Monthly Archives: March 2012

Dol de Bretagne and countryside

Driving almost aimlessly around the Bretagne and Normandie countryside one is bound to come across charming homes, scenic farms and pastoral vistas enchanting to the eye.  When you set out, be sure to look for the Departmental roads indicated by roadside panels (D + number on yellow background); just follow your nose and let your sense of direction take you more or less where you’d like to end up.  I love to let ‘chance’ take me along for a ride that almost always leaves me breathless and delighted at my good fortune.  Rigidly planning an excursion to a specific location is too limiting, it robs you of a sense of adventure; to my mind it lacks the charm of impromptu discoveries and the opportunity to interact close and personal with locals.  Country folks are invariably courteous and very interested in your interest in them and their locality.   Some of the most memorable memories I hold dear happened by such happenstance meetings.  Mont St. Michel is often seen in the distance as a constant reminder of its protection over the land; the countryside is almost garden like in it’s greenness and meticulous care.
(NOTE: To improve your viewing experience click on the photos below to enlarge – once for medium, twice to zoom in.)
Normandie is justly reputed throughout the country as a haven for fat cows that provide rich milk that in turn produces marvellous cheeses of all styles for all taste buds, including the international favourite Camembert, soft and flavour-loaded Boursin, delicious Pont-l’Eveque and too many others to mention.  Do as I do, always have a fresh baguette and a bottle of good red in the trunk; drop a blanket on the grass, there’s always a time and a place for an impromptu picnic.
“Hey, comment-ça va? How’s it going down?”  “Mooo-meuh (French dialect) … don’t ask, I’ve been chewing the cud all day and I’m blowing methane like you’d not believe, no bullshit!”
Just wandering and around a corner I came on to this rather peculiarly designed private residence, but home is where the heart is, right?
Since I was a youngster, I was totally taken in by Alphonse Daudet and his wonderful collection of short stories titled ‘Lettres de mon moulin’.  It was the beginning of a lifelong love affair  as ever since I’ve been totally infatuated with windmills.  There are some to be seen across the French ‘paysage’ but it seems more so in the Normandie and Bretagne regions.  Incidentally, somewhere during one of my peregrinations I spotted a well-maintained windmill a few  hundred metres off the road.  It was just sitting there, no one about or any signs indicating it was special, but curious as always I drove in the dirt lane and much to my delight discovered one humble plaque that claimed here was the windmill that had been the inspiration for Daudet’s classic.  I could have kissed the old stones; well, I did caress them. Incidentally this one behind me could have been its twin.  Notice the wings have unfurled their canvas and is just awaiting a fresh wind from the sea to start rotating and putting the grinding machinery in action.
This well-kept windmill was still  in working condition and several types of  flour  could be purchased right on the spot.  The distinctive aroma of fresh ground wheat  wafting in the atmosphere, the mechanical sounds of the grinding apparatus imbued me with a warm feeling, the same coming home and cradling a freshly baked loaf of bread.  As well there was a friendly little restaurant that provided food for the patio or to be taken out to one of the picnic tables under a shady tree.  Just a lovely, joyful atmosphere.
Obviously I’m not the only one who has an affinity for old wind mills.  
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Was the expression ‘jumping for joy’ ever better expressed than jumping for joy as demonstrated by an unrehearsed show of grace and athletic prowess?  I was able to catch the split second by sheer good fortune.  
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Now this stone dwelling was much more in tune with my own vision of what I’d like to own as a home, but it wasn’t for sale – quel dommage!
Imagine the average price of a family home constructed of 1/2 inch particle plywood, stucco-plastered and likely to leak within a few years (solid brick is almost unknown)  in Vancouver would buy me two of those and still have lots left over for landscaping.  Who are they kidding in Vancouver? How can things get so far our of whack and into the land of crazy! Indeed what are the natives smoking? I know B.C. weed is reputed but can it be so  potent to totally distort reality?
A lovely combination of green ivy, warm old stones announced a friendly welcome to the passerby.  The sensitive dwellers who provided such loveliness have to be the finest of human beings, n’est ce pas? 
Check out the self-assured strut, the panache of the unchallenged king of the farmyard, and here’s a cockadoodledoo to you.  Now you’ll perfectly understand why the French have chosen the ‘cock’ as it’s national symbol, especially appropriate for ‘sporting’ purposes.  The silly goose knows enough to look on from afar and keep it’s envy private.
Plump French geese will make for a perfect New Year’s roast dinner.  Little do they know how appreciated they will be; finger licking good.
Any farmer will tell you geese are more efficient as ‘guard dogs’ than Fido who in theory is the holder of the title but in reality far  more interested in chewing on a juicy bone and at night happy to stay in  the ‘dog house’.  By the way if a goose takes a dislike to you it will nip with that sharp and sturdy beak and whack you with its wings for good measure; they are fearless or too dumb to fear but the result is the same.  My advice, stay clear unless attacking a juicy breast on your plate.
Without doubt the water lily is my favorite flower; I admire its ‘aloofness’, the royal bearing, the cool green and perfect shape of its leaves, the subtle but superlative aroma and yet it thrives anchored to the mud below.  A poet-philosopher might conjure up a spiritual analogy, a morality lesson not to judge whence a person springs forth but to wait and observe what time brings forth to the world.  But, I’m not a poet-philosopher so I’ll leave the definitive morality tale for a more creative person than I am to engender and set out for all of us to learn its valuable lesson.
From a hill top one can observe  the surrounding beautifully laid out and neat farm houses and cultivated fields.  Later I drove around it and close up it was even more bucolic, a heart-tug to a country boy at heart.   The truth is I have no idea if I could find that area again as I simply spent a full day driving aimlessly in this beautiful corner of La Belle France. 
Dol de Bretagne is a fine example of a town that has conserved its medieval heritage.  I wandering around without a plan; passers-by invariably nodded a greeting and discovered  it was visually interesting peering around every new corner.
The cathedral seen from across a lush corn field – the countryside is blessed with abundant,  fresh farm produce that finds its way to the big cities in the interior, Paris being one.
Within the old pedestrian only part of town featuring cobble stones streets paved several centuries ago.  Lots of good restaurants, casual bistros altogether a congenial place to simply hang out with friends.  
Fortified Saint-Samson Cathedral was built during the 13th Century and as well as being a ‘house of God’ it also was built with a defensive vocation keep in mind that in medieval times one never knew who’d be raiding or attempting to conquer.  Over the centuries it was captured by Norman raiders, Vikings, from across England, and the Francs too, finally the French  and troops during the bloody end of 18th C. Révolution.
The interior turned out awe-inspiring with much more splendour, size and hushed atmosphere than what I was expecting to see from the outside.  That’s a quite a statement of praise since I’ve no doubt been inside hundreds of great cathedrals, basilicas, churches, monasteries and temples around the globe.  
Stepping inside the first view is grandiose with a surprising three-tier nave and lofty columns supporting the vaulted main apse.  
One of the finest ornately carved pulpit I’ve seen;  for centuries from this lofty perch the padre has given sermons that hopefully has uplifted the gathered faithful.  
A remarkable stained-glass window over the main apse adds a glorifying sense of religious grandeur .
A closer  look at the magnificent design, the detailed pictorial to the glory of God.  A splendid tableau by an inspired artist admixed with the skills of a skilled artisan.  
A ‘menhir‘ famed for being about around 4500 years old; it’s called a ‘dol’ in the Celtic language, only a couple of kilometres on a hilltop (Champ Dolent) overlooking the town, hence ‘Dol de Bretagne‘ was almost an unavoidable name to be adopted by the ancient town’s people.
This monolith stands almost 10 metres above ground and it’s said another 20 metres below.  This legendary rock approximately 125 metric tons, its surface carefully shaped and hauled an amazing 4 kilometres, up the hill was a monumental achievement by people who obviously relished a challenge.  The fact is that it wouldn’t be an impossible transportation feat today, in no way, shape or form.  There are several legendary tales that give it even more appeal;  for example it would be the Devil enraged by the beauty of the cathedral hurled this as he might have a javelin but missed by two kilometres, thank God.  Embedded as it is, it is also calculated to sink down of its own weight a few centimetres each year; when the last of  the menhir has sunk out of sight, it will mark the end of the world.  Oy, but wait, so far it’s calculated to have gone down a big 5 centimetres (2 inches) so that there’s yet time for all of us to repent!
 Normandie’s mild climate and lush grasses are ideal wintering grounds for racing thoroughbreds.  It is very much to French horse breeders what Kentucky and South Carolina is in the US.
 Okay, I confess to having an unreasonable affection for donkeys – they are so darn adorable and undoubtedly they’d be the first and welcome guests in my hobby farm.
Indeed, they are friendly, easy to get along with  (even if they happen to be not too bright), hard working if you care to abuse them that way; in India I actually witnessed ONE donkey hauling a carriage with no fewer than fourteen people crammed aboard.  Poor thing – and yet head down it kept on moving.  In the future, I’ll do a photo essay on India and prove it.
A serene pastoral scene, and who can resist two little mischievous new-born lambs staring at you? Soon after they went on a wild gambol, bucking like rodeo broncos; baa-baa! it was simply delightful.
No explanation required to praise the beauty of this field of wild poppies  – Monet would have had a ‘field day’ daubing oils on a canvas.  What masterpiece might he have created?
One of  numerous sandy beaches, uncrowded and perfectly clean.  The coast line of Bretagne and Normandie offer secluded and amenable swimming outlets.  One word of advice; often these are out of view although perhaps not more than a few dozen metres over a sandy dune.  When you spot a sign indicating a beach, get out of the car and take a gander over the crest and you’ll be splendidly rewarded with just such a jewel as depicted here.
See you on the next trip, who knows where but it’s sure to be fun.  Bon voyage and may your Guardian Angel look after you as well as Saint Michel looks after his abbey.
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Saint Malo, Port de Dinan, Dinard

“When a wanderlust fever scorches my soul, packing a light suitcase and escaping abroad is the only blessed cooling balm.”   Le Fabulist

Almost within shouting distance, three delightful, picturesque towns in the northernmost corner of Bretagne will provide an unforgettable travel experience for the most jaded traveler.   One would be hard pressed to find a more splendid trio anywhere; each shines with special interests of its  own, from ancient history artistically kept alive for the visitor  to contemporary activities and a natural sea-bound playground.   In particular, Saint Malo is a familiar  name to those with a knowledge of the mayhem wrought during the June 1944 invasion, the pivotal D-Day that propelled the Allies to chase the German invader back across the Rhine River thus to victoriously bring to a close  World War II, and not a day too soon.

(NOTE: To improve your viewing experience click on the photos below to enlarge – once for medium, twice to zoom in.)

The pestilence of war long forgotten, now a solitary and peaceful stroll getting feet wet in soothing salt water – how much blood and tears here, once upon a time?

The Fort National was but one of many built by famed fortifications architect Vauban in the late 17th Century.   It is accessible at low tide; look for the French tricolor, if  it’s flying then the fort is  open to the public at the moment.

Known as Paramé, this seaside community only recently annexed to Saint Malo is a convenient place to park your car, if you can find a spot, then spend the day on the beach or exploring the nearby ‘Intra Muros‘ with  fine shopping and restaurants inside the walled town.

The important, strategic port town was laid waste, in large swaths barely two stones atop each other, but if one had no foreknowledge of the devastation it would be impossible to imagine seeing the thriving, bustling town today.

The massive historic entrance towers at the left top and a sunken ship with concerned locals looking on – is anyone alive?
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The imposing medieval towers yet guarding the entrance to the ancient quarters of  Saint Malo.  Inside ‘Intra Muros’ are quaint cobble stone paved streets, chic boutiques and a weekly market on Fridays.  Do I need mention it’s so much better to plan a visit in the off-season? I was there in mid-May and it was perfect!
Ancient building still serving as the town’s City Hall; stroll along Rue Jacques Cartier, familiar name to Canadians who studied his three visits to Quebec, and the Rue Sainte Barbe with fine eating.
Within the fortified walls an ancient cross-timbered building – you have to wonder how many pieces of cardboard strategically placed under the legs are required to keep the kitchen table more or less level?
An entire street with equally rickety charm, as a real estate salesman might put it, “Needs a little work but you can’t buy that kind of character!”
You can always reach across and borrow from or lend the neighbour across the way a fresh baguette or maybe a bottle of wine.
There must have been a good reason for this covered ‘bridge’ across the street – and yet it leaves me perplexed as to the why?
Not much of a photo but please take a close look on the wall – it must be the most original street name ever – it translates literally as ‘The street of the cat that is dancing!’ I was tickled pink and next trip I’m going to discover the genesis for this flight of fancy.  Whoever came up with it deserves a medal for originality and whimsy!
Parking as in almost every European town dating back centuries can be a real headache.  In this town a bright light came up with a gem of an idea – when the street isn’t wide enough, borrow from the sidewalk.  A truly original idea and why haven’t I seen it applied anywhere else?
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Visiting tall ships – Saint Malo was aptly referred to as ‘Le Port des Corsairs’.    From its strategic location privateers, buccaneers or let’s call them a less inspired but nonetheless accurate, ‘pirates’ (often under the protection of the crown) swooped on merchant ships sailing to England or wealthy Flemish ports.  After long voyages to the Orient, loaded with priceless silks, gold and of course the very much sought after East Indies fragrant spices these trading ships were tempting targets and might I add a ‘commercial’  activity vigorously practiced by all sides.
A galleon such as might have been sailed by ‘Surcouf’ a native son famed for his legendary prowess as a redoubtable ‘corsair’ and yet renowned for his gallantry and chivalry.  Saint Malo thanks to its favorable location at the turn of the 19th Century was notorious as the home of the French privateers.
A statue to the patriotic high-seas brigand, wait, no, after all he was filling the coffers of his king as well as his and his crew’s pockets.  Merchants in Saint Malo had no cause for complaints either as Surcouf, nicknamed Le Roi des Corsairs over his career brought home fabulous loot from the 47 ships (many English) he captured during his swashbuckling days; has anything much changed? Let’s see, the Somalia pirates are protected in their country as a welcome source of ‘hard currency’ where there is practically none.  Different times not much difference in mores and methodology.
Across the estuary of the Rance River from Saint Malo you’ll discover the exceptionally beautiful town of Dinan and it’s dreamy port.
However, first let me explain something that may prove useful next time you checkout a map – in France a D on a yellow background indicates a ‘Départmental‘ – the local roads that criss-cross the entire country.  A red N denotes Nationale, a much longer highway that was and remains the backbone of French roadways; they cut right through the heart of towns and cities, thus the driver is sure to come through the most interesting and ancient  parts of it, probably where the local church or cathedral can be found, the market square too and the most interesting hotels as well.  Finally, the newest, fastest and most direct are those designated A for Autoroute.   In a few hours you can whiz down from Paris to the Mediterranean, to Germany, Spain or northern destinations with the least amount of traffic-related stress although be prepared for some fast drivers leaving you far behind in two heart beats.
The two pics below are out of context, I agree, but it illustrates how good an Autoroute is for driving.  This was a newly-opened stretch leading towards Beaune, the famed Burgundy wine town. and early in the morning, barely a crow to be spotted, and yes, alright, I admit to testing the Renault’s ability to move along and that it did – and before you tsk-tsk as soon as it hit the 200 kph (120 mph) I immediately eased up on the accelerator.  And the devil made me do it.
Autoroutes are ‘péage‘, it costs but it pays in saved time and even in less fuel spent. Départment is the French equivalent of a province or American state, but of course nothing close to the same size territory but often with a larger population.  At any rate, when possible I always look for the D to travel from town to town and I’m never disappointed as you wander through the ancient ways and byways of what the  French like to call ‘La France Profonde‘, or alternatively ‘Douce France‘.  Indeed the finest of what this superlatively endowed country offers is often in small, out of the way towns and villages.  Getting there is half the fun too.
 
A serene  corner of the world  came to mind when I first laid eyes on this tranquil vista.
Above the impressive viaduct that leads from Dinan the city to the port.
 
Nooks and crannies with an abundance of  colorful flowers growing in the protection of ancient stones.
Dinard  is a little known (outside of France)  shining jewel of a town bathed by the Gulf Stream, thus benefitting from a climate several degrees warmer than surrounding areas.
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The benign climate allows for the luxuriant growth of semi-tropical plants and flowering shrubs the likes are generally seen much further south, in Provence, for example.
Taking a rest during my long stroll around the  idyllically named ‘Promenade du Clair de Lune‘.  Soft sentimental music is piped out throughout the evening for couples to enjoy a romantic ‘rendez-vous’.  A must do activity when you are in Dinard or don’t bother going as you’d miss a splendid several hours to gawk at the precariously perched villas each with an eclectic architectural style.  The most inept photographer can’t miss capturing a fine souvenir to share with friends back home.
In the late 19th Century, moneyed Americans and British aristocrats made Dinard a fashionable summer resort, the place to be and to be seen.  It became in fact the most popular seaside resort in all of Europe, all the while retaining its distinctive French appearance and charm.
The architecture of these stunning buildings and the considerable costs to build on the rocky escarpment was worth it for the panoramic view seen from the balconies.
What an enchanting, surreal sky!  
Notice the palm trees; they can be seen everywhere along the water’s edge and fronting the first-class casino.
There are several clean and long sandy beaches in Dinard – the town is known as a fine venue for water sports, scuba diving, sailing and swimming.
The casino centered in the background; I suppose if one were to blow one’s inheritance a cooling dip in the convenient beach may soothe a fevered brow.
Here’s  looking at  you – see you next trip!

The Enchantment of T. Wyjijinski

The enchantment of T. Wyjijinski by John-Michael Papirchuk

Some years ago I read about a skydiver who plunged  several thousand metres when his main parachute failed to open; when his emergency chute also failed nothing could prevent his certain death.  And yet, he landed in a blackberry bush and lived to tell the tale.  At the time of reading I immediately thought, how would such an event change one’s perspective on life? For example, how would I behave? Assuredly, I knew that henceforth I’d throw all caution to the winds and live a life of brilliant adventures, facing and conquering the most daunting of challenges, seeking passionate love and returning it twice over.  In other words I’d drink from the cup of life to the dregs – I’d lick the last drop clean.   And yet, I have most certainly not followed my own reasoned analysis of how one should respond to a second chance of such monumental  proportions.  Wait,  you may reasonably point out, I’m not the skydiver so I shouldn’t feel any particular compunction to change my ways radically.  Au contraire, mes chers, as I was going on with this story it struck me with the force of a sledge hammer between the eyes, of course we are the same as the skydiver; he escaped death for a certain number or days or years, exactly as we do, everyone of us, each morning we wake up.  It was reported he’d taken a vow then to change his life, to take full advantage of his second chance.  We have that same second chance with every breath we take and that it’s not in a spectacular manner is not the least important.  My advice to you as to myself, don’t look for some bizarre, extraordinary event to wake you up to all that life, the only one we’ll ever have, can offer.  It’s a cornucopia of infinite variety, get yourself to the banquet and feast.

A disclaimer: For the sake of retaining a pleasant and courteous relationship with my readers from the distaff side, I find it necessary to point out that the dénouement of the plot is purely fiction.  I wrote it as  to where the story was heading and there was no conscious or subconscious intention to encourage, prod, push or otherwise manipulate men into abrogating their spousal and family responsibilities.  Such incomprehensible and I might add reprehensible behavior I  would not tolerate in myself and thus doubly less in others.   Hopefully this explanation will be accepted in the spirit it is offered and T. Wyjijinski will not live on in ignominy in the minds of the very finest half of my readership.  Peace to us all.

Cancale ‘oyster capital’ of France

“I do not weep at the world I’m too busy sharpening my oyster knife.”  
Zora Neale Hurston

Cancale is a dream of a little town, located on  the northernmost point of Bretagne, rubbing shoulders with Normandie; with just about 5000 permanent residents its big enough to offer all the amenities you might want, fine hotels, B & Bs catering to different sized wallets, seafood restaurants and food shopping if you linger a while and have cooking facilities.  Yet it’s small enough to be cozy and take no time to discover all the nooks and crannies, the hidden sea shore paths that will lead the hiker from one grand vista to another and make friends with the locals.  How splendid is it? Let me put it this way, my original intention was to spend 3 days and ten days later I was regretfully forcing myself to move on.  

(NOTE: To improve your viewing experience click on the photos below to enlarge – once for medium, twice to zoom in.)

The fact is this fishing port is also home to the largest oyster beds found in all of France.  Romans on their way to conquer Britain found this place congenial to their eating pleasure, as well these mollusks are said to have been particularly appreciated by no less a royal palate as that of the Sun King, Louis XIV and Napoleon as well.  History doesn’t record whether Josephine benefitted from the well-known aphrodisiac effects of the delectable mollusk.  Oh, and is this why the British Navy back in the late 18th Century attacked this town? Was it pay back? Or a desire to get in on a good thing too.  We’ll never know I suppose.

Local ‘farmers’ own  framed sections of the seabed and tend several metres of wire cages where they grow  and ‘harvest’ their succulent mollusks.

Three rivers ferry abundant nutrients to the Bay Saint Michel hence providing an abundance of food for the nourishment of delectable oysters.

Just harvested an empty bed awaits tiny new arrivals to start the growing cycle all over again – lucky us.

Fun and somewhat odd to spot a ‘farmer’ sorting his ‘harvest’ on the way to the local oyster processing plant.

Just off a few metres from the port quay, several oyster stalls run by talkative, better informed women than the local tourist office.  Here for about 6 dollars, (depending on the current exchange rate) the Cancalaise will deftly shuck a dozen couldn’t be fresher oysters garnished with a sliced lemon; if you are really clever, you come armed with a crisp baguette, a chilled bottle of wine, take a seat anywhere nearby on a rock or bench and enjoy indulging your taste buds.

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The town looks westward across the Bay Saint Michel and on a clear day the abbey can be seen as a small triangular island jutting out of the wide sea.  Yes, that’s what I’m pointing at, all excited that I was to suddenly discover it was there for me to admire.

Indeed, there it was, a little over 30 minutes drive around the picturesque bay.  It was also visible at night as  it was illuminated but not enough for me to capture it with my camera.  Still, it was always something for me to look for before saying goodnight to yet another splendid day.

A word of advice – you’ll most likely be driving to Cancale as there’s no train service and only sparse bus service from St. Malo.  As you approach the town do not take the Centre Ville road, but look for a sign indicating Port de Cancale.  Take it and don’t panic as it soon becomes a narrow, tortuous road and you start thinking you made a mistake.  Keep going and soon enough you’ll come across the spectacular vista as below.  You’ll end up where you want to be, right on the beach road where you’ll find the best accommodations.  Park the car in one of the free parking lots and spend some time checking out lodgings and if you’re not planning to stay overnight (c’est dommage) you’ll discover oyster bars or better still the stalls and fine seafood eating.

Cancale is a two-tiered town built along the seashore and above on a plateau.

Low tide strands pleasure and fishing boats;  Mt. St. Michel Bay is reputed for its fast incoming tides, local lore says it will overtake a galloping horse.

 Hotels facing the pier feature fine seafood restaurants below with a great seascape to gaze upon.

In my travels I naturally gravitate towards working seaports while avoiding touristy, overcrowded seaside destinations.  Cancale is a great combinations of leisure, hiking, photography and mingling with real folks daily working the sea and the oyster beds.

Mending  his crab net – this Cancalais is one of the traditional fishermen working on the briny.

These crabs don’t resemble the handsome Dungeness of British Columbia – ugly but nonetheless tasty.

The pier, fishing boats and a manor on top of the hill featuring a splendid pine tree.  A steep climb will get you up there where you’ll discover the best view of the area possible.  As well a monument to remember the Cancalais who lost their lives at sea.

This magnificent pine lords it over the entire lower town.

Over a century old, the ancient sentinel has withstood every  wild windstorms the sea has tossed at it – it remains stoic, regal and immovable.

Seen afar from the sea, a monument to remember and honour native sons lost at sea.
 A quiet street in upper town, closed off at the top by its fine church.
The  town is justly proud of its fine church – one of the more original fountains to be seen anywhere.
Below the Port de la Houle at low tide.  I’m resting (had a steep climb to get here) before undertaking several hours of  hike along the craggy upper path to Point du Groin.  An excellent day was in store, magnificent seascapes, wild flowers, balmy day in May, my face caressed by the wind I couldn’t have been happier in Eden.
Miles of scented seaside path along the escarpment framing Bay de Saint Michel; I wore a daylong smile nothing would have erased.
The colour of the sea a sure sign the lucky two would catch their quota; how I envied my fellow anglers.
And him too!
A pleasant sailing excursion was obviously the order of the day.
Pointe du Droin, the final destination before regretfully turning back.  The installation  provides vital weather and radar information to seagoing fishing boats.

Wild flowers find shelter underneath a protecting rock.
Near Cancale a short drive will take you to several long sandy beaches; bring a picnic basket, a good book and fill your lungs with iodine well-being.
Of course a faint heart found the water still too cold for her little toes.
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Whereas an enthusiastic fellow used to Canadian waters found it all rather exhilarating although admittedly  a tad on the cool side.  
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As often happens I was fortunate, hugely lucky to find this B&B (Gout-zi) right on the beach front.  The two windows provided a prime look-out on the goings on below and  across.  If I mentioned what I paid for it, in late May, it would be near unbelievable, at least from the perspective of a traveler who might have been whacked hard for accommodations anywhere across British Columbia.  Those of you who might think it expensive to venture across to Europe, don’t be needlessly daunted, in actual fact it’s much cheaper if you’re just a bit astute and are willing to do some solid research before hand.  With so many web sites available it’s plain silly not to be well-prepared. and I do mean it.  Just so anyone doesn’t think I don’t appreciate B.C. far from it, almost every corner of this vast province offers spectacular natural scenery, varied flora and fauna and often benign weather.  The thing is why do the folks here  think it good business to overcharge for all too often  mundane accommodations and for the government to dip into the traveler’s pockets with tax plus more taxes? It makes absolutely no sense and thus the tourist industry here is nowhere near as active as it might be otherwise with some intelligent business practices and an enlightened Ministry of Tourism.  I could write a novel on this subject so be grateful I stop right here and now.

A partial front view and …

from the rear window.
Perhaps one photo of me too many but it’s the last one, promise.  Just thought it appropriate to indicate how happy I was, at all times, during my entire stay.  Would I return? I can’t wait and maybe we’ll bump into each other, just stay away from my ‘Gout’zi‘ and we’ll get along just fine.  Oh, I’m not being selfish, there are plenty of superb other B&Bs or hotels, up to you to discover your own tiny plot of Shangri-la.

The Day I Became a Hero by John-Michael Papirchuk

The Day I Become a Hero by John-Michael Papirchuk

The genuine account of ‘The Day I Became a Hero’ is a lesson of how quickly the fickle Lady Fame can turn a genuine hero to a zero in the blink of dark, almond eyes.  A hero’s status depends on the adulation heaped on him or her by appreciative fans, in my case my co-workers.  The same tale told to one who is pragmatic and having nothing to gain can elicit a much different response, if not of scorn then a decided lack of enthusiasm.  No praise or bravos, rather a noncommittal well, I guess you had to be there.  To think I’d believed for decades at least on one occasion I’d behaved in admirable fashion – hard cheese, I guess.