Road Trip from Cabourg to Quiberon

Last leg of our road trip along the north and north western coast of France. From the English Channel at Cabourg to the shores of he Atlantic on the Quiberon Peninsula – from Normandy to Britanny, via the Mont St Michel.

Month St Michel

On the tourist road to Quiberon, another vital stopover on the tourist trail – the standing stones at Carnac – miles of menhirs dating from 5000BC and no one knows what they are there, other than to attract tourists.

Standing Stones at Carnac

The Road to the Stones

Stone-spotting tourists

And on to Quiberon – a popular family holiday resort at he end of the Quiberon peninsula – who says peninsula also says one road in and the same road out – huge traffic jams and a lengthy wait for the delights of Quiberon

Quiberon

Black and Whire Quiberon

On the beach in Quiberon

And from Quiberon we head home to an empty fridge, empty bank account, utility bills and mountains o lessons to prepare before heading back to school. We’ll be back next year.

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Heading For the Normandy Beaches

French holiday road trip from Calais to Cabourg.

We leave the UK from Dover; which is a town so unpleasant and sinister that it makes a great place to leave from – always better to start a journey from some from somewhere so awful that anywhere else is better – the somewhere else is Calais – on the opposite side of the English Channel – another miserable port town – in the news over the past few years for the vast number of migrants, in and around the town. From Algeria to Afghanistan, they come in their hundreds with one singular intention – to cross to the UK and make a life there. In between there lies the Channel – only 23 miles wide between Calais and Dover. The immigrants will try any way to get across, hopping on lorries, hiding in trailers, walking through the Channel Tunnel – any risk is worth the risk for the promise of a new life in Britain. Escaping war torn countries, or grinding poverty in the lands thy called home, they cross Europe, last stop Calais, waiting to take their chance in a chance crossing. For years, the migrants were huddled in an illegal camp knob as “The Jungle” – that was dismantled by the authorities and the migrants were “dispersed” to other parts of France, but many just headed back, intent on crossing to Britain. The migrants err around the town, along the highways into Calais or on the car parks of petrol station or lay bys on the roads into Calais. They have become such a familiar sight that what was once “shocking” is now commonplace.

On the road out of he port, mile upon mile of high wire mesh fences surmounted with rolls of  razor wire to stop the migrant eating into the port. The once sedate Channel Ferry port now looks like a prison camp.

From Calais, we head to our destination of Cabourg – a small family seaside resort on the Normandy coast, near Caen, very popular with Parisians. Welcome to Cabourg – revel in the nostalgia of what the seaside looked like a generation ago.. Along this stretch the Normandy coast is all slong, windswept,sandy beaches with iconic beach huts.

Beach huts in Cabourg

Cabourg beach front with a sepia finish

Sandcastles in Cabourg

Low tide in Cabourg

Once in Normandy – A pilgrimage to the Normandy landing beaches and a viitto the Bayeux Tapestry. Today it is raining, his is definitely not a beach day and every tourist in Normandy has headed to a museum. Lines of wet tourists snake their way around the entrance to the Arromanches museum. No pre booking by Internet, you just wait in the rain. At Bayeux, the queues are o great that they have had to close the museum.

Waiting in line in Arromanches

Rainy day for the beach

Rainy beach misery

On the Beach in Arromanches

Next leg from Cabourg to Lorient

Down to the Sea in Ships

Back from my brief summer road trip – a short tour of historic sights (sites) in Nprmandy and Brittany. Yes, rather than lolling round like a giant slug in the sun, this year we decided to do what real tourists do and be tourists (oh dear it is hard work being a tourist)

For your viewing pleasure, in this first flurry of holiday snaps – a few very unseaworthy boats. On holiday, I like nothing more than a stroll around a port, and I have a curious passion for sailing craft – the more unseaworthy the better. Snapped on this holiday (and a few previous ones) a selection of gloriously precarious and even dangerous vessels.

 

Blue sailing boat – Lorient August 2017

 

In Need of TLC – Lorient
August 2017

TLC 2

Checking up at low tide.
Lorient August 2017

 

Boat or submarine?

Yes it floats
Ile d’Yeu 2013

And now a few assorted small craft. No titles on these

Here’s one from Scotland circa 2011. Redolent of neglect. You wouldn’t treat a person like this. Why do this to a boat? Yes, boats have souls too.

Lobster fishing in Scotland July 2013

And now something a little more seaworthy

In full sail – old Tuna fishing boat

Red sails – but not at sunset

Wishing you all plain sailing

Walking Paris in the Walker Evans spirit

It all started in the summer of 2003, with breakfast on a cross Channel ferry, plying that grey murky slim stretch of water between Dover and Calais. A full English breakfast with sausages, beans, french fries and … a whopping plateful of food that I was never going to finish – but before I bin it – just a quick photo. I had just acquired my first decent digital camera, so I tok a photo of my unfinished masterpiece (below) Hey, I’ve paid for this, I’m damn well gonna take a photo. And that was the day that I just started to take photos of “stuff”.

So for fifteen years or so, I’ve been taking photos of “crap”, or the kind of photos that others might qualify as “crap”, but recently seem to have become an art form. People have always asked me “why are you taking a photo of that?” as I point my camera towards a bin and photograph the anarchic accumulation of rubbish – I don’t see it as rubbish, this is a random, one off sculpture of 21st century living – and I am taking a photo of this because no one else will – and such has always been my photographic credo. Rubbish, people, places or just moments that no one else will bother to capture. I was doing this long before discovered the likes of  Martin Parr, Raymond Depardon, Diane Arbus, Al Wei Wei – These are my favorite photographers, though I won’t say that they influenced me, I just discovered them as I took more interest in photography, though I am in no way a photographer.

Thursday July 13th; Went up t Paris to see the David Hockney retrospective that’s jet transferred to the Pompidou Centre from the Tate Modern in London.

I’ve always liked Hockney’s very photographic and vibrant style – bright flours, easy subjects – I don’t ned to look for an inner meaning, the work just speaks for itself. After sauntering through Mr Hockney’s “relaxed” universe, I stumble into another exhibition on the work of an American photographer Walker Evans.

How can I describe this – it is revelation, confirmation – over 300 prints of … well the sort of stuff I take shop fronts, abandoned buildings, window displays – using the camera to encapsulate all those people, places, objects and moments that no one else ill take because – “why are you taking a photo of that????”

In a kind of Walker Evans spirit, I wanted to show you the results of a day’s “snapping” in Paris. Seeing Mr Evan’s work has finally enabled me to put a name on my style of photography – vernacular photography.

I don’t know why, I’ve always loved taking photos from cars or trains to capture those landscapes we cross to get somewhere else – those dead parts of France we endure to get to the beach, or those flat, endless agricultural lands the train crosses on the way to Paris. Here are a few clichés of my journey. Notice I tend to use quite a few filters to make places just a slight more bleaker than they actually are. When I had my old reflex camera, I tried mucking around with filters but just gave it up as a fiddly gimmick.

Waiting on a train

Waiting on a train II

Grey Sky Platform

Goods Wagons

I’m using an Olympus Stylus 1 as my main camera nowadays – lightweight and bristling with gimmicks – it’s a great little piece of gear, far better to the than the huge bulky old Nikon I used to have – you know, the massive Nikon with the 28 to 105 lens that everyone seems to have nowadays – for sure a great camera, but to heavy to carry round and deploy.

So, welcome to Paris

Here is Paris minus the Eiffel Tower and then two Eiffel Towers for the price of one – I’m playing round with an overlay feature on the camera.

This was the day that Donald Trump was in town and this was also the week that Paris welcomed the International Olympic Committee and “showcase” the city for ts 2024 Olympic bid. The lace has been cleaned up, and the homeless removed – on Monday 11th July there was a huge police operation to shut down and clear out camps of illegal immigrants along the Seine and in the north east of the city where the Olympic park is set to be built.

First off, one sleeping bag, all that remains of an illegal camp on the banks of the Seine.

Not far, just down river, the old Salvation Army barge, anchored on the same spot since 1909, now closed down and just a few yards from a huge barge converted into a luxury hotel

Not all illegal camps were cleared, occasional tents can be seen here and there, this one is in the shadow of a church in the city’s St Paul area – right in the heart of downtown Paris

Playing their part in the clean up, are the city’s roadsweepers. Not happy with the resolution on this photo, I took it with the camera app on my old Samsung mobile.

No trip to Paris is complete without photographing tourists or “Bloody Tourists” as local and traders curse, all the while taking their money or renting out their apartments to the tourist hordes on Air B’n’B – so rife is the Air B’n’B trade that the Paris city authorities are taking steps to regulate it. arms is beginning to suffer the fates of Air B’n’B twins like Venice, Barcelona and even Edinburgh – property promoters buying up empty flats purely for tourist rental, thus “gobbling up” the already limited stock of housing for the locals and ensuring that the downtown of many cities are now just tourist areas.

Bloody Tourists – we are, we have been and we will be one day. From the moment we leave home, everyone become’s someone else’s tourist. First there came the explorers, discovering new lands. Next came the settlers to exploit the lands, wiping out the locals and their traditions, and now here are the tourists who come to see those small vestige of what is left behind when something commonplace has become a rarity and thus “a tourist attraction” – I am just wondering if there are any Parisians living in the centre of Paris.

Ok, bloody tourists. Here we have some “orientals”, grouping together and then doing a Beatles-style crossing the the Rue de Rivoli.

Here are a few more without comment for your perusal

Thanks for reading the vernacular post

Road Movie Biker Wanderlust and Swedish Furniture

Unstructured ramblings on over 50’s wanderlust, Swedish furniture and sympathies for all you poor bastards with hybrid cars who accelerate at the speed of a dead snail. Enjoy

If life was a road movie at the moment, I’d be cruising sedately through those areas of commercial space known as “edge lands”, where the first ragged remnants of countryside, rubbish dumps, car washes and junkyards meet the last drab dregs of urban sprawl – rubbish dumps, car washes and junkyards

I’d be cruising along an endless highway, lined with supermarkets, DIY stores, car dealerships, fast food outlets and discount shops.

No 67 Chevrolet Impala convertible for me – I’d be driving a modest, white, four-door-family saloon ; possibly of Japanese manufacture with a hybrid petrol/electric motor.

On the radio, nothing as dangerous as Rock and Roll, but perhaps an adult « AOR » or «  easy listening » station with just a hint of Rod Stewart or Elton John wafting out the speakers

Nothing too dangerous in this road movie comfort zone and nothing magical, mysterious, subversive or even vaguely interesting about my destination – I’m probably just driving to a Swedish furniture store to pick up a beige sofa or a set of shelves. I’m not even going to get out the car and go in the shop to look, I’ve done a click and collect

I’m not looking for a Thelma and Louise Blues Brothers Fast and Furious Grand Theft Auto adventure – that’s all just a little too much. I think I’m like all those in-between late middle aged early retiree guys of my generation – I’ve got a kind of wanderlust but I don’t want to wander too far in case I miss my dinner and my favourite early evening TV shows.

It started on Sunday, when I nipped out to buy a newspaper. The lady at the counter handed me a « new » magazine for « young seniors » or « the active over-fifties » – the latter written in an exciting red typeface and screaming me at me from the front page.

No way am I a young senior
Yes I’m over fifty

Yes I am active BUT I have a mental age of nineteen and I am a singer in a rock and roll band (with three other guys who are all over fifty) and that actually sounds pretty sad. I shouldn’t be out gigging of a night, I should be home wearing a tracksuit and slumped in a sofa with a beer in one hand and a remote control in the other.

So, it was my Sunday morning newspaper buying mission and I declined that kind offer of a special offer on the new young/oldie magazine. As my eyes scanned the shlves in search or reading matter though, I was attracted by wo magazines that might just quench my wanderlust – a monthly review of camper vans (or recreational vehicles as our transatlantic readers refer to them) – second a motorbike magazine with a special supplement on « biker dads » – all those “adulescents” like me who wanted a motorbike and never had one – I’m flicking thought the pages and – I’d love a Suzuki Van Van – a 125cc dune bike, with thick tyres and youthful looks – and just oozing biker dad attitude. Safe but mildly subversive

I wanna buy a motorbike and have sedate easy rider Sundays in the country. I wanna cruise down the Swedish furniture store in my leather jacket and have saunter round before I do the click and collect. I just wanna hop on my bike and go places that aren’t so far that I can’t be back home in time for dinner.

Bikes though, dangerous things. What if I fall off or got too fast or … Camper vans far better. I love camper vans. I’m always amazed how van designers manage to cram a luxury bijoux residence into such a small space – all fold out Formica lifestyle. I need a van. I want to drive to the sea, park up by a long deserted sandy beach, brew up a strong cup of tea and then stare out across the ocean, wondering what lies beyond.

Bike, or van, or both. The wife can drive the van as I ride the bike, and when I get tired, I can strap the bike on the back of the van.

Here’s the dream, to use the above combination for a great Tour De France of all the places I’ve lived or visited since I ever started coming to France as a kid in the seventies. What wondrous wanderlust.

Dreaming is great, but instead of writing about great travel plans, I should start by getting on the web abd booking a summer holiday.

Freedom?

FREEDOM!  screams a huge banner headline from the front page of the Daily Mail.

Freedom ? Freedom from what ?

Has Britain just been liberated from years of foreign occupation ? Have the British people just risen up and toppled a vile dictator ?

« This is E-Day. » proclaims a sub-header

March 29th, E-Day ?

Has the world (or at least the Daily Mail) gone mad ?

Pardon my flinching , semi senile, wine-soaked, ex-pat memory, but unless we have just booted the nazis out of Blighty, I thought that Britan had been a free and democratic country for the past … well at least for the past 72 years since the end of World War Two, and possibly long before that – OK bar a few arguments about when full and fair universal suffrage was finally achieved – Britian has been « democratic » since mid –to-late Victorian times.

I know with this last sweeping assertion I am going to make some history buffs howl with indignation, because Britain (or England) had a « parliamentary » tradition for many centuries before, but not everyone got to vote for who was supposed to represent them.

History aside, I am glad the Britian is free again, and now, casting myself into the Daily mail mindset, I can say that Britain will be GREAT again.

March 29th, E-Day (or Exit Day). We should declare this day a national public holiday, along with St George’s Day and June 23rd which was Brexit day itself. – B-day – June 23rd 2016 ; the longst day though was June 24th – a long slow depresssing and distressing day, where us « remain » supporters were in a state of jawdropping disbelief, occasionally pinching ourselves just to remind us that this was not all a dream, or a nightmare or a parallel universe

I therefore propose three new public holidays – Merci Brexit, and if there too many public holidays , we will et rid of all those « unBritish » days that the European Union inflicted upon us … how many ? The Mayday Bank Holiday – I get the feeling though that many Brits would quite fancy keeping that one, as well as getting the three others –

Three new public holidays – think of all the extra shopping time that’s going to give the Brits – but I think quite a few of you might be working to pay the astronomical costs of goodies, when Brtain also leaves the single market.

Anyway, congrats to the Little Englanders everywhere, you can dust down your Union Jacks and toast the Brave new Britain in a good pint of British beer – though enjoy it while you can, in a few years Britain might be no more than a distant memory – Imagine that the Kingdom of England shares a land border with the Republic of Scotland, and what if Northern Ireland decide that after 400 years or so of accrimonious relations with England, to will be far better for all to unite with the South and just have one country called « Ireland » Now that sounds very sensible to me

Freedom ! No ! This is a bad day for freedom, unless of course your idea of freedom is simply being told what you can and cannot do – Yes the nasty old EU setting norms for just how much meat content you should have in a sausage or setting environmental norms for just how much sewage you can pump into the sea.

I genuinely think that joining the EU brought Britain out of the dark ages. Back when we joined in 1973, the UK was beset by strikes, and power cuts, the country was working a three day week, Brits used to stare jealously acrss the Channel at the quality of life in Continental Europe. YES, true we won the War and YES in 1973, Britain was still living firmly in World War Two – well now, Britain can once agin enjoy the War mentality – a ture Churchillian mindset of standing alone aginst this bureaucratic, Brussels driven monolith that is the European Union – now we are free to determine our destiny.

So, a few concrete ideas

Imagine when Brexit is a reality , that you have to get a visa for your two week fling in Benidorm.

Imagine that there is no more cheap unlimited booze and we go back to the old rules whereby you can only bring back three bottles of wine from your European holiday as opposed o the 40 or so bottles you can bring back at présent.

Imagine all our youngsters who might want to work in Europe – that’s going to be an issue.

And if there is economic lockdown ?

We will buy products that are made in Britain – well if you want a cheap TV or car or washing machine, all the parts come in via the EU. So here I am venturing on to unresearched ground BUT, unless the UK strike some serious trade deals with the EU before WTO trade rules kick in ???? Can the UK still independantly produce enough canoës and paddles to navigate itself up Shit Creek ? Not so sure.

My ramblings are fliipant and unresearched, but they come from a Britsh ex-pat who is taking out French nationality so he can still work in France after Brexit because his future was determined by those Brits who voted for Brexit – in a referendum where I did not have the right to vote.

Ok thoughts over for now, but dwell on this. Donald Trump was voted into the Whitehouse despite the fact that Hilary Clinton had 2 million more votes in the final result. As an ex-pat, I was not given the right to vote in the UK referendum because only ex-pats who had been out of the UK 15 years or less were allowed to vote. Democracy does not seem to apply in either case

If Republic of Scotland there is, I shall be validating my 3 generational Scottish ancestry for a Hibernian passport.

To all ye Little Englanders – well done on regaining your freedom. I hope you enjoy it, though put away the Union Jack and unfurl the St George Flag ; and I forecast (thought do not wish you) fractious times head.

End of rant

PS, for all Daily Mail readers you read the  paper founded in 1911 by Lord Northcliffe to halt the progress of Lloyd George’s parliamentary reform bill. and this was the paper that supported the British Union of Fascists in 1936; with that unforgettable headline “Hooray for the Blackshirts.” – Not that I’m calling all Daily Mail readers “fascists”, but there is a nasty whiff of BNP style nationalism about you all.

PTSkiD or Getting Off a Mountainside with Fred and Ginger and Nancy

SLIP SLIDING AWAY

Slip slidin’ away

Slip slidin’ away

You know the nearer your destination

The more you’re slip slidin’ away

Lying flat on my back, arms spread out, staring up at the blazing sun – crucifixion position, numb with cold and rigid with fear – « nailed » to this steep freezing cold, ice-covered mountainside. What a punishment. What have I done to deserve this?

I should have read the signs. I was doing fine on the green run, lazily sliding along on my skis, on the wide and almost flat slope, and then, I took the wrong turning and ended up on the red run; a steep, near-vertical run all bumpy and lumpy and … this was my ski version of the wall of death

My ski buddies implored me to go slow, to zig zag, and above all, « Don’t look down » – but once I hit the slope – a giant whoosh, I lost my footing, fell, lost my skis and poles and went rolling 100 metres down the mountain side, first on my arse, then on my back, wondering if this was my last moment, until, miraculously I came to a halt. And in my slippery wake, I had brought down two friends, who like me slid down the mountain. They lay « intertwined » all bodies and skis a few metres away.

All the while, I could hear whoops of laughter from above – as skiers on the chair lift guffawed at our slippery antics and filmed us on their Smartphones. Just how many people are now watching my fall, slide and dented pride on social media sites?

unknown

NOTHING’S IMPOSSIBLE

Now you’re down, nothing to do but get up and get off this bloody mountain side, like the old song – « Pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and start all over again. » – but, here I am, rigid with fear. I would like to just glide off the mountain, Fred and Ginger style, after all …

Nothing’s impossible, I have found

For when my chin is on the ground.

I pick myself up,

Dust myself off

And start all over again.

Don’t lose your confidence

If you slip

Be grateful for a pleasant trip

And pick yourself up,

Dust yourself off

And start all over again.

I’ve started singing the song. I like the irony of the lyrics in my current situation. Obviously when Dorothy Fields penned these words back in 1936*, she didn’t have dorsally prostrate skiers in mind

My ski friends implore me to stand up, put my skis on and follow them down the mountain.

« NO WAY ! » I scream in the near hysterical scream of all those helpless with fear. I just want to lie hear and have someone come rescue me before I freeze

PTSkiD

Calm down and think. Just how I’m going to get off this f***ing mountain. I certainly ain’t skiing down, besides, my skis and poles are still 100 metres up the slope. There are just two solutions: I can either try and slide down on my arse or my back , perhaps using my arms and legs as some kind on brake, or, I can just get up and walk off.

Considering the first solution … well my 100 metre arse/back slide was actually pretty fast and I’m not sure that I will be able to control my speed. I’m getting these kind of slapstick cartoon clichés, whereby rolling down the mountain, I’ll turn into a giant snowball, picking up other skiers in my wake before finally crashing into the chalet at the bottom of the ski run. The second solution, therefore seems far more achievable, except I am rigid with fear still pinned/nailed down to this mountainside by what is no more than a self-induced, advanced neurotic state that I will now refer to as Post Traumatic Ski DisorderPTSkiD – something that I will suffer from for the rest of the holidays, to the point that putting on skis, and standing at the top of a run makes me want to be physically sick.

 

THESE BOOTS AIN’T MADE FOR WALKING

Fred and Ginger are one thing. I won’t be waltzing off this mountain, but now that some kind skier has retrieved my ski poles, then I’ll be walking off. I manage to stand up and now ; it is with Nancy Sinatra in my head that I precariously step and «sideways tip toe » my way down the rest of the slope. I look ridiculous. I don’t give a f***, there is nothing broken and … well a quick word on ski boots – they sure as hell ain’t made for walking.

So, I lived to tell the tale of my ski misfortune, but , unlike the song …

Don’t lose your confidence

If you slip

Be grateful for a pleasant trip

… actually getting your confidence back is one hell of a job.

ROOM 101

The next day, I get a mild panic attack in the cable car, that disgorges a crowd of keen skiers at the very top of a mountain, all with the one sole purpose, sliding down to the bottom on two lengths of laminated wood. What is the appeal? I used to like this. I used to be a reasonable skier at my own basic level and this morning’s run is hardly the stuff of Olympian downhill difficulty. The keen kamikaze skiers have all swished off down tortuous, semi suicidal black runs, and I am about to take a long lazy meandering green run that slithers like a dead snake on Valium. Nothing to fear, besides, I’ve already done this run, but, I’m sweating and shaking as I clamp on my skis, I want to be physically sick, and as the slow run starts, I just block.

A complete loss of confidence, you are there and not there and cannot move. « Get me the F*** outta here ! »

« One must confront one’s fear to overcome one’s fear. » This is the line my mum’s therapist used to spin her to get her back behind the wheel after a minor car accident – it never worked. I’m not a fan of this kind of therapy – I find it more Orwellian – Winston Smith in Room 101 – well that is how I feel right now.

In the end, my friends get me down the slope – but I still fall ten times in the process, and after this hapless and hopeless run, I feel useless, incapable, surplus to requirements and a burden on my ski friends. Dented pride is one thing, this is far more.

I can blame this on my skiiing. However when I ski on real snow, I’m not such a bad once-a-year, holiday skier

I can blame this on the poor quality snow, that isn’t really snow, but the recycled, manufactured stuff, blown across the slopes by snow machines and lying in a sparse covering like frozen icing sugar on a frozen mountain side. I haven’t been skiing, I have been ice skating with skis.

I can blame this on me. I hate taking risks, I hate leaving my comfort zone. I like to navigate in calm, shallow and familiar waters. It’s always alarm bells, panic stations and abandon ship when an ice cube sized iceberg « looms » on the horizon.

Hey, I’ll just do it like to song says

Don’t lose your confidence

If you slip

Be grateful for a pleasant trip

You gotta slip once to know how not to slip again.

*Pick Yourself Up – Music by Jerome Kern and Lyrics by Dorothy Field – featuring Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers in he 1936 musical « Swing Time. »