Where the car is banned, the tractor is king

Spent a lot of the day being damp and/or wet due to the rain which came and went. Worst weather day of the entire holiday…so far. Still, we never let that stop us.

Today was Isle de Brehat day. We took off up the main coast road to Paimpot and then out the other side towards the Pointe de l’Arcouest, from where the ferries leave. There is parking of various kinds; we took the 24 hour option and wandered down to the dock where we bought a ticket which includes a circumnavigation of the island before landing.

We managed to get a reasonable enough seat outside, on the top where we were entertained by the tannoy in French which we understood at the rate of about one word in 20. Made it very difficult so we gave up translating and made up our own version instead.

The Isle of Brehat at low tide, seen from the sea

It was very low tide so a lot of rocks were sticking up out of the water. They all disappear at high tide. The island is really two islands joined by a small bridge. When I say small, I mean very small. It’s about 15 metres and, while we were there, only crossed a load of mud.

We landed at the low tide dock which meant we had a long walk onto the island proper, along a winding dock where the high tide mark towers many metres above your head. The first thing you see is the Hotel Belle Vue so the first thing we did was sit down to lunch with the beautiful view looking back towards the mainland.

Lunch was lovely and the entertainment was pretty enthralling as well. A young couple were on the dock opposite having an argument. We couldn’t hear them so we had to make up most of the dialogue – actually ALL of the dialogue – but we could follow the action pretty closely from the body language. Not as closely as the two chaps standing about ten feet away from them who we should have quizzed. They’d have known what it was actually about.

Anyway, there was a lot of her with her arms crossed and him sitting, his legs hanging over the edge of the dock. Her feet were planted firmly on the ground and his hang dog expression was pitiful. And then he rose to his feet (he was at least twice her size) and the argument took on a more physical aspect. I don’t mean they started punching each other out! They just started waving their arms in the air.

At one stage he waved a load of objects at her that resembled cassette tapes. I can only assume he had made her a load of party tapes and she had left them behind and he was upset about it. Perhaps because she didn’t have a cassette player or didn’t know what a cassette player actually was. Then, having made the point about the party tapes, he deposited them in various places about his garments.

And then, just as we figured they had finished with each other for good and he was going to swim back to the mainland while she ended up working in the lighthouse at the bleak end of the island, they hugged. Then came the reconciliation. Lots of touching, hair brushing, kissing, hugging, lifting off the ground (he lifted her, she did not reciprocate) and, finally, they came over to the restaurant, sat near us and had lunch.

We finished our lunch, bemused and confused. We set off for the lighthouse via the bourg. The bourg in this case, is the centre of the island where the shops are. Interestingly the Isle de Brehat allows no cars. This is quite good as the island is not very big and the roads are minute. Sadly it means the locals take great joy in herding people off the small streets using their tractors. I don’t blame them. I think I would too. A lot of people visit this place and, apart from the people selling little for lots, it must drive the locals mad. Most of the ones I saw looked mad.

And I must not forget the bicycle riders. Millions of them. Like flies but far bigger. They fly all over the island, taking right of way unless surprised by a tractor, getting annoyed that some of us actually walk.

Just one of the annoying bike riders on the Isle of Brehat

I’m making it sound horrid but it wasn’t. The island is lovely and the walking fairly easy. It’s only small. It takes about an hour to walk the entire length! The houses are lovely and the absence of traffic is wonderful. The island is home to some beautiful wild flowers and tended gardens and lots of birds.

We walked all the way to the lighthouse Paon which looks like it was created as CGI for a Lord of the Rings film. It nestles into the pink granite like so much celluloid fakery. A wonderful structure, almost art nouveau in its design. To cap it all off, the rain started as we wandered around the base. Wind and rain lashing us from the sea, we fought to maintain our footing. Some less brave French tourists huddled under the only shelter on the lighthouse – the lintel over the door. It looked about as effective as a Kleenex.

Crazy tourists huddling for shelter under the lintel of the Paon Pharos

Damp and happy, we slowly wandered back, stopping for the smallest coffee I’ve ever had, in the smallest creperie just before the lighthouse. It was pretty strong just concentrated in a tiny cup – like an espresso – and took longer to wait for than to drink.

As we reached the dock for home we were greeted on our long march by the ticket collector from the ferry telling everyone to walk back, the dock had moved because of the rising tide. Mirinda was sure a sign would have worked better but I think this guy did a wonderful job pushing us all back. Besides the sign would get washed away twice a day.

We were a big throng, waiting to board the 5 o’clock ferry back to the mainland. Most of the throng was related to Stefan, who was nowhere to be found. Judging from the people who were very concerned about his whereabouts, I think he probably stayed on the island to escape them all.

We had our doubts we’d fit on the ferry but fit we did and we were soon chugging back to where the water had risen so much that the gangplank was almost vertical when we left the boat.

The dock at Pointe de l’Accouest at low tide, returning from the Isle of Brehat

Walking up to the car park was a bit of an adventure. I didn’t think walking up the road was a good idea so I followed a sign that pointed the way for pedestrians. When we reached a fork in this path with an arrow pointing right, Mirinda dismissed this vital bit of information, demanding that we go left. Left we went and the nicely laid path ended in a dead end. Clearly we were not the first stupid people who thought the path that headed towards the car park was, in fact, a path to the car park and not to a large metal shutter over an opening in the hill, because we found a path worn in the mud and between the trees leading us on, into the foliage around the car park. We slid down the final hill and found ourselves where we needed to be. As we reached the car, the rain started again.

As we pulled up by the car park kid to pay him, the rain came down harder than any rain I’ve ever seen in Europe. The car was slowly filling up with water as the kid counted out my change by the cent.

Only one slightly bizarre incident marred an otherwise uneventful drive home. At one stage a wood pigeon dive bombed the car. According to Mirinda, it suddenly dropped from a tree. I figure it must have been commiting suicide. It hit the side of the car, leaving traces of the white powder that birds lose from their wings when they run into windows, on the side of the car. Otherwise there was no other damage.

We had a rather disappointing dinner tonight. We had spotted an Italian restaurant on our first visit to Binic so we thought we might try it out tonight as a change from Breton food. I really, really wish we hadn’t. It was pretty bad. Mirinda had ravioli – the sauce wasn’t bad but the pasta and filling was not in the last tasty. I had saltimbocca, a favourite dish which I also cook. It wasn’t saltimbocca. Although it was veal, it was a different dish that the waiter had clearly taken down incorrectly, and it was tough. The sauce was not very nice. All round, the meal was ghastly. We didn’t bother with dessert, coffee or a tip.

We went to the ice cream place instead where Mirinda had white chocolate and Ferrera Rocher flavours and I had pink bubble gum and popcorn. Fabulous. I am SO going to miss the ice cream place at Binic.

Sleep was disturbed! Mirinda woke in the middle of the night firmly believing there was a bush fire in the woods next to the chateau. It was not a bush fire, however, it was a bunch of mischievous cows out for a night on the razz. And, no, they weren’t trying to light cigarettes under the shelter of the trees. The flickering light was caused by loads of fishing boats out at sea. The bush fire noise was the cow’s hooves through the undergrowth as they walked deeper into the woods. This place is so ridiculously quiet that Mirinda was disturbed by their breathing. Needless to say, I slept through it all.

Actually I had a great idea for the first episode of a sitcom but I shall not write about it here!

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One Response to Where the car is banned, the tractor is king

  1. Mum Cook says:

    I think that is the funniest page you have ever written I laughed all the way through it,you have such a talent for writing my darling son you should write a book. You make each place come alive. love mum

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