La Roche-Bernard is a small commune 30km due south of Rochefort en Terre, with about the same population. It’s said that the town has more boats than people; the rich leave their vessels in the port until they have a few weeks of vacation, and take off from here after arriving by car or train.
It was originally a viking colony, taken up as a fort because it controls access to the river that runs through it. The hills above are still pockmarked with stone walls and canons on the hills above.
La Vilaine is the main river running through La Roche-Bernard, flowing out into the Atlantic Ocean.
Before leaving though, we loaded up on some traditional French food.
Galettes, or more properly known as Breton Galettes (as they’re a very traditional food for the region), are like crêpes but made of buckwheat instead of flour. With only egg, cheese (typically emmentale), and a slice of ham, it’s as simple as it is delicious.
The packaged final product.
Served with the galettes is a cider that’s much drier than I’m used to, but this meant it balanced extremely well with both sweet and savoury.
And for dessert a caramel apple crêpe, with semi-sweet chocolate chips and ice cream.
I was talking with Tanya about how much of a sacrifice it must be to have children (noting she had three of her own), and she said that if you truly love your kids, it never feels like a sacrifice. That is, until they want the last bite of your crêpe.
A walk through town
I imagine not much has changed in this town for hundreds of years; when you see how the stone houses have been built around the uneven pathways, it’s like you’re stepping into a time machine. And with so much greenery, it’s truly feels like you’ve settled into a little cradle of the earth, as it’s all around you, not flattened and cleared beneath you.
This used to be the marketplace. The window ledges are particularly deep and low to the ground because people would open the windows and sell right out of their homes, resting their wares on the windowsills.
Chorizo is an extremely spicy Spanish pork sausage. I love how everything here is so fresh that you can just buy a few slices off the counter.
If you’re exceptionally rich, you can pay to have your boat hoisted with a crane and kept out of the water.
And if you want to live in your boat while it’s docked, the docks have plugs for electricity and taps for water.
The artist’s door. I imagine in a small town like this, it would actually be accurate to call someone, “the artist”.
If this was a big city, a tiny pathway like this leading “downtown” would be so shady.
The seafood is always fresh when you’re this close to the water.
Before industrialization, the women of the town would come here to wash the laundry in the shallow pool.
Dinner that night was raclette, which refers to both the cheese and way it’s served melted over various meats and potatoes. This is where I learned that meals for the French aren’t only about the food, they’re about getting together with friends and socializing too.
Kir is a cocktail made from a bit of crème de cassis (blackcurrant liqueur) and white wine, served as an aperitif. Crème de cassis itself is a traditional French alcohol, and typically about 15% alcohol by volume. It didn’t make me any more hungry, but I certainly had more fun just sitting in a chair by the fire.
The raclette grill. The top is used to keep the potatoes warm, while the bottom has heaters to melt slices of raclette. Traditionally, raclette was melted by keeping it by a fire.
Calvados is an apple brandy, also made in France, typically taken between courses as a palette cleanser. At 40% alcohol by volume it was a little strong for my taste (though it reminded me somewhat of tequila), so they gave me a cube of sugar to suck on after it’s been dipped in the brandy. Everyone else was drinking it out of their champagne flutes.
Europe 2010 travel diaries
- France: Arrival
- France: Day 3, Chartres
- The Partisan
- France: Day 5, Chartres
- Baby Scary Party
- France: Day 6, Paris
- Call me McNgangus
- France: Day 7, Rochefort-en-Terre
- France: Day 8, La Roche-Bernard
- France: Day 9, Rochefort-en-Terre
- UK Detour: Day 10, Chartres to London
- UK Detour: Day 11, London
- A passenger in London
- UK Detour: Day 12, London
- UK Detour: Day 13, London to Ullapool
- UK Detour: Day 14, Ullapool
- UK Detour: Day 15, Ullapool
- UK Detour: Day 16, Ullapool
- France: Day 18, Paris
- France: Day 19, Chartres + Paris