Golfe du Morbihan

Woke up at 7 when the trucks arrived, having followed us from St Malo. Mirinda quickly closed the window and we returned to sleep even quicker. I woke at 8 to a gorgeous morning, all sun and narry a single cloud.

A lovely shower in this place except they are just a little mean with the towels – we have one. Breakfast is a DIY job with sliced meat, boiled eggs, bread and cereals. All fine, except the coffee is pretty sub-standard. Sort of UK Caff standard. This is the first time this has ever happened to me in Europe, crap coffee. Mind you, my caffeine requirements are such that I had to drink at least 2 cups of it.

We strolled down to the port through the market (every Wednesday and Saturday, the centre of Vannes becomes a car-less oasis of produce under bright Breton canvas). Very enjoyable. We popped into le place de lice for some fresh fruit. It’s full of great fresh food and very friendly sales people. Bought some apples, bananas and strawberries for the boat trip. Then we had a long and (at times) lovely stroll down to the port – which is about 4 miles from the other port close to town.

We purchased our tickets, just managing to beat the 53 German tourists to the counter. As a side note it occurs to me that I recognise some of these Germans as the same nautical types who ruined our boat ride down the Seine. When the boat finally arrived (15 minutes late and us standing in the blazing sun) the tour guide for the Germans was determined his 53 charges would gain the best seats in the house. Well, I’m sorry Wolfgang, but we sneaked in and scuppered at least 2 of these plans!!

Not the ferry we caught

The boat ride is a tour of the Golfe du Morbihan and our guide book says it’s brilliant. Possibly if you could understand the French or German commentary, you may have some idea what you’re looking at. Apart from any information, the ride was lovely. The vocal skills of the ferry guide were quite interesting though. Obviously his voice teacher told him to start each speech with a very loud outburst in order to capture the attention of not just his audience but of anyone within a 10 mile radius.

Of course this is where the guidebook comes in very handy. The ‘Little Sea’ was formed about 4,000 years ago when land levels fell. It is over 20km wide 15km north to south. For all it’s sheltered location away from the ocean and storms, the gulf is fiercely tidal, it’s waters ripping in and out of a narrow neck near Locmariaquer like fizzing champagne (we can vouch for this – we saw it). There are over 300 islands some barely rising at low tide, others massive and inhabited. Ok, enough guidebook.

We spotted our perfect house – a little island about 10 acres, with one house on it and plenty of trees. Apparently a lot of wealthy celebs buy these islands and settle on them. Away from any limelight. We didn’t see any so it must be working.

We docked at Ile Aux Moines, a large island (about 7 kilometres long), with standing stones, menhirs, tiny rustic houses, bike hire places and annoying cars and vans. It took a while to work our way up to Bourge, the principle town on the island, which is the central point to the four coloured paths. The colours are painted on the road and point in the directions you need to go. We followed red for a bit and popped into a little chapel (Notre Dame D’Esperanto, I think).

Inside the chapel

Then we followed the blue down to some standing stones (Cromlech de Kergonan) which sit in a semi-circle within a little secluded field. Mirinda sat by one for a bit while I enthused. We went on a bit more to a roadside chapel before reaching Mirinda’s walk-ability level. Actually (and fortunately) we’d reached half of it. we turned round and walked back.

As usual the return walk took half the time and was more crowded. I think this is one of those annoying constants one is always finding in nature. It could probably be used in the calculation of why the ancients built standing stones in the first place. Note, for instance, how the distance between the stones is greater the further you go from the centre…

Anyway, the island was full of French families out cycling for the day, making us wish we’d hired bikes. We stopped in the town at a café called Podbronnek for a coffee/tea while we decided whether to visit another island or return to Vannes. We eventually decided on the latter as Mirinda wasn’t feeling the best – too much rich food. Or was it the Far Breton?

We walked back to the ferry via la plage and the cliff path. This is a lot more scenic than the main path and is recommended to fellow virgin visitors (as you leave the ferry don’t follow the road to the left, go straight ahead and follow the path). Not only is it a better route, there are lots of places to sit and rest and just enjoy the fizzing champagne tide. It is also a good place to read House and Garden. We sat and watched the tide come in and the beach rapidly vanish beneath it. It was easily hot enough to swim and the little beach was packed with families splashing about and turning an awful shade of painful red. They gradually moved up as the tide swept in.

Beach huts

At one stage about 4,000 little French kids, all wearing identical white baseball caps with the word ‘Oz’ embroidered on them, tramped past our resting spot. Very odd and quite surreal.

In contrast to the trip out, the ferry back was lovely and empty. The commentary was given by a guy with a lovely voice and great sense of humour…at least he thought so, as he kept making himself laugh. It’s a pity we couldn’t understand him as it sounded very entertaining. Still, it was lovely sitting back in the sun, watching the islands slowly slide by.

Mirinda steadily felt worse as we drew closer to Vannes and she wanted a taxi back to the hotel. Yeah right! The port where the ferries go from seems not to be a favourite haunt of taxi drivers. The dock is about 2 miles from town. We ended up walking back and stopping at the dock-side area for an ice cream. There was lots of traffic but the taxi rank was full of parked cars. Mirinda gathered her will power and strength about her and we gradually walked up through the town until we reached our round-a-bout and she finally collapsed onto the bed.

I popped out for a baguette in case she woke up in the middle of the night hungry. I then settled back to watch half an hour of a strange sport which is a combination of football and basketball. France was beating Russia and it seemed frenetic…but silly. I then found a live telecast of Rome v Lazio in the semi-final of the Tim Cup. Although it started with great pace and excitement, after 20 minutes my eyes were closing so, reluctantly, I turned the tv off and went to bed. It was 9pm and still very light!

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