Out & about in Vannes

Awake at 3am after a weird dream about a scary harmonica player coming towards me. I knew I had to wake up before I saw this person’s face so I did. I eventually went back to sleep. I woke at 8 and went down for another DIY breaky.

Yesterday I shared it with happy, chirpy Italians. Today it’s with grizzly, moan-y poms. Why is that? It’s a beautiful, glorious day and all one particular old man could say was “Don’t be stupid” when his wife said anything. I also wonder why he married someone so mentally beneath him. Of course this could be a case for meeting of minds before marriage. Sort of like living together first to make sure the sex is ok except you find out each other’s mental capabilities. This, of course, would have not really helped the old man in question as his wife would have then answered any proposal of marriage with “Don’t be stupid!“.

Back in the room, Mirinda was feeling a bit better though not perfect. We decided not to go to Carnac as planned (very long bus ride) and instead have an easy day. In order to quell my disappointment, she said she’d started planning our next trip to Brittany which will definitely include Carnac. We strolled over to the station and booked tickets on tomorrow’s train with a very nice slightly English speaking train info guy. He also suggested we book our Quimper to St Malo tickets today while we were at it. A good job we did! There’s like two trains next Monday, one at 8:40 the other at 14:20 – it’s Easter Monday. We (naturally) tried for the afternoon but there were only smoking carriages left and Mirinda didn’t think any nice French couples would give their seats up for us. Luckily we got seats in non-smoking on the early train but we’ll have to wake up bloody early to get it.

It’s funny. I read other people’s travel journals and it’s this get up early, catch an early train, travel all day, walk around the sites, go drinking and eating, crash late and it all starts again. Ok, I understand getting value for money but I also LOVE sleeping in! One really good thing about Brittany is the checkout times at the hotels. None of this 10am garbage. The earliest is 12 and it just gets better!

From the station we walked across the cemetery, under the illusion it would be green and pleasant – it looked it on our black and white map. It appears the people of Vannes have a healthy disregard for the outlook of their dead. It looked like a dump. All concrete and jumbled in a strange regimented way. It was about as far from restful as you could get – just as easy to stay at the Mascotte Hotel. It was very similar (though bigger) to the cemetery in Castelruth but without the snow, the candles and the scary dudes with the shovels.

From here we tried to find the entrance to the massive gardens that overlook the city centre. It was a long stroll through noisy, traffic congested streets before we found an entrance to a narrow stretch of grass and trees. We sat and watched the birds flutter around the bushes as cars and trucks fluttered behind us.

Vanne from the pathetic park

Eventually we walked into the town centre looking for crepes. Stopped at a bar instead where Mirinda ordered a ham sandwich which took an age to make. We saw the waiter pop out shortly after we ordered. He darted off towards the House of Pain (bakery) and returned after a short while clutching many baguettes. The rest of the time, we surmised, he must have popped out to the deli for the ham and the dairy for the butter.

I had a Leffe which I have not had for many, many moons (actually it was in Café Rouge in Farnham) and is still my favourite European beer. It was very nice sitting at an outside table next to a cobbler making red patent leather clogs which Mirinda insisted I not buy and overlooking what yesterday was a market but today is a carpark.

We then ambled slowly up to the cathedral for a pleasant wander round it’s many chapels. The English leaflet, though informative (and believe me, we are ready to pounce on anything with English words on it) is not very well translated. It makes me wonder what the foreign translations are like in UK cathedrals.

Anyway, St Peter’s Cathedral, for all it’s bad English, has a website which may be interesting. Actually I just looked at it, or rather I TRIED to look at it. The page is not there. So I won’t bother setting the link up. However, there is a Wikipedia entry here.

From the leaflet…Until the French Revolution, the cathedral was in possession of St Gwenael’s skull – he was a 16th century monk – but it doesn’t say what happened to it afterwards. Perhaps someone used it as a cereal bowl before delivering aristocrats to the guillotine. A bit of a payoff though because in the Chapel of St Vencent Ferrier is HIS skull, but it’s only been there since 1956.

St Peter's

The church has many chapels along each side, all dedicated to some saint or other and they each contain quite magnificent works of art. Generally you think that most artists enjoyed the clerical patronage but not, it seems, all of them. In the Our Lady of Mercy chapel is a painting by Delaval called Painting of the Virgin with the Child (1836). Because of the quality of this painting, Delaval regretted that “…this painting, which could be a suitable ornament for a royal chapel, has been lost in the Cathedral of Vannes.

The main thing about this cathedral is the mix of styles; the styles visible today date from the 13th century up until the 19th. The leaflet says that the earliest part of the church dates from the 6th century when the west diocese was evangelised. Just looking at it, however, is enough to see it has been added to over the centuries. Hodge podge is a phrase that springs to mind. The hoardings are up now! I expect this is just for restoration but it would be cute if a little bit of the 21st century sneaked in. The cathedral is hemmed in on all sides by narrow streets so it’s difficult to get an overall view of it but I think this is a large part of it’s charm. It looks different from all angles.

From the coolness of the cathedral we returned to the heat of the day and slowly wandered back to the hotel for Mirinda’s snooze, stopping on the way in order to buy a French/English dictionary to aid in her reading of Agatha Christie’s Cinq Petits Cochons.

As she snoozed I watched the world cycling championships from Capetown followed by the women’s weightlifting from Greece. What I want to know is when does a young girl decide to take up weightlifting? An odd choice. Mirinda woke for the final clean and jerks.

We then went for our final jaunt around Vannes, stopping for a coffee then a beer at various outdoor cafes. Mirinda spotted a tres couteux pair of earrings she was considering for her birthday but she stayed her hand. We went for dinner to a lovely little seafood restaurant, just opposite Vanne and his wife’s place. Mirinda had a big bowl of fruit de la mer (yerk) while I had steak. Dessert was crème brulee and I HAVE to say mine is up there with theirs!

After dinner we strolled around a bit, checking out the Hotel de Ville which is not a hotel but has an amazing statue of a horse and rider out front.

Hotel de Ville

We then gradually walked back to the round-a-bout, went up to our room and watched a very funny Cary Grant movie (it also starred Rosalind Russell and was about a female newspaper reporter) in English. The dialogue was too fast to be translated. I doubt anyone could be that good! Then to sleep. At least for me. Mirinda decided to catch up on the war news.

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