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Postcards: Morlaix (FR)

I had not thought, when we left for our weekend in Brittany, that we would ended up in Morlaix, even if just for a couple of hours. It is one of those small French town that I’ve heard of but never really curious enough to Google, never mind planning a visit. Still, since we have to go through the area on our way back to Brest from Saint Samson anyway, why not take a look, right?

Morlaix

Morlaix

This medieval town certainly looks the part. Cobblestone streets, winding alleys, steep stairs, brightly-painted half-timbered houses, old churches and a viaduct all come together to form a picturesque historic centre amidst the often grey Breton skies. I also learned that its port was once of great importance, given the pirates were busy raiding from here, not to mention there were bustling linen and tobacco trades going. There are some rather distinguished buildings lining the port area.

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Fort du Dellec to Pointe du Petit Minou

It is a given that I cannot head to Brittany without my runners or hiking boots in the bag. F and his buddy C are always looking for trails they can walk, and there are certainly plenty of them around Brest and its environs. Admittedly, I quite like these picturesque chemins côtiers too, it’s just that I’m often trailing behind them because (1) I stop all the time to take photos, and (2) the boys have longer steps that my short legs can’t quite catch up with.

Dellec to Minou

Dellec to Minou

The trail from the Fort du Dellec to the Pointe du Petit Minou (how cute are the names?) is a relatively short one compared to most that we do. It take about two hours to do a return trip, and C often even jogs here. If there is such a lovely jogging space nearer to our place, perhaps I could be motivated to run more often too. Or not. :p

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Hiking Camaret-sur-Mer

We woke up on a Saturday morning to reasonable cloud cover but looked set to hold steadily. After a quick trip to the supermarket nearby to get our picnic supplies, we headed south-west of Brest to Camaret-sur-Mer. A 4.5-hours hike around this part of Crozon peninsula was our activity of the day. That, and getting back to Brest in time for a lovely dinner at a super sushi restaurant in town. This is how every excursion should be planned; something active, followed by something delicious as a reward for the hard work put in. ;)

Camaret

Camaret

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Postcards: Sun, sea, sand in Bretagne Nord (FR)

We were back in Brittany, greeted by sunshine and what promised to be quite an active weekend. Because it was (sort of) summer, we were obviously obliged to go to the beach. We checked out a couple of them: one where the boys attempted to surf – C picked up this new hobby while in Brazil, and F was trying it out for the first time – in the rather chilly water of less than 20°C (brrrrr!), and one where I put on my baby step to swimming in the ocean, ahead of our vacation in Montenegro.

Bretagne Nord

Bretagne Nord

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Postcards: Bretagne Nord (FR)

We were not going to be deterred from exploring Bretagne Nord just because the weather was less than cooperative. The initial plan to select a spot for a 4-5 hours trek had to be abandoned though. Our new route was charted: first to Pointe St Mathieu, then over to Le Conquet, and a spin at Plouarzel before coming back to Brest, in time for dinner at a local crêperie.

Bretagne Nord

Bretagne Nord

Pointe St Mathieu is the site of an old abbey of St Mathieu-de-Fine-Terre (thus giving the name to the region – Finistère) besides a lighthouse dated back to 1800s that today forms part of a network of famous lighthouses of the Brittany’s coastline. The abbey, founded in the 6th century, was said to once hold the skull of Saint Matthew and a village sprung up around it, flourishing thanks to the right to exploit the gains from salvaging wrecks. Little trace of the village and its then-needed fortifications remain.

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Postcards: Brest (FR)

A looong overdue post, and I hope our friends who hosted us didn’t think I had not enjoyed my trip to Brest, given the lack of related blog entries like it should. I am not entirely sure why I procrastinated; the photos were processed reasonably promptly after our return and we did have a lovely weekend despite the soaking we’d got – it was November and in Brittany afterall.

Brest

Brest

For some reason, I’ve always thought of Brest as being “north” when it is justifiably “west”. In fact, it lies at a latitude southern to that of Paris, a fact I didn’t think was true until I consulted a map properly. The city is an important military port and was pretty much destroyed during the World War II. The city was quickly rebuilt but the buildings very much utilitarian in nature. Sadly, this also means there isn’t a lot of typical Breton charm to be found here.

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Project 365 – Week 44

It feels like we’ve suddenly plunged into winter this week. It started wet, then windy, followed by arctic chill for a couple of days, and back into wet and windy weekend. Not too much fun for my friend who was playing tourist in the city. And as if wet and windy in Paris was not bad enough, F and I headed up northwest to Brest to visit our friends at the weekend. Oh, gosh, it has been a long time since I was that soaked!

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Road sign

28 Oct: Here’s a fun fact: in Paris, while there are “no entry” sign aplenty, there is none of “stop”. Another fun fact: many of the “no entry” sign has been used as canvases for street art. I’ve started coming across “Kiss Kiss” (that’s my nickname for it) on a rather regular basis since my return from southeast Asia, so I wonder if this is the current batch of no-entry-art. Previous batches have been “The Handyman” (man carrying a bar), and “Witch Hunt” (man in the stocks).

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Postcards: Locmariaquer and La Roche Bernard (FR)

Our few days of roaming around Morbihan came quickly to a close, and we found ourselves driving back to my in-laws to drop their car back (they had kindly lent us one for the trip). En route, we made a couple more quick stops, in the small towns of Locmariaquer and La Roche Bernard.

Locmariaquer is well-known for the largest menhir to be erected but sadly this broken menhir of Er Grah now lies on the ground in four pieces, adjacent to a famous dolmen, Table des Marchands. We debated visiting the site but given the lacklustre guided tour that morning at Carnac, my fellow road-trippers were less enthusiastic about it. Instead, we wandered around the port area for a little bit, had a very late lunch, and set off again.

Locmariaquer

Locmariaquer

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The Megaliths

Our August travel in Bretagne Sud had taken us to the quaint village of Saint Cado, the Bay of Biscay for Barre d’Étel and Gâvres, and the peninsula of Quiberon. However, we simply cannot drive past Erdeven and Carnac without visiting at least one of the several megalithic sites the region is famous for!

We strategically searched for a chambre d’hôte that is close to my friend’s wedding reception yet within reach of interesting spots to sightsee. An online search led me to the B&B of Kerzerho where we were very well looked after by Dominique throughout our stay. Frederic and I were given a room with a balcony where we could have breakfast on sunny mornings, and both ours as well as our friends’ rooms were tastefully decorated and immaculately cleaned. Moreover, Dominique is an active member of the local tourism board and therefore has plenty of tips to offer.

Kerzerho

Kerzerho

Anyway, I digress.

A short walk away from our B&B is the megalithic site of Erdeven itself! Comprised of over 1,000 standing and 5,000 lying stones, this site also known as Kerzerho alignment is the most significant site after the three main ones in Carnac. From the main road passing through Erdeven, some of these standing stones – menhirs – are clearly visible. One needs to only follow the path to enjoy a couple of hours of walk among the menhirs, spot the praying table, and marvel at the rare remaining dolmens.

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Postcards: Quiberon (FR)

What a glorious day it was, when we drove our way down to Quiberon. A former island in the Atlantic ocean until the 11th century, when formation of a tombolo changed its landscape and connected the island to the mainland, creating a peninsula with an isthmus that sports a width of mere 22m at its narrowest point.

The key to truly enjoy the coastal front of the Côte Sauvage is to avoid the chock-a-block main road, particularly during the summer holiday season, that goes through St-Pierre-Quiberon down to Quiberon. Instead, on passing the tombolo and immediately on arrival of the former island, take a right turn in the direction of Portivy. From there, it’s a straight drive along the coast. Better still, park the car and take a long, invigorating walk while admiring the wild coast which sees waves after waves crashing in.

Quiberon

Quiberon

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Bay of Biscay: from Barre d’Étel to Gâvres

The Ria d’Étel empties into the Bay of Biscay, and right at this meeting point, things can get pretty interesting. After our morning detour to Saint Cado, we continued driving westwards to Barre d’Etel, located at the mouth of the estuary.

Along the river, large volumes of water are displaced by the tides and the estuary itself is subject to strong currents – we saw multiple signs warning potential swimmers from committing the folly of mounting a watery challenge. At Barre d’Etel, an ever shifting band of sand is formed by these cross currents. Additionally, on days with strong wind, be prepared for the assault of the sand. (Yes, I was ill-prepared, for I arrived wearing shorts and it was painful being pelted non-stop that I couldn’t go anywhere near the seafront! Everyone else came back with pocketful of sands instead.)

Barre d'Etel

Barre d'Etel

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Postcards: Saint Cado (FR)

Another month, another wedding to attend. While July’s wedding took us to Dijon for a weekend, August saw us heading to Morbihan (southern Brittany) for a handful few days to celebrate the marriage of one of my best friends from my Dublin days. While we were there, as you may have guessed – road trip!

One of our post-wedding sightseeing stops in the region was Saint Cado, a small islet just to the north of Belz. It is such an idyllic village, set with stone and whitewashed houses surrounding a chapel that was built in the 12th century on the site originally founded in the 6th century, and flat green fields that occupy the eastern half of the islet. It is also surrounded by structures that indicate oyster farming as the main economic activity off its immediate bay today. Between the islet and the mainland, a singular stone house is seen to sit on another small rock island in the middle of Ria d’Etel.

St Cado

St Cado

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Project 365 – Week 32

Having two cameras, one dSLR and one PnS, is a good thing. Depending on the situation and the size of the bag I’m carrying, I can opt to bring one or the other, or both. The downside, however, is I’m hitting more or less the same range of image number on both cameras. When it comes to organising them, I had to be very careful not to let any overwriting from happening. My folder system goes by the event name, and photos from both cameras could potentially end up in the same folder. I should reset the count for one of them.

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Cat

5 Aug: This kitty in real life look like a grey fluffy ball, loves to be petted, super duper cute, but for some reason, when I tried to photograph it, it gave me this serious big cat-like look. I guess it didn’t want to appear too adorable, and it was not too adorable indeed when it jumped on me at breakfast table one morning. It went straight onto my lap and leaving some scratch mark even though I tried to lift it up as quickly as I could. See, I was wearing shorts… ouch!

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Project 365 – Week 31

This week, I discovered that being a translator is probably not a career alternative I should pursue. My friends, in the spirit of keeping things bilingual for their wedding, had asked me to help out with certain tasks (e.g. translating wedding ceremony programme, speeches), and working from English into French, oh dear… I am lucky I have other wonderful friends around me who helped to proofread my translations, and I also roped F into translating some particularly tricky texts. What would I do without them?

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Street art

29 Jul: This piece of street art reminds me of the sculpture of Le Passe-Muraille to commemorate Marcel Aymé that can be found in Montmartre. The main differences? This is on the other side of the wall, thus forming a continuation of sort to the sculpture, and this is a very modern take, for I don’t think hoodie fits into the setting of Aymé’s story. Disclaimer: I don’t know if the artist intended this as an echo to Le Passe-Muraille. Total speculation on my part.

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Project 365 – Week 17

Now that spring has truly arrived, a massive spring cleaning is required chez nous. Not that we’re normally incredibly messy people, just that we had workmen in for a good few days fixing and repainting the windows. The layers of dust that settled on just about every surface had me cringing silently, so a top-to-bottom cleaning is definitely required. Still, I’m taking a little break to bring you the latest round-up of Project 365.

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Keith Haring

22 Apr: A Keith Haring retrospective is currently running in the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris. For a week, the métro station of Alma Marceau was transformed into a cultural station, showcasing some posters of this pop-art master, featuring the iconic jelly bean-like figures in striking bold colours or in black and white. This exhibition – themed Political Lines – is on my to-visit list, and if you are in Paris, you shouldn’t miss it either.

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Project 365 – Week 8

This winter has been the bane of my health and I am really tired of it. It seems I’m falling ill nearly every month, and this week has been the worse yet. The irony is that I’ve had a restful week last week and was preparing for a solid week of work and planning etc, only to be thwarted suddenly by a crippling flu. I had to stay put for a couple of days at home. Boo.

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Cherry blossom

18 Feb: Seeing cherry blossoms makes me happy. It just does, and I can’t explain why. Maybe it’s the imminent arrival of spring (never mind that the weather forecast for the rest of the week would be coooooold). Maybe it’s the wispy splash of soft pink. Maybe it’s its association with Chinese New Year. Maybe it’s the reminder of the beautiful view I used to get from my studio in Cité U.

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Le Croisic

Early this month, Frédéric and I were back in his hometown in (historical) Brittany and taking advantage of the opportunity to see another part of the region which I don’t know, I suggested an afternoon visit to Le Croisic. Situated at the tip of the Guérande peninsula (just a little further down from Le Pouliguen and Batz-sur-Mer), it is a beautiful small town but a little on the quiet side during the winter – the visitors won’t be coming in until warmer summer months.

But first, we made a pit stop at Plage Valentin of Batz-sur-Mer, which we didn’t visit previously. It is not named after St Valentin (sorry to burst some romance bubble there) but rather, it was introduced by a certain Monsieur Killian who was nicknamed Valentin to be a small “bathing therapy” resort. It gained popularity and the venture took off. Today though, it is favoured by families for beach holiday, given the relative calm of water in this bay in comparison to the other beaches along the coast.

Le Croisic

Le Croisic

Le Croisic

Le Croisic

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A peek at Pornic

When we left for Brittany, in the train, I told Frédéric that we must go to La Trinitaine at some point during the weekend we were there. I was flexible for any activities that he could think of, but I absolutely could not come back without my favourite goodies from the shop – nougats tendres au caramel au beurre salé. It has been many moons since I finished the packet that I bought in Guérande and the hankering was getting stronger. Unfortunately for me, La Trinitaine is not available in Paris. (Ok, I could have ordered online but we were going to be in the region anyway, you know…)

This search also gave us a good excuse to visit yet another town within the vicinity of F’s hometown. Instead of revisiting Guérande, we decided to head to Pornic for a little walk-about. The weather was less co-operative in comparison to the previous day when we were out for the long walk at the Côte Sauvage. The sun and the rain battled to trump one another. As a result, most of the photos I took were less than brilliant, but here are some anyway ;)

(Hover over the images for captions)

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Côte Sauvage: from Le Pouliguen to Batz-sur-Mer

Weather in Brittany is supposedly similar to the Irish’s, mostly rain-related, but I find a rather dissimilar point between them – in Ireland, we often get drizzle all day long whereas in Brittany, rain and sunny spell alternate in bursts. This trip round, I’ve been lucky. It rained when we were in cars etc, and it shined when we were out for walks. Long walks even.

One of the afternoons, Nico joined us for a walk at the Côte Sauvage. We trekked along the coastal cliff/path from Le Pouliguen to Batz-sur-Mer, and it took just a little over 2 hours in each directions after factoring in photo breaks as well as pauses to watch the surfers taming the waves that crashed in seemingly haphazardly.

Here are some photos from the day, and I love the last few on sunset. So dramatic, for something quite fleeting. ;)

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