Sunday, March 09, 2014

island life

Could you live on a small island in the sea? Take the ferry to the mainland every time you needed supplies, because the store on the island only carried basics? Could you do your craft there, in the quiet of the country lanes that had no traffic, because the handful of cars on the island barely made their presence known?

At one time, in a flight of whimsy, I thought I could. Yes, it was all fantasy, but I could see it: a white cottage with blue shutters, on the Isle of Batz -- a twenty minute ferry ride from Roscoff. If there would be grandkids, they would all come down for the summer and play in the healthy sea air. They'd speak French fluently by the time they were three and they would ride ponies bareback and hide under puffy quilts when storms rolled through. Ed would sail to his heart's content and I would occasionally worry if the seas were too rough.

Of course, forgetting about all practical issues, to say nothing of affordability, distance from home (because home is now solidly in the Midwest), forgetting all those realities, there is this basic obstacle: I am not an island type. I understood that today as I set out to spend a day on the Isle de Batz -- my one time flight of fancy, the place I imagined to be the most wonderful little getaway on this side of the Atlantic.

Let me start off by saying that we are in for a glorious set of days: a high pressure system has settled over France and the sunshine extends all the way to Brittany and beyond. A splendid spring day, with a high of sixty. It could not be better.

And so I am ambitious: there's a lot of walking you can do when you are energized by the splendid day outside.

First, a breakfast at my bakery of choice in St Pol de Leon. Approaching it the other way -- from the high road.


A pain au chocolat, but outside of course!


As I force myself to get up and get going, I see M. lobsterman. Except I no longer can think of him as such. I don't know whether in fact he ever was a lobsterman: my imagination was soaring here. In any case, he looked the part and his weathered hands and face surely have seen some stormy seas. I should note that perhaps his best fishing days are in the past: I would place him to be close to eighty.

Today M. Pêcheur (fisherman in French) is back again. And he lights up when he sees me. We exchange cordial greetings. Wait, he's not done yet. The guy's a flirt! The type that doesn't give up the ship easily! I remind myself that loneliness sometimes pushes one to be excessively chatty and that I could do my bit for those who crave human interaction, but still, I am glad to be up, out and away. And knowing that he's a regular makes breakfast at the bakery, my favorite bakery at that, a bit of a chore now. Never mind -- there's plenty of honey cake at home to finish off.

I set out. And it is a magnificent walk! I know now how to put together a route that keeps it down to a manageable 90 minutes to Roscoff, door to door. A few photos for you and do know that the reality is even better:




Alright, Roscoff at last.


I'm nearly running now, as the ferry for the island leaves at 11:30.  That's one downside of island living right there: you live by the schedule of the ferries.

We're off. Roscoff to the south:


The island to the north:


There are a number of families on the boat. It is school vacation time and it is absolutely brilliant outside and, of course, it is the weekend. Still, even though the island is not large (maybe a couple of miles each way), once everyone is off the boat, we all lose each other quickly enough. So that no matter which way you look during your ramble, you rarely see another human face.

I see a velo rental shop and I decide to take a bike. It's easier to cover most of the paths of the island by bike -- I tell myself. Monsieur picks out a nice rugged country bike for me - I'm off. Not far. The tire is flat. I go back. We try again. The bike is really rough looking. Good! There are almost no paved lanes on  the island. Most of my riding will be on dirt paths, sandy lanes and rocky meadows.

So come on, ride with me, against the constantly blowing winds from the sea!






About ninety minutes into the ride, while I am putting in that extra force, standing up on the bike to navigate one hill or another, I feel my back strain. Great. Now I will nurse a sore back for the next five days. Still, I go on. It really is beautiful here. And you could not ask for a finer day!

I look at the stone houses with the blue picket fence, I take note of the sailor's weather vane on a white chimney -- all so perfect and perfectly magical...



But after two hours, I tell myself -- ça souffice. It is enough.  I'm ready to go back to Roscoff.

My entire dream, lived in two hours. No, I am not an island person.

In Roscoff, most everything is closed for the afternoon. The French are so rigorous in their meal taking!  Come in at 2:30 and lunch is long over.

Still, there is always the outlier -- this time it's a creperie and I am happy as can be with my buckwheat crepe with leeks and scallops from the sea.


After lunch, I face the hike home. The tide is low again. How quickly it changes here!


But I head inland. My newly established hiking route takes me through the fields of onion, then artichoke and cauliflower. Just one photos this time.


And now it is early evening and I am surely tired and happy to be home. Except, it is such a beautiful day. Could I stand one more quick loop? A walk to the park? To watch the sun set behind St Pol de Leon?

I could.

toward the bay

toward St Pol de Leon

Yes, I'm still hungry for supper. No need to go out for that. I repeat yesterday's meal of cooked eggs and salmon, endive, and leftover pieces of pastechou.