Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Pants in France IV: Normandy and Brittany

Sadly, Mr. Pants had to return to work, so we parted at Gare St. Lazare, and I caught the train to Mom and Aunt Patti in Normandy.

Normandy was slate-grey, full of war memorial beaches, rainbows, and squalls sweeping in from the sea.  Lots of old churches on hilltops, and castle ruins.

Normandy was also full of oysters, mussels, apples, Calvados and Cambembert. Our best meal there was at Aunt Patti and Bob's house. Mom and Bob created a massive seafood feast of fresh oysters, fried shrimp, braised fennel, cod, and tiny thumbnail-sized mussels that are likely the best I've ever had. Thank you Bob!

Bob, top chef, on the battlements at Chateau Pirou, above. 

We visited the well-preserved Chateau Pirou, clambered over mossy battlements into old stone rooms with massive hearths, and passed by the moat under the gate with the weathered seal of Richard the Lionhearted.

We went to bed far too late for our early morning road trip to Brittany, known for megalithic tombs, rugged coastline, and a balmy microclimate.

Megalithic chamber, La Table de Marchand exterior, Brittany.

Interior, with carvings, Table de Marchand, Brittany, dating from approximately 3,800 BC. 

(I was nervous about Brittany.  I'd been there several years back with Mr. Pants and his family. A small, cheap rental house made out of particle board seemed like the perfect base for a masochistic visit to the sinisterly named Gulf of Morbihan on the stormy Breton seaside, barely visible through horizontal rain. Microclimate my ass)

This time, it hardly rained at all.
We piled into the car and headed for the witchiest corner of France. We forgot all our maps. Luckily we had Simon, a GPS system we so christened because of its upper crust English accent.

In Quimper, we saw this, probably the most charming public toilet in the world. At least on the outside.

Britanny is rather witchy; we saw Megalithic tombs, appropriately butter-colored cows lounging in fields next to prehistoric standing stones, and an unnerving number of black cats.

One of about a thousand black cats that we saw. This one at Carnac.

Superb Langoustines in Trinité Sur Mer.

 We discussed superstitions on dark country roads, where our headlights found a roving herd of wild boar.  A huge bat fluttered over our heads as we walked to dinner on the waterfront.  We downed two bottles of lemony Muscadet served to us by a dreamy-eyed waiter, at Le Quai restaurant in Trinité sur Mer where I managed, in muddled french, to order cold langoustines with aioli, a buttery sole meuniere, and a custardy prune-heavy Far Breton (local cake with a flan-like texture)  for dessert.

Another wonderful castle, Chateau Fougères.

Bretons seemed like my people, with Celtic noses, salt-spray squint, and penchant for butter.

Highlights:  Langoustines, seafood, dark country roads, megaliths, and Muscadet.

Disappointments: Our time was short, so there was no time to hit every castle or megalithic passage grave, or even every Breton village with stone houses and blue shutters...

Mr. Pants: Back home and working! But he did pick me up at the airport, muttering about traffic. Home at last.

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