Week 2 and the kids had started to call our 3 bedroom mobile home / cabin “home”! I think Ella (2) actually believed that we had permanently changed residence. When are we going home they cried as we visited another historic, well-kept and pretty Breton town. Mommy and Daddy had grown tired of sitting around by the pool and the waiting for the kids club to finish so in week 2, excursions became the norm rather than the exception.
Despite the fact that I had spent numerous holidays in this region as a kid, I have no recollection of the really picturesque towns in Morbihan such as Quiberon and Auray, although the numerous sailboats of La Trinite-sur-mer did induce a mini Proustian moment of recollection (definitely was bored there as a youth!). I do remember visiting Vannes and not being impressed by it, whereas this time around it appeared to be a nice mid sized town with an impressive pedestrianised old town, complete with medieval parade on the day we visited. We tried to convince the boys that the parade was just for us but they weren’t buying it.
I must say that Brittany seems to have really gotten behind tourism as a way to bring visitors and by extension cash into the region. Plenty of artisinale this and organic / bio that. Everything clean with tours (mostly in the form of road bound trains) and parks by the dozen. There is a great emphasis on local products and nowhere is this more visible than in the many La Trinitaine biscuiteries (fancy biscuit shops to you and me) around us. Now I had a vague idea that Breton biscuits were a thing, but not to the extent that La Trinitaine has turned into the French equivalent of Starbucks in expansion mode! Just to explain, La Trinitaine was founded in the 1950s in the aforementioned La Trinite-sur-mer. It become famous for its cigarette biscuits, you know the ones that look like a cross between a sea shell and a spliff, and commonly found stuck into the tops of ice creams. From there, it has morphed into an organisation with 46 shops that produces 11,500 tonnes of biscuit a year. Perhaps the most noticeable thing about La Trinitaine is that it has become a beacon for Breton produce so if you enter one of their stores, in addition to the multitude of biscuits, you’ll be confronted with Breton cider, Breton fish soup, Breton crepes, Breton, well you get the jist. Safe to say that it was a one stop shop for all our homecoming present needs!
On a more philosophical note, why is it that the first week of a fortnight’s holiday seems to last forever while the second week goes past in the blink of an eye? Is it because even I can become tired of going down a water slide at breakneck speeds everyday, like an aqua junkie, do I need a bigger kick, should it be longer, higher, faster? Is it because during the first week of the holiday you load up the fridge, while in the second week you become aware of the pressing and quite Irish requirement to eat everything in the fridge, hey there is nothing wrong with a Camembert and blue cheese sandwich covered in dijonnaise! Is it because you have exhausted your collection of €1 coins so the boys can only hover around other kids racing motorbikes in the camp-site arcade and look at you with downtrodden puppy dog eyes? Or is it simply because that phrase “this time next week we’ll be back in Dublin!” hangs over you like a cloud in the otherwise clear perfectly blue Breton skies.
I’m really going to miss Brittany. I did have some reservations about this trip and the prospect of the 6 of us being in such a confined space for a fortnight, but the weather has been excellent and camp-site holidaying is better than I remembered it. Even taking the boys for pony rides wasn’t the pain I had expected (I’m deeply distrustful of horses and also a bit allergic). In typical French manner, once we paid we were left to our own devices with the ponies. We were given a suggested route and told how to hold the bridle and then ushered on our way with a gallic wave. Being the dutiful sort, we followed the route to a T (well apart from the time Niki let the pony eat some grass “off track” and he quickly deduced that she was a pushover), but could have headed to Paris and enrolled in the Prix de l’Arc de Triomphe for all the pony owner cared!! Most importantly the kids loved Brittany. Sure, they didn’t drink any milk because they didn’t like the taste and their diet consisted of more pizza and chips than it had in the previous 6 months, but they want to go back next year and suggested we book while we were on the ferry home.
I have previously written of my love for Paris but now I think that amour can be extended to France as a whole. The bread and pastries are great, the hypermarches are fantastic, the weather is for the most part a lot better than back home and the cheesy music is exceptional. Every evening the camp-site would host a mini-disco for kids which included not one, not two, not three, not four but five songs with intricate dance routines. I think I looked forward to that more than the boys did, “hurry up with your ice creams there lads or we’ll miss the start of Danse de la Pingu!”.
So it is definitely a case of merci and au revoir France.