BRITTANY REVISITED - Weeks 9~10
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It was so
difficult to tear ourselves away from Gavarnie after 5 days camped in this
glorious setting looking straight up at the craggy walls of the valley
head. Before leaving, we had enjoyed 2 more excellent days' walking amid
the Pyrenees' highest peaks (Photo 1). One disappointment was
failing to reach the Brèche
de Roland because of so much melt-water still pouring down from the
great Taillan Glacier. From the opposite ridge above the classic glacial
de Pouey Aspré, we did however get distant views of the Brèche
as the cloud drifted across - not what we had hoped for, but still
exhilarating (Photo 2).
We also witnessed more Pyrenean wildlife: Lammergeyers (bearded vultures)
swirling above us, hunting with a flock of Griffon Vultures - enormous
birds with 3m wingspan - and marmots, buff-coloured furry rodents, some 75
cms in length which nest in colonies on scree slopes at around 2000m.
With space in our camper now severely reduced from our purchases, we crossed the Gironde Estuary via the Blaye ferry. After a pause to buy the more reasonably priced AOC Premières Côtes de Blaye, we continued northwards for a 2 night stay in the relatively unknown rural retreat of the Marais Poitevin. This area of reclaimed fenland is riddled with drainage canals, and is known locally as the 'Green Venice' (Photo 4). And the campsite to use is the delightfully quiet municipal Relais de Pêcheur at Le Mazeau.
The final stage of our journey brought us via Nantes, Rennes and St Brieuc to the north coast of Côtes d'Armor in Brittany. At the village of Plougrescant, the eve of 14 July, the Fête Nationale, is celebrated with fireworks on the beach at midnight, accompanied by a Breton bagpipe and biniou band. Such a fitting climax to our eventful trip. But we still had 5 days left in Brittany, spent at 2 campsites whose owners had become friends over many years of family holidays. The first, les Tamaris near Paimpol is set on cliff tops overlooking the blue waters and rocky shoreline of Bréhec Bay (Photo 5). M et Mme Menguy, a charming couple of indeterminate age, have kept the campsite from long before we first stayed there in 1991. Each time we have returned, we fear they may have retired (or worse), but on arrival, there they are just as before: Mme greets us enthusiastically with enquiries about our family, while M Menguy stands quietly in the background. The normally peaceful Brittany is a seething mass of holiday-makers in mid-July - it's only 3 hours drive from Paris these days; Ouest France, the local newspaper, proclaimed 'Vague de touristes sur les plages Bretonnes'. But the isolated cliff tops up at les Tamaris are a haven of peace. During the day, the sea sparkles across the bay, and at night the lighthouses and buoys twinkle along the coast. While at les Tamaris, we spent a day on the small off-shore island of Bréhat. These days it's essentially a holiday island, but the semi-tropical micro-climate means that every cottage gardens blossoms with Brittany's iconic hortensias and agapanthus flowers (Photo 6).
Our final camp before the ferry from Roscoff was at Baie de Térénez, another long-standing favourite. But to our regret, Liliane Pétiot, the owner whom we had known from many years of family holidays, had moved; the site was the same and the bar was still open, but without Lili's ebullient presence, something essential was missing. We enjoyed a relaxing last 2 days, and of course a couple of lunches of moules-frites (Photo 7) and a quiet pression with the local newspaper Ouest France (Photo 8) after shopping in Plougasnou market for our homecoming supper. It's home now, but our next travels begin soon to Hungary when again we'll publish regular updates of our web site. Stay watching ....
Sheila and Paul Published: Tuesday 19 July