A Wild Weekend in Brittany

Trip Start May 14, 2013
Trip End Aug 06, 2013

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What I did

Flag of France  , Brittany,
Saturday, June 15, 2013

Friday June 14th

Today Persephone and I drove virtually non-stop from Amboise to Quimper in Brittany to spend the weekend with Julien's parents. It took us seven and half hours and I was greeted by an enthusiastic Bernard. I just had time to unpack and Michèle arrived home from work and whisked me off to watch a very entertaining dance performance by many school children and their teachers. We arrived home a bit after nine and discovered Bernard had lit a welcoming fire in the lounge/ dining room to ward off the Brittany chills. Michèle whipped up a delicious salmon dish and afterwards I crashed into my upstairs room, Julien's old bedroom, with its lovely attic windows and view over Quimper.

Saturday June 15th

It's Saturday and time for the weekend of festivities to commence! Michèle is her usual "whirlwind" self and has a tightly packed schedule organised mostly around me for the whole two days. We start after breakfast with a walking tour around the pretty little village of Quimper. Michèle points out many historical buildings of cultural significance and told me the story of the king and his horse. We bumped into several of Michéle's friends along the way and it was lovely to be introduced as Julien's "Belle Mère", that's french for mother-in-law I think. We strolled along Quimper's two rivers and checked out both an inside and outside market. Michèle purchased some delightful looking cakes, pastries and macaroons from her favourite patisserie and the shopkeeper wrapped them up just like Xmas presents! We whizzed home in Michèle's petite fiat and were welcomed not only with the wafting aroma of roast chicken prepared by Bernard, but a lovely surprise, Michèle's father Papi, had driven over to visit me. I first met Julien's family two years ago when Rod and I came over for a holiday. Papi made a fuss of me then and hasn't changed a bit. He really makes an effort to talk slowly to me in French and just smiles all the time. A truly delightful man.
Lunch was french affair of several small courses accompanied by a bottle of Bernard's own labelled red wine "Le Chevalier" (the knight). We began with a fresh melon half each. Papi and Bernard ate fresh oysters with some crusty torn off pieces of baguette. For the second course we devoured roast chicken and french beans followed by bright red fresh strawberries from the front garden. Finally it was coffee time (tea for me), and the tantalising gateau: rose macaroons; chocolate ganache; caramel and coffee eclairs and tarte aux abricotes (apricots).
I hardly had time to begin digesting this fantastic feast, when we all piled into Papi's Peugeot and Bernard drove us north of Quimper to the picturesque fishing village of Douarnenez. Douarnenez is famous for its sardines and at one stage it was a thriving industry in the little seaport. Nowadays it attracts holiday makers and on our long walk around the coastline we saw many trying to soak up some sunshine when it peeked through the clouds, huddled in sheltered corners from the biting westerly wind. Lucky for me I have Leah's lovely warm coat still- so much for summer, I'm still waiting! The village is divided into two parts surrounding its impressive river which provides safe anchorage for a veritable flotilla of yachts and fishing boats. The boats are moored in very organised straight rows upriver and there is a loch which can only be entered if the tide is right. Our coastal walk included a visit to some ancient roman ruins of enormous fish preserving vats and an interesting potager farm and garden where its possible to stay in self-contained accomodation.
Bernard drove us back to Quimper for a brief spell before we all headed out again to dine at a restaurant and bar by the sea and were joined by Michèle's brother Jacques and his wife Natalie. We all enjoyed a three course menu of a variety of different dishes. I chose the fish soup, moules marinière avec frites and creme brûlée which came with two macaroons! We were entertained by a live band that was fundraising for something or other. People kept packing in like sardines and really let their hair down to enjoy both french and English classics from the 70's and 80's and to just generally have a good time. It all got a bit loud for poor Papi ( and me), and I was glad when I finally put my head on my pillow after 11.

Sunday June 16th

Today the Brittany weather was at its best-cloudy, windy and cold! Also it was La Fête de Père or french Father's Day and both Bernard and Jacques had entered a marathon 16 km kayak paddle downriver from Quimper to the coastal port of Bénodet. Bernard, Michèle myself and the kayak all piled into Bernard's Toyota van and headed to the starting point on the L'Odet River. It was crazy and difficult to find a park close to the water as there were 1000 entrants in 600 kayaks, including children and some dogs! Michèle, Natalie and I waited in the freezing conditions for ages for the start to begin. Many competitors wore wetsuits but some just shorts and t-shirts. They all seem to be packing in the carbs and were feasting on Breton crepes, baguettes, gallettes (biscuits) and pasta except for a group of girls that decided to pop a bubbly and packed another in a barrel for the downriver journey! There were small waves on the river and a few kayakers fell in and had a "refreshing" dip before they got going. After lots of photos Michèle and I were glad to climb into the refuge of the van and head for the finish at Bénodet.
Surprise, surprise! We met up with Papi again on the beach at Bénodet and he insisted on shouting us girls a three course lunch at a seaside restaurant called Sanssouci, that had a gorgeous view over the white sandy beach. So whilst the boys were "enjoying themselves" slogging through the wind whipped waves, us girls were feasting yet again french style. Papi suggested I start with Le Coquilles St. Jacques for entrée, just delicious. He ordered a lovely rosé to accompany our meal. Michèle and Papi had duck but as I'm not fond of it I chose the beef steak kebab and ordered it medium to make sure it was cooked through. The French enjoy their steak very rare but I like mine pink not sitting in pools of blood! Luckily it was mostly pink and served with a pepper sauce and more chips. I topped it off with a warmed through chocolate brownie and vanilla icecream, more english than french. We forgot about Bernard and the kayak marathon and he rang Michèle to say he had arrived safely after four gruelling hours and could she please come and meet him and help him pack the kayak in the van. After he had changed into some dry clothes he joined us for a late dessert and we all had coffees and hot chocolates to rev us into the afternoon. Next we all went for a walk along the promenade to watch many late comers in kayaks who were still struggling to reach the beach. It was sad to say a final farewell to Papi and he said his face would be raining with tears tomorrow as he would not see me again for a long time.;-(
Now as there was free food and drink for all the participants, Bernard was keen to dig in to the tucker at a big marquee set up for the event. He listened fervently as numbers were called out for many prizes. He was hoping to win a new kayak, the pick of the prizes, but missed out unfortunately.
We drove home worn out from our busy day. Michèle had some marking to do for school and we all sat down to watch the french news. I was delighted to find that it's the same one I've been watching in Australia on SBS with my favourite presenter. Afterwards it was funny to watch a classic Alfred Hitchcock movie starring Jimmy Stewart and Grace Kelly in French. Bernard lit the fire again and Michèle and I enjoyed hot chocolate drinks and the last nibbles of the cakes and macroons. Tomorrow it will be sad to say farewell to my lovely friends and head off with Persephone again. It's going to be very quiet on my own after such a fun-filled weekend.
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Heather Boulton on

Merci, Dianna, I am so enjoying your blog.

Tim & Fran on

I hope that Rod has successfully completed his French cooking lessons before you arrive back.
Lennox Head snails are getting worried.

Leah on

Papi is the best :-)

Julie on

So plsd you are still going strong over there girl! You are amazing!! Bit worried about what size you may be at the end.... All you seem to be doing is eating!!!! And of course we are hardly touching any food over here! Have been in seafood heaven for two weeks. Keep the blogs coming cos I love hearing what you are doing? Xxxx Stay safe

Geoff Astbury on

Beaucoup Moules et Frites!! I expect you to see you later with a blue/black shell skin. Love the blogs.
À plus tard Geoff

Laurel on

Bien sur belle mere veut dire mother-in-law et aussi sans soucis veut dire "no worries". . Alors tu as passer un bon weekend tres agreable avec la famille de Julien ils sont tres gentilles je crois. Cette region de France est tres belle est tres charmante. Ou est le prochain arret pour toi? J'attend ton prochain blog! Bises, Laurel

Anne on

It's always nice to be able to spend some time with some genuine Frenchies, they are very hospital & a pleasure to be around. Glad your enjoying yourself. Keep up the good work.

Wendy on

Loving your blog, feel that I am there with you

sirpa on

Love the pictures looks like your having a ball lots of yummy food enjoy
Love from the girls

Steph on

Et tu Julie?
I too have been wondering where Diana is fitting all that food into?
Frites sound so much less dangerous than chips or fries don't they!

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