Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Mont Saint Michel

Monday we made the 45 minute drive to Mont Saint Michel, an old abbey on the top of a rock. Pretty cool place, but we have seen so many churches, fortresses, palaces, abbeys and cathedrals that they are all starting to look the same. The interesting thing about this place was that it was built on top of a huge rock in the ocean, so before the road was built you could only get there when the tide was out. At certain times of the day it is still surrounded by water. Check out the warning sign for the parking lot. There are over two hundred steps, and a long uphill climb to make it up to the abbey, and then many winding staircases and extra steps while touring it, so we definitely got our workout for the day. This place was so crowded and supposedly, we are at the end of tourist season. They say around here it is from July 1-August15. I can't imagine this place in the middle of a hot July. Our weather was perfect.
They had a cistern at the top of the abbey, I guess for fires and their basic drinking water. So to get the water up there they used a huge wheel that the monks walked on to make it move to lift the water up to the cistern. Pretty ingenious.
Afterwards, we headed back to the cottage, where I still needed a nap to recover from the jet lag. The afternoon, after it gets warm, just makes me so sleepy! We headed down to the port and ate dinner. The tide stays out all day here and the oyster beds are exposed to the sun, and the boats sit in the mud. Then in the evening the tide covers the oyster beds and the boats float once again. It really is an amazing sight to watch.

happy, happy, happy

I am so happy because we found a store to sell us a European connecting cable for my laptop. After lots of help from Fanny, our concierge, and the sales person at the store near Rennes, an hour away, we are all set. The language has been a problem for us this time because in these smaller villages no one speaks English, not even the young high school kids! So, lots of hand gestures and "aah, yes", when we don't understand a word anyone is saying. So here I sit on Tuesday afternoon getting caught up on this blog. I will start by posting a few more photos from Sunday and then start another post for Monday.
Sunday, after our deliciously fresh market lunch, I needed a nap, so I slept while Paul "read", probably with his eyes closed! We walked into town, about a 20 minute walk from our cottage. Most of the shops were closed but we got our bearings of the village. I tell you, I could live in this village of Cancale. I love the architecture of the homes, the small town atmosphere and the people are so nice. But I'm sure when you are on vacation everything is beautiful, right?
Dinner, Sunday night was an experience, from a sailing team of rowdy boys making their way into the restaurant on parade, to my trying all sorts of fruits de mer. Warning, the video might make some squeamish! We finished the night with a walk around the port.
Ok I am done for tonight. After 2 hours, the second video was still not uploaded. I'll try again tomorrow.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

living like a local

Last night we walked down to the port to have a typical, local, prix fix meal. First course, oysters...briny and delicious. Then Paul had salmon and I had mussels and frites. The meal was outstanding and inexpensive. We also tasted the local cidre and had sorbet for dessert.
The first night is always the most difficult for sleeping, but there were no problems last night. The fresh air and the walk to the port were enough to finish us off. We were exhausted from the travel.
This morning we awoke to a basket of fresh bread, croissant, cake and crepes at our door, along with fresh yogurt. Our cottage is stalked with fruit juice, coffee, butter and jam. Can you tell I'm a foodie. I just love all this local, fresh food.
After breakfast we walked to church where we saw the most adorable children. They were all dressed so cute and were so misbehaved during mass. Just like at home, somethings don't change when you are on vacation! The church had a maritime theme with memorials set up for the men and women who gave their lives during WWII, and other wars.
This is a very seafaring village. You see lots of striped tops and shirts, typical of the French navy.
After church, we walked through the weekly market set up on the streets of Cancale where we bought a small roast chicken, potatoes, sausage, cheese, eggs and some fruit. We made lunch and will have plenty left to snack on and make some eggs for breakfast in the morning.
This afternoon we went to one of the lookout points that overlooks the oyster beds. They go on for many hectares. You can even see Mont Saint Michel in the far off distance. That's our plan for tomorrow.

Saturday, August 28, 2010

we have finally arrived

We finally arrived at the Maison de Bricourt in Cancale, France at 4:45 pm on Saturday. We left our house at 6 am on Friday. All the flights were great and the train ride to Rennes seemed sooo long, because by now we were very tired. The rental car is great...but then the driving begins. So here's what happened...in June I updated our GPS, but never checked that it was updated correctly for Europe. We used it in Chicago in June and all was fine. Guess what...we get to Rennes, France, turn on the GPS and can't program our destination. Somehow the European maps were wiped out when I updated a few months ago. So now we are here with only a paper map! How did we do it back in the day?
I didn't get the data service for our phone because I figured we would use the free wifi in the hotels. So here we are in France, with no GPS. No, I'm not complaining...but it would have made things a little less complicated.
We arrive at the cottage and it is more than we expected. So quaint, clean and perfect to begin our French adventure. Cancale is a tranquil, beautiful port city.
Now hopefully, we will find a lovely restaurant to eat in tonight and get a good night's rest.
The weather is beautiful and the sea breeze and smell of salt in the air is just what we wanted. We can't wait to go exploring tomorrow.

Saturday, August 21, 2010

checking the weather...

I think we have all our ducks in a row. The only thing left to do is pack. The weather will be cooler than we would like it to be and probably quite rainy. I always try to pack light, but there are so many variables...rain, sun, wind, feet hurt, lazy, in a walking mood. Do I realyy want to wear the same thing for two weeks?
We have made contacts in several cities, arranged our B&B's and hotels, mapped out routes to follow and imagined what it will be like to relax and enjoy the Brittany coast and countryside.
I posted a question on a travel website and received the nicest, most detailed answer from a man in Paris. He travels to Brittany often and told us all the must see places that are not in the guide books. That's the kind of vacation we want to have.
The next post will actually be from France.

Saturday, August 14, 2010

what a coincidence

Last night we went to the Pagaent of the Masters in Laguna Beach. Before the show we had dinner with friends at Brussels Bistro. Our waiter was Thiery, but he didn't have a Belgian accent. When we asked where he was from he said, "France"...I was so excited because he is from Brittany!. When we told him we were going in 2 weeks he gave us the name of his friends restaurant in Dinard. We will definitely go to this restaurant.
A funny part of this story was when he asked us where we were planning to visit, we told him our itinerary. One of the places we said we are going in "Quimper" and we said it just like it's spelled, in English. Well, you pronounce this "CAMPARE". We are so bad with our French pronunciation, let alone our understanding of French. Should make for a fun and exciting vacation.

Monday, August 2, 2010

breath taking beauty...

We received this beautiful postcard from our French couchsurfing friends in January 2010 and knew we had to go there. Hopefully we will get to see this exact location when we visit Lisa and her family.