Wednesday, October 13, 2010

10/13: If It's Wednesday, It Must Be Brittany


Once we got the word late last night that my mom was gonna be okay, we pressed on with our plans for today, plans that had us doing something I don’t think we’ve ever done while in Europe—

We played tourist!

We spent the day driving around Brittany (Bretagne), which is akin from driving from Michigan to Wisconsin.  Brittany, though, is a lot like the U.P. with gently rolling hills, a ton of bike riders (Brittany being one of the biking capitals in a biking-mad country), and a fierce independent streak among the people.  In fact, there are many people in Brittany who refuse to speak French, instead speaking a hybrid of French and Celtic, this region being a part of Britain (hence the name) until William the Conqueror wreaked havoc across the English Channel in 1066.

Okay, enough history.  On with the pictures!

First stop was Fougères, a town with almost the exact population of Marquette.  The two cities are also similar in other ways, including big churches, a nice performing arts theater, and lots of public space with parkland, including one that has this--

The one thing Fougères has that Marquette doesn’t is a big castle sitting in the middle of it.  Unfortunately, the picture I took of it disappeared, thanks to batteries that were running out.  But so you’re not left out, here it is, courtesy of (and copyright by) Wikipedia—

Next stop was Vitré, home to an 11th century castle that’s still pretty well preserved—

Following Vitré was a stop in Combourg, home to this chateau—

where a famous French writer, Francois-Rene Chateaubriand, lived through a depressing childhood with his sister Lucile before penning several famously depressing classics.  Maybe that’s because he didn’t spend enough time in the beautiful neighboring town of Dinan, where we scoped out the 14th century church--

And then walked over to the public gardens, which sit in a former castle about 250 feet above part of the town.  And thanks to that elevation, you get views like this—

After spending 20 or so minutes doing nothing but saying “wow”, we made one final stop, the coastal town of Cancale.  Here’s a dork you may know on a bluff overlooking the town—

On the other side of the city sits the Brittany coast, which isn’t like the beaches we’re used to back home, or even the beaches around Normandy.  These are some seriously rocky beaches—

We then made it back here to Ducey, where we’re getting things packed up so we can head back “home” to Bayeux for two more nights there.  We didn’t know what to expect when we decided to stay here for part of the trip; we didn’t know the area, and we didn’t know the people.  But neither of them disappointed us.  This has been a great way to spend some time in France, and we’re already looking forward to coming back again some day.

Now, onto a few quick other things you noticed while driving around here (1,700 kilometers so far)--

For the first time today, we actually saw leaves that had changed colors.  In Normandy, as you may have noticed from some of the pictures, everything is still green, thanks to the influence of the Atlantic.  But once you get away from the warm water, things are different, just like in the U.P. away from the lake.  And just like in the U.P., the water influences the weather in other ways, too.  We had a LOT of sun today, at least until we got close to the Channel.  By the time we hit Cancale, clouds were everywhere.  And when we came back here inland just a bit, the sun was back out.

Think of it as lake effect multiplied by a power of 10.

We’ve also really noticed something around here, too.  Every little town has a church in it, usually a beautiful centuries old building.  But there’s one thing you always notice when looking at these churches—the steeples on them aren’t centuries old.  In fact, the steeples on most of them are only 60-some years old.  Most of them were used by German snipers & artillery spotters during World War II, which means most of them were blown to bits by the Allies during World War II.  We’ve even developed a little game, trying to figure out where the old church ends and the new steeples begin.  If you’re ever over here, try it yourself!

Finally, an update on my Mom.  She’s doing a LOT better today; in fact, she should be out of the ICU by now.  Any internal bleeding has stopped, and they just need to set her broken arm.  Her broken ribs will probably hurt for a LOOOOOONG time (based on personal experience), but, as time goes on, she should mend fully.  You can’t believe how glad we were to hear that.

And speaking of my mom, here’s her French flower for today, courtesy of a gardener in Dinan—

Back to Normandy tomorrow, and hopefully a story on what happened to a WWII fighter pilot from Marquette.


1 comment:

  1. What great pictures. I have always wanted to go to Brittany - Merlin is supposedly asleep in a cave there.

    Marquette does have a castle - the castle brewery. :)