Bretagne – Jour 2 – Quiberon

The second day in Bretagne started with a simple breakfast of toasted bread with butter and gelée (jelly literally, but I would have called it jam). We had two kinds, both homemade by Colete: mûre (blackberry) et rhubarbe (rhubarb). This goes along with some fromage blanc et café.

After breakfast was a short drive to Port Navalo, which is part of Arzon and the tip of the peninsula forming the Golfe du Morbihan. We parked and walked around the point.

Then was the journey further north up the coast to Quiberon. To get there, we had to drive around the Golfe, then pass by Vannes just to its northwest, then down towards Quiberon. If you use the link to Google maps, you need to zoom out and scroll Quiberon a little left to be able to see the entire route.

Below the isthmus is Saint-Pierre-Quiberon and below that Quiberon. We went down the westward side – the côte sauvage (literal translation is wild side). Here the sea has carved into the rocks of the shore making some nice looking, but dangerous, caverns.

Above you can see my hosts just ahead of me walking on the sand atop the rock out towards the edge. Just beyond them is a cut; they cannot really go any farther. If you could broad jump 4 m then you might be able to cross.

There is the occasional beach. The sign says swimming is not allowed. The current is pretty strong and there are waves. Yes, small waves (almost 1 m waves), but they are coming from a flat-as-glass sea. When there are real waves on the ocean, this beach takes a pounding. Yes, this is the wild side.

We stopped at a number of places along this westward side. One was a small port. There was a man bringing up his dingy. He had a basket of 4 or so large crabs that he had just caught. And another container with 3 or 4 pretty big fish. Jean-Yves is also a fisherman and stopped to talk to him. They seemed to discuss a lot. It was all in such rapid fire French I could get none of it.

Eventually, we got to the town of Quiberon at the tip. We had lunch at a restaurant where we could look out over the Atlantic. I had some type of fish which came with vegetables and small potatoes. We all had a glass of wine. We all had coffee at the end.

Then onward and up the eastern side, this side towards the Baie de Quiberon. The other side of the bay is Arzon, our starting point.

The first stop was at the Alignements de Carnac just outside Carnac. This is the biggest collection of megalithic stones I have ever seen. In scope it dwarfs anything else I know about.

Partway down a field, there is a path to a viewing tower. Looking one direction from the tower, you see five or six rows of menhirs stretching off into the distance. And, the end of the field you see in the above is not even their final extent!

The above is more detail of the stones looking a little more towards the road.

Then you can look in the other direction and see the rows going off into the distance the other way. And, yes, of course, right through a farm. The stones have been there for 4,000 to 6,000 years; the farm invaded the stones, not the other way around.

We then drove to another field beyond the farm you saw above. More and more menhirs all lined up. They go over the field’s rise and way beyond.

At this corner of the road is a dolmen. There is a fence by the road to protect things. I took a number of pictures to try to get a feeling for the size and extent of the dolmen.

It has more of a jumble look in the pictures than it does in person.

There are clearly side stones supporting cover stones.

In this you can see more tourists walking the road. It was not crowded, but there were people all about.

This is the same position as the previous picture, but I rotates around to look down the road the other way. Again the rows and rows of menhirs can be seen.

Now walking back on the road towards the parking spot. The dolmen is visible with the menhirs to its left.

One final picture of the menhirs stretching off into the distance.

At the visitor center, there was this map of the locations of the stones. Just left of center, roughly under the “Les” is the field where I took pictures of the dolmen and menhirs. As you can see, the alignments stretch way off to both sides from that point. Again, I have never seen so many megalithic stones in a single location.

If you visit in the off season, the fields are open to people walking in them. It would be a great time to spend a number of days slowly going over each area and walking down the alignments.

Leaving Carnac, we went to La Trinité-sur-Mer. This is a port town in the bay. There were four or so large racing sailboats docked along the piers. They were the trimaran style with a tall mast that is tear shaped to be completely dynamic in the wind. The outside hulls are such that only one could be in the water at one time. That is, depending on the tack, one would be supporting the boat and all else out of the water.

These are the permanent docking spaces for the racing sailboats. Each had a plaque describing the boat, the captain, the owning company, its accomplishments, etc. Lots of money involved with this type of racing.

From La Trinité-sur-Mer we went to Pointe de Kerpenhir just beyond Locmariaquer. This is way down the other side of the Golfe du Morhiban. On this point we were immediately across from Port Navalo.

In the above, I am standing on Pointe de Kerpenhir looking at Port Navalo. I later measured on a map and it is about 1 km from me to the lighthouse in the distance. And, yes, that is the lighthouse and point we walked around first thing this morning.

I joked the fastest way home was to swim across. My hosts countered that 1 km was pretty far and that the current was quite strong. The tide goes up an down about three or four meters and all of the Golfe passes through this restriction to or from the Atlantic.

From Pointe de Kerpenhir we went to Auray. Auray is way up an arm of the Golfe du Morbihan. It is a very old city and port. The main (old town) quai is named Quai Franklin after Benjamin Franklin. He went to France in 1776 to try to get France to officially recognize the US and become their ally. The tavern where the negotiations were held is still there on the quai. There is a plaque on it to commemorate the event. I also saw a different plaque talking about some thing Cardinal Richelieu did in Auray. The town has quite a history.

After Auray it was the long drive back to Arzon.

After being able to sit a while, catch up with email, etc., we walked to dinner. We walked around Port du Crouesty to a crêperie. Port du Crouesty is in Arzon and where the Hervé’s keep their boat.

I had a seafood galette. It was a mix of many seafood items and very good. Colette had a scallop galette. Jean-Yves has a traditional galette with jambon, fromage, oeuf, et champignons. We shared a pichet of cidre to drink. For dessert we had sweet crêpes. Mine had caramelized apple with toasted almonds and Chantilly cream. That was Jean-Yves choice as well.

Then we walked a little more around the port and finally back home.

Bretagne – Jour 1 – Vannes

The first day of my Bretagne (Brittany) jaunt took me from Paris to Vannes, then around Vannes, then around, with stops, to Arzon.

I took the TGV from Paris Montparnesse to Vannes. It was an early train leaving at 7h04 and scheduled to arrive 10h15, but it was a little late. The voie (track) gets posted 20 minutes before scheduled departure. When posted, the multitude starts walking down by the train, each searching for their voiture (car). It always seems like a long walk. But, I found my voiture and place (seat) in plenty of time.

I did notice that two TGV trains, that is, two different TGV train numbers, were scheduled to depart at the same time. One had a final destination of Brest and the other Quimper. Both are very close to the Atlantic coast with Brest being north of Quimper. My TGV was destined for Quimper.

After going through Le Mans without a stop, there was a stop in Rennes. I stepped off the train whilst it was at the platform to stretch my legs. A fellow passenger warned me not to stand by the train as it would move backwards. Or, at least that is what I thought she said as it was all in French. Backwards?

Sure enough, after a short time the train did go backwards 1 m or so. The train so far had been two trains coupled together. It probably is more efficient that way. Each train was an engine, multiple cars, and an engine. The middle of the combined train was two engines nose to nose. At Rennes they were uncoupled and the rearward train, my train, moved backwards just a little.

We reboarded. The first train took off towards Brest and the second towards Quimper. The next stop for my train was Vannes. I got off and met my hosts (see the introductory post).

We drove to the marina area and parked there. There is a tourist office in the marina area where I got some English language maps and guides.

Then into Vannes through the St Vincent town gate. Vanned was a fully walled town, but the wall does not exist around the entire perimeter anymore.

The streets are mostly cobblestone. There are many half-timber houses. The top picture was taken somewhere in the middle of old Vannes.

You can see the cobblestones, the half-timber houses, and how the houses are stepped outward, almost closing the overhead space. And, of course, you can see the tourists.

We walked up by the main cathedral and then over to the hôtel de ville (city hall), which is a little outside the town’s wall. The hôtel de ville is a much grander and newer building than much of what is inside the walls.

Then back into the walled area and to lunch. We all had steamed moules (mussels), which came with frites, and shared a pitchet (pitcher) of cidre (fermented cider). We each got a dessert treat that was three small dessets and a café espresso. Two of the desserts were Bretagne-specific, one being fruity and the other chocolate. The third was crème brûlée.

Thus fortified, we walked to the east side and up onto the wall. There is a park just outside the wall in this area. The park is between the wall and the current road around town.

The park is all a jardin in the French style. That is, all neatly and symmetrically laid out. (It is English gardens that are seemingly random and usually not highly trimmed.)

The workers were out. It is still early in the tourist season and they were preparing.

The symbol used in this area is a stoat with an ermine cape. You see it quite frequently. And, sure enough, there was one in the jardin.

All of this brought us back to the marina and thence to the parked car. We now started our drive to Arzon.

Our first stop was La Maison du Cidre. For a modest fee, they had a film showing how cidre was made as well as today’s techniques, a number of small exhibits of old equipment, and finished up with a tasting of four cidres.

Their cidre comes in brut, fruité, et doux (dry, fruity, and sweet). The fruité is somewhat sweet, but quite apple tasting.

The specialty is Cidre Royal Guillevic. This is the only AOP cidre in Bretagne. That is, it abides by a lot of special rules as AOP wines do. Only a single type of apple. Fermented a certain way at a certain temperature, etc. They suggest using it as an apéro (aperitif). You would not use it with a meal, just as, of course, you would not use champagne at a meal!

Next was a stop at Château de Suscinio. Started in the 1200s, this was a residence of the Ducs de Bretagne until it fell into disuse and disrepair. The local area government bought it in 1965 and restorations started in 1980.

The restorations have been quite extensive and are extremely well done. There is still more to do and there is still archaeological work going on.

The tour goes up three flights of circular stairs in the mostly restored front section through lots of rooms and banquet halls. Then along of top of the castle’s wall to the back section. Then down a circular stairway, across the building, up two more circular flights, out onto the roof, around and then down circular stairs to the ground level. Phew! Lots of stairs up and down. It is well worth visiting if you get to the area.

Finally, to my host’s home in Arzon. Colette and I catch up on our email while Jean-Yves makes dinner. I ask if I can help and am shooed out of the kitchen. Colette says he loves to cook and likes to do it all himself.

Dinner is some calamar (squid) that Jean-Yves got from the Golfe (Gulf). It was the most tender I have had. It was the bodies sliced lengthwise into pretty large, as in thick, slices. Larger than I have seen. But, very tender. He made a nicely spiced sauce with it. That came with a vegetable and, of course, pain (bread). They nicely provided red wine for me; they had white wine.

Then a salad and fromage (cheese) course. There was Camembert, chèvre, et Petit Breton. The Petit Breton is a local, cow milk, semi-soft cheese. Everyone went to red wine with the fromage.

We ended with a dessert of fruit. We each took a fresh peach, cut it up, and ate it.

It was a long day as I got up at about 5h45 to get ready and make the TGV. I went to my room to read a little at about 22h00. We agreed to start the next day at 8h00.

Berthillon

It is said that the best ice cream in Paris is from Berthillon. Fortunately, they have their own store right in the center of Ile St Louis. Unfortunately, it is very popular.

The long line is for the take away vending counter. You can get some scoops in a cone or dish and then eat as you continue your sight seeings.

To the left of the entrance for the take away counter is the entrance for a “tea room.” There might be a wait there, but it does not get a huge line as the line would not move quickly at all. This is sit down for some confection with tea or coffee.

Many other places on Ile St Louis also sell Berthillon ice cream to take away, but their official store seems to attract the biggest crowds.

Petit Palais

I was prompted to visit the Petit Palais by an article that said:

“Take the price of admission to the Petit Palais’ Fine Arts Museum (0€), divide it by the 1300 works on display, and you’ve got more value than you can shake a selfie stick at. You might not find any paintings your grandmother back home has heard of, but the collection inside this Belle Époque mini-palace is more than respectable with offerings by Rembrandt, Rubens, Cézanne, Degas and Monet.”

While there was never any possibility of a selfie stick ever bring in my possession, there is some beautiful art at the Petit Palais. And there are also works by Delacroix,  Rodin, and many others.

The pictures are of the inside jardin. In the second picture you can see some people sitting. That is the small café associated with Petit Palais. You can sit under the colonnade or inside on either of two levels. It does not show, but there was quite a thunderstorm. Nobody is setting too near the roof’s edge.

Bretagne

I spent the previous three days – mardi, mercredi, jeudi (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thrurday) – in Bretagne (Brittany). That explains why there were no posts. I was traveling light with only my smartphone. Now I need to talk about the experience. This is a quick summary. I will follow up with more detailed posts.

Bretagne is in the northwest corner of France. To its north is the English Channel. To its west is the Atlantic. Its climate is tempered by the winds coming in from the ocean.

My hosts were Colette and Jean-Yves Hervé, the parents of my friend Max. They and Max grew up in Rennes. They now live in Arzon. If you click on the Google maps link and zoom out a couple of times for more context, you will see the closest large city is Vannes. Zooming out a few more times reveals Rennes as well. You are still in Bretagne. Zooming out a few more times shows Paris.

Merdi I took a TGV from gare Paris Montparnasse to Vannes. It is a little more than 3 hours of TGV travel. I was met by my hosts. We toured Vannes and vicinity then looped around, with a couple of stops, to Arzon.

Mercredi we drove around Vannes and then down to Quiberon. We drove back by Carnac, Trinité-sur-Mer, Locmariaquer, and Auray.

Jeudi we only drove around Arzon, but we took their boat for a tour around the Golfe du Morbihan, circling the biggest island: Île-aux-Moines. Then I was driven back to the gare at Vannes for the TGV ride back to Paris.

Every day we were mostly outside and walking all day. I got sun, but not too much sun, on my face and arms.

I got to try most of the “major food groups” of Bretagne. No surprise that seafood is very popular and, of course, fresh. Dairy is also popular. No problem for me as I love milk and cream. Many apples are grown resulting not only in apples to eat but also cidre (fermented apple juice). And, my friend Max would not let me forget the galettes – gâteau rond et plat; sorte de crêpe composée de farine de sarrasin. They are similar to crêpes, but made from buckwheat.

Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile

I had been to Arc de Triomphe de l’Étoile at the western end of Champs-Élysées, but not yet up to the top. It is a short walk to St Paul and then Metro 1 to Place Charles de Gaulle (formerly Place de l’Étoile).

When you get to street (Champs-Élysées) level from the Metro, almost immediately is the start of an underground passage to the Arc de Triomphe. This takes you under l’Étoile, the twelve avenues radiating from the Arc de Triomphe. It would be impossible to cross at street level.

Near the end of the underground passage is a billetterie (ticket booth) for going to the arch’s top. Fortunately I had purchased my ticket online. The line was already well into the underground passage and it was just the opening hour (10h00).

Back at surface level, there is a huge flag flying from the middle of the arch. It was a day with a little wind and the flag was stretched out very nicely.

There was a short security line for those of us with tickets and then into the circular stairs to the top. There is no elevator option. I did not count the stairs, but there are a lot of them. The circular stairs lead to an internal-to-the-arch room with some exhibits. Then a standard set of stairs to the next, still internal, level with more exhibits and a souvenir store. Then yet one more set of stairs to the terrace level up top.

Note: Today was a good (bad?) day for stairs. When I was leaving the apartment and was most of the way down the stairs, I noticed I had my reading glasses, not my long distance ones. OK. Back up to the apartment. Switch glasses. And start again.

From the tour eiffel I took a picture of the Arc de Triomphe. Here is the reverse: the tour eiffel (and on the left the box it came in) from the Arc de Triomphe.

This westward to La Défense. I cannot see the huge arch there, but you can see the long, straight avenue leading directly to it.

Moving more northward you can see Sacré-Cœur on its hilltop. In the foreground are the spikes of the guard fence keeping us from jumping from the top of the Arc de Triomphe.

Finally, eastward is the Champs-Élysées. Again, I cannot see the intermediate-sized arch or Place de Concorde, but the long, straight avenue is plain to see.

The pictures from tour eiffel and Arc de Triomphe give you a feeling of the size of Paris. As an historical comparison, the Arc de Triomphe location was right on the city wall marking the city of Paris limits when it was built.

Parc Rives de Seine

The hot, sunny days continue. I am sure it is wonderful for some. While I like clear days, I prefer the temperature to be much colder.

At the boulangerie yesterday, I said something about it being too hot and the owner agreed with me. Of course, they are baking in their back room!

Today is Ascension Day. It is a holiday. Many museums and some stores and cafés are closed. I just took a walk downstream on “my” island and then across to Notre Dame. Lots of tourists. The cafés in these tourist places do not close for holidays. Then across the Seine to the Parc Rives de Seine.

I noticed that it is “rives”, that is, plural, but it is only the Seine. It finally dawned on me that I was not carefully seeing rive vs. rivière. Rive is bank/shore/edge or in this case the river bank. Rivière is river. So, of course, it is the plural rives. It is the park of the banks of the Seine.

One more thought. There is also fleuve, which translates to river in English. A fleuve is a big river, usually one leading to the mer (sea).

This came up when a guide was explaining the three-pronged trident of Poseidon (Neptune). He said the three prongs were rivière, fleuve, mer. Later he said to me that he had not found a good English translation for that. I thought of stream, river, sea.

Parc Monceau

I read somewhere about Parc Monceau. It is in northwestern Paris. Today was another nice day for strolls outside. I took the Metro to the Monceau stop and the park main entrance is right there.

I assume the lake and “ruins” are all staged items. That is, not really some ancient Roman artifacts.

This is the other end of the same lake. And you can see the arch bridge in the background as well.

Back to the original scene, just from a more distant spot.

All in all, it is very pleasant. Many shaded places to walk. Lots of benches. Quite a lot of people, but I found a shaded bench and read a while.

Not surprisingly, there were a lot of children. Many were in the grassed areas either sitting, usually with parents, or playing with a soccer ball.

But, there were specific child-oriented items as well. You can see the carousel below. To the left, out of the picture, are swings. And, most amazing, there was a pony ride! For some fee, your child got to mount a pony and you, the parent, got to lead the pony around some of the park pathways.

Barbe à papa

I have seen food vendors advertise barbe à papa and it did not take too long to figure out what it was.

Barbe à papa directly translated means dad’s beard. The same product is known as cotton candy in the US.

I don’t think cotton candy has much resemblance to any father’s beard I have ever seen.

From an eating view point, anything to do with a beard sounds quite unattractive and uneatable.

From the opposite view point, I cannot imagine something as soft and sticky as cotton candy on my face.

Tour Eiffel – 3ème étage

I did not get a strong positive response from any of those coming to Paris to visit me in June about going to the 3ème étage (top) of the tour eiffel (Eiffel Tower). The online tickets to bypass the line sell out more than a month in advance.

Today was sunny and I decided to get up relatively early to go to tour eiffel. I left the apartment just before 9h30, the opening hour of tour eiffel. I took the RER C from St Michel to close to tour eiffel. There is a stop that calls itself the tour eiffel stop, but I think it as far downstream on the Seine as the previous stop is upstream. And, the walk from the upstream location is nicer.

Yes, there was a line to pass through security, but not a long line. And, yes, I had to queue to get my ticket (17€ to get to the top), but only briefly. The ticket line had doubled by the time I got to the station and was loading into the elevator.

The initial elevator ride takes you to the 2ème étage (2nd stage). It goes by the 1er étage (1st stage) and keeps on going.

I immediately found the queue to the next elevator that takes you to the sommet (3ème étage). Unlike the first elevator which goes up inside one of the pillars (and goes at an ever changing angle to do so), this elevator goes straight up the center. There are actually four of these elevators in a cluster, although each is independent.

Each étage really has two different levels and the 3ème étage is no different. The level the elevator reaches, the lower level, is glassed in. The views are great and there is no wind (or rain should it be raining). But, of course, one goes up the stairs to the upper level. It has wire fencing, but is not really enclosed to the weather.

The opening picture shows the southern half of the Bois de Boulogne. This is Paris’s largest park (bois is woods) and is on the western side of Paris. On the left hand side of the woods one can see the Hippodrome d’Auteuil. By careful inspection you can see the racing oval and just beyond it the three grandstand buildings. One of my pictures from the racing days showed the tour eiffel in the background; this shows the hippodrome in the background.

Looking further north is the other half of the Bois de Boulogne. The high rise towers in the back on the right are the Défense area. There is a straight line of site from a small Arc de Triomphe that is just between the Louvre and the Jardin des Tuileries, to the Arc de Triomphe in Place Charles de Gaulle, then on to Grande Arche de la Défense. All of Défense is beyond the height-limiting zoning of Paris.

This is almost the same except it more clearly shows the Jardins du Trocadéro in the foreground, which come right up to the Seine.

Now to the Champs de Mars which proceeds eastwards from the base of tour eiffel. That tall building just after the park? That’s the Tour Montparnasse. It was the first building inside Paris to be a modern skyscraper. And, the last. It is what caused all of the height zoning to be put into place. If one is at the Sacré-Cœur, both tour eiffel and tour montparnasse are visible on the horizon. The Parisians say “there’s the tour eiffel and the box it came in.”

This shows the Seine and, just across it, the Grand Palais exhibition center.

Moving further northward, there is Arc de Triomphe at Place Charles de Gaulle.

After my picture taking, I queued for the descent to the 2ème étage. I walked around both levels looking at the 360 degrees of sites from a lower angle.

In a vain attempt to relive my youth, I decided to take the stairs from the 2ème étage to the 1er étage. There was no sign saying how many steps that was. At least it was all down. I remember going from the 2ème étage to ground level via the stairs back in 1965 or so along with my brother Henry. My knees will remind me later today that it is no longer 1965.

The 1er étage now has some glass-floored areas for those who wish to see nothing but space below them. There was the usual mix of those not wishing to go out, those taking careful steps, and those jumping up and down. The latter is mostly young children accompanied by panicked parents.

I did take the elevator down from the 1er étage to ground level. After wandering around a little, I took the RER C back.

Madge, Jan, and I have a reservation at the Jules Verne restaurant later in June. It is on the 2ème étage, but has its own elevator in the south pillar. So, I hope we will be able to take in the view while dining.