was pretty heavy.
Drove back through deserted lanes to chill out for the afternoon and look forward to the jazz tonight. Philip's cat Misty escorted us part way down the road to the bar, whether it was our company or the smell of the fish and chip van, am not sure. The fish and chips were a novelty, pieces of fish caught off Erquy, chopped into small pieces, then dipped in a herbed crumb mixture instead of batter and deep fried. There was a queue waiting by the van, we placed our order and sauntered inside to get a drink and listen to the music. Very mellow mood music by 3 teachers from England, two of whom have a house in the village and spend all their school holidays here - very nice. The fish and chips were served in triangular cups, chips at the bottom, fish pieces on top and a flap to take the tomato sauce or mayonnaise at the top. Delicious it was. The music was on for a couple of hours, finishing with blues numbers by the guitarist. He was really good. The bar was pretty full and the tables outside too. This next weekend is the jazz festival. Gathered that the village will be very busy for 4 days.
In conversation last night with the expats, we were admiring all the old stone houses and how well they have been done up, but it seems that, unlike UK, with land being so cheap, it is more cost effective to buy a piece of land and build from scratch. Most of them have taken up solar energy, underfloor heating, heat recover systems and so on. Obviously, with all the woodland around, they also go for wood burning stoves. Planning is quite different too. If you build within the town or village boundary then you need to run it past the mayor, that is all. If you build more than 500 metres from the town you don't need any permission! Building plots around here are priced at between 27 and 40 euros per square metre for the land. Out of town around 4 to 9 euros per square metre. Not found out what building costs are though.
SUNDAY 2ND AUGUST
Sunny Sunday, greeted at 7 a.m. by the church bells. Very insistent they were, so glad didn't have a hangover! So far we intend to get out early to go places, but the couple at breakfast have been interesting and we sit chatting about all sorts for over an hour each morning. Apparently at their son's place, not only is it a work in progress, but it hasn't even got the loo in commission yet. So the couple reappear here as and when during the day.... Today it has been hard for them, working in the garden, trimming hedges with the sun blazing down. But at least, as they said, they won't need to go to the gym for a week or two.
We went up to Lamballe to a market, trying to track down the oilcloth man, but he wasn't there at that one. Found a big gifty shop along the road at a place called St. Alban. It was along the lines of Kingsley Village, not surfing gear though, but some sailing stuff, some speciality foods and pottery with Breton and local themes, as well as the usual cards and so on, we took a browse around and put a few more euros into the local economy. Decided we would go the beach, then the cloud bubbled up and the water didn't look so tempting.so we just drove along the coast road and looked at a few places . Finally turned inland and settled at Jugon les Lacs,where there are plenty of water sports available, a pool, mini golf and water park (small). Bernie declined to take me for a spin in a pedalo, shame as it looked really tempting and at least I felt if I got shipwrecked I could swim to the side quite easily! The lake was about 750m long by about 500m wide, Trenance Lake would have fitted in it a few times over!
Tried to find out if it was ok to swim in the lake, but either the people I spoke to were English or were French people from another part of France. Our hosts had said that they thought that it was not permissible to swim there, but could see no signs, so in the end decided not to go in.
Along the routes we took today we passed through more villages which looked so good. Jugon Les Lacs itself is charming, with mostly stone built houses and shops and stone paved streets and square. Lots of stone houses looking for new owners too. Also, being Sunday, lots of cyclists out, and we had a couple of diversions which the satnav did NOT like, as they towns and villages were closed to motorists of any sort, as well a the usual lorry ban on Sundays.
Another couple arrived today from Gloucester, the ferry was so overbooked that they ended up sleeping on the floor, even the couches were full. They have bought a cottage in the village here and are over to check on progress. The other couple are spending their days working on the son's house, so everyone is working but us, HOORAY!
Philip did a super beef bourguignon tonight and a handsome Bordeaux wine to go with it. Followed by cheese and meringue with home made icecream. Slept soundly....
MONDAY 3RD AUGUST
At breakfast the German guest told us that they found the prices in France much dearer than Germany. She said it took her by surprise, as always before the reverse had been the case. She also said that she was really impressed with the American Military Cemetery at Omaha, how well it was laid out, but she said she found it difficult to find a German War Dead Cemetery, they found one, but she said it was nothing like on the scale of the Allies ones. Surely there must have been many German casualties in that onslaught too?
Being our last full day we decided to spend the day visiting Dinan in order to see if we could find that custard tart for William, lovely day and the town was busy but we managed to park right in the centre. Went down to the river and up, wandered the streets and bought a belt in the belt maker's shop like last time. However, the patisserie was shut on Mondays, not just the morning but all day. However, most of the other shops were open in the town.
On the way back we have stocked up the old wine lake to set us up for the winter. Also tracked down other bits in the supermarkets and now the poor old car needs its tyres pumping up. At Dinan there was a trotting race meeting, so we pulled up on the verge and cheated by looking on over the fence!
Looking forward to our final treat here tonight, then it is off home tomorrow. So dear all, this will be my last blog post, cannot believe the day is finally dawning. Will take a lot of getting used to being back at home, we will have such memories of all the folk we have met, the places we have seen, which, if we can bring them all to the surface, will keep us going for years. Am especially looking forward to catching up on all your news over the last couple of months.