Saturday, June 25, 2022
Back at the Phoenix Copenhagen, I was up early and off to the airport, while the others were having breakfast. I am pleased to report they had uneventful trips home. After the agony they went through getting to Reykjavik, it was only what they deserved. I had an uneventful trip to Paris, too, only Danièle’s faithful driver, Jerome, wasn’t as faithful as usual and I ended up taking a taxi after ascertaining that he was still 45 minutes from Orly. Danièle, and her daughter Liz were at their apartment in the 17th arrondissement, and we were soon off to lunch, just down the street. They live in Paris like I do in Montreal, with everything you could want close to hand. It was weinerschnitzel at the German place and that was fine with me.
I had some TA work to do in the afternoon, a good bit if it for myself, this time, because the shoemaker wears bad shoes, and my travel between my various destinations wasn’t booked yet. I had invested in a Eurail pass for $US441 and I won’t repeat the list of derogatory adjectives Danièle had for that brilliant move. It just wasn’t worth it. She couldn’t picture me going through all the hours of train travel that would entail from Copenhagen to two destinations in Brittany and on to Porto all in 9 days. She got me an SNCF (French Railway) senior’s card for cheap train rides within France and had me buy cheap airline tickets for Copenhagen to Paris, Paris to Porto, and Porto to Lisbon. Then she went about getting the train tickets I would actually need, Paris to Vannes and Lannion to Paris. Good to have a friend who can be the travel agent’s travel agent. I needed that.
Liz has a friend who has written a book called “Dinner for One” about how cooking and eating got her through her after divorce period in Paris. Her name is Sutanya Dacres, and you can buy it at Amazon. I did. Haven’t read it yet, I have been so busy, but I will get to it in another couple of nights. Anyway, it was a very nice book signing, in a nice Monmartre Bistro, where the wine flowed and the charcuterie were excellent. Daniele and I were, by very far, the oldest people in the place. I like that. We met some nice young people but we left early when Danièle noticed that her wallet was missing from her purse. It was likely at home because we had had in-house financial transactions for her TA services, but she wasn’t sure. That kind of thing can ruin your evening, so we decided to walk back, downhill, to the 17th to check. Sure enough, wallet was at home where he belonged and we could relax. We hadn’t eaten quite enough, so we popped out to the local creperie and had a couple with vanilla ice cream, chocolate and salted caramel sauce. I was in heaven.
Sunday, June 26, 2022
Danièle’s driver, Jerome, showed up early this time and she came with me all the way to the Montparnasse train station and right on to the train. She got past the ticket checker by explaining that I was an old dotty person, from Canada, who spoke no French. It was very sweet of her and I probably did need it, but oh, the ignominy of it all. I must admit I had to ask for help transferring at Rennes. So I asked the best person, a lady with a baby in her arms, a carriage to deal with, and a large soft suitcase. A person like that has to know how to get from A to B the most efficient way. It still involved an elevator up into the station and an escalator down to the track for the train to Vannes.
The French countryside, from the train, is beautiful. Little farms and villages dot the land and fields display their crops. Farmhouses that are too close to the tracks have a row of trees standing guard over their privacy. And so they should, but I’m a voyeur. That is, I am when my nose isn’t down writing away, like I was on that trip. All those long train rides I gave up, in the interests of efficient travel, might have got this newsletter out sooner.
Gil wasn’t there at Vannes, when I arrived, which didn’t bother me except that I didn’t have 20 cents to pee. I had 100 Euros but not 20 cents. So, I called him and he was across the street having lunch, having got the time slightly wrong. So, I crossed over and had a pee and lunch, too. It was a very nice Croque Monsieur. We drove to the ferry pier for Ile aux Moines, and Gil dropped me, and the luggage there, while he went and parked the car in his rented garage. This is what you do when you live on an island, you see. The Merciers do without a car in Paris, take the train to Vannes, like I just did, and the ferry to their house on Ile aux Moines. While we were waiting for the ferry, we noticed some nasty weather coming out of the clear blue sky and after seventy years of using the expression” out of the blue”, finally figured out where it came from.
The Merciers now have a motorized tricycle, and that’s how we got to the house with the luggage and all. Sandy and Rudi were waiting for us. I settled in and learned a few things, as you usually do when Gil is around to teach you, and I got this really cute picture of the author of “The Rudi Reports”.
Dinner was unexpected and delicious. It was pork vindaloo, which is explained by the fact that the Merciers spent a lot of years in Indonesia, back in the ‘90s.
Monday, June 27
I got up late and indulged in a nice bath, while Sandy took Rudi to Vannes for dental work. I brought the computer downstairs to do my exercises with Miranda Esmonde-White on my computer. I should have known better. I endured fifteen minutes of him making fun of her gentle stretches and moves, based in ballet. I don’t think laughter mixes all that well with relaxation-based exercises. But when she got to the part where you are to pretend to squeeze a beach ball between your legs, it really went off the rails. We were still howling when Sandy got back, looking like the proverbial drowned rat. The skies had opened between here and the ferry and she was on her bike. An hour later the sun was back out and Sandy was hanging out the laundry when Gil took me on a trike tour of the island.
It’s interesting to see what was built, centuries ago, on what was a remote island and still doesn’t have a bridge. Here’s an example:
And, being the observers of the human comedy that Gil and I are, here’s an example of a modern tourist with exceptionally poor fashion sense:
We were trying to find a restaurant where I could take the Merciers out to dinner the next night but none of them were open and, if they were, they weren’t planning to serve dinner until July, which, alas, is 3 days away. Gil decided he would make faijitas and have a party instead. I continued to protest because I was trying to make less work for these nice people, not more. But, Gil was having none of it and I had to admit, they have a pretty spectacular party venue.
Luckily, Sandy had been smart when she was out and had come back with a very nice quiche for dinner and rhubarb tart for dessert, so it was an easy night. We finished up playing backgammon, the girls against Gil. He didn’t much like it when we won.
Tuesday, June 28, 2022
Party or no party, this was the day Sandy and I planned on going shopping in Vannes, and so we did. When I got in the car, I thought a cheese had fallen out of Gil’s grocery bag from a couple of days ago. But we didn’t see one on the floor of the car, so we just opened the windows and drove on. Sandy introduced me to AmorLux about twenty years ago and I have been buying it ever since. I was ready to stop in at the factory outlet they now have in Vannes. I replaced my well worn Brooks Brothers navy and white striped three-quarter length sleeved T-shirt. Sandy is putting it in the poor box on the island. It can go sailing now.
Then we got to downtown Vannes, which has some very good shopping. I needed a couple of things to wear over the black sausage base of tights and T-shirt. I had forgotten to pack the usual, but Gerard Darel and Burton were happy to fill in for me. When we got back in the car, Sandy discovered the source of the cheesy smell. It was a little bag of dog poo, which was summarily dispatched to a bin. By the time we got home, Gil had actually made the faijitas and was ready to make the short trip to a neighbor who harvests and sells fresh oysters. How good does that get?
Gil shucked the oysters and Sandy got out all the necessary and pretty soon we had a party going. We were lucky with the weather. It was the first day we could have sat out on their fabulous deck and we made the most of it. Gil had invited the neighbors in and we ended up with two couples, Lucie, the 15-year-old grand daughter of one of them, who is going to school in Drummondville this fall, and 90+ year-old Francoise, who was very impressive. She still keeps an apartment in Paris and bikes all over the city, like she bikes around the island here. I didn’t tell her how much of a wuss she made me feel.
Wednesday, June 29, 2022
Gil and Danièle had hatched a plot whereby he would drive me the three hours from Ile aux Moines to Plumanac’h, stay overnight there and return to Sandy, who had a son arriving from Canada the next day. We started out by ferry, as you have to when you leave an island. If I thought I was impressed by Francoise, that doubled when there was a 100-year old lady, spiffily dressed off to do her shopping in town. It’s inspiring.
Our conversation in the car was free-ranging and, as usual, and, also as usual, I learned a lot. Gil is a Renaissance man and he has a lot to share. While we were engaging in more-or-less intelligent conversation, I was taking in the road signs of Brittany. Given our destination was Plumanac’h, I was especially interested in places that began with “plu” or had “manac” in them. There were plenty of each. So, I decided to ask Gil, who knows pretty much everything, what “Plumanac’h” meant. All I knew was that it was a Breton word and that isn’t saying much in these parts. To my astonishment, Gil admitted that he hadn’t a clue what it meant. I figured that, it that case, he would just make something up but he couldn’t, really, because all I would have to do is ask Danièle of better yet, Jean, who had been coming here for more than 50 years. So we left it as a question for him.