Spring & Summer 2009

As usual I am catching up. OK, I’ve been here on my blog via my “Tweets” (see top left) but posting has been something I have overlooked, not only on this blog but also on my Père au Foyer blog.

Carentec

March saw us on holiday in Carentec, in Brétagne (Brittany) – we had a week of sunny warm weather, in fact very nice for March. We even ate outside at lunchtime. Whilst there I managed to write a diary for a few days, but then when we got back home I just left it so long that I never got around to continuing it. However, it seems a pity not to share it with you – so here is my broken diary for our holiday over there:

Carantec, Brétagne (Brittany)

This week sees us in Finistère – on the northern coast of Brétagne. Thumpah had a week to take off before May, so we decided to go off for a break. Our friends, Catherine & Didier, recommended Le Résidence du Golf, in Carantec, to the north of Morlaix and facing St Pol de Léon and Roscoff. So we booked online through France Loisirs, and in the end took a two bedroom appartment even if it cost slightly more. The extra spend is well worth it to give Rémy a room to himself.

So we left on Saturday 14th March, travelling via Chartres, Le Mans and Rennes. There are no autoroutes in Brétagne so the last part of the journey was on upgraded Route Nationales. All in all, counting the usual refreshment breaks for a baby and ourselves the journey took around 9 hours. We realised that the distance is about the same as our trips down to the Périgord, which is quite a surprise really.

Having arrived we were really very pleased with our appart – the bedrooms are just big enough, but the best part is the large (for an appart) living area and kitchen corner. Plenty of room for a 21 month old baby to run around without him hurting himself too much. As we are on the ground floor we also have a small terrace that faces an outdoor swimming pool, not in use at the moment. Even so, we do have an indoor swimming pool at our disposal near the main reception area – a matter of a minutes walk away. In fact today (Thursday) we went to use it for the first time. We were the only ones there!

Upon arriving we were dismayed to see the car park full – but then found out that practically all of those staying in the résidence are retired. So in fact the whole place is pretty calm. Of course Rémy makes enough noise, but he hasn’t been so bad – Thumpah even asked the neighbours opposite on our second day if they hadn’t been too disturbed by him screaming occasionally. Apparently they hadn’t.

Sunday

Was quite a calm day, as a priority we went off to do some shopping and found a Casino open Sunday morning nearby. In the end we bought just enough food to last for our stay – although we’ll have to go and get stuff like milk etc.
So we had a peaceful Sunday eating out on the terrace – it was just warm enough to eat outside and so far every day has been sunny and warm. Perhaps due to the micro-climate, although Thumpah’s parents tell us that it is quite sunny and warm back in the Essonne.
After a relaxing afternoon we went off down to the small beach which is just below the residence, although by car this meant a 5 minute journey to get there. We can see the estuary from our appartment down the hill through the trees.
There was time for Rémy to explore the beach, and play with his bucket & spade while Daddy took some sea shots. In fact it was quite chilly and in the end I was glad we were both wearing jackets, while Rémy wore his new fleece and anorak combined. Finally I ended up putting on a pair of gloves. The rest of the week has got warmer – for heavens sake, it is only March! 🙂

Monday

A lazy morning followed by a trip out to visit St Pol de Léon and then Roscoff. We didn’t spend an awful lot of time in either, but just enough time to walk with Rémy. As we hadn’t bothered to offload the pushchair we didn’t want to stray too far.
At Roscoff we had planned to take a boat to the Île de Batz – to the north of the town. But in the end, we found that the boats were not very often and that would have meant quite a wait. But we did wander along the long jetty which eventually takes to to the embarkation point. Was a bit scary though, as it wasn’t at all toddler proof. Rémy loved putting his head and the top half of his body through the bars, irrespective of the long drop into the sea below! We were juggling between taking photos and trying to stop him from diving into the sea!

On leaving Roscoff we came across an old London Routemaster bus parked next to a roundabout. It seems to be there on a concrete plinth open to the elements acting as a storeshed-cum-publicity hoarding for a Beer & Wine warehouse store, intended to catch some custom from Brits looking for cheap booze.
I already knew that this particular bus was there a couple of years back after someone emailed me a photo of it. So it was nice surprise to see it was still alive, but perhaps not kicking.

Back to Carantec for lunch, then after Rémy’s sieste we went off to the other beach to the north of Carantec town centre. Here there is a road leading to a small island only accessible at low tide. But the time we arrived the tide was coming in, but it did make for some lovely photos and Rémy loved picking up pebbles and shells.

Tuesday

We made the trip over to Brest, the big naval port and here we were hoping to see some St Patricks Day celebrations. In the end what greeted us was quite an ugly town which had obviously been so badly bombarded in WW2 that much of the buildings were of postwar concrete. We didn’t find any celebrations either, so we visited Océanopolis, a place we’d seen in our guidebooks. As it is off season, we were lucky to find that there were not that many visitors – aside from a couple of rowdy school parties – we felt like we had the place to ourselves. We visited a few of the aquariums inside then had lunch at the café there which was very reasonable. On our way out we were able to see a couple of seals through peepholes, which were being taken care of before being released back in to the wild. Much to Rémy’s delight one of them came straight to the peephole he was lookin through to say “hello”.

After Brest we travelled west to La Pointe Saint Martin, where the coastline is just outstanding. Made up the disappointment of Brest a hundred times over. Here we found a ruined monastary opposite a light house and a chapel. All reached by a cliff path with quite a long drop down to the sea on one side (oops).
Rémy amused himself walking up and down the steps to the lighthouse all by himself as we stood there on edge as if watching a circus trapeeze artist. OK, he only tripped once…

We travelled further north to the port of Lanildut, and the roche de crapaux (Toad rock), which again failed to disappoint. We were practically the only ones there – to see the stunning views and crawl all over the rocks.

Wednesday

In the morning we headed south to the town of Morlaix – which we had passed around on the main RN to get to Carantec on Saturday. The guidebook said it was worth a visit, so we decided to take a look. Upon arriving we came across two buses, one of which was an old Renault PR100 – which are starting to disappear in France. Another sight, perhaps more interesting to those of you not into buses, was the very high viaduct along which passes an SNCF line.
As I was taking a photo of the bus I heard a voice to the side of me say “Vous êtes passioné de bus???” – How do I reply to that??? Turned out that the voice came from the driver of the bus I was taking a picture of. He had just arrived to take up his duty and was perhaps bemused to see some mad English bloke taking a photo of the rear of it! We had a nice chat, and he seemed really nice about the whole thing (from experience I have met very few nice French bus drivers). He then made his excuses to dash off to his bus so I bid him “Bonne journée”, then he went off to the one behind, then came back and handed me a “plan d’horaires” for the town (the company is called TIM). As I said a grateful merci he ran off to his bus started up and disappeared in a cloud of blue smoke. He obviously didn’t have to time to stick around and chat, but it was nice of him to take time out to humour a bizarre bus enthusiast from the other side of the channel.
Morlaix was well worth a visit – surprisingly there are some very steep streets and small lanes in the centre of the town. Really made us both out of breath pushing Rémy around – but I think we needed that.

After Morlaix we headed south east to Plougonven, where we picnicked in the grounds of the church there. In fact surprisingly the door of the church was open so we were able to visit the inside. Rémy is going through the stage of “chaude” and making blowing noises, this, ever since he saw a candle lit air freshner we have at home. In the church he had a good go at trying to blow out a candle there, until we stopped him! Did have time to take a photo though LOL

Thanks to a leaflet that was in English the church was built between 1507 and 1523, with restorations in the latter 19th century. A fire destroyed the roof in 1930, but the church was totally restored by 1933. A very good job they did of it too.

We moved on to head north to Locquirec – a seaside resort which is a famous haunt of Marco a childhood friend of Thumpah’s brother. He has a caravan there and goes every year. It seems to be an ingrained tradition, and even Thumpah’s family used to spend their holidays there occasionally when she was a girl. So lots of memories for her. Despite the fact that this town isn’t that far along the coast from Carantec if couldn’t be more different. Carantec is calm Locquirec isn’t.

Talking of childhood memories we had been invited for a goûter with a couple who used to be neighbours of Thumpah’s family back in Fontenay. They and their family used to go on holiday with Thumpahs family quite often back then. Thumpah’s first childhood sweetheart was their son. 🙂
Anyway both were brought up in Le Diben (I’m sorry but this reminds me too much of Gwen Dibley of Monty Python fame), across the estuary from Carantec but had spent much of their working lives in Fontenay before heading back to Bretagne upon retiring.
They now live in a lovely house with a view of the coast, spending perhaps 3 months a year in the Paris region. Life there couldn’t be more different for them though. They made us feel so welcome when we visited and we had a lovely home-made apple tart and some cider while they played with Rémy. Despite them being just 10km along the coast from Carantec, our trip home involved a long detour all the way down the estuary on the east side to Morlaix and back up the western side back to Carantec.

The area was really breathtaking, but we’re pretty sure that during the Summer the whole place is chock a block with holidaymakers!

April was mostly dominated by Pâques (Easter) – with the first Easter egg hunt for Rémy. He caught on pretty quickly and was helped by his cousins Amélie, Lise & Florent.

Rémy with Tata Martine & cousin Amélie

May was Rémy’s 2nd birthday (19/05/09), turning two is quite a milestone, and boy has it arrived so quickly! He is saying his first words… Chaussure, shoe, chaud, do-do, five (as in give me five), phone, desert (he has got his priorities right) and he can also point to certain things in his books when we ask what something is. For example “Where is the aeroplane?”. For the moment he is speaking mostly French, with a smattering of English words but not only does he understand both languages but he also now recognises that Maman doesn’t speak in the same way as Daddy.
So when he points to something he’ll say “Maman?” so Thumpah can say the word in French, then he’ll look at me and say “Adah?” (Daddy) so I can say the word in English, which is amazing.

He seems to be turning out to be a nice little boy, doesn’t have any notion to destroy or break things and isn’t too shy around others. That said, he does have his moments with temper tantrums, which we try to control by putting him in the corner of the room. Being sent to bed or getting a smack are really the last resorts. On the rare occasion he has got one of the latter, it has usually been when has tried to hit us! He is catching on PDQ that this is a total “no no”.

Of course apart from Easter, May also brought lots of long weekends. So for us 3 x 4 day weekends and one 3 day one, which was excellent.

June for the moment is starting all the work we need to do to our house. We’ve already decided where we are going to put a potager (veg garden), and I started in earnest re-cementing parts of our terrace which have literally crumbled apart! The back terrace needs to be tackled next, along with fencing off some exterior stairs at the side of our house. These go down to the basement, but need to be fenced off before Rémy falls down them!

We also have the question of a wall between our place and chez les voisins (the neighbours) – which is turning out to be a lonnng story!

In July Isa will have 3 weeks off – we had planned to spend 2 weeks in the UK. But that has fallen through because we can’t get anyone to look after our dog. She is now too old for kennels, at 16 years old. Unfortunately she is practically deaf and blind, and thus unpredicatable some of the time.

We are now planning on spending a week in Germany (Black Forest), and then 2 weeks working on our house and garden. We really want to make some progress this year!

Cherry picking with Clairette, my Mother in law...

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