“Would history be there for her to see, or would it all have been tidied away? Was it fair to expect that sixty years after an event – on the whim of someone who had shown no previous interest – a country would dutifully reveal its past to her amateur inspection?” – Sebastian Faulks, Birdsong
The quote above from my book of words spoke to me after I had read through my journal entry from November 4th, 2015. Though the places we visited that day were much older than 60, and had far longer memories, much of their history was indeed tidied away…and showed no interest in revealing their secrets to me. A bit of research all these years later has shined some lights on a few things but I have so many questions! Regardless, though I do not have all the information to fill the glaring holes in this post, the show, er, blog must go on.
On this particular day, Dad had refused me the ability to sleep in (anyone who knows me, including my 2-month-old daughter, will tell you this is incredibly dangerous at the best of times) due to the fact that we knew we had a long drive on French highways ahead of us. We were headed to the megalithic stones in Carnac on the south coast of Brittany and judging by our previous experience with the country roads, this was going to take forever.
Sure enough, 2 hours later we were still driving! Though I think the vast majority of our time was spent in the ring road around Rennes. OK, that might be a slight exaggeration but it did take an obscene amount of time to get away from that city – no wonder we opted to not add it to our already overlong list.
We finally arrived in Carnac who knows how many hours later (so many I didn’t even record it in my journal apparently) and we knew immediately that it was worth the impressively long drive. Row-upon-row of megalithic stones, the purpose for which we will probably never know – 3000 of them in 4 different sites! All shapes and sizes but always in completely straight rows.
My theory is that this was like a car dealership for the people who built well-known megalithic sites like Stonehenge and the standing stone circles in Scotland or the Dolmens in Ireland. But then, what do I know. Counterpoint, to those of you who are silently arguing with me that I’m wrong, wasn’t this basically Obelix’s job in the Asterix comics? Case closed.
I did, in fact, touch a few stones while there to see if they would carry me back in time. You know, Outlander style. Now that I think about it, however, I am sorta glad it didn’t work. I would hazard a guess that the Jamie equivalents among the ancient Gauls were few and far between. Though I could be wrong in saying that, I mean, how much do I really know about ancient Gauls anyway…there were handsome characters in the Asterix comics…were there not? Well, regardless of how handsome they might be, I certainly wouldn’t have been able to communicate with them. Time travel shall have to wait for the next opportunity.
When we had finally had our fill from the ancient standing stones, and I was confirmed as having two feet planted firmly in the 21st century, we set out again. Ostensibly, we were headed for Quimper, a traditional Breton town. After reading how big the town was and how little of interest there actually was to see, however, we detoured to a little town off the beaten path called Pont Aven, which I had read about in the guidebook.
I told you, there’s a theme when I travel. The original plan never gets followed. Instead, I follow my gut and rely on the luck of the Irish. I can claim that despite the fact that I’m only part Irish, can’t I? My name is Erin, after all.
Well, my luck held again as this too ended up being one of our favourite destinations of the whole trip. It turned out to be an adorable, sleepy little Breton town on a river port that led out to the ocean – completely surrounded by a forest marching up and out of the valley in which it was situated, alive with the vibrancy of fall.
We explored a little, taking in all its charm, and slowly found our way to a little hotel restaurant by the water.
Here, I must say, we were completely spoiled by the sheer amount of amazing local food: cider, cheese plate with regional selections, fresh-baked bread, scallops from the coast a few kilometers away, mussels from the same, and some of the best french fries I’ve ever tasted. Is this because they were French french fries? I’ll have to complete a full taste test at some point. I promise I am up to the task. I’m basically a french fry aficionado. Ask my husband…who just put up with 9 months of “honey, can you puhlease pick me up some fries? I’m too tired to go myself”. Let’s just continue telling him they were pregnancy cravings, shall we?
Back to, uh, other descriptions of food though. Did I mention the mussels wee served in a bath of fresh cream? I don’t think I’ve ever said I love you to a shellfish before (and I won’t ever again, honey!). They were heavenly, hence my adoration. Dad and I barely talked throughout the whole meal we were so overjoyed with how delicious it was.
Moving on from my clear obsession with good food (I would like to finish this post so I can go grab a bite, to be honest).
On our way back to the car, we stumbled upon a plaque dedicated to the “deux anges” of Breton…Which brings me to my first Random Historical Fact in, well, forever!
Random Historical Fact #18
Turns out that the tiny little village we decided to explore on a whim had quite the claim to fame! It was from Brittany that two French resistance fighters departed in 1942 to meet with the Brits, carrying with them the plans for the German Atlantic Wall, which they had stolen in Caen. This was the wall that stretched from Cherbourg to Honfleur in Normandy, the main German defense system on the channel. It was these plans which helped the allies to choose which beaches to land at on D-Day. How incredible is that?
Jumping back in the car after this serendipitous discovery, we headed even further West, determined to reach the famously dramatic Atlantic coast once again before sunset. We did, however, take the time to stop off at another tiny church along the way. I think this was Dad’s personal favourite as it had a bell wheel he was allowed to try out.
After only a few missed turns, we found our way to Pointe-du-Raz on the far Western Coast. Here, unlike the Cote du Granit Rose, there was a marked path from which to see the sights. But, or course, Dad and I left the path right away because…who needs safety regulations! Except right now. Practice social distancing please!
The walk, as a result, was arduous but incredible. And I didn’t even fall off, unlike that one time in Ireland (partially detailed here). I can’t properly describe the majesty of the craggy, weather-beaten cliffs hit by the constant pummeling of the riled Atlantic ocean. This is what I have photos for, I suppose… If I can ever locate them. But I can tell you, despite the lack of evidence, that it was magnificent.
One more war memorial, far too large for the diminutive town in which it was situated, and off we sped for the close to 3-hour drive home in the dark.
I know, I know, you want more information about the Deux Anges. I have not found more information on this incredibly brave act thus far, although I have not researched it much in the intervening years. Perhaps, as Sebastian Faulks so rightly suggested, it wasn’t fair to expect that so many years after an event – on the whim of someone who had shown no previous interest – this country would dutifully reveal its past to my amateur inspection.
Until next week, even in these trying times, remember…
Life is Beautiful xo