Sunday, September 30, 2012

In the magic forest ...

I have just returned from a fun few days in the magic forest of Brocéliande, showing the sites of Arthurian legend to an American, Michele Newman, who is writing a book featuring Merlin and Lancelot. We had an especially atmospheric walk in the Valley of No Return and were treated to a rare view of Vivanne's castle underneath the lake at the Chateau de Comper.

Last weekend I was working with Angela Locke's creative writing group (including Michele) at Huelgoat, presenting the landscape and legends of Brittany as a backdrop to their exercises. We also had a grand tour of the Monts d'Arrée, completely invisible under the mist at the time - a good challenge for their creative imaginations. It was a great pleasure and experience to share ideas such interesting and talented people. Angela herself would be an inspiration to anyone.

Friday, September 21, 2012

St-Malo - any port in a strike

Returned today from a trip to London to see my nearest and dearest, by good fortune taking the last boat from Portsmouth before the Brittany Ferries strike. So I began and ended my journey in St-Malo, taking an overnight there on the way out in the San Pedro hotel, where I was warmly welcomed by the owner Mireille Morice. We first met when I stayed and reviewed her establishment for the Footprint guide some years ago and it has remained one of my absolute favourite places in Brittany. Also discovered a new restaurant/café, Couleur Safran (4 Grand rue), which is tiny but serves food - such as savoury pies - packed with flavour, and will certainly go on my recommended list. The banana, pear and chocolate crumble was obscenely delicious.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Voyager returns

I've just finished my stint on Brittany Ferries for 2012, with two talks yesterday on Walking in Finistere on the Armorique during an out-and-back between Roscoff and Plymouth. It's a very long day, but the double crossing is always pleasurable and I'm kindly given a large cabin with TV and hot drinks, so plenty of comfort. It's been great to work with the friendly professionals of Brittany Ferries and Joel the technician deserves an award for his unfailing patience as he is summoned time and again to help me with 'cabling issues.'
Giving the talks has been fun. What has been most enjoyable is to meet so many nice, interested and interesting people in the audiences, and talking to them afterwards about their experiences of Brittany and its tourist offerings has been helpful for my own work. Earlier this week I was delighted to find Michael Dodds, head honcho of Brittany Tourism in Rennes, listening to my talk on The Great Outdoors, and we had a good exchange in the bar after about, guess what, tourism in Brittany.
The Saints Shore Way has provoked a lot of enthusiasm among passengers (many of whom are from Cornwall) which encourages me to think the project will prove a real attraction for 2013.
Overall this assignment has been a great success (feedback forms very appreciative) and I'm actually proud of being able to do what I do best - promoting Finistere and Brittany in general - in a new and important arena. Brittany Ferries passengers are the dragon's teeth of Brittany tourism. They all have extended families and friends, they are group members and have work colleagues - every positive Brittany feeling and comment on their part can potentially lead to many decisions by other people to take their holidays here and come over to see for themselves all that Brittany has to offer.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

An oddity

The tiny oratory of St Gelvest in the commune of Plougasnou is something of an oddity. It is only accessible on foot (and before that a track your car will not appreciate), sitting in a deeply silent isolated spot by a source. It is said that a farmer found a statue near the spring, built the oratory on his land and established a pardon for the saint. But because he kept the money donated at such times rather than offering it to the church, the oratory was never consecrated and no priest - to this day - takes part in the pardon.
This celebration takes place on the third Sunday in May, because St Gelvest, the Cornouaille version of St Servais, is a 'saint de glace' to be invoked against late frosts damaging the crops. In this case it is the flax crop, once so important in the economy of the Trégor (and Léon), so St Gelvest is also a 'saint de lin', and the only one as far as I'm aware. At the time of the lucrative cloth trade with England, flax seeds were imported into Brittany from the Baltic via Roscoff, as local crops did not produce sufficiently strong seed to ensure a healthy yield.