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.
Continue reading “France, Day 8: La Roche-Bernard”…
We drove nearly 400km into Brittany along the west coast of France to Rochefort en Terre, a small town of only about 600 people.
Normally this would take about four hours, but the highways have a 130km/h limit (offset by a toll to access the highway), and this cut an hour off our travel time. Not that it mattered, as the French countryside is wonderful to watch, populated with hills and a variety of colourful foliage. There are also endless cows roaming the pastures; I finally understood why cheese, butter, chocolate, and cream are so prominent in French cuisine.
It’s strange to be in a place that’s so remote. To go for organized sports, you have to drive to the nearest city, which is 30 minutes away. At the same time, all the amenities are a 5-minute stroll away. There’s no traffic here, no light pollution, and no noise save for a barking dog or two. In this part of the world, the culture is rich in history, but the life is relatively untouched by the complications of urban living.
The first cat I’ve seen in a week. He’s grown old and docile, and luckily, this means you can pick him up, put him in your lap, and he’ll be just as happy as by the wood burning stove.
Continue reading “France: Day 7, Rochefort-en-Terre”…
It’s been raining almost non-stop across France ever since I got here, so when I woke up to a sunny day, I had to take the chance and head out to Paris. I decided to see how far I could get on foot from Gare Montparnasse, my goal being a crossing of the Seine.
Paris is divided into arrondissments or districts, spiraling outward from the Louvre like a snail shell, with each one having a characteristic feel. I began my walk in the 14th arrondissment, and traveled north.
After about four kilometres, the stiffness in my legs told me I should head back. But Paris is dense and full of culture and history at every turn; on every block over there’s something that catches the eye, and you never want to turn around.
Fontaine Saint-Michel, located in the 5th arrondissment.
Continue reading “France: Day 6, Paris”…
I’ve been stepping out of my comfort zone. Having far too comfortable a life at home meant I grew complacent. I had no wants, which meant I didn’t find the same pleasure in the simple things as I used to. Here, I live without a cat, without a ukulele, without a regular chance to shower, without locks on the bathroom doors, without speaking the language.
I needed to be reminded of how other people live, and experience things I never felt compelled to do in Ottawa. It hasn’t been easy. I memorize French phrases, and hope no one responds out of a predicted path. Even then, I fall back on an English-French dictionary, and Pouvez-vous parlez plus lentment, s’il vous plaît, just in case. It’s something I’ve been forcing myself to do, and at the end of the day I’m never disappointed.
Various styles of croque-monsieur, a grilled ham sandwich with cheese melted on top of buttered pain de mie, a packaged French bread that’s perfect for toasting. Every bakery and family has their own version of this.
In the back is shredded guyère (a medium-bodied cheese), being sliced is mont d’or (very creamy and salty, and stuck to my teeth), and already halved is Camembert (which was super rich with a smell reminiscent of a garbage, but certainly didn’t taste like it…still, I had a hard time getting over the smell).
Continue reading “France: Day 5, Chartres”…
It’s been a great pace so far. No plans, no schedule, no goals, no stress. I didn’t want to cram a bunch of activities on this trip; I’d much rather take it easy and enjoy myself, so I can absorb as much of the culture as possible.
People would ask me if I was excited to come here, and I couldn’t say that I was, probably because there wasn’t anything specific I felt compelled to see. Sure, I’ll probably end up visiting some of the touristy, must-see sites in Paris, but more importantly, I want to live the life, to be a local for a while.
The definitive image of France: a young girl dressed smartly in chapeau and tights waves to the baker, who comes from around the counter to hold the door for her as she leaves the store. Of uncorrupted innocence, simple rituals, and fresh bread.
Continue reading “France: Day 3, Chartres”…