Climbing Mont Frugy

Went down to the terrace for breakfast. Plenty of coffee and carbohydrates. Mirinda remained asleep. I’d written about 10 words of my journal when my only pen ran out. A lessor mortal may ask why I didn’t have a spare. I would tell this smart arse that I was using the spare because the other one ran out of ink in St Malo! Surprisingly Mirinda didn’t pack a pen for herself. So, my first impossible task for the day was to track down a stylo noir.

I did quite well, actually. In Le Tabac opposite the cathedral, I managed, in appalling French, to buy two.

Back at the hotel Mirinda woke at 9.30, gently easing into the day.

Gradlon, for whom this hotel is named, was an ancient king of Brittany who, legend has it, threw his sister to the devil in order to save himself. Sounds a lovely sort of chap. On top of the cathedral is a statue of him astride his horse. In the past some guy would get on the horse, behind the king, offer him a drink, wipe his mouth and throw the cup to the crowd gathered 400m below him. It was claimed that anyone catching the cup in one piece would be rewarded with lost of dosh but no-one ever managed it! This probably explains why the French do not play much cricket.

Our first stop of the day was to be the cathedral but a service was in progress so we crossed the piazza to the Musee de Beaux-arts de Quimper (or in Australian, The Museum of Quimper’s Beaut Art) instead. There’s some beautiful paintings of rural Brittany on the ground floor. One in particular called Adieu! (Alfred Guillou 1892) is deeply moving (and massive). I have ‘nicked’ a copy from the website but if you’d like to read more about it (and have a MUCH better hold of the French language than I do) try here.

Adieu! Alfred Guillou, 1892

Upstairs are some older paintings including, I’m happy to say, another of our old friend from Tuscany, St Sebastien or He of the Arrows. This version has only 5 arrows and 2 of those missed! His attackers can be seen fleeing as he beseeches into the heavens, his clothes in a neat heap beside his cross.

St Sebastien

It was painted by Francesco Albani from 1605-10. I’ve surfed the net but can’t find the exact painting but it appears he painted the same subject in Italy! It’s very similar so I’ve put it here to give an idea of what it looked like.

The whole museum was excellent and highly recommended but be sure to arrive with plenty of time to visit as, like everything in Brittany, it closes at 12. Because of this, we had no time to trawl the shop and, instead, retired to the bar next door, which spills out onto the piazza. Mirinda had a civilised cup of tea while I had a less civilised but tastier Leffe.

Now, I know the French stand for liberty and believe man (and woman) should be free in most things but I thought they were religious and they held the church in pretty high esteem. At least until today. As we sat drinking our refreshments a drunk, in broad daylight with people scattered hither and thither, proceeded to piss on the outside wall of the cathedral. The most amazing thing is that there are heaps of free public toilets in Quimper. No-one did or said anything. Quite frankly I thought it was disgusting and should be discouraged. They’ll be pissing on Le Petit Train next! Mon Deiu!

We then, once more, tried to see the cathedral but it was now closed for lunch (or possibly a hosing down) so I decided to climb the hill that overlooks the town while Mirinda wrote some postcards in the park at the bottom. After a steep rise of 80 metres I could not see Quimper for the trees.

View from Mont Frugy

Glimpses of the town showed how dull and grey it appeared from above – it is actually quite colourful at ground level. I descended a surprisingly litter strewn Mont Frugy, picked up Mirinda and we headed towards the pottery world further down the river.

The Pottery Museum of Quimper is in the Loc-Maria area of town. It is located on the site of the original Porquir Factory. As you could imagine, it’s full of pottery. Because of the quality of the clay and the river, production started here back with the Romans but the Quimper-ware began in 1690 when Jean-Baptiste Bousquet installed his kiln there. Suffice to say, the whole place was very interesting. There’s a Wikipedia entry about Quimper faience here.

Afterwards we visited the shop. This, in contrast, was very scary. So much beautiful stuff, so many euros! As I say, and probably stole from some American tourist, “Travel broadens the mind and reduces the wallet.” We now own 2 little tiles for the outside wall of the cottage and 2 plates for the wall inside the cottage. The cost is not important. I figure if I keep repeating this mantra, everything will be fine.

We were then decidedly ready for crepes and so headed back to town to find masses and masses of people but all the creperies closed (for lunch?). It seems that from some time after lunch, the word ‘savoury’ has no meaning in Brittany. You can get plenty of sweet pastry items but if you want a proper late lunch you have to go to the food market and try and buy 2 batons and some slices of delicious honey smoked ham and make your own! Which is what I had to do.

We ate our ham rolls in our room and watched a heated debate on BBC World. Dozed and read till about 7, then popped out for a coffee at the café opposite the cathedral. No way were we hungry (there was a LOT of ham) so, instead, we went for a stroll, looking for the normal people’s homes of Quimper.

Just outside the old walled town and along one of the three rivers we found grey buildings, flats and box-like living spaces. Also drunks and a very large car park. The river was very nice to look at and full of surprises, especially when a plastic bag suddenly turned into a big white duck. It’s probably some sort of prey catching device developed over the aeons in order to fit in with it’s environment. It’s interesting that you don’t have to go far out of the old town to find litter, graf and the homeless.

Or, if you are desperate to see the homeless there is one particular chap who seems to just wander through the town in circles. Catch his eye and his lunacy shines out like a directional beacon to the asylum. Walking back through town we passed him a number of times. I think he was a smack addict on his own private roundabout. You’d say it was sad but he was very happy and cheerful looking, smiling and chuckling maniacally.

Back at the hotel, Mirinda spent sometime flipping, trying to find some English TV. In doing so I managed to catch the unfortunate and depressing news that Aston Villa had beaten Chelsea 2-0!! Subsequently I didn’t sleep well.

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