A Travellerspoint blog

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Icons of the Normandy and Brittany coast

Woke up to a gloomy day in Caen, not the end of the world as I spent most of the morning driving. Must mention the carpark I'd left the car in the the 2 days in Caen. Never been in such a nice carpark! The air was perfumed, classical music was playing in the background, and it was spotless....remarkable! Anyway, onto the events and sights of the day.......

I drove from Caen to the iconic and gorgeous Mont Saint-Michel. Unfortunately, they have made some changes since my last visit 2 years ago and you now have to park your car a few kilometres away from the causeway, which is disappointing. I guess from there you catch a shuttle or something. Given the outside temperature was only in single figures and it was slightly drizzling I decided to give it a miss....so the only photo was taken from a distance away.

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Stopped a little further along the road and had a lovely lunch. Was just finishing my coffee when the waitress gave me a complementary glass of champagne, not sure why but I happily slurped it down! Some quaint and at times impressive houses dotted along the coast, this one caught my eye because it looks like a real hobbit house.

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My intended destination for the day was Saint-Malo. We drove past here last time in France but didn't stop as it was too busy in the peak tourist season and I couldn't find a park! So I found my seaside hotel and spent an extra few euros and got a room with a sea view. Worth it! Am sitting here watching the kite surfers leap and bound across the waves; as the tide slowly comes in they are getting closer and closer. Here's the view taken earlier...
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Wasn't exactly sure how far away I was from the walled Cite (yes spelt right but without the accent over the e), but decided to wrap up and go for a walk as the sun had emerged. Was delighted to discover that it wasn't too far way at all, and a brisk walk would do me good anyway!
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One thing you notice straight away is that there is a fort on almost every rocky outcrop off the coast, this one is the Ancient Fort Royal, one of Vauban's constructions in the 17th century. Vauban was the go to man if you wanted a fort on a rocky spot back in the day.
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So, the walled city itself is mighty impressive, dating back to the 12th century. It declared itself an independent republic from 1590 to 1594 and still flies its own flag at the highest point on the Chateau. Like most towns long this part of the coast it was bombed to buggery during 1944 and has had to be rebuilt.
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Went for a wander along the outer ramparts and from there spotted this cool swimming pool, I guess at high tide it's completely submerged.
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There was also this statue of Robert Surcouf, wasn't sure who he was so looked him up.
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Famous privateer and slave runner! Good stuff!

And with that the kite surfers are starting to pack up so it must almost be time to check out the bar!

Posted by Kanumera 08:38 Comments (0)

Brittany...as far west as possible

Drizzly and VERY cold this morning. Not too much of a problem as again the morning was in the car driving from St-Malo to Plougonvelin, a small coastal village west of Brest. Main excitement during the drive was having a fox run across the road in front of me then scamper across the paddock. Beautiful red and a large healthy looking animal. I think it's the first fox sighting of my life!

Am staying with Michel and Kathy, Michel worked with Dave in Noumea, first time I've seen them since 1999! We agreed that it still seems just like it was the other day! Except they have since had children and me well....I've lost Dave. The kids had drawn cute little welcome pictures with whales in them for me.

After having a coffee we went for a drive around the coast. First stop was St-Mathieu were there is a monastry that was destroyed during the revolution and never rebuilt. Right next to it they have erected a modern lighthouse and a tower that houses equipment for tracking coastal vessels, these are in stark contrast to the monastry.
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A short walk along the coast it a monument to dead mariners. Given the treacherous coastline I imagine that there have been a few losses over the years.
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We carried on following the coast to Le Conquet, where there is a small port. A number of small fishing boats were at their moorings. The coastline is very rugged, with the odd sandy beach in small bays. A little like the west coast of the South Island in NZ.
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Our final stop was near Kerveuleugan where we rugged up and went for a walk along the coastal tracks to the Chapelle de Locmeven, a teeny tiny little chapel ocerlooking the sea. There is a source just below the chapel which is reknowned for its qualities for fixing eye infections and general illness.

As you can see here the temperatures are a little below what I imagined spring would be like!
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Posted by Kanumera 03:04 Comments (0)

Oceanopolis in Brest and on to La Rochelle

Missed writing up yesterday, so double up today.

Started Sunday morning with a family walk around Plougonvelin. Nice coastline, sunny but chilly again.
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The family had a lunch appointment, so I headed into Brest where I visited Oceanopolis, the aquarium. Really wanted to see their new sea otters, but the poor things won't come out of their shelter! Managed to get some good photos of other beasties though.
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Played card games with the kids in the afternoon. Then had crepes + cider for dinner...yum.
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After saying my goodbyes this morning I set off for my next stop, La Rochelle. So it was mostly a day driving. First thing to notice was the increase in temperature as I headed south. It was a five hour drive with many changes in scenery along the way. Arrived early in the evening, so just enough time to relax a bit with a cup of tea before heading to the old part for a cold beer followed by a seafood dinner.
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Posted by Kanumera 14:09 Comments (0)

Extreme South West

Absolutely pouring with rain in La Rochelle this morning. was going to go to the market and wander around the shops but instead hit the road for the south.

Two things struck me as I drove: 1. there are grapevines everywhere again. I hadn't really noticed but up north there was a complete absence of vines, just fields with either crops or stock in them, and 2. the vines and forest trees now have leaves! When I left the south a month ago there were no leaves.
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After leaving La Rochelle I was in an area of France that I have never visited before, despite this being my fourth trip to France. , Quite exciting really, and a shame that haven't got more time here. Those extra 2 days up North have come at a cost, but I really did enjoy my time in Lille and Strasbourg. So passed through Bordeaux without even sipping a red wine!

Destination was Biarritz where I will spend the next two nights. Arrived in the late afternoon and went for a walk. This first photo is looking towards the coast of Spain, which is just down the road.
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The following 2 photos are of the Grand Plage.
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For dinner found a fantastic little Basque restaurant tucked down a little alley. Started with a fabulous Mojito - yum! Followed by a magnifcent fish dish with a delicious sauce and washed down with a great white wine. Finished with an apple digestive. If you're ever in Biarritz I can highly recommend the restaurant Chez Modjo.

It's an unusual town, A strange mix of young Surfer types and older wealthy people.

Posted by Kanumera 12:39 Comments (0)

Biarritz

Gorgeous warm sunny day here in Biarritz. Wandered into the the township this morning to do some shopping. Was disturbed to find that even though it was nearly 11am most of the shops were shut. Realised that it was the 1st of May, or May Day, which is a public holiday here. Disappointment!

Had a coffee and contemplated Plan B.

Decided to walk down to the beach, seemed like everyone else had the same idea. Spent over an hour sitting on the edge of the walkway watching people pass by and watching the various surfers do their thing. Quite a good sized surf about 1.5 m.
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Wandered back into town where I found a clothes shop open. Finally found a pair of trousers that fit, was so excited that I bought a top to go with them! Asked the woman in the shop to recommend somewhere for lunch. She suggested following the footpath Southwards around to coast to a group of restaurants on the seaside. I did as she suggested and was delighted to discover the Port des Pecheurs (fishermen's port).
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A little further around the point was another lovely little beach at the old Port.
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Around the final point was the Plage de la Cote des Basques, along with the view down the coast to Spain and inland to the Pyrenees.
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This was another surf beach, this one with a slightly gentler surf and therefore a popular spot for learner surfers.
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Still find the mixture of surfer dudes and middle aged wealthy kind of strange. Unusual town.

Posted by Kanumera 13:38 Comments (0)

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