Thursday, May 24, 2007

Of Dolmens and Chateaux - And A Very Special Sheep

Our last night in France. Tomorrow (Friday) we head north to Roscoff and board the ferry which will deposit us safely back in Cork on Saturday morning. Actually that will be today, since now I look at the time, it is after midnight. We were out late, searching for owls and things on the salt marshes.

Had a wonderful time exploring tiny picturesque villages, discovering ancient dolmens, talking to local people, and taking full advantage of every patisserie we happened upon. Pictures of all of these follow.

But FIRST...

When I shared the delight of the Ouessants with you in the last posting, the lovely Renee emailed me to say that although her charges were very pleased with their publicity, there was one who was not so happy. One who felt she had been Left Out.

Please study this picture closely.



Now you may not have noticed, so I will have to help you a little. One of those at the trough is a little different to the others. Can you spot her? Look again.
Yes. Well done!



This, dear readers, is Esmi.

Esmi is a very loving, very lovable, and utterly charming sheep. (Quiet there at the back. Of course she's a sheep! Who said cow? WHO said pig? Disgraceful! Epouvantable!) Naturally she was hurt when her little dark-fleeced friends got all the attention. I explained (via the good offices of Renee who translated) that I had left her out only to give her special attention, allow her to shine, in another posting, when the rest of the gang would be studiously ignored.

What's that? Oh the breed. Well, Renee is the expert here -

Esmi is now reassured her true worth has been recognised. :-) As for breeds I don't think we'll ever know for sure; originally she was a raffle prize! She was sold to me as a Texel cross ; however the farmer next door was convinced she was Avranchine but I don't think so. A lady came out to visit a few weeks back who knows her sheep and felt there was some Berrichon in there which looking at the books is probably right. I just know she is a wonderful gentle sheep who loves nothing more than a head scratch.

There. Now don't you think she's lovely too? Good girl, Esmi. Miss Brittany Fleece 2007!

I thought you might like to see the place we could have stayed if we wanted to.



This is the Chateau de la Bretesche, a hundred yards or so down the road from Le Chene Vert where we are still contentedly ensconced. The gigantic park round the back is currently being used as a golf course, one understands, which attracts the well-heeled. But we didn't want all that bother of toiling up winding stairs every night, so we settled for good old farmhouse style instead.
The Ile de Fedrun is a glorious little isolated island area out in the salt marshes where the cottages are as cute as all hell and probably sell for prices in direct inverse proportion to their size. Thatched, painted, shuttered - wouldn't you kill for one of these?



In fact we were fortunate enough to meet up with a genuine thatcher, hard at work on one of the old cottages. He was using reeds, beautifully tied in angled bundles so that the rain would run off in just the right way.




He told us that most of the reeds he uses don't come from round here but from the Camargue in Provence.

Finding a little place open in the middle of nowhere mid-afternoon, we stopped for some restorative cafe creme, and the owner was delighted to see my Aran Sandal Socks in progress. In fact he sat down and told us all about his grandmother who used to knit socks too.




"But she did not knit them like this - on this one long needle. No, she used four or five little ones, I remember, although I was young. I remember too that if she put the needles on the table, we little ones would run off with them, so she would stick them in her chignon. And then she would not remember where her needles were and would say, 'Find them. I cannot knit my stockings without my needles!'

(Oh and since we're on the subject, no luck on the Landevant yarn treasure store yet. Went all the way up there on Monday only to find that the old French tradition still held sway. Shut frequently shut often, shut as often as you can possibly get away with. 'Ferme le Lundi' was the cheerful note on the door. A surprising number of yarn shops in France shut on a Monday. It isn't at all clear why. It's not as if they opened on a Sunday or anything - or even on a Saturday for that matter. Do Frenchwomen never feel the urge to possess a new yarn at the start of the week? Is there a regulation against it? Would it spoil some vast eternal PLAN? Anyway, it is on the schedule for our trip north tomorrow. Will come back to you on this one. Celtic Memory never gives up.

Some of the most wonderful things you discover in this ancient part of Brittany are the dolmens and menhirs - those awe-inspiring stone reminders of an older time when people knew of worlds and ways that we have long forgotten.




This is the Fuseau de la Madeleine, standing vast and immovable in a grassy meadow. A fuseau, I think, is a weaving shuttle, which is a nice link, isn't it? But the interesting bit is that it is right next to a very serious site of pilgrimage - a Calvaire with a huge parking site, cafes, everything, and all determinedly linked to a more modern religion. Is that entirely coincidence? This isn't the first time I've come across an ancient site with a newer one either plonked on top, or right next door. If you can't beat 'em, the emissaries of Rome must have thought, better try and deflect 'em sideways...



And this spectacular site is the Dolmen de la Barbiere. It's on the top of a little hill, surrounded by trees, and the power of the place hits you in the solar plexus as you enter the central hollow. An amazing echo from the past.

25 comments:

Victoria said...

Thank you so much for sharing your trip while you are on your trip! Again your photos are gorgeous and you make me want to travel so badly!

Charity said...

Esmi is darling! What an expression! :0)

Peg-woolinmysoup said...

Esmi - a face that a mother could love!
I would stay in the cottage - not for me are castles, but homey cottages!

Love the story of the needles in the hair bun!
You can listen to podcasts on your computer too.
Have a safe journey home!

linnakat said...

What a wonderful holiday! Thank you for sharing it with us. And sheep!

Tan said...

OK, Esmi IS a cow, right? Don't tell her I thought so. Love the ancient stones--so lucky you weren't sucked through to another time.

LaurieM said...

Wow. Just wow. Everything, the stones, the thatching, the cottage and castle and Esmi too. Hmmm.. nice trip.

pacalaga said...

I can feel that last place all the way over here. There should be a slightly dirty 8 yr old boy wearing a brown cloth, behind the big one on the right. His name might be Robin.

Kanisha said...

Esmi would like to thank an obviously appreciative audience. Any references to cows or pigs must surely be typos? She would also like to point out she is available for public appearances and supermarket openings..... anytime...

Loved the guy with the knitting wonderful story!

Angeluna said...

You skip so lightly from one subject to its diametric opposite, informing us gently all the way.

Esmi, my goodness. I will say, whatever she is, she is unique. Assume she is already sheared????

And the dolmans and menhirs, aren't they wonderful, just scattered every here and there with no one paying them much of any attention. A Breton will tell you that Merlin wandered the lands on this side of the channel. You can find Le Tombeau de Merlin (Merlin's Tomb) near Paimpont (Brittany). He met the mystic Lady of the Lake at the Fountain of Barenton (in Brittany).

Wishing you good luck with the mysterious yarn haven. Knitting needles in the chignon, marvelous.

The Woolley Farm said...

That is definately one weird sheep. Or Pi-eep. Or Sheow (sheep cow). Something definately jumped the fence. That sheep deserves a book... or a pinup.... or at least an article. Wonderful!

Artis-Anne said...

Aw Jo many thanks for these photos of your trip . I have been many times to Brittany and these brought back many happy memories ; I must go back soon. We have visited that many dolmens and menhirs whilst there (an obsession of my son, he was a huge Asterix fan, think he still is )
the churches are fantastic too.
Esmi doesn't look like any sheep I have seen but then looks aern't everything !!
Enjoy the rest of your travels

Heatherly said...

oh what a wonde4rful trip! i want a thatched cottage! with some cow-sheep-pig things in the yard

Ronni said...

Thank you so much for sharing your trip with us. It's beautiful and enlightening and inspiring. I think I might have plumped for the winding stair simply because that would be the only way I'd ever get to sleep in a castle. But that cottage is cuter than anything. And quite amazing in a way to know there are still thatchers to be found.

Scotlynn said...

Though I may never actually set foot on shores beyond my own, my soul has indeed made many trips courtesy of your delightful commentary and Richard's wonderful photography. Are any of your travels published in media we here in the states can access???

Lesley said...

Safe travels!

Jocelyne said...

Beautiful trip, and beautiful pictures!I know what you mean about shops closed on monday! It's always on monday that I suddenly have great ideas and ABSOLUTLY need yarn!... and have to wait : that is one the excuses for my huge, and neather the less ever growing,stash...
The reason why they close on monday is because they are open on saturday. The legislation says that shops must be open only 5 days a week, and not on sunday. You can chose the day you want to close the shop, but most of them choose monday...

Holly said...

What a lovely trip! Your writing and pictures make it feel as if I was right there.

Fiberjoy said...

Intriging, every picture and story.

Esmi captures the imagination. I should like to see her in person, to "Love her and pet her and name her George."

I echo Angeluna's query - "is she sheared?" What is her wool like?

Kanisha said...

George ?? Esmi needs love as much as you can give but shes not too sure about the name change! yes shes shorn about four weeks ago. Her wool is nicely crimped whiter than white and not far removed from a brillo pad. However I have a cunning plan and a couple of bottles of pink poodle dye I have always wanted to dye her pink and this year is the year watch this space..........

Martina said...

Esmi looks so sweet what ever her lineage is! I just want to give her a hug! Do you think that maybe pagan and non-pagan religions choose the same spots to set up because there is something "spiritual" about those particular locations? It does make you wonder?

Lorraine said...

Hi- I've come across your lovely blog, and I'm a regular visitor.

It's fun to travel vicariously, and Brittany is a beutiful place.

That Esmi is a honey!

Fiberjoy said...

Kanisha, my apology. I did not mean to offend. That quote has been careening through my head ever since Yahoo group, Spindlers, has been delving into the history of that phrase, which was used in classic Bugs Bunny cartoons, a phrase originally taken from the Steinbeck book Of Mice and Men. It's said with great affection.

Yes, delightful Esmi might love being pink for a couple of weeks.

Kanisha said...

Fiberjoy all is clear:-)Esmi forgives you although hopes there is no reference there to cartoon sheep........... she will love being pink she also has a delightful pink fluffy tiara to go with it.

Kanisha said...

And finally after many scratched heads we have an answer Esmi is a pure bred cotentin!! a rare breed of sheep from lower Normandy which funnily enough is where i bought her from! enfin!

Anonymous said...

How beautiful to share your photos of bretage and more especially my Dolmen! that is right i played there from the ripe age of 5 til i moved to the NY in 1981. I go back to the Dolmen everytime i visit my hometown Crossac. No coicidence that spending so much time there i am a little cookie and dwell in the healing arts and the runes cards. My father and both my grandparents were born in Fedrun and i know the island like the back of my hand. Thanks for the beautiful pics ...lots of memories