Up at 8. The celebration of Easter appears very muted around these parts. Actually our hostess at the Gradlon Hotel hadn’t actually known it was Easter until yesterday when she accidentally spotted a couple of Easter eggs in a nearby chocolate shop window. I guess it’s the public holiday thing: if you don’t get one there’s no natural reminder, especially now that church is no longer mandatory. If Christ died for our sins what does that say about the sin of forgetting the fact that he died at all? Maybe it’s because the date changes every year. Imagine if your birthday was determined by the movement of Mars. I’d forget mine! Actually I forget mine anyway so let’s just leave it there.
Breakfast was the usual bread, butter and coffee. Very nice bread, butter and coffee. Mirinda rang Bob and Claire for Easter so I went for a walk around town. Quimper starts to wake up from 10am so it was like strolling through yawns and stretches.
The guy who invented the stethoscope was called Laennec and the café in the piazza is Café du Finistere – Finistare being the area of Brittany we are in. I sat next to the impressive statue of Laennec while lots of little kids screamed with mixtures of delight and abject fear on the Jules Verne Carousel to the accompaniment of two boys terrorising pedestrians on their micro scooters. Actually the 7 year old was teaching the 6 year old HOW to terrorise.
Looks like another lovely blue sky day with a cool breeze, keeping the temperature bearable. One little kid sitting in the cockpit of the slightly bigger Jules Verne bi-plane had vanished as the carousel completed a rotation and his father freaked. He leapt heroically onto the spinning contraption then, relieved beyond belief, dragged his child up by the shoulders, out of the hollowed insides of the ride. It was hilarious…but perhaps you had to be there.
At 11:15 the cathedral bells went crazy, the massive doors opened and masses of mass goers poured forth. Suddenly the quiet, deserted Quimper was noisy and full. Then after 10 minutes, the bells gradually stopped; like an ocean liner trying to brake, it took quite a while.
Mirinda joined me at about 11:30 and we went to see the cathedral – finally. By the way, all well at Dural – Mirinda told her nanna we were in France to which she said “Ah, yes, I’ve been to Florence.” Mirinda then corrected her saying, “No, France.” Her nanna then replied “Yes, Florence. I’ve been there.” in true Monty Python fashion. Think of the secret service sketch.
The cathedral has to be the lightest we have ever seen. It is painted with light colours, has acres of stained glass and even electric lights. It made a very pleasant change from the usual dim and dark places we tend to find. The cathedral is dedicated to St Corentin who, legend has it, was sought out by king Gradlon who, on finding him, begged him to become the bishop of his capitol, Kemper (Quimper). Interestingly Corentin was a hermit who caught the same fish in the same well every day, ate half and threw the rest back which miraculously reformed for the next day and for this he was canonised. I guess he was the compleat angler. Anyway, Corentin became the first Bishop sometime between the 5th and 7th centuries.
The construction of the cathedral started in 1239, stopped for a bit during the French Revolution in 1793 then continued well into the 19th century with the construction of the marvellous twin bell towers. An amazing sight is the dog’s leg down the middle aisle. From the doors you cannot see the back wall. I guess that’s what happens when you ask for tenders and the construction work covers centuries. There’s no explanation for this kink so I put forward the theory that the person responsible for the drawings folded them wrong.
There’s a lovely statue of St Joan in one of the alcoves along the side as well as countless (actually you could count them but I didn’t) stained glass windows of glorious Biblical stories. There’s a little altar to Santik Du, a Franciscan monk from Quimper who would give bread to the poor with a little table by his statue and people leave bread there every day, anonymously and other people (presumably poor ones) equally anonymously take it.
After church we popped next door into the Musee Departmental Breton. Lots of great old stuff in a wonderfully set up building. It was originally the bishop’s palace…I have no idea where he lives now. Included was a wooden statue of our old friend St Sebastien, from the 16th century. He had 7 arrow holes but only 1 arrow was intact. It was the one through the heart so pretty much the fatal blow. The museum included lots of dummies dressed in Breton outfits through the centuries. All very interesting and interestingly, free.
Afterwards we went outside and climbed the ramparts to walk round the city walls ala St Malo. After about 100 metres it was over. Not a lot left!
We retired to a café then back to the room for a break. Mirinda put the BBC on and I argued with the Dateline team about the US in Iraq situation.
We had our usual 7pm dinner, this time at one of the only restaurants open on Easter Sunday: an Italian/French place with a very friendly maitre’d who spoke excellent English. And he didn’t care what we wore or that I drink beer. The meal was lovely and I’d recommend it if I could remember the name. Actually I found the name on the bill. It’s La Villa F (like Christiane without the heroin). We had slivers of veal (they call it minced) in sauce and pasta preceded by a green salad (grass and olive oil for the uninitiated) followed by pavlova (Mirinda) and tiramisu (me of course). Afterwards had our last stroll around Quimper.
It was a lovely night, spoilt only by the unlicensed motorbikes, buzzing around the cobbled streets. One day, if a whole bunch of Garys get together in Quimper, we will pounce on one of these putt-putt bikes, throw the rider and his moronically grinning pillion passenger to the cobbles and proceed to kick the noisy thing to death. Call me unreasonable (Mirinda does) but I hate them! We had one in Aldershot, mosquito boy I called him. I know they don’t care. I know they’re just kids with little (if anything) to do with their time. I know their parents have no idea where they are and what they’re doing. And I now realise everyone else is a lot more tolerant of them than I am though I have no idea why. But I have to ask: why have such a lovely old cobbled town with narrow streets and pretty painted buildings if you’re just going to fill it up with cars, buses and pesky motor scooters????? Quimper seems massive beyond the old city walls so WHY DO THESE IDIOTS NEED TO ANNOY ME? Grumble, grumble.
Ok, enough of my political scariness. We made our way back to the hotel and bed. Early start tomorrow as our train leaves at 8:40!!