Thursday, May 10, 2007

from France: if someone paid me to come up with a plan for a perfect French getaway, I’d tell them – do this:

[A reader commented recently (paraphrasing) – I decided to follow your travels on my recent trip to Sicily. Thank you! We had hilarious adventures! Well now, I feel gratified. Ocean put forth some ideas and the reader took it from there, understanding that it never will be as you expect it to be. So, I get questions about what to see and do when in France. Here’s an idea - though mind you, it wont be as you would expect it to be:]

Oh, to get out of Paris a little! To walk along empty paths, to smell spring flowers and ocean breezes! To eat well, sleep better, to spend not too much…

Sure, sure, there are many ways to slice this banana. How about this: take a rapid train and then a local and alight in Roscoff (Brittany). It’s a town, not a village, but not to worry, it’s a good destination.

Book a room ahead of time at the Le Temps de Vivre. You want details? Click onto Ocean View (it's in the sidebar; no, not now – after May 25th). Ask for the cheaper room, in the tower. It’s beautiful! (View provided in previous Ocean post.)

You’re there. Now what? Get your shopping over and done with. Go to the Algae Center and look at all the fantastic things you may do with seaweed! Impressed? Loaded down with algae purchases? Head back to your hotel room, dump the stuff in the closet and head out again.

Walk along the little streets, admire the detail – the knobs to latch the window shutters, for example.



Go to the port and get your bearings. You’ll want to know what’s what. Walk out onto the footbridge and study the tides. Make sure you have a windbreaker on (see post below).

So now you’re hungry. Lucky you. Your hotel is right next to the restaurant of the same name. Feeling poor? Order from the cheapest set price menu. But if you’re going to splurge on food once in France, don’t do it in Paris, do it here.

Next morning, the hotel will provide a nice little breakfast. Eat up – a crepe, a Breton cake, breads and jams and yogurts. Oh, and the kitchen next door will have prepared a delicious little fruit thing. You wont want to skip that, nor the freshly squeezed juice.

You could, this morning, visit the onion museum. This is the region that wants to give AOC status (special French certification, reserved for such things as wines and cheeses) to the onion. It has a Roscoff terroir, you see. And a history. You’ll want to know about it.

Then, head back toward the little port. You may want to take your lunch now. There’s a great place – Auberge du Quai – it’s bustling at lunchtime, but they’ll find you a table. Tell them you’re in a hurry though. You’ll want to make the 13:30 boat. So order something simple like a half dozen oysters and an Ocean salad (no, I’m not copyright here, on Ocean) – with shrimp and smoked salmon.



Now you’re ready to explore the countryside.

Get on the ferry with the locals. (The docking point is different depending on the tide; watch what the others are doing and follow them.) It’s a fifteen minute ride to the Isle de Batz. You wouldn’t want it to be longer – the waters can be choppy here.

island view

On the island, head to your left and follow a path along the coast. You’re in the village now.

…but not for long. Just always take the path closest to the water and you wont lose your way. It’s about 15 kilometers around the island, so pace yourself well. Don’t be like this foolish American duo I know who had to run like crazy, waving their arms to keep the ferry from pulling out without them. There are only so many ferry runs and it would be sad if you missed the last one.

So what’s the walk like? It takes you past small Brittany homes, through pastures, past coves. You’ll stop to watch the waters crash on rocks as fishing boats brace their bows against the ocean waters.




At the tip of the island you’ll lose a lot of time watching the gulls, so be prepared for that. After you’ve taken the n’th shot of their splendidness, move on.



And don’t forget to look at the other island inhabitants. No, not the people, the horses and ducks and what have you. Looking out at the ocean too long and hard may keep you from seeing a mother duck feed her young one.


So you managed to not miss the boat back? Great. Poke around the little harbor and watch others pick up their lobsters and crab for the evening meal. Don’t be tempted to do the same. There’s no room in the minibar for it.


So, not yet time for dinner? There are great tea rooms and pastry shops that’ll sustain you. Sort of like this one:


It’s evening. You’re wondering if you should go back to the same restaurant or try something new. Choices! You have choices! You don’t expect to be guided here every step of your way? Explore! Consult the hotel staff. It is your last night on the Brittany coast? Make it great – go to a place that serves mountains of seafood. Maybe like this:


Of course, leave room for the main course. And the dessert. And a noisette maybe?

Another night in the tower room, another breakfast of crepes and cakes and then you can return to your Paris.

Anyway, that’s what I would do.