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
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.

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