Trip Start Jun 25, 2012
32Trip End Aug 25, 2012
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Where I stayed
We woke up to rain falling steadily from the sky – obviously the weather had heard we were leaving and couldn't be bothered keeping the sunny skies going any longer! After doing a preliminary pack we headed out to collect our clean laundry. We were planning on trying to visit the Trinity College Library as well, but the traffic was horrendous because of the rain, and after sitting in traffic jams for a long time we gave up and came back to the hotel to do the final pack and drive to the airport. This should have been a simple 25 minute drive but turned into a nightmarish trip of over an hour, presumably because of the rain, making us far more late for an international flight than I would like. The flight for Nantes left at 4.05 and we got to the airport at 3.00. Mike just left the car at the no standing zone to find the car return chap while I went to the Ryan Air counter and after establishing there was a separate queue for flights about to leave, got into that. Then Ryan Air weighed our bags and established one was 1.5 kilos over the allowed 20, but even though the others were under by that and more, they insisted that we repack the bags to have them all under. Finally checked in, we then walked for what seemed kilometres and got to the gate as we were boarding – whew!!!
It was a great relief to sit down and relax as we flew across the sea to sunny France! We arrived at 6.40 pm and then went across to the car hire place where Michael negotiated an upgrade to a very nice automatic Citroen with National car hire. I had made screen captures of all the Google map directions to our friends’ house in St Avé, just outside of Nantes, and following the directions, with only one unfortunate wrong turn up a motorway that added about 15 minutes to the trip, we reached them at about 8.45.
It was wonderful to catch up with our Servas friends Anne and Cédric Mallauran and their gorgeous kids Arthur (13), Jade (9) and Rose (7). They had stayed with us last November in Adelaide, during their year long trip around NZ, Australia and Asia and had been back in France only for a few weeks. The kids enjoyed renewing their friendships, with Tom and Arthur having a great time playing table tennis with each other and the young girls following Rachel everywhere.
Anne had made a magnificent 4 course dinner of saumon & oeuf entrée, magret du canard avec haricots verts, an incredible array of fromages and a hugely rich gateaux cocolat for us, which we ended up eating ridiculously late, after the pre-dinner drinks and chatting. We eventually rolled into bed around 1.00am, conscious that poor Anne had to go to work the next day at 8.00!
Thursday 16 August
We eventually rolled out of bed, long after Anne had headed off to work, me with a bit of a headache after sampling too many types of French vin last night! After a late breakfast I wandered into the little town of St Avé with Cédric to buy some things for a picnic lunch. We headed off in convoy to the Atlantic coast, about half an hour’s drive away.
The beach was huge and wide, with big rolling breakers coming in. It was a bit chilly for me to swim, and I’m not particularly confident in big waves, but everyone else raced in and had a great time while I took photos! We had a lovely picnic lunch on the sand, and then headed back towards Carnac.
Carnac is famous for its dense collection of megalithic stones – more than 3000 menhirs hewn from the local rock and erected between 4500 and 3300 BC in straight lines. Of course these are what Obelix carries around in Asterix comics!
After checking out the stones we headed to the seaside town of Trinité-sur-Mer, with its beautiful marina, where we bought ice creams and wandered past magnificent boats, including the famous wooden yacht Pen Duick raced by Éric Tabarly which took part in round the world races, as well as more modern yachts.
As we drove home it started to spit a bit, so we changed our plans to join in a town barbecue, and cooked a lovely array of local sausages for dinner which everyone enjoyed. We insisted that we did not have such a late night this time and got Anne to bed at a reasonable hour!
Friday 17 August
After breakfast I drove to a nearby supermarket with Cédric as I had offered to make dinner tonight. I’m glad he was with me, as finding ingredients in a foreign language can be quite challenging! Eventually we managed to track down most of the necessary ingredients and then headed back home.
I quickly prepped the chicken, got another load of washing on, and then we drove into Vannes, the medieval walled city which St Avé abuts. We had a lovely time wandering around the city centre. It was quite hot and we enjoyed the coolness of the beautiful cathedral with its stunning stained glass windows, as well as delicious ice creams and macaroons.
After that we drove to a beach near Trinité-sur-Mer where we met up with Cédric and the kids for a swim and kayak. It was incredibly crowded as the sun was out, and it was school holidays, but it was a lovely place to swim and we had a great time.
Eventually we drove back home and I made Maggie Beer’s Chicken in Balsamic, a nicely South Australian dish, which I served with garlicky green beans and basmati rice. We ate outside in the balmy air and it all went down a treat, and was followed by more of the gorgeous cheese from the first night and then strawberries and cream for dessert.
We had a lovely time, chatting and drinking lovely wine, happy that Anne didn’t have to get up for work the next day, but eventually headed off to bed, knowing I had to pack in the morning as we were off to the Loire valley next day.