30 September 2009

Bien Arrivée

Sorry to have kept you all waiting so long! I won’t blame it on the internet, but I will mention fiendish French keyboards—which are similar enough to lull you into confidence, only to have you hunting and pecking with abandon after a simple sentence!

Yes, I have arrived. In France, nonetheless. I spent several days chez Julien, and I could not have asked for a warmer welcome. Julien is a friend from my year in Strasbourg, who studied hydrology (and dance!) there and is now at home near Rennes. We’ve done a bit of a tour of the surrounding region, starting with Brittany’s most famous asset: the sea.

On the coast the Atlantic, you don’t just lay out on the beach and splash around in the water. You also catch dinner! Julien and I collected sea snails, oysters, clams, and crabs, and later went fishing.

Eating seafood is very adventurous. While your usual fish entrée may pose problems of extracting tiny bones and avoiding the glassy eyes, crabs are a matter of hammers, claw-crackers, and very tiny forks. Shrimp begs beheading, then prying off legs and scales. Sea snails require long pins to extract them from their curved shells. Oysters? You just eat them alive and let the slimy saltiness slide smoothly south!

Although I don’t have much of a taste for seafood, it was well worth the experience of gathering tide-to-table.

And then a bit of sorcery

The next day we traveled to the Forest of Brociliand, ostensibly the site of many Arthurian legends involving Merlin and Morgan La Fée. Wait, didn’t King Arthur live in England? Because of the common Celtic heritage between this peninsula and the island across the Channel, the written records of the Arthurian period often confuse Bretagne (Brittany) and Bretagne (Britain). The Forest of Brociliand is said to be the home of Merlin’s tomb, the Fountain of Youth, the Valley of No Return created by Morgan La Fée. While legends abound concerning different sites in the Forest, I can assure you that the tomb was not magical, the fountain was not flowing, and dragons were significantly lacking. Sigh, maybe next time…

In the meantime, it was a great hike!

Finally, we spend our last full day in Gacilly, known for its small artisanal painters, glass-blowers, designers, and photographers. There was a fantastic photo exhibit at the Yves Rocher Institute, but our visit was cut short by the need to return home for a crepe party with friends...


My bus to Pontivy was Saturday afternoon, and one of the English professors, Isabelle, arrived to chauffeur me to the apartment and around town for the necessities: food, toilet paper, and bedding. The apartment is on the third floor with beautiful southern exposure, nicely decorated if poorly appointed. More on that as soon as I have pictures; I spent all Sunday cleaning before unpacking, and it shows!

A bientot!

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