Tuesday, 13 December 2011

Winter Projects - Inspired by Kirstie

With motorhoming adventures behind us until 2012 (note to self - write post about most recent m/home adventure) my mind and fingers are turning to cosy indoor pursuits.  I enjoy trying my hand at different crafts so after watching Kirstie Allsopp's WI friends do a jolly good job on producing a mirror with a mosaic frame for their exhibit at one of the County Shows I looked around for a suitable mosaic related project.

Hmm.  This gives me an idea!
I spotted a scruffy, brown, but solid coffee table at a local charity shop for £5, stripped off the torn and stained leatherette top and what did I have left?  A nice recessed space for - you guessed it - a mosaic.  After giving the legs and frame a couple of coats of paint, clear varnish and an antique finish I set about the design, which was perhaps too curvy. Covering this in random bits of tile, was sometimes fiddly and frustrating, although enjoyable overall.

Getting There.

It's almost finished. I'm pleased with the effect, but the grout seems to have shrunk and some of the very tiny bits of tile stick up and are sharp.  So tomorrow I'm going to sandpaper the sharp edges and top up the grout.  Of course being me I couldn't make do with white grout, I had to colour it, so I'm going to have to try and mix the same shade again!  I shall report on progress!

Incidentally Kirstie Allsopp and her WI friends' theme for their competition entry was The Secret Garden.  One of my all time favourite books.  Looking forward to Malvern Theatre's production of it in the New Year.

Friday, 11 November 2011

Malvern Theatre Thrill

How time flies. I feel shamefaced that I haven't written a post since August.  We've been touring in our motorhome (see future posts) and I've been writing short stories.  Three were submitted to Woman's Weekly (happy hundreth birthday WW).  Two rejected.  I'm still hopeful that the third, a longer Christmas story called 'Keeping Christmas' may be accepted for a WW fiction special.  I also submitted a story to Writers Forum, for which I received a commendation and a useful critique which I will definitely use to make some improvements and re-submit as they suggest.

I've had a little more success with letters and photos being published in Take a Break magazine.

A special thrill was winning a place in Malvern Theatres' short story competition 'As You Read It'.  The eight writers selected to read their stories performed in front of a substantial and receptive audience last night.  I'm very proud to have been chosen.  http://www.malvern-theatres.co.uk/ 

I became more terrified as the 9th (rehearsal) and 10th November (performance) drew nearer.  I woke at 3am yesterday morning, and despite deep breathing, getting up to make chamomile tea, eating a banana (good for inducing sleep allegedly), I didn't drop off again until it was almost time to get up.

The rest of the day was spent trying to chill out and numb my nerves.  The copious amounts of chamomile and lavender (inhaled, massaged and in the case of the chamomile - drunk as well), plus yoga, self-manicure and pedicure etc etc worked sufficiently well to get me to Malvern before 6.30 to get ready for the performance an hour later.

I was met by Sophie, the Education Manager, who was very involved with the organisation of the event and the writers throughout the evening.  Bill, the Stage Manager showed me to the dressing room and was very kind and supportive.  This was much appreciated, especially when waiting in the wings to go on.  Nic Lloyd, the CEO of Malvern Theatres (without whom 'As You Read It' would not have taken place) came to the green room to cheer us all on.  According to Grasshopper who was in the audience with two friends, he also gave a witty introduction to the evening. 

I was first on after the interval, to a wonderful warm welcome from the audience.  Amazingly my nerves disappeared, the audience laughed in all the right places, I didn't make a single mistake and I really enjoyed myself.

Meeting all the other writers was also great.  Fay Wentworth, who read her story 'Whisper in the Wind' is an extensively published writer.  To visit her website click on http://www.faywentworth.wordpress.com/

Andrew Owens, a fellow member of the Worcester Writers Circle read his story 'Bootleg to Paris'.  He regularly reads at performance venues around the west mids.

The other writers were Ellie Targett who also has a number of books under her belt.  She read 'Preparations'.  John Jinks read 'Get me to the Church on Time', Oliver Jones - 'RE. The Tables Turned', Daniel Howard - 'Dreaming of Lucas', David Phelps - 'Unwanted Guests'. 

Many thanks to Malvern Theatres, Nic Lloyd, Sophie Mclellan and Bill (I don't know Bill's surname) for  this fantastic opportunity.  When is the next one?

Friday, 26 August 2011

Writer's Bottom. It's worth it!

'Writers Bottom' - a picturesque thatched hideaway located in a sunny glade and purchased by writer with the proceeds of her best sellers?  Regrettably not.  Although if I'm ever lucky enough to be in the position to buy that cottage I think I will call it Writer's Bottom.

Yesterday was a lucky day.  I had two articles published with photos.  What a thrill!  After our enjoyable visit to the Great Western Motorhome Show on Saturday (see Rootin Tootin post 22nd August) I came home a wrote a short piece for the Worcester News http://worcesternews.co.uk/ and emailed it off to them with four or five pics.  They printed it with two of the photos yesterday morning. 

Later in the day, Jan and Terry, motorhoming friends we'd met up with at the Show, emailed to say they'd spotted my site review about Fallowfield Dene, Hexham, Northumberland http://www.fallowfielddene.co.uk/ in the current issue of MMM magazine.  Well it was news to me as I hadn't heard a thing.  Frustratingly we weren't able to read it ourselves until Sainsbury's put them out for sale this morning.

For more information about things to do in Northumberland visit my posts 15th May, 2nd and 3rd June 2011.

Anyway I'm still walking on air, which makes a change from sitting tapping away on the PC or laptop developing my - yes you guessed it - writer's bottom.

For MMM magazine's website click on:          http://www.outandaboutlive.co.uk/

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Motorhoming and Accessing the Internet

Robin getting in on the free WiFi
We imagined we'd have less difficulty accessing the internet as we travel around in our motorhome.  I admit that I have become addicted to activities that somehow involve daily internet access.  I didn't mean for this to happen but I've found that when I'm away from my daily broadband fix I have withdrawal symptoms.  I notice that I'm not the only one.  At the campsites in France where reasonably priced, or better still free internet access was available, droves of men and women jostled for space in the optimum WiFi coverage areas, braving rain and wind and dodgy reception in order to email and blog. 

At L'Orangerie de Lanniron near Quimper where the cost overcame my desire, we were willing to lose ourselves on the confusing road system just so we could find a McDonalds and free WiFi (pronounced WeeFee in France).  Yes we did eat there.

We also stayed longer than we'd originally intended at sites that provide free Wifi (Kawan Village Le Moustoir near Carnac, Camping Le Cabellou Plage near Concarneau, La Ferme Lann Hoëdic near Sarzeau) so benefitting the local economy.  Please see my relevant posts for links.

In Britain the Caravan Club is expanding the number of sites with access to the internet (currently 120).  Costs have reduced over the years, and is now between £5 for 5 hours and £40 for 100 hours that can be used over a 6 month period.  http://caravanclub.co.uk/

As a newly retired person of restricted income I needed to reduce my costs at home for telephone and broadband so decided to wave goodbye to BT (that saga has to be a subject of a future blog).  Using the internet of course to research my best options I went for Plusnet (owned by BT - but hopefully more efficient and less costly, however it is too early to say) and got the deal through comparison website Simplifydigital.  At that time they were offering a free dongle to get 'WiFi on the move' for a month - so naturally that swung the deal.  It took a while and another phone call before they sent it to me, but I was politely treated by a very nice girl who understood what I was saying, and I understood her.  She sent it to me by return with a very nice letter. So a big gold star and grateful thanks to D.Mistry, Sumeet Maru and Simplifydigital for good customer service.  For more info go to http://simplifydigital.co.uk/

Have any of you got any useful advice about free or cheap internet access in Britain and Europe?  If so I'd love to hear from you.

Monday, 22 August 2011

Rootin Tootin Great Western Motorhome Show, Yee Haa!

Grasshopper and I joined thousands of enthusiastic motorcaravan owners and wannabes at the 7th Great Western Motorhome Show at the Three Counties Showground, Malvern on Saturday 20th.  When not dodging the downpour we perused the vast array of American and European Motor Homes on show, sang along to the Country and Western Bands, and indulged in a bit of motor home related shopping!  It was also good to catch up with friends Jan and Terry who we met in France earlier this year.

''Gittin' together at the Tradin' Post''
The busy showground looked like a film set as many visitors embraced the spirit of the event by dressing in imaginative western garb.  Sharpshooters researching satellite systems, graceful Southern Belles sheltering in the tea tent, an Indian Chief, his Squaw and their papoose weighing up different motor homes  - all slightly bizarre and great fun. 

Mean gunslingers, hardened cavalry men, tough Sheriffs and State Marshalls staged exciting shoot-outs several times a day in the ‘Lone Star’ group’s re-enactments. 

''Come on in and rest awhile''
Visitors with a fancy to live like the Wild West frontiersmen and women were given a glimpse of life in covered wagons complete with authentic artefacts, cooking pots, utensils and weapons.

Frontierswoman modelling a bustle.

Creating Traditional Beadwork
Native American enthusiasts demonstrated traditional crafts, dancing and poetic sign language.  Curious visitors were welcomed into cosy tepees, wigwams and wick-i-ups and shown how to do the intricate beadwork decorating clothing and accessories.

If you are interested in motorhoming and missed the show this year, put it in your diary for 2012.  See you there.

Thursday, 18 August 2011

Blogger Frustration

Last week I went back into the Carnac post I'd previously published to add some more information and photos.  The photos took an age uploading, finally resulting in a warning sign saying 'server rejected'.  It was late so I thought I'd try again the next day.  This was not to be.  The 'compose' box is full of gobbledegook that looks suspiciously like HTML and refuses to go back to the original.  I searched the help topics, and posted a question.  Someone has been trying to help me find a solution, all to no avail.  I think s/he has given up, so I think I will have to delete the draft and start again.  Curses.  All that work!

Grasshopper and I recently joined Worcester Writers Circle.  We are both enjoying the fortnightly meetings.  Established members of the group are successful writers who have been welcoming and very willing to share their extensive knowledge and experience with us new 'uns.

They also have an informative website and blog  http://worcesterwriterscircle.blogspot.com/

Another blogger frustration though - I have tried to post a comment today on the Circle's blog and it keeps being rejected, but it doesn't say why or what I have to do to put it right.  UGGHH!!! Hair pulling time.  Perhaps not.  At my age every strand counts.
Ain't new communication great when it works?

Friday, 12 August 2011

Places to Visit - Dinan and St.Malo

The Interesting Old Town of Dinan
We loved Dinan.  Wonderful oak timbered medieval buildings, bustling little narrow streets, interesting shops and pavement cafés.  Just our sort of place.  I think the sun shone too whilst we explored.  We had a lunchtime snack in the cafe near to the Basilique Saint Sauveur.  The heart of Bertrand du Guesclin is entombed there.  He was a knight and military commander in the 100 Years War, and known as the Eagle of Brittany.

There is a theatre.  The tourist office is housed in a medieval building next to it.  This building used to be the hotel where the visiting actors used to stay. 

Dinan is well worth a visit.  Next time I'd like to spend longer than just a few hours there.

Dinan Tourist Office (previously Theatre Hotel).  Theatre on the right - off photo.

City Walls of St.Malo

St.Malo was also a lovely surpise.  This busy and attractive walled city was severely damaged during World War 2, however extensive rebuilding has been completed.  This complements the oldest parts of the city.  We really couldn't detect new from old.  You can walk around the walls, which are very wide in parts. 

Mmm.. I wish I'd ordered what you're having!
On one side, you can enjoy voyeuristic pleasures looking at unsuspecting diners enjoying their seafood lunches.  On the other you can see out to the port areas and to the sea beyond.   It was too wet to venture on to the beach, but we watched intrepid youths oblivious to the cold wind and rain enjoying launching themselves off the diving platform.

What rain and wind?

Cold Weather Protection?

The city would be a good base for a longer holiday as it so much more than just a ferry port. 

Take wet weather clothes and warm jumpers.  This chap's fur collar?

It's a POODLE - thankfully still living.

Chateau de Galinée

For the final week of our French adventure we headed back to the St.Malo area, where we were to catch the ferry to Portsmouth.  The site we chose was the Chateau de Galinée, about 25 miles from the port.  http://www.chateaudegalinee.com/en/

It was pouring with rain when we arrived, and hardly stopped for the whole of our stay.  It was unpleasantly muddy which probably coloured our view of the place because the facilities were good, clean modern single sex toilets and shower blocks with loo paper and hair/hand-dryers but no soap.

There are good outdoor and indoor swimming pools.  Unfortunately the excess of water descending from above did not encourage further submersion.  We did use the nice bar and restaurant and enjoyed our meal, although the poor barman and the chef seemed to be running the place single handed the night we went and it was very busy.  The shop was well stocked with the necessities.  There is a children's play area.  We loved the pond area and the antics of the exotic poultry.   

Hen that thinks it's a cat?

Negative points:-

Arriving in the pouring rain to find Reception closed for lunch and a long queue of caravans and motorhomes ahead of us.

Plastic wrist bands (like you get in hospital) which are compulsory for all visitors.  I rebelled and refused to wear mine.

There are hundreds of overgrown trees.  This means that certain parts of the site are very dark and less inclined to dry up following rain.  Few proper paths to get from the dark side of the site to the loos, so permanently muddy feet.  Trees and many hedges are in serious need of pruning.

Wi Fi was fairly costly and only available in the bar/restaurant.

Wednesday, 10 August 2011

Rhuys Peninsula, Sarzeau and La Ferme de Lann Hoëdic

It seems that the authorities in Brittany are just as willing to completely close roads as those who rule our highways and byways in the UK.  We followed the directions for our campsite at La Ferme de Lann Hoëdic only to get within 2kms and find the road closed.  It took us another 25 minutes to negotiate the diversion with some angst about the narrow lanes (small roads big rig) to get to the campsite.

La Ferme de Lann Hoedic is an attractive site, with spacious pitches and plenty of trees. 

Play area at La  Ferme de Lann Hoedic
The owners Tim and Mireille Prouten (he's English, she's French - and a fluent English speaker) are friendly and very helpful.  We visited at the beginning of June and the site was almost full.  There are many return visitors who have filled the visitors books with photos, stories, sketches and paintings of the happy times they've had staying in the area and at the site.  The Reception also boasts some magnificent framed photos of birds.  These were taken at the salt marshes and surrounding area of Suscinio by a regular visitor.  Unfortunately the day when Grasshopper went at the crack of dawn, it was raining so the photos did not come up to scratch.
Unspoilt beaches at Lann Hoedic
Lots of English people are regulars, and we pitched near some to some friendly Dutch, German and French couples.  Marie Blanchette and Claude initiated us in to the delights of buttery Breton biscuits and savoury galettes.  Isn't it amazing how easy it can be to communicate when we try, even when verbal language is difficult?

The site has two mixed toilet/shower blocks which are modern and clean.  Strangely, toilet paper and soap is not provided, although there was a handryer. Lack of these necessities seems common in France.  It just means you have to remember to carry your own with you when you pay a visit, however I would prefer to pay slightly more for the convenience of having paper and soap provided.

Highlights of our visit to the Rhuys Peninsula

Craft Market in Sarzeau
Fresh Apricots in the Market

  • Sarzeau, a pretty market town with lots of pavement cafes, church and markets in the square.  Visit on market day for a wonderful range of fresh fruit and veg, fish, bread, cheese and meats.  There was also a craft weekend market.  Unfortunately it poured with rain the whole weekend.

Castle at Suscinio

Suscinio, fairytale castle, previously the home of the lords of Normandy - currently being renovated, salt marshes, avocets, long sandy beach edged with wildflowers.  I was waylaid by an elderly french gentleman near the artisans' houses and the creperie.  A very long conversation in French resulted in him trying to sell me a cottage!  He either mistook me for someone with euros to spare or something was lost in translation.

Le Passage, St.Armel, La Villeneuve.  It was another miserable. wet day when we travelled down the narrow strip of land that connects the mainland to Le Passage which is almost an island.  Flat bottomed oyster boats are moored here.  There are pretty views across the bay, a cottage on an island that made me think of Famous Five adventures, lashings of ginger beer, smugglers and strange 'goings on'.  The rain stopped and on our way back we stopped at a roadside bar tabac, I think in St. Armel.  The French have diversification just right.  This one doubled as a boulangerie and patisserie so we were able to enjoy a glass of wine whilst contemplating which of the delicious pains et tartes we would choose for a picnic.

Lively Quiberon
The Quiberon Peninsula.  A boiling hot day and we chose to visit at le weekend so the one road down the peninsula was crammed.  The most traffic we'd encountered since Quimper.  As it is a narrow strip of land there are many stopping off points to the left and right should you want a bit of wind surfing, or kite flying or a combination job.  Lots of places for wild camping too.  We just set our sights for the southerly tip and Quiberon, a lively seaside resort with wide sandy beaches and pavement cafes.  We were lucky to find a table at one, also called Le Passage and enjoyed moules (me) filet mignon de porc (Grasshopper) et frites. 

We will definitely go back to the Rhuys Peninsula and La Ferme de Lann Hoedic, we loved it and there is so much more to see and enjoy.  
A Curious Fish at Quiberon

Tuesday, 5 July 2011

Pont Aven and Art

Watermill, now Restaurant at Pont Aven
It was a cold and windy Sunday when we visited Pont Aven.  With the exception of the magasin du chocolat and restaurants full of French families enjoying long lunches together, the place was closed.  It reminded me just a little of Pitlocherie in Scotland but that was probably more to do with the river and the temperature. 

Watermill Pont Aven, Guaguin 1894
It is a very picturesque place with pretty buildings, the River Aven and boats. Paul Gauguin and fellow artists flocked here in the 1880s and going by the number of galleries (all closed) there is still a heavy concentration of artists living and working here. 

We trailed about looking into the windows of all of the galleries.  They display every style of art imaginable, and every quality.  There is so much I wonder who buys the pictures.  How hard it must be to make a living in the clearly competitive art market.  Sometimes we looked in wonder at work that seemed less than skilful.  Someone must buy it - because it can't be cheap to rent a shop and set it up as a gallerie in Pont Aven. 

The restaurants were all full to bursting.  After walking up and down the river and through the town in the biting wind it was a relief to go back to the Café du Centre (Central Caf!) on the Rue de Port.  You will find it at the crossroads in the centre of the town.

Hardy souls in the wind outside at Le Café du Centre 
Chocolat chaud was a must.  When that settled, we ordered Croque Monsieur avec salade et deux verres du vin rouge (petit) et puis café crème.  It was very pleasant.  There is a lovely stained glass window and lots of polished wood.

Stained Glass in Le Café du Centre
 There were flowers on the table, madame understood our French, the food and wine were good et la toilette était trés propre. 

It is just the sort of place I can imagine myself rubbing shoulders with bohemian types discussing art and literature over the morning papers whilst enjoying a breakfast pain au chocolat and steaming coffee.  

It was a good day out and next time we'll go on a sunny day when everything is open.

Thursday, 30 June 2011

Curious Fish Shop in Ville Close and everywhere in Brittany.

Heading off towards the Tinned Fish Emporium
 in Ville Close
The people of Brittany must be great tinned fish eaters.  We first saw a shop dedicated only to the promotion and sale of tinned and otherwise preserved poisson in Quimper.  We thought it must be a lone optimist's business enterprise idea that would surely be destined to fail, purely through lack of variety.  How wrong were.  Since then we have discovered that the tinned fish shops are everywhere. 

They must be part of a chain, or a franchise.  Does anyone out there know?

The shops are very attractive and on closer inspection sell a fairly wide range of tinned fishes.  Sardines in everything you can imagine, pilchards in everything, mackeral in everthing, tuna in ....., well you get the idea.  The assistant in the Ville Close branch of Fishes R Us (no it isn't really called that) let me take some arty shots, so of course we had to buy two tins of soupe de poisson, which we have now consumed.  It was delicious. 

I wondered if tinned fish shops are aimed mainly at tourists.  A Tourist Attraction.  Do people from countries deprived of sardines in tomato sauce head to Brittany to find and buy from tinned fish suppliers? 

This is certainly another example of a nation cleverly exploiting it's natural resources (see previous blogs - Lanzarote/Volcanoes). 

Further investigation into the popularity of tinned fish showed that all hypermarkets, supermarkets and local épiceries have enormous displays of it.  So the French must eat it too. 

Catch of the Day

Wednesday, 29 June 2011

Ville Close, Concarneau's Walled City

Construction of the old walled city of Concarneau, Ville Close, began in the 14th Century.  The sturdy walls rise from the rocky outcrop on which the town is built. Inside the walls is a thriving small town of narrow cobbled lanes. We filled many happy hours wandering through the historic streets, looking at the lovely timber framed houses.  We mooched through the shops and galleries, enjoyed lunch one day in one of the many restaurants, and had hot drinks to warm oursleves in Salons du Thé. 
The Bridge from the Fishing Port into Ville Close
You can drive to Ville Close from Le Cabellou Plage on the main road.  Park on the quayside next to the
Tourist Information Centre http://www.tourismeconcarneau.fr/  and walk across the bridge to the walled city. 
Through the Arch is a Town of Delights

0.80c pour un aller simple

On the Ferry and Dressed for Winter
We found it much more fun to take the short drive from Le Cabellou Plage to the quay at Le Passage, park for free and then catch le petit bateau - the ferry, for the short trip across to Ville Close to enter the city from the sea.  This costs only 0.80c each way, or buy a book of tickets for 5 euros 70c.
It was cold and windy or wet the twice we went over.  Despite being a chilly Concarneau when we visited, it didn't dampen our enthusiasm for the place.    The narrow streets still bustled, the granite buildings and the timber framed houses were just as picturesque. 
The Top of the Town near the Ferry
Mmm - What to Choose?
Un Cheval au Chocolat
One of the shops we loved was the Chocolaterie.  Visit here and be enveloped in a smell that is like a warm chocolatey hugg.  I defy anyone to walk in and not come out with a treat.  I'm not a chocolate fiend but I just had to help Grasshopper eat some of his luxury pick and mix chocs.  They do wonderful expensive gift selections - which can only be for the very well off or the seriously addicted.  The sugar craft and chocolate scupltures that are displayed were incredible.      

A Sweet Dragon - literally.



Saturday, 25 June 2011

Laid Back at Le Camping Cabellou Plage

We left Quimper with every intention of staying in an Aire in Porzou that night.  We had heard and read so much from other motorhomers about this cost effective way of travelling around so of course we wanted to try.  In France les camping cars are welcome in villages and towns where it is recognised that motorhomers 
bring in custom pour les boulangeries, les epiciers et les bar-tabacs.  Special parking areas are set aside, sometimes with electricity and fresh water available, also chemical toilet emptying points.  I've also heard, (although I've yet to find out for myself) that some have toilets and showers.   The fees for staying overnight are reasonable and sometimes free, but as you would expect the camper vans are usually close together so OK for a one night stopover, although we know some people do stay for a lot longer. 

However our Aire adventure was not to be.  When we eventually found the Aire we had planned to stay at in Porzou, it was full and not nearly as big as it appeared in the photo in the Vicarious Books 'bible' ''All the Aires,  France''.  http://www.vicarious-shop.co.uk/ 

Well we were at a loss as to what to do as we didn't have a Plan B.  Luckily we saw a car park ahead of us.  It was next to water, there were boats, it was picturesque - the perfect place to re-group and stop panicking.

So we parked, got out the folding chairs and settled down for a de-stressing Earl Grey tea and Egg and Tomato sandwiches. 

Porzou with Le Camping Cabellou Plage
in the Far Distance
It was so pleasant we talked of an overnight stay there.  As we tucked in, an English couple (Pauline and David) out for a walk stopped and asked where we were staying that night.  When we said ''here'' they looked at us doubtfully and said they'd found a great campsite with wonderful clean toilets at the other side of the bay.  They pointed it out in the distance, told us the name and after a little more chat went on their way. 

By the time we'd finished lunch we were both coming round to the opinion that the car park might not be an attractive option after dark.  So off we went to track down Le Camping Cabellou Plage.  It didn't take long to get there.  We drove in to find Reception closed.  There was a telephone number which I rang, but of course the answerphone message was in French.  Once again my comprehension skills were totally inadequate. 

Luckily we didn't have to wait long before a very pleasant lady (Valerie - I found out later) arrived carrying an armful of clean blankets (Le Camping Cabellou Beach also has Holiday Chalets on site).  Although we couldn't speak each other's language too well - she quickly grasped that we wanted un emplacement, mais non, nous n'avions pas resérvé.  It didn't seem to be a problem and she beckoned us to follow in Wanda.  Grasshopper drove, and I walked with Valerie down through the site.  I liked what I saw.  Very spacious pitches, separated by well trimmed hedges, mature shrubs and trees.  As it was early in the season there was lots of choice and Valerie seemed to understand when I said ''je voudrais un emplacement regarder la mer'' (yes I know - but I'm still learning).

She spoke with a gentleman who was hedge trimming.  He turned out to be Jean Christophe, one of the owners.  In perfect English he asked us how long we would be staying.  We thought initially three nights -maybe more.  He suggested we choose the pitch we wanted and pointed out a few that would be more sheltered from the wind.  Brittany is known for le vent, which (like Lanzarote - see April/May blogs) seems to blow most of the time.    In the end we chose a less sheltered pitch for the sake of a view of the bay and the boats. 

Un emplacement avec une vue de la mer.

The site exceeded our expectations.  We are so grateful to Pauline and David for taking the time to stop and chat and for recommending Le Cabellou Plage to us. Each pitch has its own fresh water, 10amp electricity and chemical toilet emptying point.  The pool and bar area is lovely.  Families will enjoy the children's play area.
Brave Souls in the Pool
Unfortunately it was too chilly for us to venture in to the pool.  Some people were brave enough though.  We were too early in the season to be able to benefit from the bar which opened the week after we moved on.  Fortunately, walking to the left out of the gate alongside the sea, we found a friendly Bar Tabac - Le Dundee, with tables outside where we enjoyed coffee and des Fars Bretagne.

Curious Fish (on the left) at Le Dundee

With only the road between Le Dundee and the sea, there is plenty of opportunity to drink in the view along with your café crème. 

La Plage Belle Etoile with Porzou in the Background
It seems that the people of Brittany get out and enjoy their coastline.  The beach near Le Camping Cabellou Plage is called La Plage Belle Etoile.  It was light at nights so we never saw if there was a beautiful star suspended in the heavens over the sand, but always there was plenty of boating, windsurfing practice and walking.

Messing About on the Water

Gaëlle, co-owner of Le Cabellou Plage as well as being Jean Christophe's wife, was also wonderfully patient and allowed me to practice my French with her even though she spoke perfect English and my linguistic attempts must have seemed excrutiatingly slow.  Gaëlle is happy to share information about the lovely places to visit in the area (see my next blog), and practical things like the two gorgeous patisseries to be found in the local village about 1km away, as well as the supermarkets for bigger shopping expeditions.  WiFi (weefee) is free and you can connect in the area near the bar.  It wasn't always easy to connect and it was very cold sitting outside the bar in the evenings.  If only it had been open! 
However a quick mention of WiFi connection difficulties to Gaëlle and it was sorted out the next night.
This is the perfect time to mention Nora and Neil from Ireland.  One of the problems I had with the lap top, was the difficulty I've had in seeing the screen outside (hence needing to try to connect in the evening).  Despite evening 'surfing' I found I had to cover both the screen and me with a huge blue towel in order to be able to see to email and blog.  Slightly eccentric I know.  Nora - who is a computer whizkid solved the problem for me in one easy step.  You probably all know this, but in case you don't, all you do is simultaneously press the fn key and the right arrow key - and bingo you can lighten your screen as much as you want.  To darken again press the fn key and the left arrow.  Simple when you know how!

We hope you are still enjoying your trip Nora and Neil.  You too Pauline and David.
Immaculate Toilet and Shower Block
People who regularly read my blog perhaps know by now that in common with other motorhomers and caravaners, a site gets the thumbs up (or down) depending on the state of its loos and showers. 

Well Le Cabellou Plage does get the upturned digit - because washing and sanitory facilities are new, well built and maintained, scrupulously clean, the loos have big flushes and there is an abundance of toilet paper. 

French Style Toilets (and very clean)

The showers although hot, are those interrupted water flow types, which is a bit irritating, and you have to remember to take your own soap and towel when you go to the loo because soap isn't provided and there are no hand dryers.  Also you have to sit on cold porcelain shaped like a loo seat, which is odd to British bottoms, however because everything is kept so immaculately clean - we got used to it. 

We found it quite difficult to leave Le Camping Cabellou Plage.  Gaëlle was happy for us to stay for an indeterminate length of time.  The site is reasonably priced, plus early in the season there are discounts to be had. So our three days stretched to six, but in the end Carnac beckoned with its mysterious menhirs, alignements and dolmans.  But first we enjoyed the delights of the walled city of Concarneau.  Please check out my next blog.
If you read this Gaëlle and Jean Christophe, and if you want customer feedback, we really enjoyed staying at Le Camping Cabellou Plage, it is a credit to you both and your hard work.  The site is attractive and in a beautiful and interesting area.  We definitely want to visit again and wouldn't hesitate in recommending it to everyone.  The only improvements I could suggest would be soap dispensers and a hand dryer in the loo. 

To see more details about Le Camping Cabellou Plage go to:     http://www.le-cabellou-plage.com/

Thursday, 16 June 2011

Kindness and Grumpy Old Men

The first people we met on arriving at L'Orangerie were Jan and Terry from Teeside.  They are seasoned explorers of France so we were pleased to accept their offer of hints and tips about the 'must sees'  and 'don't bother with', places to visit and camp in Brittany.  The following night after dinner we knocked on the canvas of their (very posh) awning and were welcomed in with a Kir.  Deidre and Ger from Ireland joined us later.  After a glass or two we were chatting and laughing like old friends.  That is until a very taciturn GOM looked in through the door and asked us to keep the noise down as it was 10.30!  As more than two of us in the group are personnes du troisieme age and none of us were dancing uproariously to loud music (there was no music at all) we were gobsmacked.

However, as always respectful of others, the group broke up soon afterwards.  As we hadn't got round to the 'must sees' and 'don't bothers' we arranged to meet at ours the following night. But dear reader when we started motorhoming we quickly came to realise that for most people caravanning and camping is a social activity.  We expect sometimes to hear other people chatting and laughing well into the night.  If we haven't been part of their group, it has never occurred to us to complain or to try to spoil their enjoyment.

Glace de Cassis in Benodet

Jan and Terry's great advice led us to beautiful Benodet, then Carnac and Concarneau.  Bendodet is a picturesque ville situated at the estuary of the River Odet.  It was sunny and warm when we got there so we got the best of both worlds - a gorgeous river, boats bobbing in the sparkling Port, then the curving sandy bay and bright blue sea.  Fantastic - we loved it.  I took some photos - but they didn't do the place justice.  But we did enjoy the best cassis glace we'd ever tasted, so here is a photo of the ice cream.

As well as loads of hints and tips about where to go Jan also solved a domestic problem for me which has irritated me since we first bought motorhome Wanda.  We chose fitted carpets (first big mistake) then tried to protect them with rugs of a similar colour (neutral - second big mistake). I swear that these rotten rugs are alive.  They are perpetually walking and crawling up the front of the cupboards.  I must pull them back every 20 seconds several hundred times a day!  I have also invested tens of pounds on gizmos meant to hold rugs in place.  All of them useless.  They have become my Achilles heel that I speak about to anyone who will listen.  Jan, bless her generous heart not only listened but gave me, yes gave me, The Solution.  A large white rectangle of  'stuff' that sticks to the carpet and the underside of the rug.  Bingo!  No walking, or at least so slowly that my sanity is saved!  Merci beaucoup Jan.

Kindness didn't stop there.
Terry a Country and Western musician gave us a copy of his CD ''Live at the Rimswell''.

Watch Terry on You Tube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uuGN7DrrWsU&feature=related

We are looking forward to getting together again at the Western Motorhome Show in Malvern later in the year. http://www.outandaboutlive.co.uk/Shows/The-Western-Motorhome-Show/_sh6

Sunday, 5 June 2011

Jaunts in Quimper

Walk out between the big gateposts near reception at L'Orangerie de Lanniron and take one more step forward.  Look back over your left shoulder and you will see a footworn soil path between the trees and the perimeter of the estate.  This is the unmarked start to the footpath into Quimper (thank you Anna in Reception, we would never have found it).

We enjoyed taking the slightly downhill walk in to town, past the memorial.  See photo on http://randomwritingsofagrasshopper.blogspot.com
also the stroll along the River Odet. There are some seats just as you reach the outskirts of the town near a children's playround, where we would often sit to admire the view.   If you walk this way you may notice ''deux ou trois mesdames gentilles (du troisième âge)''. They were there each time we passed and to our pleasure responded avec plaisir when we wished them ''Bonjour mesdames''.  
Physic Plants in the Priory Garden
Our next happy discovery was Le Jardin du Prieuré Locmaria (The Locmaria Priory Garden) which was re-created in 1997 to echo the convent gardens of the 15th and 16th centuries.  Plants for food, medicine and dyes are grown in neat beds.  All are named.  The roses that climb and trail over walls and trellises appear to be the old fashioned fragrant varieties.  There is plenty of seating in the sun, also in a shady arbour near a water feature.  

On the opposite side of the little square is the shop, pottery and museum of HB Henriot.  We looked in the shop and loved the brightly painted designs, but didn't buy anything because even the seconds were ''trop cher pour nous''.

At the first bridge, some men were playing a spirited game of pétanque.  They were happy to share a joke with us when I was taking photos. 

A Jovial Game of Pétanque
On the other side of the first bridge, is a Super U Express, which we found handy for buying basics before our walk back.  Head towards the Cathedral that you will see in the distance. Turn left at some point and explore the old cobbled streets. The buildings are beautiful and medieval in appearance.

Old Quimper
Quimper is a thriving, 'upmarket city'.  People look affluent and are very well dressed. There are lots of designer shops.  Prices in the indoor market and in the cafés reflect this.  I was horrified to realise later that we had paid over 6 euros for a small punnet of strawberries which turned into mush in my rucksack by the time we'd walked around all day.  Yes I know I should have bought them later in the day (and gone to the Super U previously mentioned).

The Cathédral St.Corentin with its tall, ornate spires and glorious stained glass windows is not to be missed.
St. Corentin Catherdral in Quimper
There always seems to be plenty of activity in the cathedral square.  One day we joined local people listening to folk music at a fund raising event.  I joined the queue to buy breton crepes being made at what I took to be a school stall.  I guessed that teachers were doing the making and pupils were wrapping homemade cakes and taking money.  I enjoyed my first ever crepe au chocolat.  At only 1 euro each I think I found the culinary bargain of the tour.
We wait excitedly for crepes.

Seeing the number of hat shops (three) in Quimper it is tempting to think that the local population are enthusiastic chapeau wearers. 
We've seen people in floppy sun hats, and members of a stag party in luminous sombreros, but none wearing fascinator, fedora, boater or bonnet.  Nor have we seen women in national dress wearing 12'' tall decorative lacy numbers although we've bought postcards featuring them.  You can be sure that if we come across one of these exotic creatures you will hear of it on this blog.

We finally got in to see the excellent l'exposition of Breton Art  - featururing Turner (2 paintings) and Monet (3 paintings).  I particularly loved Turner's ''Le Port De Brest, le quai et le chateau''.  Warm colours I could live with.  Although these big name attractions were in short supply, the other artists' work was incredible.  The painted detail of the rocks, sea, people and their lives was superb.  In some it was difficult to see that they were paint not photographs. 

I realise that some modern art is stimulating and thought provoking (although ''the emperor's new clothes'' can come to mind), but I so admire the talent of those who can paint so skillfully that silk looks like silk and rock looks like rock and everything is in perspective.   We didn't have enough time to linger and there was so much to see, that I regret I can't give names and examples of the paintings I loved - I just urge you to visit if you can.
Having fun in the Catherdral Square, Quimper
When we left the art gallery we went for a coffee and small brandy at one of the two cafés in the cathedral square.  The waiter disdainfully pretended not to understand what we were ordering in French.  As it was such a simple order and no-one else has had a problem with understanding what we have said so far, I put his derisive attitude down to a personality defect.  To add insult to injury they charged us almost 20 euros (yes honestly!). 

So if you like condescending treatment and paying through the nose for mediocre coffee and contemptuous service go to the Le Finistère Café (orange décor) at the edge of the square.  As you might guess we will not be going back. 

I must emphasise that this person has been the exception.  Everyone else we have met has been friendly, welcoming and charming.