Sunday, May 18, 2008

from Brittany, France: a place like no other

It’s settled. I choose to build my summer house here and not by the Mediterranean.

I cannot, nor do I really want to embark on anything remotely like that (well...), but in moments of fancy, it’s cool to imagine this other life. And those moments of fancy really get going when I am actually in the place I could easily call my second home.

(Eh, it’s too far from daughters. That is a problem. Good thing flights of fancy don’t call for a resolution of such tough issues.)

Each time I am in Brittany, it becomes crystal clear, as clear as the waters at low tide, that here I should stay, all summer, every summer. (Happily, I forget about this when I leave, but right now, I do not remember how it is that I forget it so quickly; right now, I’m in the thick of Brittany adoration.)

Our first full day here began to turn perfect in the wee hours of the morning, when the Internet became totally dysfunctional in our room at the Inn. Monsieur Jacques, the proprietor, proposed a small apartment in a building down the road, just at the water’s edge. The selling point? The view. And a solid HomePlug.

In the apartment, Ed installs several borrowed Netgear boxes and creats an Internet hub. Functional, fast, solid. And, sitting here now, I am looking out the windows and seeing this:

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I did Monsieur Jacques a favor as well – I gave him a card and a note from an old friend of his whom I met by chance this winter in Door County, Wisconsin. The coincidence of me running into a once resident of the village of Aber Wrac’h so tickled Monsieur Jacques that he repeats the story to anyone who walked past. Imagine, we have a guest from America. Oui-scon-seen. So she is in this shop up there, in Oui-scon-seen…

The skies turn partly cloudy by noon and I suggest to Ed that we hike the coast, from our village, due west, just to see how far we can go. There is a trail right along the water’s edge that snakes its way to the next Aber (inlet), tracking that body of water for quite a distance.

And this is when I come to know that Aber Wrac’h is my future spot of choice – my slice of beautiful pie, or, more appropriately, my savory crepe, made in the traditional Breton way – with buckwheat flour (see bottom of post).

Let me go back to the hike now. Repeating it for Ocean puts me right there, with the ocean breezes and the sweet sweet scents of May. There’s an explosion of blooms here right now. Brittany has the most temperate climate in all of France (ahhh, ocean currents), so the awful season ends before it becomes really awful and roses bloom early enough to make it into a May basket.

So off we go, leaving Aber Wrac’h at low tide, when the oyster beds are above water…

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…leaving the Inn at the bend in the road…

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…and picking up the coastal path for a long walk on this most gorgeous of spring days.

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As we reach the mouth of the next “aber,” both barefoot now, warm sand rubbing against our winter feet, Ed, in a completely uncharacteristic for him move, tugs me down to sit on the beach. Ed doesn’t much care for sitting in unshaded spots, nor does he look for crowds or noise, especially when there are so many coves and stretches that are quiet and empty. But here we are, plopped down right where a group of kite surfers has put up a volleyball net. Music is cranked up – French pop. A dog runs in and out of the water and a boy and his father haul in a RIB. The breeze is gentle and cool, but the sun is warm on our shoulders. We watch the ball go from one side to the other, back and forth, back and forth and we cannot get ourselves to leave.

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I’m sure we would have stayed til dusk, but dusk comes late here and we still have quite the hike back to our village.

We cut back along country roads, past stone walls covered with flowers, past fields and gardens, with views of the water, at high tide now, all the way back to our village.

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The sailing school is having a week-end festival in Aber Wrac'h and now Ed is drawn into the world of boats. I doubt that the week will pass without him heading out into the Channel. Most every Brittany coastal town has a sailing club with boats for hire. Last year only a tame wind and a stubborn traveling companion kept him on shore. But this year I've mellowed...

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For now, I watch a lesson in a kayak roll, and, at the other side of the dock, children coming in with their boats. It’s evening now, they’re done for the day.

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Inside the village bar, I ask for a cappuccino. I remember now that Bretons put whipped cream in theirs and remember how naturally sweet the cream is here. At the other end of the bar, we see groups of older men, as everywhere in this country, sitting down for their daily review of events.

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My own review reminds me that somehow we missed lunch. We make our way back to our room on the water, but only long enough for me to take one more look at the splendid aber.

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And it’s not that the view to the street, at the other side of the small apartment is that bad. Food: it suggests a place to eat and it tells us what to order.

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A shared salad with smoked salmon, a shared Breton buckwheat crepe with goat cheese, and moules frites. And a sweet apple crepe for desert. The only question is – do we drink the apple liqueur served at the side, or do we dump it on the crepe?

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Okay, we're back now. One more look out the window. A killer sunset. Home sweet home...

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