Sunday, 6 June 2010

A memorable weekend

Saturday was one of the hottest days I have experienced. It is not usual for Brittany at this time of year so Pascal decided to delay our trip out until later in the day. In the meantime he had commitments to meet and I pottered around helping out in the house.

After a leisurely lunch on the terrace, under the umbrella, we set off for Dinan. This medieval town is a must-see in my opinion. Its buildings are hundreds of years old, it oozes charm and it’s truly beautiful. I took a lot of photos of the interesting and ancient architecture. The shops are beautifully presented and the whole place feels less touristy than other towns or cities such as St Malo. I wished I had the money to buy a few mementos but even if I had, Singapore Airlines wouldn’t have allowed excess baggage. So, I must be content with my photos. Pascal made a number of helpful suggestions as to where to go for different experiences.

Thanks to him I had the opportunity to enter a patisserie and Pascal bought us each a special Breton cake, Kouign Amann. Apparently it’s chocka with butter, more butter and sugar. It was heavenly. I washed it down with cider while Pascal drank a Heineken. Steinlager is pretty much unheard of in Brittany.

The streets are very narrow and cobbled and it was quite a work-out climbing back up the village towards the car park. As I heard church music through an open door to the cathedral curiosity got the better of me. I’m quite bold in France and think nothing of peering through windows to have a look, so entering the cathedral with my camera wasn’t too challenging; the service had just finished and the organist was winding down.

It was very dark and cool inside. Only a few people remained. The stained glass was almost the only decoration inside yet there was plenty of interest. The stonework was magnificent and the atmosphere felt hallowed but welcoming. After a few moments my curiosity sated, I caught up with Pascal who was making arrangements for dinner.

Next stop, St Malo. This town/city is fortified and on the coast. Its architecture is not quaint, rather it is very grand. The granite buildings are in excellent condition despite their age. This town is large and caters for tourists. It’s a port where many people with money live for part of the year and rent out apartments for large fees during the summer, to the tourists who flock there. I enjoyed its fortifications and splendid architecture though my preference would be Dinan if I was choosing a home. There was a bit of an emotional void for me when visiting St Malo because it’s so tourist oriented and I don’t feel like your average tourist.

To polish off the day and also my last weekend in Brittany, Pascal took me to a restaurant and bar owned by his friend Bruno. We debated the issue of my insistence on having my meat well-done because it just not DONE in France. The customer is not right and doesn’t get what they want how they want it, necessarily. There’s a cultural difference between France and NZ when it comes to food. In NZ it’s not a cultural foundation, simply a means of survival or to have a good time with friends. It was with some trepidation that I awaited my beef-would it be bleeding all over the plate? How many times would I need to send it back?

It arrived reasonably well done with a hint of pink so I could cope with that. Bruno had made a concession for me and I appreciated it. However, there was something odd about the 'thing' on the top of my meat. I thought perhaps it was some sort of potato cake. I asked Pascal what it was. He wouldn't tell me, simply saying it was a vegetable. I wasn't convinced but he wouldn't tell me more. I took a bite. It tasted and felt like 100% blubber. Pretty disgusting really. Pascal still refused to tell me what it was but he was prepared to finish it for me. In the end I had to ask Bruno what it was and he explained it was raw duck liver. Well, no wonder I didn't like it. It's not all in my head. Earlier in the weekend Pascal had cooked some rather suspect sausages. He couldn't explain what was in them. I never did find out but I didn't like them either. I think a fair amount of blood was involved in their production.

Pascal stayed late to converse with his friend Bruno and his staff. Bruno supplied a bottle of champagne and somehow I ended up entertaining everyone with a rendition of one of the Maori hakas I used to teach kids so many years ago. It went down really well.

So, I had a very memorable weekend. I saw many wonderful things,met many kind and fascinating people who are wanting to help me with my dream, tasted a lot of new dishes and drank a lot of french wine and champagne with no nasty after-effects. I had a lot of fun and activities I could not have done without Pascal's friendship.

Sitting on the bus driving through the middle of Brittany, back to Plelauff, watching the beautiful cloud formations overhead, I reflected about my wonderful experiences in this part of France. I thought about the lovely man who had come into my life and was now gone. What an exceptional friend. I hope one day we can meet again Pascal. I'd love it to be this year and I wonder if my destiny will allow it.


Defogger said...

I love the tales of your food and drink, and the wonderful people you have met. Pascal sounds like a friend equal to your qualities. I hope you do get to see him again, soon. In writing this you will be into your Monday, and I hope the news regarding your beginner's lesson is good. You deserve every success! Time is certainly flying.

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