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.
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.