Tuesday, December 08, 2009

twelve snails


Yes, you can read it on the bottle label: we are in the land of snails and cider. We are in perhaps my favorite corner of the continent. We are in Brittany.

We’ve hiked the Granit Rose Coast of this province some years back and not too long ago we spent splendid days at the western most tip of Brittany (Finistere – or, appropriately, land’s end). But when asked where in France I would most like to return to in the short, wet days of December, I thought at once of the River Rance (at the eastern end of Brittany), just as it completes its final twists and turns before spilling out into La Manche (the Channel).

the old river port of Dinan (our apartment is here)

It was a sleepy drive out here. Not wanting to navigate the indescribably complicated roads and alleys of Brittany late at night, we choose to take the quick highway route. I drive, Ed dozes, Ed drives, I doze and so it continues for five hours as the rains come down and the music of Rogers and Hammerstein fills the car. It is an odd choice of radio station in France, I know, but there is much to be said for a rousing rendition of when you walk through a storm, keep your chin up high... as the wipers of our sweet and Smart car automatically adjust themselves to the rain and splash of passing cars.

[No, no, don’t cry again! This from Ed, who is too used to seeing the tears well when music fills our spaces.
I can’t help it!
Indeed. I grew up on Carousel. Or at least on Jan Clayton singing every song that there is to be sung from Carousel. I had asked for the movie soundtrack when I was a kid and my mother, not knowing that it mattered, chose this discount version for a buck at Sam Goody's.
And now I start in on the familiar what’s the use of wondering, if he’s good or if he’s bad, he’s your feller and you love him, that’s all there is to that!
Ed shakes his head. I now see what the problem is here: you picked up the needle of the record player and replayed your favorite songs over and over, until you started to believe the lyrics!
Really. My occasional traveling companion thinks he has me figured out.
I go on to my little girl, is half again as bright as girls are meant to be...
I didn't buy into all of the lyrics. Just the ones that had to do with boys. And walking through storms at night.]

As we approach the town of Dinan, I'm thinking that the drive had a smooth middle and a complicated beginning and an unresolved ending.

At the car rental desk, we stubbornly reminded the clerk that we booked a mini. No upgrades, please, please no upgrades! We love the little car on this side of the ocean and if we have to rent, we do want just that, even if it takes the agent a while to bring one down from some far away lot and even if we have to relearn how to drive it.

[It’s automatic shifting! I tell Ed.
I mean, I think it’s automatic. There’s no clutch. But wait, there are gears and the dashboard is flashing warnings that I should switch!
Try that button!
Switching gears by the push of a button. Cool. Oh, and look, if I press this button, it goes into Automatic! Clever!]

But some things are just too smart for any of us. Not Ed, not myself (small wonder), nor the rental agent can figure out how to open the hatch. We give up and stick the suitcase in through the window.

Some 450 kilometers later, I slow down at an intersection. I stop. The car stalls. At the next intersection I stop again. The car stalls again. To be resolved: how do you stop an Eco Smart sort of automatic but sort of not without stalling? Or, will it be like the hatch? Forever a mystery?

And so we are at the old river port of Dinan. And the apartment is as good as the Internet promised it would be.


And at night, the holiday lights twinkle and the old stones glisten after the rains.