Friday, 18 May 2018

Dawn on Monday

On Monday I woke early and rushed to the sitting room window to see the view.

The tide was in, the sea was a deep blue and the sky a beautiful blushing pink.

I considered taking a shower and making my breakfast, but that view kept calling to me and so I slipped into some clothes and took my mug of tea outside to sip.

That's the thing, you see, since quitting the corporate cage I've learned to listen to the little voice that whispers, "Go with your instincts, follow your heart, do not waste this moment." 

So now I do. 

The light changed so quickly. It would have been such a shame not to have gone outside to enjoy it.

One minute pink and blue and then a hint of gold.


And the dawn was gone.

I returned to the apartment where I showered, dressed properly, packed my bags, cleaned and tidied and then took one last walk.

I could have lingered. The AirBnB host had offered me the use of the apartment until midday, but I was missing Tashi and keen to collect him from the kennels.

And it's not as if I can't return whenever I please...

Thursday, 17 May 2018

Sunday Afternoon Swimming

And then I headed back to Trégastel.

I was still learning how to pronounce kouign amann, still struggling to get my English ear attuned to it, so I thought I should seek inspiration in the real thing.

Not these, these are for sharing, I bought a one-woman cake to take back to my apartment

And then I decided that since it was still morning I would enjoy a coffee and a cake in the shop near the pool. The one that sells salted caramel kouign amanns.

And, joy of joys, they were still warm from the oven.

A word of caution: Consuming two kouign amanns sent me to sleep for an hour.

When I awoke there was an impromptu boules competition underway outside the apartment...

And the tide was in...

And people were playing on the water...


I almost missed the kayaker...

Paddle boarding...

Much too much like hard work, I think...

There was a fresh breeze blowing off the sea so despite the cloudless sky and bright sunshine, it was still a tad chilly but...

I hadn't gone all the way to Trégastel not to venture in for the first wild swim of 2018...

Life is too short not to...

So I did. I waded out, first in swimsuit and sweater, and then I returned to the beach to shed my sweater and ventured back in swimsuit and T-shirt, and then I returned to the beach to shed my T-shirt and so there was no reason not to dive under the water,

It was cold. So cold it took my breath away. I splashed, and gasped, and then I swam, slowly at first and then faster and with more confidence.

And it was so exilarating I couldn't stop laughing.

And to think, I hesitated about returning to Brittany. Wondered if it would be a mistake. Thought I might not feel happy and safe here.


Wednesday, 16 May 2018

Sunday at Trégastel

You know, you have to start the day with a smile when this is the view from your window...

A quick, healthy breakfast and I headed to Ploumanac'h, the town most loved by the French. At least according to this sign by the chapel. In 2015. And I have no reasons to doubt that it still is. It's one of my favourites too.

I think we already 'did' the sculpture park, and I've taken you along the Sentier des Douaniers so many times you are doubtless tired of that, so, and in the spirit of trying something new because you really do never know what you may find, I headed in the opposite direction from the beach.

Oh, hello! A view of the pink castle...
I'd stopped here to sit on a bench and meditate for a few minutes.

I know, you are tired of seeing the pink castle.
Not everyone shares my passion for it.

One last one, with a little fence.
I've become quite enamoured of seaside scenes that include little fences. I think they remind me of my childhood and holidays at the beach which were, funnily enough, not that frequent.

The town's beach seen from up high with, of course, a little fence...

Another view with a little fence...
Last one with a fence, I promise.

The rocks in the foreground are known as La Baleine.
I have a very good imagination but it took a little squinting and moving around before I could see a whale in them. I think, perhaps, when viewed from the beach, with the tide coming in? I'll check that out next time...

The walk I took was on the Landes de Ploumanac'h.
There are a lot of such places called les landes de Somewhere or Other here.
It's very restful, very zen, very conducive to frequent pauses to breath, to smile, to meditate and to smell the flowers.

And to learn the lessons that life is always trying to teach us...
Such as, sometimes we are trying to survive in a hard and rocky place, sometimes we struggle to find the light, sometimes we have to be flexible and to bend, lest we break.

Lovely old pine trees, all gnarled and bent and some with broken branches...

"The world breaks everyone and afterward, some are stronger in the broken places." Hemingway

"Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail." Emerson

I think that sums up my life in Brittany. I tried to follow the path that others walked. I tried to fit in with the herd, twisting myself out of shape during the process until I almost broke. I tried, and I failed. Now I walk where my heart leads me. 

I loved seeing the yachts sail into view.
Sunday morning and people were out having fun.

Even though it looked like hard work from my lofty viewing point.

On the way back down I popped into the chapel.
I have a private cancer healing meditation that I find easy to engage with when I am in a holy place. Even though I am not religious.

St Guirec's little oratory on the beach.

It is nigh on impossible to avoid Breton saints here. They are everywhere. Most of the stories recount how these men, I think they were all men, came from Ireland and Wales and Cornwall to persuade the Bretons to leave their pagan ways and become Christians. Personally, I am more in the side of the pagans but I still love the saints and the tales of their miraculous deeds. All to be taken with a large pinch of sel, of course.

Back in the town, I popped into a shop with the intention of buying a silver ring as a reminder of my weekend away. Alas, the woman in the shop nearest the beach had such a bad attitude: couldn't be bothered, barely spoke to me, produced a tray of rings and proceeded to amuse herself playing with them while ignoring me. It was very unzen of me but I really wanted to say to her, 'Madame, since you appear to be disinterested and are treating me like a nuisance, I decline to give you my money!"

I didn't, of course.

I bought one ring, because I liked it, and I then left the shop without buying anything else, walked back towards the car to a shop where the owner IS polite and welcoming and bought several other souvenirs from her.

Life is too short to waste time on people and places that are not pleasant.

And with that, I got in my car and drove back to Trégastel for the afternoon...

Monday, 14 May 2018

Playing away at Trégastel...

I've just spent the weekend at Trégastel.

Now, I know that this is not a rare event for me, when the day dawns bright and the skies are Breton-blue, the dog and I usually head for the Pink Granite Coast with Trégastel being our favourite destination and the beach facing the Chateau de Costérès our favourite playground...

But this weekend was different because I went alone and I stayed over.
For two nights.
In an apartment with this view...

No, really, this was the view from the windows of the apartment.
As I washed the dishes, as I cooked my dinner, as I made a cup of tea, as I wandered from the bedroom, as I sat on the sofa, this was the view.

Of course I was wandering towards the castle within half an hour of getting the keys to the apartment. I hadn't been to Trégastel for over a week and I had missed it.

I do wonder, sometimes, if the people in the castle (for rent, too expensive for me, alas, but I live in hope of managing to afford a week there one day), do the people in the castle see me hovering around, taking pictures, collecting shells, swimming in the channel that's warm and deep enough even at low tide, admiring the castle and smiling at the pink stones, and do they think, 'Gordon Bennett! That old bird is back!'

Do they view me as a suspicious person, a stalker of pink stone castles?

I am not alone, lots of people turn up to admire the view, wander up to take a closer look, it's a famous site in Brittany, this pink castle.

I didn't linger for long, the tide was turning and my way back was becoming wetter and wetter...

It did occur to me that one day I may become stranded by the rising water.
It's only a matter of time!

Once I'd said hello to the castle I headed into Trégastel to the aquarium. Being without the dog had given me the freedom to venture into places where I would not take him. 

The Rags and I joke about this place because everytime I go to Trégastel I send them a text and a picture and ask if they've heard of it which, of course, they have, they have also visited many times. 

I know, family jokes don't always amuse other people!

It's a very friendly place, the aquarium.

The staff are welcoming and so are the residents who often pause to make eye contact.

Have you ever been to a zoo and gazed into the eyes of one of the animals and thought, 'Wow! It looked at me!" and half-wondered if the animal was thinking, 'Yum, foodstuff!'

Well, at the aquarium the fish are as curious about the visitors as we are about the fish...

This guy seemed particularly taken with me.

But I suspect it was my shiny silver camera that had attracted his attention.

The non-fishy inhabitants were blissfully unaware of my presence...

I spent a great deal of time sitting on the floor and watching these guys mating.
One of the staff stopped to give me an impromptu lecture on the breeding habits of seahorses, how they are monogamous, how the third seahorse in the tank lost his mate last year and so is now loveless. We discussed the equality of the male gestating the young and giving birth, though I loved being pregnant and wouldn't have missed that time creating The Rags.

I'm old enough to remember when a trip to the seaside involved buying decorative sea urchin shells and dried seahorses. Now the seahorses are an endangered speices and are protected by law, but I doubt I'd want to take a dried corpse home anyway. 

While I was in the aquarium the heavens opened and it poured down, which was not a problem because my next adventure involved being immersed in salt water. Not in the sea, in the heated indoor pool at the Forum de Trégastel. 

Virtual visit here :

It was a little too busy for long-distance swimming, fortunately for me, I am very out of practice since last year when I swam daily at a pool near my home in Drayton.

But still good to be in the water and stretching my muscles.

And when I emerged after ninety minutes I decided I had earned a kouign amann which, if you are unfamiliar with these Breton specialities, is a cake. It's mostly composed of layers of flaky buttery pastry, very flaky and very buttery because in Brittany we do love our butter; and it may be either a plate-sized cake for sharing or a single serving, and there may be caramelised apples, there may be a thick layer of sugar crystals, there may be salted caramel...

I bought one from the eatery on the corner by the Forum, and had to ask for 'l'un des gateaux là-bas' (pointing), 'desolée mais je ne peux pas prononcer le nom en français..' 

Happily, the woman at the counter understood and I got my cake to take back to my apartment to enjoy with a nice cup of tea... 

while gazing at the now-watery view as the tide rose to surround the castle..  

I was tempted to swim in the sea.
I hadn't done so since last November.
But it was cold and grey and not too inviting, even at high tide.
So instead I sat on the sofa and worked on the novel I'm writing for which the pink castle is my muse and my inspiration. 

Thursday, 12 April 2018

All at sea....

I love swimming, I think that's now well known, and I've been gazing at the sea and longing to plunge under the waves for weeks, but it's still a little chilly here, so what to do?

A boat trip?

A friend had decided to pop over for some R&R and to de-stress because we're really good at that in these parts, so that clinched it.

Les Sept Îles...

We boarded the boat and sat upstairs at the back. Now I am a notoriously bad sailor, famous in the family for my green complexion and tendency to throw up when the dreaded mal de mer strikes, as it has done on every one of the more-than-fifty crossings I've taken with Brittany Ferries, and let us not even recall the times when my brother-in-law took me sailing in the Solent on his yacht.

This time there was a fresh wind blowing and the sea looked choppy and I was slightly concerned that I might need the bag I'd brought along, just in case, but happily all was well.

Of course les Sept Îles are, in fact five islands, the name being thought to be due to an error in writing the original Sentiles, which amuses me since I am a freelance proofreader, but there are some large rocks that could, at a pinch, count as islands.

The first stop was to see the birds nesting on l'île Rouzic...

The gannets were present in large numbers.
As we watched many were flying in with strands of seaweed in the beaks, busy nest-building, others had already completed their second-home renovations and were engaged in mating rituals.

The razorbills were bobbing about in the waves. Apparently they mate for life and lay one single egg each spring.

Cormorants always seem solitary. Lone sentinels standing guard.

The islands are now protected and a bird sanctuary so visitors are not permitted to land on them, save for l'île aux Moines.

But you wouldn't want to disturb the nesting birds or the grey seals who've also come to breed. And as the boat lingered near the rocks I did wonder if we weren't being too intrusive.

The final part of the boat trip took us along the coast off the Sentier des Douaniers.

What can I say?

This is my No 1 Playground to which I return at least once a week, sometimes three or four times.

The rear view of the chateau de Coastèrés, my muse and my happy place...

While we were cruising and admiring the rocks a dolphin appeared above the waves.

People, I am in my early sixties, I have horrendously arthritic knees, thanks to a lifetime of skiing and squash playing and I am still affected by my cancer treatment, but I was so excited by the appearance of a dolphin that I climbed onto my seat and perched on the back, the better to view him. 

And that, I think, is why I love Brittany so much.
It is here, in this region of tree-covered hills, pink granite rocks, sandy beaches and wild places that I have rediscovered the feisty little tomboy kid I once was. 

I am running wild and loving it!

Oh, and the puffins, you may be wondering if we saw any puffins?
No, not yet on the islands. It's too early in the season.
Next time I will give you puffins...

Useful Info:
Head for Perros Guirec and the Trestraou beach
There is free parking, follow the signs.   
We ate lunch at Les Régates on the Boulevard Joseph le Bihan.
The cheeseburger was the best I've ever eaten.
The boat trip leaves from the far end of the beach at the gare Maritime.
Book a day in advance and arrive twenty minutes before departure to pay and receive your tickets.
Take binoculars, sun cream and, if you like and he's well-behaved, your dog.
After the boat trip you'll want to go to Le Glacier des Sept Îles back on the Bvde Joseph le Bihan for a salted caramel ice cream and please, mention to them that plastic spoons are unnecessary but if they must provide a spoon could it be wooden?

Here's the link to the Brittany Tourism page    
and one for the Perros Guirec Gare Maritime for booking info