I’m not one to generally moan about the cost of things. I figure you can afford them or you can’t and if you can’t then you don’t buy them. Simple philosophy. However, sometimes the sheer audacity of some people gets right up my goat. Take the small sandwich shop along the main road in Pontivy. Today there was a market – a lot-of-tat type market not fruit, veg and all things yummy – and it was very hot (33° at one point). People were milling in their thousands (or at least it felt like it). Mirinda wanted a diet Coke so she went into a Tabac and was told to go to the sandwich shop across the road.
One of the things we have a bit of difficulty with in France is numbers. Up to ten is usually ok but after that you really depend on any shop signs or the cash register. This sandwich shop had neither, just a cheery French girl who spoke rapidly. Now, a can of Coke in Britain would normally cost under 50p (unless you’re stupid enough to buy it at Waterloo station), 75p tops. At the present exchange rate, that’s pretty equal to the Euro. For people in Australia, remember the cans are quite small (33cl) and not the normal size.
I handed the girl a €1 coin. She inspected it, wrinkled her nose and said something which clearly meant this was not enough. I gave her 50c more and still her nose wrinkled. By this stage I was pretty shocked and amazed her nose could wrinkle quite that much without twisting off. This wasn’t a gold plated can I was buying and I wasn’t in Harrods. I decided to just give her a €2 coin and hope it wasn’t more than that. She handed back the shrapnel and some change. The small can of coke had cost €1.60! Unbelievable. And it didn’t even have any sugar in it. I fancy it was because they are the only shop selling cold drinks and the temperature was above 30.
So, dear traveller, be warned, when buying a diet coke in Pontlivy, don’t. It’s far better to take your own from somewhere outside of town. Sadly, I discovered that this is the standard price for Coke Light in Brittany. When you can get it. Some places they’ve never even heard of it.
Apart from the little episode above, we had a lovely day. After breakfast we both worked on our separate assignments in the room overlooking the oyster farm (Madame said it was okay for us to hang about till noon as the cleaner wouldn’t be getting there till late) and then slowly packed and left.
On the way to Pontlivy, we thought we’d drop in and see the famous Venus of Quinipily near Baud. It gets a big mention in both the Michelin and Rough Guides. Sadly the sign pointing to it is very well hidden and we didn’t see it until we were about three miles further down the road. The traffic through Baud was pretty tight and crowded as well so we weren’t about to turn around and go back. Next time, maybe, we shall see the famous Venus of Quinipily. She is apparently something to see.
Baud was pretty much a blur of traffic and tight Breton roads, winding in and out of pretty Breton houses and then, we were out in the open again. Most of the driving throughout today was through open countryside or forest. Both could have been anywhere in England. It’s remarkable how similar the landscape is…though not so remarkable when you realise that the land was joined once and was all part of the same mass. Though, of course, there was no-one building houses or selling Coke then.
We continued up to Pontivy and parked in the huge square at the bottom of the very big market. We love the way that in Brittany parking is designated either white or blue. If it’s blue, it tends to require payment, if it’s white, it’s free. Both colours are generally together except the white is always further away. Not a problem for us. Fantastic. So, of course, we parked for free and set off in search of some lunch.
We fought our way up the street, passing the covered stands full of over-coloured lingerie, kids’ t-shirts, weird labour-saving devices for the kitchen that take longer to wash than anything else in the kitchen, and the general rubbish you find you just have to have, until we reached the top of the street and a restaurant. Exhausted we were shown to a table.
We were served very quickly and our drinks arrived but then the long wait. Two weeks later, our lunch arrived. It was lovely, it just took a looooooong time. We ate, we paid, we left. It was then time to find the Chateau de Rohan.
The chateau was built by the Rohan family, who also built the fairy tale chateau at Josselin (see our previous trip to Brittany) and it looks very similar from the outside. Inside, however, it is just a shell. A nice shell, though. I remember Josselin and having to be taken around with a guide. This place is much better. You just roam around. Excellent. Not that there’s a LOT to see. The biggest surprise was the impressive fireplace that came from somewhere else and was installed in the Chateau in 1960! The art installation by Koki Watanabe is worth noting as well. He has a big thing for water, clearly.
We had a jolly good wander around and then wandered back to the car. Getting out of Pontivy was a bit of argy bargy but eventually we were on the open road once more and headed for Pordic, our home for the next three nights. This meant going around the massive city of St-Brieuc. Thank the gods for the by-pass! What a hot and snarling mess of cars, trucks and motorbikes. The most traffic we’ve seen all trip. And a traffic jam! Our first in France. But it all ended soon enough and we arrived in the delightful little village of Pordic.
We had some very detailed instructions on how to find the place we’re staying in, for which I’m eternally grateful. We didn’t have much of a signal so Mirinda’s little friend was of limited use.
Tonight we had one of the best meals we’ve ever had. At a restaurant in Binic, a port about 10km from Pordic. The restaurant is called A la Table de Margot. Unbelievable. We will probably go there again.