Friday, February 17, 2012

Winter Vacation, Pt. 1

After being in France for over four months, I FINALLY have had a chance to see a family member!  My Dad arrived in Guingamp on Thursday, February 10, and my vacation started around noon on Friday.  We spent Thursday evening and Friday afternoon exploring Guingamp, then picked up our rental car and headed to our adorable rental cottage.  The cottage is located in the countryside and is made of stone.  My room is a loft with a spiral staircase and the window faces the sunrise.  I wish we could stay longer, and spend more time here, but we had lots to see!  This entry will be about our week in Brittany, but I’m going to keep it very short, because we saw a lot of different things!

Day 1:  Binic, St. Quay Pontrieux, Paimpol, an attempt at Plougrescant, Ploumenac’h, Trébeurden
This part of the coast is closest to where I live, and it’s beautiful!  There are many beaches, and some of the sites that I wrote about in October.  We saw the pink granite coast, the beach I went to my second day in France, and some other beaches I hadn’t seen yet!  It was a chilly day, but very sunny.  On the way back to our cottage we went shopping at the grocery store, which allowed Dad to see the differences between a French and American grocery store, plus we picked up some steak and duck for our upcoming dinners!

Day 2:  Carnac and Quiberon
            Most things in France are closed on Sunday, so we decided to take a trip to the southern coast of Brittany.  We had a beautiful drive through the countryside and arrived in Carnac around lunchtime.  Carnac is a seaside resort town, but it is also known for its Alignments.  We ate an excellent lunch at a crêperie, saw the Atlantic Ocean, and then headed in search of the Alignments.  The Alignments are rows and rows of megaliths (standing stones) in fields.  There are three or four main sets in Carnac and the surrounding towns, plus singular ones on their own in the countryside.  It was something I had never seen before and I would definitely recommend going there! 
            Next we got in the car and headed towards Quiberon, which is a “presqu’île”, or almost island.  It juts down into the Atlantic and reminded us a lot of the Outer Banks.  We drove back to the mainland via the “Savage Coast” and it was beautiful!  During our entire trip we spent a lot of time getting in and out of the car to walk on paths along the coast, and the views were impressive each time!

Day 3:  Fréhel and St. Malo
            This time we decided to drive along the coast in the other direction in Côtes d’Armor.  This included a stop at Fréhel and Cap Fréhel.  This part of the coast is called the Emerald Coast and it is also very beautiful!  Cap Fréhel is a cape that sticks out into the Channel with two lighthouses on the end, and a fort to one side.  After spending some time at Fréhel, we headed towards St. Malo (via the coast of course!).  Even though it was a Monday, we had a difficult time finding a place that was open for lunch, and ended up getting a terrible baguette to share in one of the towns (I didn’t know it was possible to have a bad baguette, but it is). 
            We finally arrived in St. Malo, and there I was able to show Dad all the things that I saw while I was there, plus we were able to have the amazing Kouing Aman they sell at one of the stands there.  It was cold and cloudy, but the sea was calm.  After picking out some chocolates at a shop I read about, we decided to head for home.  That night I made duck with orange shallot sauce for dinner, and it was delicious.

Day 4:  Presqu’île de Crozon and Pointe du Raz
            These are two of the three parts that stick out at the end of Brittany.  We saw many amazing views of the Atlantic Ocean and the bays surrounding the peninsulas.  There are great hiking trails all around the points, but we only walked a little way on a few of them, it was very cold, and very windy!  We also saw some more Alignments near Crozon, only these ones are right next to where the land drops off into the ocean.  Next we drove along the coast to the Pointe du Raz, which is the point the furthest West on the French mainland!  I really enjoyed walking out onto the point, some people were much braver than we were though and were near where the water was hitting the rocks!

Day 5:  Plougrescant and Sillon de Talebert
            Plougrescant is the site of the Gouffre, which is one of the places I wrote about in October.  We couldn’t find it on Saturday, so I was determined to get it right this time, and we did!  It was somewhat stormy, so the waves were crashing against all the rocks.  Next we drove to the Sillon de Talbert, which is a 3km long arm of sand that reaches out into the Channel.  They think that two rivers heading inland on either side of the “presqu’île”, which pushes the sand up to form the Sillon.  When we went it was low tide, so it didn’t have the same effect as official pictures, and we found that the sand is pretty difficult to walk on, even with good shoes.  Hopefully I’ll be able to take another trip there at high tide.

Day 6: ???
            We decided to have a quiet day and enjoyed the cottage in the morning, I finally read a little bit, and then we took a drive through the countryside.  We didn’t really have a plan, and were a little lost.  Not too exciting, but we were able to find a dolmen and a few megaliths near Guingamp. 

Day 7:  Paris, with a side trip to Cancale and Mt. St. Michel
            Today we drove to Paris, and stopped at Mt. St. Michel on the way.  I had read about the coastal road leading from St. Malo to Mt. St. Michel, so we opted to take the time doing the extra drive instead of actually visiting Mt. St. Michel.  The drive included a few walks and a stop at Pointe du Grouin.  If it had been a clear day, we would have been able to see the Mont from the point.  We got lost a few times along the trip, but saw a lot of interesting sites in Brittany and Normandy.  Also, we learned that if you want to travel to Paris and not pay tolls, it’s slow going sometimes, and I appreciate being able to take public transportation to the airport much more now, it wasn’t too much fun driving around the edge of Paris on a Friday afternoon!  Now I am sitting in my hotel, getting ready for the next leg of our trip: Berlin (which means more updates are coming)!!

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