Monday, 6 June 2011

Hard'a Port

A long weekend of 4 days is always a wonderful opportunity for the French to get out of the Paris area and into the countryside. Many have family homes in more rural areas which they can escape to and this is the case for Jean-Claude. We were off to Binic, a small seaside town on the northern coast of Brittany. La Morue en Fete is a festival celebrating traditional Binic life and seafood. They were expecting anywhere between 20,000 and 40,000 visitors for the weekend.

The trip lasted more than three hours, rolling through countryside that was very dry everywhere. Some of the crops were stunted or patchy through lack of moisture. The flatness of the Beauce area gave way to the gentle undulations as we headed towards Rennes, administrative capital of Brittany (La Bretagne) and a major motorway junction. Yes, everyone had the same idea and there were some slow patches in traffic.

Brittany seemed greener than Ile de France, at least the trees and fields weren’t struggling quite so much with the drought that is tightening its grip on France. Crops traditionally grown here are cauliflowers and artichokes but there’s plenty of cereal too.

Sometimes you can see wildflowers growing optimistically alongside the highways and roads. They are becoming rare as farmers maximise production of crops by using herbicides so the beautiful meadows painted by Monet, Van Gogh have disappeared. The scatterings that remain comprise meadow plants and small versions of old-fashioned plants that my grandmother used to grow but which you would not see wild in NZ… the cocolicots, digitalis, daisies, centranthus, periwinkles and others I recognise but whose names have long since faded from my childhood memory.

Binic is quaint, picturesque and lively during this weekend. The main thoroughfare is pedestrian-use only and lined with merchants selling local products. The port structure was built by Louis XIV and is very tidal. There are harbor doors that open and shut during the tides to allow the boats into the inner harbor. A large expanse of sand provides relaxation for bathers but the water is very cold and the coastline rugged.

I especially enjoyed the entertainment. The traditional Breton dancing was charming but I didn’t see any of the old traditional tall lace hats Bretonne women used to wear. The instruments had a Franco-celtic sound as you would expect: celtic bagpipes, flutes, accordions, drums. Brittany is of celtic heritage, different to the rest of France and the residents are proud of the differences. There’s even a Breton black and white flag. Recently there has been a bit of a resurgence in the old Breton language. Place signs usually have both French and Breton labels.

Of course I absolutely had to have a Breton crepe; my usual choice being chocolate and banana, and it did not disappoint me. Long tables were set up all along the promenade to cater for all the visitors and despite the chilly wind they were well patronised. I was interested in the presentation of icecream too. Different but lickalicious.

I met JC’s father Marcel who is 90 years old. He lives several months of the year in the house he built 30 years ago which is atop a slight ridge and near to the church belltower. There’s a lovely view of the harbor from JC’s bedroom. The house is built on three levels in a typical style. We left the car parked outside and walked as much as was practicable up and down the hill and around-about.

After exploring the centre of Binic we explored the trail from Binic north which has a trail around the cliffs. Both of us took frequent photo stops to try to capture some of this wild and beautiful countryside. Occasionally I include a few of JC’s photos on this blog but his camera creates such enormous files that mostly I can only publish my own humble efforts here on this blog. As is so often the case, we were stymied by sea fog and haze. At other times we contented ourselves by trying to find houses and calvaires representative of Brittany, scattered about in hamlets, villages or towns like Paimpol.

Photos show Binic, icecream, JC's father and the family home.
The next post focuses on our trip around the Ile de Brehat, a northern promontory and collection of Islands (part of an archipelago) facing the direction of England.


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