Tuesday, March 11, 2014

a week later...

Someone once said that looking forward to travel is even better than the real thing.

I don't really agree, but I would add that looking back on a trip is also gratifying. At the end of it all, you smile at your naivete when you first arrived. You learned many things about a place and you learned not a few things about yourself in that place and it all seems now so rich and rewarding in retrospect.

Even if there were bits and pieces that you'd like to rewrite if you could.

I would like, for instance, to rewrite that bike ride on the Isle de Batz where I jolted my back so that it now is impossible for me to get up from a sitting position. (I can do it, but I let out such a howl that it surely scares anyone nearby).

So maybe I should take it easy today? Especially since a cool mist, as promised, has settled in over the peninsula.


I eat a prebreakfast...


And then, still undecided, I go downtown to the bakery (passing the ever delightful spring flowers growing against the walls of the stark Brittany houses)...


...and as it happens, M. Pecheur is walking in at the same time. But I'm used to him by now. I know what to expect. As he sits at the table next to mine, I give our multiple handshakes and pleasantries a few minutes and then I take out my computer and excuse myself to work. He's doubtful, but peering at my screen and seeing the blogger text, he recedes and looks around for other social possibilities.

Eventually, when he leaves, an older woman sitting to the side tells me: he is so lonely. So maybe that's another "should have:" more time, more handshakes and arm pats. Because I know that being alone has its tough moments. (This story to be continued tomorrow.)


As I try to get up from the bakery table, my back is protesting so much that I wonder how on earth I am to manage a suitcase, a bus, a train and a metro on the next day. I go the pharmacy next door and I explain my issues. (In France, a pharmacist truly does act like a doctor for a spot check and a treatment recommendation.) The very chatty pharmacist explains that warmth works magic (I look out at the cool misty sky and I nod my head: yes, warm would be better than the current cold air that has come in from the seas). He points me to a wrap that sends the needed relaxing heat to the back and I think -- okay. I can sit with that thing on the train the next day. (It's a one-use only item.) A little strange, but anything to keep me mobile.

He also tells me that a pill will lessen the pain. I buy a pack, though being pill averse, I save it for the evening.

And now it's past noon and there is a hint of sunshine. Just a hint. I walk the streets of St Pol de Leon, noting that children here are on their second week of spring break (two weeks! eat your hearts out, kids back home!). I see a family that seems from out of town, doing the tourist thing here too. (It's rare to see tourists in this working town and it is rare these days to see French families of seven.)


And as I walk, the sky changes from faintly gray to faintly blue and the feeling of spring comes back to Brittany.


So I have a plan: eat a warm meal in the early afternoon, and go for a hike across the fat bottom of the peninsula. From St Pol de Leon to the sea to the west.

I go to the one restaurant that mainly caters to the locals. (It closes for the high season.) It's not the best eatery in town, but I've maxed out on my eating budget and I'm going for simple and inexpensive now. I order scallops gratinee (baked in a pot, with cheese sauce, inexpensive because there are only two scallops in that little pot, but the sauce is rich and the dish is very satisfying).


And by the time I'm done, the sun is out again and I am happy as anything to set out on my hike to the sea. (My back does not bother me when I am walking. It's the sitting and especially the getting up that's at issue.)

Sunshine! My last day here will have sunshine after all!


I'm in good spirits. True, the tourist office person could not identify a good walking route west, but I know from my hikes to Roscoff that staying on the smallest roads is a wonderful way to move from one point to the next.

Skies are blue, flowers are budding, I'm off!


The good weather means that the work continues in the fields. This is the time of cauliflower harvest and onion planting. I've seen it before, I see it again now. In full force.


I'm not really sure of my bearings -- I don't have a good map of the region, but it's not hard to simply aim west and keep to the quiet roads. I come to a small hamlet. No one is around. It's a work day of course. In the fields or in town. No one appears to be at home.


Except for a dog.

As I come to the last homestead in the village, a wolf dog runs straight at me snarling and barking angrily.

This isn't the same as a pack of wild dogs in Turkey. This guy belongs to the farm. Still, he is not used to strangers walking by his home and he doesn't like it. With each growl he comes closer and I'm thinking -- there's a good chance he may bite. There is no one around to call him off. He is protecting his turf.

I talk quietly and back away. He retreats, but changes his mind and comes at me again. I don't want to turn my back to him. He may take a victorious nip then. So I keep facing him, backing off, backing off and finally he is satisfied that I pose no threat and he goes back to his farmyard.

Well now, that kind of changes things for me.

The plan to walk to the sea morphs into a plan to stick to the medium-sized roads. With the occasional tractor or car passing through. Safety in the presence of others.

cauliflower harvest

a forgotten artichoke

But, I can't quite connect to the sea. I'm off track. And so this is all you get: in the distance, the ocean. And Isle de Batz! I've come full circle.


It's time to go home.


At the little house by the cauliflower fields, I eat all leftover pieces of cheese, of pastechoux. I pop the pill for my back and let me tell you, whatever is in that little number zonks me out solid. Or is it the ocean air? Maybe. I surely have recovered here. I'm sleeping well again.