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Thursday, 9th July 2020

Rochefort-en-Terre

Rochefort-en-Terre is a designated “Petite Cité de Caractère”.

Rochefort was put on the map in the early 20th century after a wealthy French-born American painter called Alfred Klotz bought the local château in 1907. Dating back to the 12th century, the château was destroyed by Republicans in 1793 and only the façade remains; the current building was constructed by Klotz. His son Trafford Klots inherited the chateau and continued to paint there and entertain other visiting artists. After his death his wife donated the building to the French government.The château is open from May to September and houses some of Klotz’s paintings as well as a collection of objects from rural life in times past.

In the grounds of the chateau there is a museum dedicated  to an early twentieth century witch who lived in the town. It houses a small collection of fantasy and kinetic art and sculpture.


Klotz encouraged the local residents to dress their houses with geraniums, a tradition which continues, leading to Rochefort winning many awards for being one of France’s most beautiful villages in bloom.


The best way to explore Rochefort is to wander around its attractive streets admiring the mix of architectural styles, which range from 16th-century half-timbered buildings like the Café de la Pente to symmetrical stone-built Renaissance structures like the Post Office in Rue Notre Dame de la Tronchaye.

From April to September, the streets are illuminated from dusk until midnight.


As you’d expect from a ‘little town of character’ with an arty past, the streets are dotted with artists and craftspeople: potters, a candle maker, a toymaker… but don’t leave town without visiting one of the artisan biscuit makers like Le Rucher Fleuri in Rue du Porche, which is highly regarded throughout the region for its pain d’épices. Whichever shop you visit look upwards: Rochefort is known for its unusual and colourful signs.

It was therefore not a surprise when in 2016, Rochefort-en-Terre was voted « Village préféré des Français ».

rochefort

 

 

 

Wednesday, 1st July 2020

Carnac

Carnac has it all, lots of history and culture, good restaurants and a great beach!

Carnac is a town in Brittany, northwest France. It’s best known for the Carnac stones, thousands of prehistoric standing stones spread across three alignments: Ménec, Kermario and Kerlescan. Nearby, the Saint-Michel tumulus is a millennia-old burial mound crowned by a small chapel. In town, the Museum of Prehistory has artifacts from the area’s Neolithic period. 

Carnac is also probably Brittany's most well known seaside town and like Damgan all the beaches have a pale yellow soft sand. They are clean and well looked after and the children love them. There is also a nice promenade if you fancy a stroll to find somewhere to eat or a cool drink.

You can take a trip on the fifty minute tour on the little train that takes you round the mysterious neolithic megaliths that make Carnac world famous. Also check out the Megalithic Museum which is packed full of fascinating artifacts

carnac

 

 

 

Tuesday 23rd June 2020

All ciders are definitely not the same!

Cider etiquette is a minefield, as I discovered to my embarrassement several years ago. I was invited to a friends house for Gallette de Rois (a french pastry and frangipane cake eaten in early january). I did my reasearch and discovered that the invitee (me!) should take a bottle of cidre to eat with the cake. When I gave my bottle of cidre to my friend, she burst out laughing and asked if I had come for apperitiffs ?

It appears that there are four types of cidre :-

  • Le cidre doux : light and sweet and low in alcohol (less than 3%) and best with desserts and cakes.
  • Le cidre demi-sec : Semi sweet with an alcohol content of between 4 - 5% and best eaten with sweet/savory foods like game, chicken or maybe a very ripe camembert
  • Le cidre brut : Quite dry with an alcohol content of arount 5% and best eaten with seafood or fish 
  • Le cidre traditionnel : Very dry with an alcohol content of above 5% and best eaten with charcuterie and red meat.

Of course I had bought cidre traditionnel. 

France is the largest cider producing country in the world!  With that etiquette I am not surprised!

And it's been producing some of the world's finest ciders for a very long time. 

Cider has been made in France since as early as the Celtic Gauls (1st century BC) and also under Roman rule (100 to 300 AD). There are historical references in the 9th century about Charlemagne ordering the planting of apple trees in Northern France so that he could always have a supply of cider.  It is also mentioned during the time of William the Conqueror, the Norman duke who claimed the throne of England after the Battle of Hastings in 1066.  Cider was widely consumed by these early Normans, because grapes didn't (and still don't) grow so well in the cool, cloudy Normandy climate. The abundance of apples made cider easier to come by on a daily basis.  

Cider was the main drink in France during Medieval times. Water was impure and often unfit to drink in most towns and villages. And when plague struck between 1400 and 1700, many frightened villagers in France gave up water and drank cider instead. Even the kids drank cider since it was much safer than drinking the water.

From the 1800's to the 1940's, cider-making was very popular in Northern France. The 1929 agricultural census gives an idea of the area formerly covered by traditional orchards: 100 million apple and pear trees.  During this time, cider was mainly produced by each family as a drink for the farm laborers ....with some occasionally making its way to the village cafe for sale to the public. This cider was put into Champagne-style bottles and corked for transport and came to be called Cidre Bouché (cider stopped with a cork!)

During World War II,  many cider apple and pear orchards in Normandy were destroyed.  After the war, Normandy farmers began an intensive effort to rejuvenate the orchard economy. It was at this time, that the famous  Pays d'Auge Appellation d'Origine Contrôlée (AOC) status was granted by the French government to the tiny Pays d'Auge region nestled in the heart of the Calvados department in Normandy.

At the peak of traditional orchard farming, in the early 1960s, France had the most extensive fruit orchard meadows in Europe, with one million hectars (about 2.5 million acres).   However, due to a weakened economy from 1960-2000, traditional orchards largely declined as farmers cut down the orchards to make way for more profitable crops.  In 2002, the remaining traditional orchards covered about 146,000 hectars (about 360,000 acres) with 5 million trees.  

Despite the decrease in cider orchards in the last 50 years, the tradition of cider making is alive and well in France - and making a come-back - as the adult children start to return to the orchards of their parents and grandparents to rejuvenate this important part of French culture. There are about 11,000 small farms in Normandy that grow cider apples and produce cider today, making most of it for a local clientele.  You'll find cider producers in the Normandy, Brittany and Hauts de France regions.

In Brittany cidre is always drunk with galettes (savory pancakes). I have no idea which type of cidre you would drink with a galette, would it depend on what you had inside the galette?. Anyway, cidre in Brittany is always drunk from a cup, never a glass. I have no idea why. I have so much more to learn about cidre.

cidre

 

 

 

 

Wednesday, 17th June 2020

Poète Ferrailleur

 This 'Metal Worker Extraordinaire' is located near Lizio and must be seen. Using recycled materials this local artisan creates moving, musical and even aquatic sculptures. He's also quite keen on building weird moving machines and bizarre games. There's over sixty moving works of art. Children can push buttons, pedal things, turn odd looking handles and the 'sculptures' all come to life. It really is amazing.

We have visited ‘Poète Ferrailleur’ several times and each time I am amazed by the sculptures, they are beautiful, magical and very very clever. He uses broken machines, games, music and the wind to create the most extraordinary sculptures.

Take time to see the film about the ‘Poète”, Robert Coudray. I watch it every time! 

Here is a short video to show you some of the 60 sculptures you will discover at  

poete

 

 

 

Thursday, 11th June 2020 

Vannes

Our gites are equidistant from the two main cities in Morbihan, Vannes and Rennes.

Vannes is about a 40 minute drive and is well worth the drive. Vannes was founded over 2,000 years ago at the inland edge of the Gulf of Morbihan. Its growth was based on its harbour which was very busy until the 19th century. Now it is home for many luxury yachts !.

Not only is Vannes the administrative centre for the Department of Morbihan it is also famous for its heritage. The town grew sharply after the second world war, with the construction of a ring road and several office and industrial developments. However, Vannes was able to preserve its ancient centre thanks to the conservation and enhancement plan approved in 1982.

A day just won’t be enough to see everything ! :-

Historical Vannes
The main gate into Vannes is the Porte St Vincent Ferrier, named after the Spanish monk who died in the town in 1419. As you stroll through the medieval streets you will soak up the history of this ancient city. You will arrive at Place des Lices which once hosted jousting tournaments but it is now the venue of an open-air market on Tuesday and Saturday mornings.

Archaeology and Art.
Vannes has two museums within its walls: the Château Gaillard, a 15th-century mansion house, accommodates the museum of archaeology and the town’s history while La Cohue, a 13th-century covered market that hosted the Breton Parliament from 1675-89, is now the museum of fine arts.

Events and Festivals.
Vannes has a full annual events calendar, which includes an annual jazz festival in August, photographic festivals and not to be missed is the Fêtes Historiques which is held over 3 days every July. You will be immersed into Medieval France, visit the blacksmith’s forge or the coin-makers’ workshop, admire the falconry displays and the artillery demonstrations, or just enjoy a taste of medieval cuisine. And the magic doesn’t end there, for as night falls you can join in the local open-air dance, or bal populaire, and be amazed as the fire-eaters take to the streets.

Fish, boats and butterflies
The Parc du Golfe is about a mile south of the town centre and it’s here that you join boat trips around the Gulf of Morbihan. This is also the place to head for if you have children, as there’s an aquarium with a huge collection of tropical fish and the Jardin aux Papillons, a glass dome filled with vegetation where hundreds of butterflies fly free.

Vannes

 

 

 

Friday, 5th June 2020

Discover a real working 16th century Breton village!

Poul Fetan near Quistinic, a fantastic place, a real 16th century village. For many years this small village was abandoned and left to decay but thanks to a small number of volunteers and a lot of European grants (I’m guessing!!), Poul Fetan has been restored to its former glory.
 
The guides giving the village tours are excellent. Did you know that only the man of the house has a knife. The rest of the family eat with spoons and when the man puts his knife away the meal is over…so eat fast!. Three generations would cram into a tiny room shared with pigs, cows, a pig and chickens. Up to six children would sleep in a tiny bed in a wardrobe !!.


Throughout the day there are continual demonstrations from watching a couple of women washing by the stream…. They gossip continually as they would in the 16th century and of course the butt of many jokes (and complaints !) is the mother in law. We saw how butter was made in the 16th century.. they certainly had some tricks to make the butter yellow. Ironing was very important… but the weight of those irons.  Hemp is transformed into cord and cloth and it is surprisingly soft and of course try some buckwheat pancakes cooked over an open fire.

Take a picnic or eat a traditional 16th century lunch in the auberge. When we visited there was a pig roasting on a spit and we feated on roast pork... which was absolutely delicious!


If you are coming to Brittany, Poul Fetan is well worth a visit. We were there for over five hours and I still don’t think we saw everything.

Poul Fetan 4

 

 

 

Thursday, 28th May 2020

Bread Facts !..

How the humble baguette has changed (or not changed!) over the years!

Untitled

 

 

 

 

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