Second Week in Brittany

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May 8th 2019
Published: May 13th 2019
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Sunday 5th May

Today was the Festival du Port in Guipry. Guipry was in former times a salt port – Breton salt was exported to the rest of France, and a tax had to be paid as it left Brittany. Guipry was a tax collection port on the River Vilaine. Part of the festival was boat rides on pleasure craft from the port of Messac, across the river. We went at 10 o'clock to have a boat ride. The organisers put us (me & hosts) on the boat of an Englishman and his wife. They put no-one else on that boat, so we had a private cruise with English conversation! This retired English couple spends a couple of months each year on their boat idling round the French rivers and canals – very nice. The weather was sunny but with a cold breeze. We headed off in the 'flotilla' of about six boats, downstream through the lock and back, for about an hour. There was a singing group at the lockside, singing Breton sea shanties or folk songs. Very delightful.

In the afternoon I went back to the port by bicycle to see what was happening. Boat trips were continuing but the morning was better as it was colder and windier in the afternoon. The singers had moved to the port and were still going strong. Nearby there was a huge pétanque tournament going on, with about thirty teams playing in numerous simultaneous games. I watched for a while, and there were some excellent players in evidence.

Monday 6th May

Journée Ordinaire. I had a quiet day, doing washing, chores, etc. I went for a walk around Guipry in the afternoon.

Tuesday 7th May

Today I headed off in the morning by bicycle to Lohéac, about 8 or 10 km away, to go to the Automobile Museum. The museum is really formidable, with over 400 cars, including many racing and rally cars. There is a racing track adjoining. I spent the morning there and then came back after the lunch closure (many many businesses, etc close for two or three hours in the middle of the day) for a couple more hours. The size of the museum and number of things to see is enormous. As well as cars, motorcycles and trucks, there are horse-drawn vehicles, thousands of car models, military dioramas, a lot of old trade shops set up with old shop fittings and equipment, even a few boats and one plane.

In the evening two of us went to the local cinema to see a film and hear a Q&A about the preservation of historic trees in France. There were a number of thousand-plus year old trees shown in the film. During the Q&A there were some pointed comments made about preserving everyday trees in the urban environment. The current NSW government could learn something about valuing old trees from this film.

Wednesday 8th May

Today was a public holiday to celebrate the end of WWII. We went to the home of some friends of my hosts for lunch. They live in a new house a few km upstream of Guipry, and fairly close to the river. They laid on a delicious 5 course gf meal. Plenty of conversation in French and English – their son speaks excellent English. I found I was generally keeping up with the French conversation – I think they were slowing it down a bit for my benefit.

Two of us walked back along the riverbank in the afternoon. Some nice rain today, but luckily not during our walk.

Thursday 9th May

The Catholic middle school in the nearby town of Bain de Bretagne is having an International Week soon. As an international visitor to France I was asked if I would be willing to participate by talking to a group of students about Australia, which they have been learning about in quatrième (Yr 8). I agreed, so today I headed off on the bicycle to the school to meet the English teacher and to find out what they wanted me to do. Luckily the cloudy sky and cold morning didn't bring any rain, and I rode along picturesque back roads for the most part.

The school has about 900 students and it was interesting to see all the kids at school with no uniforms on. Turns out they want me to do two 2 hour (!) sessions on Australia for groups of about 20 or so students, one group before lunch and one after. So now I will have to prepare a pretty decent Keynote (Powerpoint) presentation and some activities. The teacher said the students are all supposed to bring some written questions to ask me, and that the Q&A should take about one hour of the two. She wants me to speak in English, but I think the kids will find it difficult to understand, based on my host family experiences, so I will have some explanations in French up my sleeve.

After the meeting at the school, I spent a couple of hours exploring Bain de Bretagne. It was formerly a big centre for tanneries. There were some old tannery works to see, a beautiful lake, and attractive stone Breton houses and shops. Lunch at a crêperie was very good.

During the ride back to Guipry, I took some photos of the farmhouses and scenery.

Friday 10th May

Aliore, the NGO which is the organiser of the language program in which I am participating, let me know that there is another language assistant living with a host family in Rennes, whom I might like to meet, so I organised to meet him today. I took the train to Rennes and spent some time looking at some of the city, but it was raining and not really very pleasant. Even so, I did see the Couvent des Jacobins, which has now been converted into a conference centre, the Place de la République, the Palais du Commerce, the Musée de Bretagne and the Champs Libres. There is a Science Centre at the museum, which I will have a look at sometime.

I met the other language assistant for a late lunch. He is an American university student having a gap semester. He volunteers one day each week at the Franco-American Institute in Rennes, helping at English language workshops for French people. He thought I might like to do the same. Even though I am not an American, he thought they might be glad to have another native English speaker as a volunteer. We are going to look into it.

Saturday 11th May

Today featured a return to Rennes, this time by car with my host family, who had some appointments and errands. It was interesting to contrast the drive along the highway with the train trip. The train follows the river and is a very scenic trip, the road is a bit faster but much less scenic. The city was very crowded with shoppers and people out enjoying the sunny day after a week or so of cool and cloudy weather.

Additional photos below
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21st May 2019
Breton Country House

This picture is so full of character. The Breton scenery is always charming but I'm sorry you seem to be having too many rainy days!

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