Sheltered in a deep cove at the north of the Bay of St Brieuc Paimpol is a quaint but not quiet little port.
In years gone by the fishermen of Paimpol set sail across wild and stormy seas in pursuit of the plentiful cod off the Icelandic coast.
It was a dangerous occupation.
Just along the coast from the town, at Perros-Hammon , there is a chapel that lists the names of those lost at sea and the Widows Cross marks the spot where the women of Paimpol would stand gazing out to sea in the hope of seeing the sail of their menfolk's boats. But fishing was a dangerous occupation and many of the men failed to return, they were simply swallowed up by snarling seas, tossed hither and thither by torrential tides, drowned, sacrificial lambs on the altar of the high seas.
Today pleasure craft outnumber the fishing boats in the harbour at Paimpol and the sea must seek her victims elsewhere.....
Each August Paimpol celebrates her sea-faring links with the Fesitval du Chant de Marin, here's this year's description:
Come along to a unique festival, and enter a world full of surprises and overseas discoveries in a welcoming, spicy and friendly atmosphere...Every other year, the quaysides of PAIMPOL host a major gathering in honour of traditional seamanship and seamen:the old docks are filled with fully-rigged vessels, and a lively music rises up and reaches even the remotest recesses of the port, whether it be sea chanties, traditional Breton music (festoù noz, bagadoù...etc), brass bands or world music...
For this eighth gathering, Africa and its warm, colourful sounds will be celebrated, from the shores of Maghreb to the Cape of Good Hope, from the banks of the Nile to those of the Senegal River.....
A hundred bands, a thousand singers and musicians, among which you will find some of the great names of both African and Breton music...But also dozens of exhibitors as traditions and local products will be an essential feature of Paimpol 2007...You will have the occasion to taste seafood, grilled tuna, sardines...etc. Last but not least, Paimpol will be busy with street artists, various displays of water sports, exhibitions...etc.
Have I mentioned before that Bretons adore music and never miss the opportunity to get together to sing, dance and make music?
On Sunday we woke to a steady downpour. Correction, I woke at 6am to cloudy skies and managed to fit in three hours of gardening before The Ragazza appeared and the rain started.
When it rains in Brittany it really rains and so we decided to set off for lunch in Paimpol. So, it seems, had a great many other people. Paimpol was packed.
Down by the water the town is a tourist-trap of twisty lanes and cobbled streets with, bien sûr, many opportunities to part with some holiday money...
Sometimes, if you time it just right, you can avoid the crowds and wander almost-empty streets.
But you have to pick your moment and savour it.
The omni-present boulangerie perfumes the air on this petit coin with the scent of baguettes and croissants and the most mouth-watering pastries.
Of course it is open on a Sunday morning, this is France...
Past the quincallerie where, if you look closely, you can see one of the carved wooden figures that stand under the eaves....
This one sells the best oyster knives in the area as well as providing a wonderful photo opportunity!
This picture of an advertisement on the side of a shop shows an unexpected reflection of the stone building opposite, a leaded glass window that I hadn't noticed and the photographer, a shady character standing next to a motorbike...
Who'd have thought I'd catch so much with one click?
The lobster pots traps that lie on the bottom of the bay wait to catch those hapless crustaceans who are lured into their one-way only depths by the tasty bait
This stylish tourist trap that sits on a street in the town waits to catch those hapless visitors who are enticed into it by the interesting window display.
I was attracted to the wonderful fishmonger's shop by the old wooden rowing boat that sits outside the shop and the collecton of lobster and crab pots that surround the doorway
Inside I found this marine mouth-watering display of fishy flavours...
We ate lunch by the harbour.
Not shellfish, the day was chilly and damp, we opted for a large plate of steak and chips, 'French fries' as the charming owner told us with a smile when we ordered. The restaurant was full of French folk enjoying lunch en famille, so very different to how the English spend their Sundays.
And then we left in a downpour and headed for the Pink Granite coast so that I could indulge in a little trip down memory lane.
It did not look as pretty as this picture, taken six years ago on a sunny November day, but the parking area for trippers to the Ile de Brèhat was packed with cars and the little ferry was crowded as it set sail.
The Ragazza sat in the car listening to music and watching the raindrops racing down the car's windscreen but I ventured forth to walk a little, to admire the pink rocks, to idly kick at the lumps of seaweed lying stranded on the shore, to indulge in a little nostalgia.
To wonder if next year I will finally be ready to turn my back on the corporate cage and return to France...
And then back to the car, to get stuck while trying to reverse on too-wet grass, and to damage the clutch cable, which would lead to a rather 'challenging' few days driving and a somewhat anxious return to St Malo the day before we were due to depart. But that's another story...