Brittany Beaches and Beyond

I hadn’t been abroad since the two dreaded words happened, Co**d and Br***t. I’d written a novel about staycations, The Golden Girls’ Getaway, and I’d travelled a bit in the UK myself, Scotland being an epic adventure that sparked two novels. Then, last week, I drove the camper onto the ferry for Roscoff.

My spoken French, previously good enough for French people to think I was Belgian or ‘from another region,’ was so rusty I couldn’t even remember the word for fog as I stood in the morning mist at Roscoff. But I like a challenge and besides, it wasn’t too hard to remember to drive on the other side of the road so, with a copy of Passion France on the dashboard, I set off.

My go-to destination is usually the Crozon peninsula, although there’s one town I can’t show my face again after a particularly bad night on the eau de vie or, more accurately, the eau de topinambour. If I translate that for you as Jerusalem artichoke brandy, you may be able to guess how ill I was…

But the peninsula is gorgeous and visitors are rarely far from the sea. The beaches vary from the rolling surf at Camaret to miles of stretching sand from L’Estravet and Pentrez plages. I like running on the beach and I’m often found there first thing in the morning when the mist (la brume or le brouillard) is low and a horse rider will appear from nowhere as if the apocalypse had arrived. It’s so moody and evocative.

There’s an incredible restaurant in Crozon that makes me a great vegan pizza. For those who like creamy puddings, it’s off the scale apparently. A fantastic woman in St Pol cooks me a tofu aigre-doux avec riz simple whenever I’m there. I’ve been going back for years and she’s the most interesting conversationalist.

The Passion France booklet allows people to find places to camp for free, although the understanding is that we buy some items from the hosts – vegetables, jams, cider. Of course, only because my next novel The Golden Oldies’ Book Club features a book club jaunt to Brittany, I had to stay in a Cidrerie. The owner, Paul, sold me a box of very nice cidre bio, and I camped in his beautiful field, watching the sun set between the apple trees. Great research opportunity.

I had to stay at another cidrerie, and Yves, the farmer, and his dog Fanny were perfect hosts. I bought a kilo of the most succulent tomatoes, salad vegetables and a box of cidre, then he gave me handfuls of herbs so that I could cook my ratatouille, camped under an oak tree. Idyllic.

I spent most of the time on the beaches, although I love local markets, brocantes, (bric-à-brac markets), supermarkets, cafes, walking in the hills, the river in Chateaulin. And it’s always nice to visit old friends – or new ones. I popped in to see fabulous writer Jennie Bohnet and her wonderful husband and their dog Django. I had a really lovely time with them and, as always happens when I leave, I long to find my own small piece of Brittany and move in there with Big G and the cats. Maybe… one day…who knows?

Travelling is something we’re born with in our blood. As soon as I’m back, I want to get off again. I have a couple of projects planned – France again, Scotland again, Cornwall, UK’s east coast. So many places to go, so many books to write.

Each place I go is a blessing counted. And please do come with me – it’s all in my books.


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