Showing posts with label Brittany. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Brittany. Show all posts

Saturday, July 5, 2008

Excursion into a fairytale land

Yesterday, we drove westward to visit Christine's brother Lan Mafart at his seaside tavern named Caplan & Co near Lannion.

[Click the photo to visit their French-language website.]

After lunch, we visited the church of St-Jean-du-Doigt, where the term "doigt" (finger) indicates that their treasure is a silver reliquary containing a knuckle of John the Baptist.

Today, it's hard to imagine that fire could break out in such a damp stone church... but this happened (for the third time in the history of the village) last century, and the stained-glass windows had to be replaced. The new non-figurative windows are extraordinary. One has the impression that we're observing the silhouettes of colorful vines and shrubs growing outside the edifice, with maybe the misty sea on the horizon.

In a nearby village, the church is dedicated to an exotic Breton saint named Melar. As you can guess from his golden crown, scepter and blue cowl with fleur-de-lis motifs, Melar was no run-of-the-mill pious villager. In fact, he was a prince. But a jealous and wicked relative cut off Melar's right hand and his left foot, in the hope that this would prevent the young prince from manipulating an épée and riding a horse, thereby making it impossible to accede to the regional throne. But lo and behold, Melar's artificial hand and foot, made of silver, soon functioned magically, even better than his original limbs... and it was obvious to everybody that they had a saint in their presence. I forget the rest of the story, which Christine read out to me while we were crawling around in the underground crypt where Melar was laid to rest at the end of his fabulous life.

I should point out, for readers who don't know so already, that Brittany is a place where all sorts of strange things happen.

Friday, July 4, 2008

Enchanting vegetation

The day after my arrival in Brittany, Christine took me to a magnificent 42-acre botanic garden near Tréguier named Kerdalo, created during the final decades of the 20th century by a Russian nobleman, Peter Wolkonsy [1907-1997].

Peter became a specialist in dendrology, the science of trees, and his domain can be considered, first and foremost, as a celebration of great trees of many kinds.

A tiny stream enters the upper edge of the property, and its waters have been channeled into a series of pools of differing shapes and sizes.

The largest pool is in fact a small lake surrounded by giant tropical plants, masses of hydrangeas, reeds and rushes.

In the middle of the domain, a square array of splendid flower beds corresponds to what might be described as a "clergyman's garden".

Often, the pools are bordered by fountains and fanciful constructions.

On one edge of this tiny square pool covered in greenery, there's an Italian grotto whose walls are adorned by frescoes.

In certain places, there's an air of giantism, with roses climbing into the branches of huge trees.

When Peter Wolkonsy discovered the property, around 1965, the splendid residence was little more than an old farm house.

The far end of the domain slopes down into a magnificent estuary, with Tréguier across the waters.

Since the death of Peter, the domain has been evolving under the guidance of his daughter Isabelle and her English husband Timothy Vaughan, who's an expert horticulturist.

Tuesday, July 1, 2008

Evening sky in Brittany

Quite late in the evening, Christine called me outside to observe this fantastic sunset. Back home in Choranche, the hour of the evening at which the sun goes down, and night sets in, is much earlier than here in Brittany. Besides that difference due to longitude, the evening sky above Gamone rarely looks like this pastel poem over Gommenec'h.

Blogging from Brittany

For the first time ever, I took the TGV [high-speed train] from Valence to Guingamp in Brittany, accompanied by Sophia. Christine picked us up at the station, only a dozen or so kilometers from her village of Gommenec'h. It's certainly a rapid and comfortable way to cross France, largely less tiring (and cheaper, too) than driving.

Sophia and her daughter Gamone get along nicely together.

I'm always amused to rediscover the dog-house I once built for my first companion at Choranche, named Bruno.

Incidentally, this is the first time I've ever created a blog article while away from my house and my usual machine. Today, I'm working on my portable MacBook, and using Christine's Internet connection. The result appears to be satisfactory.

Friday, January 11, 2008

Old house in Brittany

[This happens to be my 600th post in the Antipodes blog.]

Christine has always been so much in love with her ancestral Brittany (in a simple but profound paternal family fashion that has no apparent links with silly Celtic folklore) that it's only right that she should reside there today in a beautiful house.

Christine's splendid dwelling is an ancient presbytery: that's to say, the residence, once upon a time (when the Church was rich), of the village priest. The least that can be said is that her house (which I know quite well) has a soul. The question, of course, is: What kind of soul? Breton Catholic? Celtic? Maybe even Druidic? Now, I don't expect that my ex-wife will necessarily agree with me... but I'm totally convinced that, whatever old souls might have been hanging around there up until recent times, in the ancient stones of this delightful village, Christine has finally chased them away and replaced them quietly and calmly by an intriguing new soul: hers.