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La Belle France

Having given France some stick in the previous post, let’s redress the balance a little. This time, few words, just enjoy the images…….

Chateau in Saumur

Chateau in Saumur

...often wondered what the view from the back was like

…often wondered what the view from the back was like

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Along the Loire, heading for Angers

Along the Loire, heading for Angers

Dinan

Dinan

Caffeine.....the legal dope!
Caffeine…..the legal dope!

From the town walls of St Malo

From the town walls of St Malo

Stunning!

Simply stunning!

Threatening weather, as seen from Le Mont St Michel

Threatening weather, as seen from Le Mont St Michel

Getting ready for Toussaint

Getting ready for Toussaint

Bretagne, the land of Asterix & Obelix

asterix

………..the famous Gauls who, under the spell of their secret druidical potion, did untold damage to the invading Romans.

Instead of marauding Gauls, we find a land of Breton-speaking Celts, whose language has much in common with neighbouring Cornish, Welsh, Irish and Manx.

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The Breton countryside in October is awash with ripening apples……’Whileaway Cottage’, where we whiled away our time http://www.whileawaycottage.co.uk

...the smells and taste of autumn

…the smells and taste of autumn

...the pleasure of drinking local ciders like cups of tea....

…the pleasure of drinking local ciders like cups of tea….

...visible signs of ancient Celtic history

…visible signs of ancient Celtic history

To experience the sometimes overcrowded magic of Le Mont St Michel, you have to cross and weather-swept causeway....

To experience the sometimes overcrowded magic of Le Mont St Michel, you have to cross a weather-swept causeway, where we were caught by a fierce squally shower

Forget dieting...just make sure the light is right!

Forget dieting…just make sure the light is right!

My question is...why do the French use this sign to frequently mean a T junction?

My question is…why do the French use this sign to frequently mean a T junction?

.......and to find a 'pissoir', you have to swim out to this little island....

…….and to find a ‘pissoir’, you have to swim out to this little island….

Cap Frehen, at the end of a peninsula

Cap Frehen, the ‘light’ at the end of a peninsula

...it almost felt like a 'finisterre'

…it almost felt like a ‘finisterre’

....and Fort Latte looked beautiful in the autumn sunshine

….and Fort Latte looked beautiful in the autumn sunshine

La Loire à tandem

Sunrise

Sunrise

Alas, the period of silence comes to an end! The pencil went blunt, the inkpot ran dry…..the beckoning world of ‘la plume de ma tante’ was naught but a code for……….this man has been AWOL for a couple of weeks. In fact, with his wife riding the tandem midst chateaux and vignobles of the Loire valley, fueling up on croissant and baguettes, re-hydrating on grandes tasses de café et bières a la pression, and when off duty (ie. off the bike), over the final meal of the day, popping the cork on a wine from Saumur or Anjou, and sampling till the lees tell us there is no more……..

Our host, Yan, took us down into the bowels of his garden, a deep

Le Closeau, our cottage in Courleon

Le Closeau, our cottage in Courleon

cavernous cellar below his lawns, to reveal wine racks that stretched around the walls, and offered us three of his collection……..two full bodied reds and a sparkling Vouvray that we corked to toast our own 37th anniversary.

The quiet days of October, with warmth still in the sun, is an ideal time to be exploring the Loire valley. We covered most of the terrain between Tours and Angers, discovered the chateaux of Langeais, Villandry, Saumur and Ussé, and found time to idle over a typical French lunch, or be distracted by Caves where the invitation to a degustation was too good to ignore.

Chateau de Langeais

Chateau de Langeais

With the Loire in the background

With the Loire in the background

Ah, the joys of peeing in public!

Ah, the joys of peeing in public!

Message.....?

Message…..?

Cabin crew on strike again....!

Cabin crew on strike again….!

DISCOVERY OF FRANCE by Graham Robb

What caught my attention about this book was not just the title and its subject matter but, perhaps more importantly, the attributes of the author, Graham Robb. He is not only an academic and writer, but he is also a cyclist! And not just an ordinary cyclist (ie. one who simply jumps on his bike and goes for a ride), he actually used his bike to cycle 14,000 miles around France, over a 4 year period, in pursuit of his research for this book. Unjustifiably, perhaps, I decided the book was worth reading……… and in the end, I was right!

In his introduction to The Discovery of France, Graham Robb makes an important confession. Despite almost a lifetime of academic interest in France and his writing of several serious tomes, he came to the conclusion that he didn’t really know France at all. What he knew of France, over the last couple of centuries, has been a vision of the country seen through the eyes of approximately 300 notable French people: writers, philosophers, artists, thinkers, playwrights, politicians and so on. In other words, a vision of France that had gone through several layers of filtration, had been re-interpreted and re-cast to provide an image that was seen fit to hand down to posterity.

So, like any broad-minded academic, he jumped on his bike and he went out to discover France for himself. Amongst the many fascinating discoveries, we learn that the use of the French language as a national language is a relatively recent thing. Even in the 19th century, communities living only a few kilometres from each other were likely to speak different languages. Which means that the vast majority of people living out in the countryside had no contact with, and were certainly not reflected by, the predominant channels of communication in Paris and the major cities. What Robb gives us is a picture of France through the eyes of the poor and dispossessed, the people who didn’t have a voice, but the very people who made up the majority of the French population.

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