July 7th, Lorient France (John Ward)
The following was written by John Ward for his family.
Bretagne has its own language, Breton. It is quite an unusual language by look and by sound. Though Bretagne is part of the old Celtic civilization "including Scotland, Ireland, the Channel Islands, etc.,' the language is not Celtic. Few speak it, but it is now mandatory in the schools.
On our train ride from Quimper to Brest to meet the boat we saw some of the landscape. It is green, rolling hills with milk cows, corn and cute, bright homogenous stone and stucco homes. Brest has been a critical seaport of France and was totally bombed during World War II. While Brest still seeks its new identity, it continues to have strong ties to boating and sailing, including a marine biology museum and research center we visited.
Upon arrival we scooted up the hill, which has a monument to US Navy from World War I, to a creperie for dinner. Crepes as we know them are light; here, too, they are desserts. But for the main course they are called galetta, which is a thicker, darker, flat wheat dough topped with lots of things, particularly over easy eggs and Andouille sausage. Also extremely popular in Brittany are "moules" (mussles) and frites. Not for me. Also not for me is their most popular drink, cider.
We had a wonderful 9-10 hour sail to Concarneau in weather much better than we expected:15 knot winds and 2-3 foot seas under some bright skies.
Concarneau is a nice sailing harbor: almost all sailboats, but Onora's 75' mast and 62' beautiful, unpainted aluminum hull stand out and always draw interest. Concarneau has a charming old walled city with a great fishing museum. Well worth two hours or more; delightful layout and design. We also bussed to a 19th century mansion of a French count and his Russian bride that is slowly being reconstructed by its new private owner.
Beginning in Concarneau, we started finding our morning fresh baguettes to join Jeanne's spot-on cereal and fresh strawberry breakfast. Concarneau also invited a short bus trip to Point-Aven, a truly charming artist and gallery town best known as Gaugin's home before he went exotic, and also where certain art styles were founded.
On to Lorient with a gentle, extremely pleasing 6-7 hour sail, pole out and wing-to-wing, 6-7 knot speed almost all the way to our new parking place.
Lorient is full of surprises. We came to understand that Lorient is, very proudly, one of nine stops on the tri-annual round-the-world Volvo (formerly Whitbread) sail race.''With big racing sloops representing six nations, the race added to the sailing spirit in the town and in the news. We saw a few practicing near us on the water as we approached what we learned is the Cite de Voile'' the City of Sailing ' a well-earned name.
Lorient was the home of French sailing hero, designer, racer, inventor (etc., etc.), Eric Tabarly, hence there's a spectacular sailing museum here with his name.''We spent nearly three fascinating and inspiring hours at the museum. There is the history of man and the sea; there are science of sailing exhibits; there are stories at sea ' including a simulated sail onboard a Volvo yacht. The museum is creative and impactful. We came to really appreciate Tabarly as the father of 20th'century yachting. He built and won a single-handed boat race across the Pacific. He created boats for the Americas Cup and Arctic adventures. The museum includes six of his boats in the water ' all called Pen Duick. We saw reference to Peter Blake, the brother of the New Zealand artist the Foleys know.
Tabarly was lost at sea in 1998. His memory will last another century and draw many visitors to Lorient.
Lorient, the early base for French submarines, is also home to a vast submarine museum.''In World War II the Germans eagerly took Lorient as the base for building and launching subs for the battle of the Atlantic. Here the English tried to bomb it to death while the Germans built the huge concrete reinforcements to protect their critical fleet.''The museum also explains France's contemporary sub program and provides a walk through a sub.
The open area between the Tabarly museum and the sub museum was the site of many Volvo activities. Very striking was a mural of Tabarly, about 50' x 50', made from black and white photos of scores of residents of Lorient, welcoming Volvo visitors.
We still had time to bus to a vast citadelle'(fort) that housed three, again surprisingly delightful, museums ' the Marine Museum with a rich display of deep sea wreck discoveries; the Indes museum, showing mostly the French-India Trading Company history in India and the Orient; and a museum tracing the history of saving and safety at sea.
It turns out Lorient was also a critical point for France in its early trading activities on Africa (especially 1 million+ slaves) and spices, textiles, etc., in India and East Asia. One comes to understand where Lorient may have derived its name.
July 10th, La Rochelle (Jim)
The weather is finally starting to improve. While Chicago cooks, we have had the fire burning most evenings to keep the cabin dry and warm. England's wettest June in history has followed us to France. Today, for the first time, we both wore shorts.
French customs (Douane in France) paid a surprise visit. When we arrived in Brest we dutifully checked in with no issues in but France also does random checks as evidenced by the three officers who came by today. These visits always make me feel like I have just been pulled over by a policeman. I know if they look hard enough they can find something illegal. I know we have more than a quart of whiskey and we probably could not produce prescriptions for all of the drugs we carry in our medical chest.
Unfortunately, this group does not consider a visit to Guernsey eligible for a reset of our time in the EU. According to them we are over our 18 month limit and subject to a tax equal to 20% of the value of Onora. When they asked how many persons on board and where they were I explained that Jeannie, my wife, completed the crew and that she was shopping.
'That is good for our economy. Enjoy your visit in France.' And they left.