Surprise, surprise, another noisy night. This time someone was busy torturing seagulls – fearful screams filled the narrow streets – it was awful. I assume it was a seagull. Of course, it could have been a cat being tortured by the seagulls instead. They are so big here they could carry off a cat easily.
Due to this noise I was up, showered and ready to go by 8:30 so we went down to breakfast at 10.
Forgot to mention that last night we watched The Simpsons in French. The dubbed voices were very good, especially Homer and Marge – French growling, mmmmmmmm. It was an episode I hadn’t seen but it’s interesting that you can still laugh at the mannerisms of the characters even though they’re only cartoons.
I can highly recommend this hotel (Hotel de Abers) The staff are very friendly, service wonderful, rooms comfortable, coffee good and strong and they don’t laugh too much at my attempts at French.
We set off for the station at 10:30, Mirinda dumping me as luggage minder outside the Hotel de Ville while she went in search of a tabac since she’s finished her book (unusually she only brought the one). The book she just finished, she thought, was a murder mystery. She got to the last line and said “Well, no-one was killed.” To which I replied “Just the mystery then.” I have no idea what she’ll be able to find in English.
St Malo was quite crowded with lots of families. Perhaps it’s school holidays here as well as the UK. Maybe it’s an EU directive that all school holidays have to be at the same time. If so, it’s a stupid EU directive.
Mirinda returned empty handed. Our bus-luck was still in as we caught one to le gare within a few minutes. Unfortunately, our train-luck remains in Tuscany. The timetable we found yesterday is out by an hour and a half because it’s not Wednesday. So I once more guarded the bags while Mirinda went on another reading matter search.
On board the very comfortable train we were serenaded by delightfully lift-esque muzak before every announcement. Being no stranger to European trains (see previous trips to Italy) I remembered to stamp my ticket in the little machine before boarding but was a little confused by the lack of any imprint on the tickets. Mirinda quickly ascertained this was because the machine had bitten off a bit rather than date stamped them. We must have got it right because the guard didn’t abuse us when he punched them as well. I expected him to scratch his head and say “Mon Dieu! Vy ‘ave you punched zee two liddle ‘oles in zee ticket and not stamped them?“
Interesting toilets on the train. Just a hollow tube onto the rail passing beneath, which makes aiming a bit of fun though at the same time you are a bit concerned for your glasses. I thought the rail company had installed a talc dispenser but it’s a funny little soap grater.
We had a leisurely change at Rennes (time for the purchase of two baguettes from a humourless girl at the French equivalent of Delice de Francais and an English copy of Homes and Garden for Mirinda) and boarded a crowded but comfortable train to Vannes. Joining us in the carriage, along with the French throngs, was a massive great Dane (I mean a dog not a massive man from Denmark, though this dog was the size of a full grown Danish man) and an ownerless anorak.
There was a lot of French discourse between passengers which to my totally uneducated ear boiled down to “My kids are in the smoking section, could they sit in your seats instead?” to which a very generous French couple agreed. Although the trip took an hour we were thoroughly engrossed in this entertainment which went on for the entire trip. Victoria, who Mirinda works with, reckons the French are obsessed with The Family and I think this trip proves her point.
We arrived in Vannes at 3:10 and caught a taxi for the 300 metre trip to the Mascotte Hotel. Vannes is a tiny walled city with very little wall left and surrounded instead by thousands of cars – the Hotel Mascotte sits on a roundabout where all these cars enjoy a little spin. Double glazing works very well because if you open it you can’t actually hear anything except the cars, if you close it you can just hear the telly.
The room is comfortable enough but lacks the charm of St Malo. The hotel appears to be a businessmen’s type stopover for business meetings kind of place and the impersonal approach of the staff bears this out.
After a short rest we walked through the petrol fumes, down 8 May 1945 street and, eventually, slipped into a side street. Here things improved: higgledy piggledy cobble stoned alleys, lined with non-linear houses, all in different striped colours. It’s all full of colour, people and movement.
Mirinda started getting a bit toey so we stopped for coffee, chocolate and ice cream at a handy outside creperie. From here we gradually worked our way towards the port and the TIC. In direct contrast to the St Malo TIC, this one was manned by a very informative German girl full of information about ferries and buses and everything.
After planning our Vannes itinerary we went and joined Le Petit Train of Vannes! Yes, there’s one here too!
It was a very enjoyable squishy trip around the tiny streets, learning many exciting facts and figures about Vannes. For instance, Vannes’ name comes from the Veneti, a Celtic tribe that Caesar beat up on many moons ago. It shared the honour of being the Breton capitol (with Nantes & Rennes) throughout the Middle Ages.
The patron saint of the town is St Vincent Ferrier, a Dominican monk, well known for great speeches, a few miracles and causing anti-Semitic riots which ended with people throwing Jews off cliffs (that actually happened in Toleda, Spain, not in Vannes, but it was the same sweet canonised guy).
He’s buried in the cathedral, which is amazing from the outside, being a mix of several centuries of style. We just missed out seeing the inside so this pleasure awaits us.
Not so the pleasures of a Breton boulangerie where Mirinda had a trifle-y thing which looked impossibly stable and I had a stiff, cakey thing with almonds on top and gallons of cream inside. After this we slowly made our way back to our comfy round-a-bout beds, passing the lovely sculpture of Vanne and his Wife.
This is a wooden couple without hands who, it seems, run (or ran) a restaurant. In our room, too late for a granny nap, Mirinda decided, instead to settle into a bath. Karen rang to ask some flat related questions and, in doing so, proved that my new phone refuses to work in France although it promised me it would!
Anyway, at 8:30 we went down to the restaurant in the hotel. No English in sight. Mirinda tried to order a giant salad as well as a giant main meal but the grim faced waitress changed her mind. Mirinda ended up having the filet mignon pork and I had rare beef, still warm from the abattoir. Both the meals were massive – sort of ala English pub food. So big, in fact, that we decided to just settle for the one course and retire for the night.
I watched a game of football between two teams I’ve never heard of, with commentary in French. I understood everything – what a brilliant game football is! The match was pretty exciting and ended up 2 all. Mirinda, unusually uninterested in the game, was asleep before her head hit the pillow.