Monday, May 21, 2007

Alors, nous sommes en Bretagne!

And in fact this whole Blogger dashboard is in French so I'm having to brush up my technical jargon to make sure I put the right bit in the right place. But it's still called 'le Blog' which is fun, although I imagine the French language purists are fuming!

Sailed down the River Lee and out into Cork Harbour on Saturday afternoon, past Cobh and its Cathedral.

There is a traditional currach rowing past - you can just see it. These are the lightweight boats that were used on the offshore islands, and they feature in a big Ocean to City Race in June here. It's a surprisingly long way up from the mouth of Cork Harbour to the city quays, I can tell you, and the rowers are exhausted when they get there, necessitating revival with whiskey and hot sausages (herbal tea and virtuous green salads don't cut it with rowers who've done that distance).

I have a nice family connection with Cobh Cathedral: my maternal grandfather had gone over to Boston to get set up in business and make a home for his fiancee (my grandmother, Josephine, after whom I am named) to follow; she, however, having a cold in the head or something when getting ready to board the liner at Cobh, was refused passage. They were paranoid in the early 1900s about illness on board apparently. In a frantic state (well wouldn't you be?) she telegraphed her husband-to-be and he immediately dropped everything and came back on the next possible boat. They were married in Cobh Cathedral which was barely finished at that time - I think they were one of the first couples to wed there. And after all, my grandfather decided they would stay in Ireland and make their living there. Which they did. And which is why I am Irish, although the wanderlust has been inherited.
The Brittany Ferries flagship, the Pont Aven, was as splendid as ever for a ferry, and dinner was the usual sumptuous experience.

Oh help, 'envoyer une image'. Does that mean upload or download? Have to click and see. Whew, it's the right one!

As you can see, we got in fairly early, because of the gales forecast. It filled up pretty quickly after Richard took this picture.

Ajouter encore une image. Choose another image (I think).

Yes. Richard also got a shot of some of the desserts before they were brutally invaded and pillaged by eager diners. You would love this boat (some of you may have tried it already and know what I'm talking about). Dozens of divine French waiters, the sea sliding by in the sunset, and France ahead of you. This has got to be the most relaxing way to get anywhere. Forget airports. This way, the journey is half the fun.
Arrived at 7 am local time and headed straight for Plancoet where Renee was waiting to (a) eagerly receive her best Cork bacon, and (b) proudly show off her little flock of Ouessants. No more delay, I know you're dying to see these little rarities.

They're so friendly and approachable. Most unlike the Soays at Gougane Barra which can't even be corralled. That's what comes of being hand-reared, I imagine. In fact these did most of the approaching -

This is one of the two rams, as friendly a little fellow as you could wish.

Now Renee will have to forgive me, but I have unaccountably forgotten whether this is Gary or Dumpling (I know, I know, she's going to change his name before he's sold on). I think it's Gary. Want a close-up? Of course you do.

And here - here - is my fleece at the still-growing, pre-carding stage.

And again, please forgive me, Renee, blame it on the travel weariness. I just can't remember this lovely lady's name. Titbit? Priscilla? I promise I will check and bring you all the essential details later. Right then, it was a case of rounding-up and bringing in for shearing.

Now I really really love the way Renee shears her Ouessants. None of that flinging them on their backs and slashing off the fleece from a terrified animal in a few minutes. No, she works slowly and calmly from front to back with a dog fur clippers. Yes it's slow, but look at Titbit or whoever it is - does she look stressed? Not a bit of it. She was worrying slightly about her twin lambs, but we checked on them and they were having a high old time in the meadow with their friends.

I have never been at a shearing with less animal stress and that's all due to Renee. I should tell you she runs this marvellous dog and cat facility here in Brittany, where people from all over the world who want to take their pets to the UK but can't bear the thought of the impersonal quarantine kennels, can leave their beloved charges for the requisite time, knowing they are being cared for beautifully and welcome to be visited too. Renee does all the paperwork, the animal passports, the lot, and her business is prospering, because after all who would willingly put a cherished pet into a frightening anonymous quarantine prison for six months? And as regards the shearing, yes, she says, it takes a heck of a long time (and plays havoc with your bent back) but in a 'normal' shearing, the poor animal thinks it's going to be killed, and although it isn't, that's not an experience she thinks it ought to go through. Right on Renee. We're behind you on this one. OK, so it wouldn't be practical for a huge flock of sheep, but it's lovely to see it done here. She might shear another tomorrow, another the next day, and so on.

And here is the fleece, still warm from its previous wearer, being safely tucked away. I'm going to spin this and send a hank of yarn to Renee and her lovely welcoming mother, Sheila, who knits. Now she can make an Ouessant weskit for the winter!

Down in Southern Brittany now - actually I think we're slightly over the border in Loire Atlantique - at Le Chene Vert on the outskirts of the village of Missillac. This place is a find.

It's an old farmhouse set in rambling old gardens festooned with climbing roses, and with huge trees encircling its peace and quietude. We're in a lovely old loft, reached by its own outside staircase, with our own tiny kitchen and bathroom ensuite. Birds are singing, and there are owls calling at night we are assured (no sleep for Richard if there are!) You have to come here. I'm so pleased I found them on the Internet. Heaven bless the Internet!
Struggling with the Aran Sandal Socks (have just sent a frantic message to Tania who is the expert in this field, for help.) There is a very complicated pattern on the sock which continues on to the heel flap, with weird twisty bits on every row, but since the heel is worked back and forth rather than in the round, I have to somehow reverse the instructions. And it is doing my head in. Tania, HELP!
It is raining right now, which is a perfect excuse to go and do a little French shopping. To Landevant and that fell-off-le-back-d'un-lorry yarn shop! I will return!


Kanisha said...

wow LOVE the pics. Gary looks positively rapt with your attention and Prima growing her fleece is just the best! Hope you are having a wonderful time in france I expect Richard is contributing to the local gossip with his long lens;-) Lovely to meet you both. and the photos are wonderful; have a great time. I will shortly be putting the bacon on believe me I have been dreaming about it!

Martina said...

Thanks for the lovely travelogue! And for sharing the sheep pics!

Anonymous said...

The ferry looks divine--I agree, airports are not fun! Thanks for keeping us posted on your travels. Those sheep are treasures!

LaurieM said...

I'm in love with those sheep. The are sooo cute and lively. The pictures are just wonderful! Thanks for sharing.

Anonymous said...

I am far too jealous to think of anything to say.

rho said...

I want to travel with you guys - you find the neatest things -- our ferry here is nothing like that (of course the ferry ride is 10 min or and hour and a half depending on where you are going LOL) -- and the sheep -- awwww....

Tania said...

Re: Sandal Socks. I meant to tell you the errata, since it's just one word in the heel section. "Note: Since heel is worked back and forth, ODD numbered patterned rows are worked as WS rows" This makes all the difference since just the cable rib gets crossed on the wrong side - and it's worked exactly the same either way. Before I even started the sock, I spent an hour charting the patterns on graph paper side by side. I made working the sock so much easier for me.

Pix are wonderful, but it's just past 7 am here and need some coffee to really appreciate them.

Let me know your email so I can contact you directly.

Roggey said...

I always enjoy your travel logs and the photos y'all manage to get of the trip! It looks like you're really enjoying yourself, too =)

Tracy said...

What a delightful holiday you are having! Thanks for sharing it so that we can travel vicariously with you.

Ronni said...

Lovely pictures of what appears to be a lovely trip so far. I hope you continue to have a wonderful time. I'm terribly envious of the fleece and the visit to collect it. I'm sure it will be wonderful to spin up.o

Bridget said...

Since you're on holiday, you may not be able to take advantage of it, but the Harry Potter knitting book Charmed Knits is on sale right now at Knit Picks.....

Hope you're having a fabulous time!

sheila said...

I usually lurk, but once I saw your pictures I knew that I had to say "hi"! I love hearing about your travels and being able to see it as well! I also can't wait to see how the fleece turns out!

Anonymous said...

OMG, I so totally love your farmhouse and its gardens. If I'm not mistaken that is wisteria all over the place? You must be slightly over the border in Loire Atlantique as I surely don't remember Brittany being so green.

Sheep are adorable. What a clever girl is that Renée. Boarding kennels for that lengthy quarantine - brilliant.

And how lovely your story about Cobh. How easily you could have been a Yank.

Can't wait to hear about the yarn rummage. BTW, thanks to that wonderful personal photographer of yours.

Anonymous said...

What lovely little sheep! Quite a change from the big Columbias I had. What is their fleece like, fine or coarse, wavy or tightly crimped? I only had two sheep, the last one died in January at age 16, and I sheared very stress-free and low tech, too. I actually used Fiskers sissors and, to save my back and the sheep's patience, would only cut off enough for a project at the time. Sometimes it would take a month or so to get all the wool off and they looked fairly odd but it worked for us.

Dez Crawford said...

First, a currach! I'm tickled. I have always wanted a ride in one.

Second -- a ferry with food! FRENCH food! Oh my gosh. I love ferries and trains; I even love the ten-minute ride on the battered old auto ferry that crosses the Mississippi River to and fro between downtown New Orleans and Algiers, LA.

Hugs to Renee for what she does for people's pets. I can't imagine having to keep my dears quarantined for so long. I would have to live at the kennel and keep my belongings in storage until the bloody quarantine was over.

Extra hugs to Renee for the way she shears. I have a friend who shears very gently like that; though she uses sheep shears. Each animal has a name and is treated like a pet.

Et les Ouessants! (jumping up and down) Quels moutons belle! I am so tickled to see these guys! What perfect, lovely, exquisite little things they are. They look SO soft!

As always I am GREEN, not just because I am of Irish descent but because I am so envious of your travels!

And "Le Blog?" Snort. Parisians may not approve, but that is SO Cajun, mon vieux!

Eh. Le dejeuner plus de, de nouveux au travail. :-(

Charity said...

I love your posts, Jo, because you are so descriptive, I feel like I've been there myself! Thanks for sharing a new (to me) corner of the world! :0)

Bridget said...

A friend of mine who moved to the UK a few years back, left her kitties with Renee until they could join her there. She said that Renee was amazing, and took really good care of the cats. So I'm glad to see she carries that over to her animals, too.

Anonymous said...

What a lovely way to travel! Makes the journey part of the vacation. And sheep! and farmhouse! Makes me relaxed just looking at it.

Fiberjoy said...

The lambs bounding reminds me of pictures of cave drawings.

Once again you've transported me through your lens and words to an enchanted place where even ferry rides through a gale is something not endured but enjoyed with its focus on the delightful - food.

Maybe someday I'll figure out how to stowaway in your luggage.

Anonymous said...

I love your blog Jo...great pics and lots of inspiration.I am a spinner and knitter and weaver living in NZ, and would love to know if it is possible to purchase the pattern for the Noro Garden Silk throw ?
I would like to knit something similar in my hand dyed homespun.

Sally Anne said...

Whoops this is me again now that I've properly signed in...
I guess having looked at that throw again, it is a rectangle of stocking stitch with a diagonal lace border...right ?

Traci said...

what charming little leapers those sheep are! i see how you couldn't resist. and what a bounty you've collected! i bet it's hard to wait to get home to start spinning.
enjoying your trip with you,

The Woolley Farm said...

Hey, I know french too -- that yarn shop is fell-off-the-back-of-the-lorry (truck for us yanks). What a strange breed of sheep. How's the fiber?

Stephanie said...

Lovely travelogue :-). I am going back to Brittany soon, after living in Belgium for a while. I'll be not too far from Plancoët. could you tell me how to get in touch with Renée? Thanks,

Jo at Celtic Memory Yarns said...

Stephanie, I can't access your blog (you haven't allowed people to log on to it), so I hope you see this.

You can contact Renee via her website:

She is a lovely person and you'll have great fun talking!

Stephanie said...

Dear Jo,

thanks a lot, I will contact her as soon as I'm back in Brittany, it is great what she does.
I'm very surprised the link doesn't work, here is my blog adress :
Voilà! thanks a lot,


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