Monday, August 31, 2009

Brittany Holiday

Today I'll let you know a bit more about our holiday in the north west of France, on the Brittany peninsula. This area of France is very Celtic, linked as much to Wales, Cornwall and Ireland as it is to France. The flag shows the area's pride in its separate language, culture and identity. Of course, we were fine speaking French there, but there is a lot of fondness for Celtic culture and the Celtic regions of the British Isles, which means that British people feel particularly welcomed and at home in Brittany.We stayed in a small village just down the road from this lovely farm house. We could walk to the banks of the costal river (called a ria, meaning a river valley which has been invaded by the sea) and could cycle up to the coast.
Our gite wasn't as picturesque as some of the houses in the village, but it was just the right size for the four of us and Ben's parents - lots of living space as well as good bedrooms.
There was a restaurent nearby, and Ben and I had a meal out there on Thursday night while his parents kindly babysat. The young chef came out and told us all about his creations, and we had a fantastic meal.
On the beach we found loads of wonderful sealife, including these very fragile sea urchin shells. We had to take photos because they crushed whenever we tried to take them home.
One day we went up to a small Breton village which has been re-established as a living history museum. We looked at how wool is dyed using natural products - love the sheep!
The boys had a go at most of the wool-production processes.
And child labour was employed to demonstrate old farm tools!
Nearer the coast, southern Brittany is famous for its mysterious prehistoric standing stones. If you have not been there you will not be able to imagine the scale of these alignments, which stretch on for miles. It's really impossible to say what they were built for, but the Neolithic farming communities which established them around 6000 years ago put out an enormous amount of time and hard work to make them!
In the winter it's possible to walk around the main alignments, but in summer most of them are fenced off. However, as you drive around the area, you often see a small alignment which hasn't been enclosed, and you can have incredible walks around them in the evening as the sun sets.
The megalithic culture (the word means 'big stone' culture!) was one that built large, communal tombs. In Britain we sometimes find them looking like this:
But in Brittany it's been proved that they were intended to be covered with cairns of stone, which have often been 'quarried' away by later people who found them a very handy source of ready-prepared building stones! In Britain I think they were usually covered by soil and grass.

This complex tomb shows how imposing they looked - remember these people hadn't developed the use of metal yet - we are talking Stone Age here.
Son 1 was impressed and reconstructed what he'd seen on the beach...
In addition, I was really pleased to be able to meet up with Elizabethd, of French Village Life. She lives not too far from where we were staying, and on Friday afternoon I followed her directions (so much better than directions on tourist maps!) to her lovely house. I recognised the roses on the archway from her blog header! We had a great time chatting about collecting, blogging, families, life in France etc, and she very kindly gave me some lovely patchwork fabric and a few other items for my collections. Photos of those, and of a bit of brocante I picked up, to follow...

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Brittany Blues

These aren't the sad Blues...These are the refreshing,
as well as natural
...of our week's holiday in Brittany, northern France.
The blues of nature and the sea are reflected in a love of blue on land.
You can imagine I was happy!
We spent a week in a gite (holiday cottage - not pictured!) with Ben's parents.
We enjoyed the sea and the river,
prehistory and history,
cider, galettes and and crepes.
The blue hydrangeas (different soil to down here, sigh...) are used in the colourful house numbers.
The blue of the sea inspires the others...

Incidental details on the houses are usually blue.
And windows and shutters are very nearly obliged to be blue!
Over time,
transport also seems to have been traditionally...!
I'll leave you with some beautiful blue windows...

... and I'll tell you more tomorrow!

Friday, August 21, 2009


When Sharon gave me my award, I was way too hot to list five current obsessions, but it's cooled down (hurray!) and had a chance to think about a few of the things on which I'm 'accro', which means 'hooked' in French! (See the link to the word crochet, there?) The only problem now is the order to put them in!

1. Charity Shopping and other second hand shopping. I love the thrill of never knowing what you're going to find, I love the good value, I love the character and quality of older, local things and I love the fact that I'm not contibuting to modern problems such as sweatshop labour and environmental degredation...2. Mother of Pearl buttons and hand made lace. You'd never have guessed that one, would you? 3. Nature - these hoopoes are a good example, but really, all of it... I just think that the entire of creation is so incredible, and fascinating, and makes me feel warm and fuzzy! The hoopoes came to mind because we have them here in springtime and summer, and some people are totally unmoved by these incredible birds. We drop everything to watch them, and we just feel so grateful to be able to share our garden and our area with such incredible wildlife.
4. People - the same way that thinking about nature makes me feel connected with the whole world, I think a lot about how what I'm buying has been made by people, making links: across time if I'm brocante shopping, and around the world, if I'm in the supermarket. I find myself thanking God for the people who made the stuff I get to buy - am I sounding too Pollyanna yet? Probably. So that's why I like Fairly Traded stuff, anyway.
5. There's a link here. Avoiding the Pollyanna preaching, as a family we're somewhat obsessed with looking after the world. If you love nature and people, and you love your family, then how can you not care that the world where they all live is getting into more and more of a mess? Oops, didn't avoid the preaching. I'll shut up and leave you with a quote from my boys' favourite, Sir David Attenborough; "How could I look my grandchildren in the eye and say I knew about this and did nothing?"
Ooh, a serious note... I think the most important thing is to realise that if we dwell on how hard it is to protect our planet, we'll do nothing, but if we enjoy every little attempt we make to improve things (like shopping second hand, he-he!) then we can protect our children's future and love the life we lead at the same time!

Thursday, August 20, 2009

One of these things is not like the other...

One of these things just doesn't belong.
Can you guess which thing is not like the other...
By the time I've finished my song?
Apologies there - this storage set just put that song from Sesame Street into my mind when I spotted the odd-lid-out!
I'm sure you spotted it too. The original lid to the flour jar, which would have looked like this:
... has been replaced, but I am still very chuffed with this classic French set, picked up in a Troc Shop which I've never liked before. I am revising my opinion. The incredible thing is that the set matches the flowered china I bought for my Garden Party, which I'd just set up for the first time on our side board yesterday morning....
Serendipity! I'l just give you a closeup of the wooden mirror in the picture, which I got for 3 euros in a Vide Grenier last month. I had to strip some varnish off the top carving, and wax all the wood, and I think it looks super. It also casts light well around the room, which is essential as we have a very shady room, designed to cope with hot weather...
The canicule is calming down today. Thanks for all your lovely comments on yesterday's post - I do wish we could send some of our heat and sun up to the UK!
Here's the whole set-up - the oak sideboard we bought at the usual Troc Shop, paintings of Devon given to me recently by my parents, bullrushes from the ditch near where we walked Raja last night.
Add a mirror, fruit bowls and French and English floral china, and I am very pleased with the result! However, in the Troc Shop I also saw some wall shelves, and having consulted Ben we'll be back off there this afternoon to see if they're still available... Watch this space...