Sunday 9th July
La Belle Isle
Thank goodness for the internet, and the ferry! I had upon the idea of taking the ferry to Belle Isle, and within 15 minutes, we’d found the ferry times, and booked our tickets. We went to bed more cheery to have a plan than otherwise we might have done. Not sailing, but still boating.
Sunday was the first of a few days of major step count, some 17,000, and in flip-flops that’s quite punishing. I have trainer envy, but that is another story. Sunday was a baking hot day, with the sun already fierce when we walked to Quiberon. Bessie wasn’t the only one trying to find every scrap of shade! With enough time for a coffee at an unremarkable beach front cafe, Pete went to collect the tickets. It had all worked, including one for Bessie ‘un chien ordinaire’. We wondered what she had to do to become extraordinaire… Clearly they hadn’t met her!
The ferry ride was pleasant, the breeze providing welcome relief from the heat, although Bessie took to the shade under the chairs, where she could supervise anyone going into a picnic bag. She barked at a baby, not quite toddler, who was being ‘walked’ by his mother, his hands high. Fortunately no one bothered, although I was. Bessie will have to go back to the dog trainer, but that’s another story too.
The ferry deposited us into Le Palais, town with an impressive citadel, and series of harbours. The pilot book warns of the chaos of Le Palais, but at noon on a Sunday morning, it all seemed quiet. The ferry manoeuvred in a space that was only a little bit longer than it to get alongside the dock. I guess if you’d arrived at that time as a visitor, that would be a bit stressful.
Le Palais was as I’d remembered it, these series of connected harbours. The outer, with the ferry port, the second harbour, mostly with local boats, and then the inner harbour, accessible only when there is enough water (tide) so that the lock can be opened. It was rammed. We circumnavigated the harbours, stopping to marvel at the spectacular – not sure quite what the word is. Not flags, not quite bunting, but a series of wonderful fish were flying across the streets. Penny appeared out of a shop exclaiming that they were €80 each! Handmade then! We didn’t work out what they were there for, other than to look rather spectacular.
We treated ourselves to a commissary lunch, mourning the fact that we weren’t boating. Pete and I both remembered we’d had a great lunch before, and I was convinced it was the place we went for, sitting on a terrace overlooking the inner (not locked) harbour. Le Odyssey. Turns out I was wrong (it happens), but it was superb despite not being the place.
We rather needed to walk off the excesses of lunch, but didn’t really want to go into the citadel again, and Penny wasn’t bothered, more keen to find a cove to pass the time of day. They’d spotted one to the west of Le Palais on arrival, but we failed to find it as we walked the coastal path. Bessie was a nightmare, as all she wanted to do was find a way down to the sea. We kept on walking around small headlands until we found a beach that we could go down to. There were no fierce ‘no dog’ signs, so we took Bessie to the far end, where Pete rolled stones for her. Penny, not having her swimmers, sat on a rock and negotiated with herself as to whether she could swim. She fashioned something decent out of a scarf, and managed it. Swim count being maintained!
After the hot walk back to the town, it was time for our ferry back to Quiberon. Bessie and I both slept on the return, restoring enough energy for the walk back to the marina. 17,000 steps in a black fur coat is almost harder than in flip flops…
Monday 10th July
Monday wasn’t as successful as Tuesday. Some days just go like that. Pete had spoken to the factory, so was feeling a little more optimistic about the engine even if I wasn’t. There was also a lot of wind forecast, not ideal conditions for a Penny, our novice sailor. We ended up heading to the ‘savage coast’, to Port Ivy to our lovely Bateau d’ivre for lunch, and then walking along the coastal path to the fortress that sits along the causeway, close to Bessie’s beach. Pete and Penny had secured a table outside, unfortunately in full sun, so it was hot. Bessie also was a nightmare, as all she wanted to do was head for the water… so lunch wasn’t relaxed, in fact, it was extremely unrelaxed, and I was glad to finish. Then we had an unrelaxed walk to the fortress, as Bessie was just pulling to go into the water. I walked ahead, as Pete struggled to keep her to heel. On the return, we walked along the sand, despite it being no dogs. From the fort, there was no signs to say ‘no dogs’, and there were so few people on the beach… and she just chases stones… and we clear up any mess. Bessie is hardly much of a threat to cleanliness or disruptiveness. With that out of her system, she was much better behaved when back on the path.
Pete dropped Penny and I in Quiberon, in order that we could go shopping and do a little provisioning. It is the first time that I’ve been actual shopping/browsing (other than online) in ages, and I have to say, it was thoroughly enjoyable. We both came back with a couple of parcels, and I am tempted to go back before the trip is done. If only to get a couple of breton shirts!
Another 17,000 steps, in a different type of flip flops. My feet feel like they are as stiff as the tarmac. Not used to walking in towns. Dreaming of trainers…
Tuesday 11th July
The strategy of the day was to be a little more flexible around Bessie, so that we would get the best of her, not the worst. She needed a stretch and a run before being asked to sit near water! So, the day began in its leisurely way (buying bread and croissants at the local cafe) before Penny packed up and we headed inland. It was a grey day, so not one to be boating anyway. Or that’s what we told each other, particularly when it started raining.
Auray is the closest large town, right at the top of the long peninsular that points towards our home port for the summer, Quiberon and Port Haliguen. We’ve passed it a few times on the dual carriageway around it, and stopped for fuel, but it had never occurred to me to be a place of certain charm… and it has charm, even on a cloudy day. But first, we needed to exercise le chien, and with the windows of the car down, Bessie could smell the sea as the land narrowed around the causeway, sending her into a little frenzy. Does she know the road? When we turned off at the little roundabout, she went NUTS. She loves a beach! We walked for an hour, under grey skies, but with the tide almost fully out, it was gorgeous walking on the cool, damp sand, the conditions making for an almost glassy reflection. I wished I had a better camera, but the iphone6 does a reasonable job.
With Bessie suitably exercised, we continued to Auray, arriving at the respectable hour to find lunch. Penny and Pete had done the research, and we needed the old port to find the ‘interesting’ bits of the town. After circumnavigating the town, we found a huge carpark, and had one of the last spaces. From its vantage point on the side of a hill, all we needed to do was head down to find the river, and hopefully the old town. As it was Penny’s last lunch with us, we said she had to choose. Luckily, she chose an exceptional terrace restaurant, on a refurbished quay, with views over the old bridge. We had a very well-behaved dog, so the whole experience was excellent.
From lunch it was a gentle meander around the battlement that climbed steeply away from the water. Bessie tried her best to leap in to the river, but we took her into the streets behind the Town Hall. Auray boasted some up-market shops, and we were curious as to why this little town had such prosper. Penny and I could both have spent a small fortune on nic-nacs, and to my regret, I didn’t buy a rather funky reversible skirt. I don’t know why I didn’t! We were all running out of steam (another 17,000 step day), so Penny told us to drop her at the airport so that we could head back to Whinchat and make plans. We had already decided that Wednesday was looking like a poor-weather day, and so we were going to see a man about a boat. In La Rochelle.