Beaches

I was awoken in the middle of the night by a very loud dog! There is a sign on the door into our wing of the château which gives a warning about the bizarre dog within. I think it was out hunting snarks. Anyway, it went off into the woods and the night soon returned to stillness and silence…apart from the owls.

Dog sign

Breakfast at the Château du Guilguiffin takes place a very long dining table in the very big farmhouse kitchen. The table seats 16. When we entered at 9.30 it was almost full. We took the last two seats. Lots of chatter, particularly between a young couple (there was a wedding at the château the previous day and they may have been the newlyweds) and the master of the house. They serve delicious coffee, I just feel compelled to say.

After breaky, Mirinda read while I wandered the grounds – well the woodland bit at the front and a few fields. One of the fields had an odd hydrangea hedge. Hidden in a small hollow there’s a small concrete pool (now unused) with a small niche before it. All very romantic.

Hydrangea hedge, Château Guilguiffin

We left at about 12 for Pont l’Abbe. (In the car I had a text from Dawn asking if the Gaz Help desk still operated in France. As usual I was unable to fix her PC problem. I blamed BT instead.) Naturally, seeing as it was between 12 and 2, Pont L’Abbe was closed and virtually deserted. I say virtually because the bars and tabacs held in their depths, crusty miserable old and young men of dishevelled and slightly threatening demeanour. Ok, I’m exaggerating but they didn’t look appealing at all.

We managed to find a café (actually a slightly better bar which had women sitting outside) which, oddly, had Breton translations for French on the back of the menu. After a drink we strolled over to the TiC to find it, also, was closed till 2. And so we wandered around some more, finding ourselves at the huge tourist shop near where we parked the car.

We were enticed in by the tins of biscuits and other lovely things. It was awful. We bought up big, transforming the Pont L’Abbe economy in one fell swoop. As well as biscuits, I bought a bottle of Breton single malt whiskey especially for Nicktor to try.

After buying out the shop, we wandered along the water channel which was slowly filling up and spotted the very poignant war memorial with the Breton women in traditional garb, crying over the loss of the men of the town in the two world wars.

War memorial Pont l'Abbe

From the memorial we found a church, the 14th century Notre Dame des Carmes, which holds a very odd St Sebastien. He had wavy hair and looked quite serene. Obviously a product of the time when he was made. Actually there has been a lot of St Sebastiens in the churches this trip. It seems he’s a bit of a Breton standard. Not sure why. Him and St Roch, the one with the little dog.

One of the things that is everywhere in Brittany (and which Nicole had when she lived in France) is the little breakfast bowls with names on them. Last time we managed to find a bowl for Mirinda which was spelled incorrectly. We found the correct spelling this time but I’d been searching for a ‘Kelly’. Pretty difficult! Then I asked a guy who was putting out his stock and he said “Sure! Of course! We have all names!” Actually he said something rapidly in French but it sounded like this. I should have asked for Nicktor as well!

I followed him into the store and waited while the girl he’d instructed vanished into the depths up the back – all the shops in Pont L’Abbe have very long depths to them. Just when I’d abandoned all hope and figured the press gangs would grab me, she returned holding a bowl with ‘Kelly’ written on it.

Something I hadn’t brought with me this trip (mainly because they’re in Dawn and Nicktor’s garage) are my thongs. Pretty annoying when you visit a lot of beaches, I can tell you. As we were wandering up to the TiC I spotted a shop with thongs in a display out the front. Grabbing my size I went inside and presented the girl with my money. Ah, comfort at last.

Meanwhile, Mirinda had managed to get lots of info about boat rides on the Odet all in French. Not the information but she managed to make herself understood and vice versa, the woman behind the counter.

We decided today was a drive along the coast day as there were no boats from here. We popped into the Four Seasons Creperie for lunch with Cider.

We eventually collected the car and drove to Penmarch which is about as desolate as you’d want to be. The tumbling tumbleweeds attest to that. Our guidebook promised a coiffe to rival Marg Simpson’s hair but the old woman who generally hangs out around the place is either dead or on holidays, because she wasn’t. This was very annoying because we’ve wanted to see her since 2002! Disgusted, we drove on to Eckmühl to see the lighthouse.

The temperature was almost 30° and the sun was mercilessly beating down. We walked around lighthouse – we could have climbed to the top but there was a long queue without shade and only 20 people at a time were permitted – took a cheeky photo of someone’s backyard with menhirs and dolmans rather than the usual gnomes and then dipped our toes in the water but the stench of some out of sight outflow pipe drove us back on shore. Actually, after this, my thongs constantly squeaked so I’m assuming some sort of connection. The place was starting to come alive with a market day atmosphere filled with tables and produce. Mirinda didn’t like the loo so we drove on.

Smelly bit of Eckmühl beach

We stopped at a very popular beach just outside St Guenole and right opposite the Prehistoric Museum. Our guidebook describes the museum as really, really bad, so we didn’t visit. Mirinda visited the loo instead and then we paddled the length of the beach. It’s a fantastic stretch of soft white sand with many French families enjoying themselves with buckets, spades, bats, balls, bits of driftwood, seaweed or just themselves. Very summery. It felt like Avoca at Christmas many, many years ago…without the French families though.

We then drove on to the Pointe de la Torche where huge signs order people not to swim.

Forbidden swimming sign, Pointe de la Torche

Unless you are young girls in white bikinis, of course. The point itself is very dangerous in bad weather but is bordered either side by amazingly long beaches of beautiful white sand. Again, there were lots of families enjoying the weather. One particular family was flying a kite that looked exactly like a seagull. It dipped and soared, then dipped and buried itself into a granny’s head. The day was so fantastically cheerful that she just smiled, wiped the blood from its beak and handed it back.

We walked to the end of the point. Along the sides are lots of amazing little cairns – Mirinda reckons they are made by lots of people after some initial inspiration by an artist. They look pretty odd but somehow in keeping with the natural rock formations. There seems to be a bit of a competition with the placement of the most precarious. Some defy gravity, sitting on the ragged edge of huge boulders.

Pointe de la Torche scultpure

After buying a giant bottle of water, we drove on to the Calvaire Notre Dame de Tronoën. This calvary was carved around 1450 and is showing a lot of weathering from its position near the sea. The smooth edged figures take on an ethereal quality. The figures are also liberally coated in lichen. It reminded me of a sandcastle slowly being reclaimed by the sea. Suffering from a different type of weathering, the big church has become a bookshop, the number of chairs diminished to accommodate the now tiny congregation.

On the way back we stopped at the Champion supermarket in St Jean Trolimon for dinner groceries. Firstly the checkout girl annoyed Mirinda because we hadn’t put a price sticker on the two apples and then she thought we were stealing the shopping basket! The problem stemmed from our not having a 10c piece for a trolley – this is the equivalent of around 7p! – and the store not supplying plastic bags. Naturally I was going to return the basket but when the girl came running after us, Mirinda saw it as a personal affront on our integrity.

We were eventually back at the Château by 7pm where we set up our little feast of ham, cheese, tomato and baguette at one of the picnic tables on the lawn and enjoyed the slowly setting sun.

I think I managed to get a bit of a tan today.

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