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Ireland and France in 3 weeks

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Sep 30th, 2013, 06:53 AM
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Ireland and France in 3 weeks

I am just back from a trip. Before I could begin my tale, I needed to check back and see what Fodorites have been up to while I was away. Lots of interesting stories. Don't know if mine will live up to others, but here goes.

The first few hours were not a good beginning. I was dashing around to get ready to go and hit my little toe (barefoot) on the leg of the bed as my sister pulled up to pick me up to take me to the bus. I had to sit down and let the "stars" set before I could finish dressing. But soon we were on the way to the bus which would take me to Logan in Boston.

Uneventful bus trip and check in. I was flying aer Lingus and always I have felt as if I were halfway to Ireland when I boarded. But this time the flight attendants were a crabby bunch. Wonder if they had not had enough time between flights. Not one of them cracked a smile the whole flight.

This was the first time I had booked my own tickets on line and I didn't quite understand the bit about choosing your meal for twenty bucks ahead of hand. So I chose chicken. Meal service began and the flight attendant came to those of us who preordered first. She handed me the meal and I gave her the voucher that I had printed out. The meal came on "china" with metal cutlery, but I didn't see that it was any better than what was served as the regular inflight meal. You do get a wineglass and small bottle of wine. Not being a wine drinker, I gave mine to the person next to me.

I ate the roll and salad and opened my meal. It was fish. I had ordered chicken. I don't dislike fish, so I ate it rather than disturb dinner service. After everyone was served the FA came back and started scolding me for taking the fish. I said I didn't know until I opened the pack that it was not the chicken I ordered, but that it was all right, I wouldn't fuss.

The FA said, But it was NOT all right with the woman who ordered fish. I did point out that I didn't realize there was a mix up until I had started eating. She continued with the dressing down before I could point out that she did have my chicken voucher and should have caught it then. I was pretty embarrassed by the time she was done. The lady next to me said she didn't think I should have been scolded so.

I began to wonder if all the wonderful things I remembered about Ireland were gone. However, when I landed and got out to find the citylink bus, the fellow selling tickets was so welcoming that I knew things would be ok. (6 euro one way or 10E round trip--stops at several places in Dublin).

I was staying at Trinity College, single room ensuite 69E, breakfast included. The bus stopped right outside the gate. The fellow at the security desk directed me to the check in point in a friendly way. The young people working the check in were just marvelous. I felt as if I were home! It was only 7:30 so of course my room wasn't ready, but there was no problem, I could leave my bags and come back about 2 they said. They pointed out a place to grab some breakfast. The buttery is on college grounds and I had juice, cereal, tea, a scone and some fresh fruit for 4E.

Then off to explore the city. The toe was seriously hurting so I hopped on a H OHO bus. Four routes, 2 days--18 E. The commentary was the usual humor mixed in with the history. I did visit Kilmainham Gaol--a haunting place, not just for the stories of 1916 but the famine times inmates and earlier "rebels". Also visited the "Georgian House" Museum on Fitzwilliam street. Wandered back through Merion Square. I stopped to rest the foot several times and enjoyed people watching in the park.

The next night Ireland was to play Sweden in some sort of big game. There were lots of Swedes in town and they were all wearing yellow and blue, the colors of their team. There was a lot of friendly jostling and shouting.

In Dublin there is a "Viking Splash Tour" in a duck boat partly on land and partly on the Liffey. A lot of the Swedes were among the tourists on the tours and every time they passed a HOHO bus they made raucous yell and sometimes just for the heck of it. Everyone seemed to be in good spirits. (The tour operators have fake Viking helmets for their riders and encourage the yells.)

I got on and off the bus and rested my foot as much as possible. I just enjoyed the new sights of Dublin and revisited the old familiar ones. I reveled in the fact that all the good things of Dublin were still there.

When I returned to Trinity, not only were my bags in my room but they gave me a ride in the van over to the building where I was to stay. The room itself was spotless and spacious, but the bath was the tiniest I had ever seen. I was glad for a nap before I met friends from when I taught in Ireland. We had a good catch up and lots of laughs over supper at their home in County Wicklow.

By the time I returned to Dublin, it was drizzling, but the next morning dawned bright and shiny. Breakfast was at the Buttery. You could upgrade to a cooked breakfast for another 5E but there was so much on the included buffet that I didn't feel the need to upgrade. Cereal, juice, scones, fruit----more than adequate for a day on the town.

Day3 --off to France

Had to be at the airport by 4:30 a.m. for 6:30. It was dark and rainy at that hour, but as I waited for the airport bus just outside the Trinity Gate, there were lots of young people around. Ireland lost the match, but everyone was out to celebrate or to drown their sorrows. They had "much of the drink taken" but no one seemed mean or out for trouble. There was lots of laughter, a few bottles dropped and rolling down the street, and lots of just plain silliness.

I had booked the breakfast on board Aer Lingus ($7) as I didn't know what would be available to eat at the airport. I needn't have worried. The airport was a buzz with activity even at that hour. Lots of places open for breakfast. Found a free internet station. (I didn't bring my computer.) so just whipped off a quick email to family.

Breakfast on board was not IMHO worth it. My seatmates ordered off the menu and paid for what they got. Their fresh fruit and hot chocolate with scone looked fine to me. My breakfast was a couple of potato puffs, a slice of black pudding, a slice of white pudding, a rasher of Irish bacon, two sausages, fruit juice and a roll. It was delicious, but of course, made me quite thirsty.

More later.
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Sep 30th, 2013, 08:44 AM
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I'm along for the ride, looking forward to the trip.
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Sep 30th, 2013, 08:54 AM
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Can't wait to hear more!
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Sep 30th, 2013, 10:44 AM
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My computer is acting up and it keeps flipping me off and I lose whatever I have written so maybe I will have to submit in smaller sections. Just lost all of day 3 and 4.

Arrived at Charles de Gaulle and had no trouble fining the bus to the city and Montparnasse station. I went into the station and it seemed as if I went through a maze of up and downs to find the ticket counter. I bought my ticket for Versailles with some back and forth as apparently there are two stations in Versailles. The fellow wanted me to take a train to the one where I wouldn't have to switch, but I was not sure I could find my hotel from the other one.

I was not able to make myself understood,(My French is pretty rusty) and finally the fellow said, "I speak English" Then he understood. I thanked him as I picked up my ticket and he said, "Thank you for trying to speak French."

I was on my way.

Arrived in Vers. and there was my hotel right across the street! I marched up and would you believe?! I had screwed up the reservation! It was for the next night.

The receptionist was very kind and said that the sister hotel was 3 km out of town with good bus connections. She had me fixed up in no time, pointed out the bus stop.

I was on my way!
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Sep 30th, 2013, 10:54 AM
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Broke toes hurt like the devil. Ice is the best. I have flown aer fungus twice and both times they were mean and rude. I just can't understand the problem with them. You were way to nice.
The rooms at Trinity sound good. I love staying in that area of Dublin. Funny about the viking boat.
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Sep 30th, 2013, 11:09 AM
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I checked in and went to my room to freshen up before catching the bus back into town.

I wandered a bit, took a lot of pictures, and grabbed some supper at a crepe place.

I reflected how grateful I was that I was on my own. The foot was really slowing me down and I was glad not to be making anyone else poke along with me. I was also very grateful that my goof up with the reservation did not affect anyone else.

It was raining by then and there was debate about whether the sound and light show with fountains and fireworks was going to take place or not. I got on the bus for my hotel.

Somehow I got disoriented and missed my stop. I realized that I had goofed, but thought I could just get off on his way back into town. WRONG!

We got to the end of the line and everyone got off but me. The bus driver yells at me to get off as well. I went up and showed him the hotel address. He said it was not his problem. He was at the end of his shift and the bus was out of service. He pointed up the road a hundred yards or so to a bus shelter and said to catch the next bus there. I started to leave the bus by the door at the front as I was standing right there. He yelled, "Get out the middle door!"
and muttered something that sounded like "stupid old cow" as I walked toward the back of the bus. (I'll give him the benefit of the doubt and hope it was something else.)

Got off the bus and hobbled up to the shelter. The bus schedule said the last bus was coming through at 20:22 (8:22 pm). Now in my haste to leave home, I had forgotten my watch so had no idea what time it was.

This bus shelter was out in the middle of nowhere and it got darker and darker, and the rain came down more and more heavily. A girl with a cell phone went by and I asked her what time it was. She just shrugged. I thought all those damn things had a clock on them. Wrong again!

Suddenly up the road came two girls in their early twenties. They were trying to read the bus schedule. I lent them my flashlight from my purse and they said it is way too late. What to do? I told them my tale of woe.They said we'll all just stick out our thumbs.

Pretty soon a car came along. In a torrent of French they explained to the driver what had happened. He said he lived right in the neighborhood of the hotel and would take us all in.

In no time we were back in the hotel area. I offered him some gas money but he refused. I gave the girls some money and said to go have a drink on me. Hugs and best wishes all around. They went off to burn their candle at both ends, and I limped up to refresh my candle which was fast burning out at only one end.
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Sep 30th, 2013, 11:15 AM
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Having lived in Ireland in the mid-90s, flying AE to London 2-3 times a month, I'm not surprised to see things haven't changed, other than they are now charging for the dreadful food.

Can't believe you were berated over the flight attendant's error, but typical.

Your trip report is great and looking forward to the rest.
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Sep 30th, 2013, 11:25 AM
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Day4 dawned overcast but at least the rain had stopped. Packed up and left my luggage while I went back into the city. At city hall where I got off, there was an old car show going on at the parking lot. Saw some great old classics and had a chat with a fellow who was showing an old citroen.

Down to the palace to join the million people in line for the gardens. I got myself slowly down to the fountains for the 11:45 display. The music which accompanied the show was uplifting and I really enjoyed sitting and listening and watching.

After the water in the fountains had once again retreated to its underground home, I slowly made my way back to pick up my luggage and headed into Paris.

The train went all the way in to Pl. St. Michael which is near Notre Dame. My hotel is in that area and looked like a short walk, but the map was a bit fuzzy. I kept stopping to ask directions and got sent in the wrong direction several times. Finally I was so tired and my foot was hurting so much that I hailed a cab. He had to do some hunting to find the place. The entrance was only a door wide and the sign was small, but the welcome was big!

Reception was on the first floor. When I made the reservation, I knew there was no elevator, and even with a painful foot I thought I could handle the stairs. However, I was not counting on the stairs being spiral, narrow, and steep. Fortunately I was only on the third floor.

I got myself up and into my little room with tiny bath. I could see a flowerbox at the window. I thought How charming!
However, when I opened the window, I found the flowers were plastic! Oh well, it was a nice idea!
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Sep 30th, 2013, 11:27 AM
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Oh dear, things are not getting off on the right foot. But you'll always have the tale to tell.
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Sep 30th, 2013, 12:40 PM
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Actually, Nikki, it was the left foot.

Next morning dawned sunny. After breakfast, I was off to Notre Dame. As I walked down the two blocks to Ile St. Louis, I found a tiny garden tucked in among some buildings. It was not on any map or in any guide book--or at least not the ones I have seen. It was beside a bishop's home built in the 1400's. I stopped to take some pictures and enjoy the layout.

Then onward. Came upon ND from the east and stopped in another garden. Took some pics of flowers and children at play. As I turned the corner, it began to rain. I gathered under a tree with many others to see if it was just a passing shower. After ten minutes or so we all decided that it was settling in and dashed for a souvenir shop selling umbrellas, etc. I bought a poncho with Paris and the Eiffel tower on it.
It did do the trick.

Went back to explore ND. It was as impressive this time as the last time I saw it. The front has been cleaned up and was sparkling for its 850th anniversary. Too bad about the ugly grandstand in the plaza there--set up for some of the festivities, I guess.

I was just in time for noon mass. The area for mass attendees was roped off and there was a sign asking tourists not to enter the area during mass. Didn't bother the photographers in the bunch. They walked right down the middle and through the pews while they snapped the "perfect picture". One particularly annoying woman was whistling to her friend on the other side of the roped off area. (the kind of whistle where you put two fingers in your mouth and blow--never could do it myself)

It was hard to focus with the disturbances, but I tried to concentrate on my business and realize that everyone was worshipping in his own way. I just felt so lucky to be there!
I also said a special prayer of thanks for that general who disobeyed Hitler's direct order to blow up Paris when the Germans retreated.

Just south of this area I wandered down a tiny street and the smell of roasting meat brought me to a restaurant with their spit outside. Chicken and other meats were cooking away. The menu looked inviting so in I went. I received a warm welcome, a seat and menu.

The foodies here will probably turn up their noses, but there were two early bird specials where one could have a choice of starter, main dish and dessert for 10E or three courses for 15E. I chose salad, chicken with mushroom gravy, and dessert for 10E.
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Sep 30th, 2013, 12:45 PM
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Back to my hotel with soaked feet.

The next day was overcast. I rolled up that poncho and stuck it in the outside pocket of my purse and set off for the day. I bought a two day ticket 44E for the HOHO bus which covered 4 routes and the 8 stops of the batobus. Perhaps not a great use of money but for my painful foot it worked. I rode and got off when I wanted. I would wander and then get back on the next bus.

First stop
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Sep 30th, 2013, 12:55 PM
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Just got kicked off again.

First place I got off was in the Sacre Couer area. Walked about a bit and then back on the bus. Got off in Place de la Concorde. A break in the weather with sunny streaks against a black sky--great for photographs.
Got off at a couple of garden areas. Took the boat from Eiffel back up the Seine to ND. It rained a bit, but it was ok as I was undercover on the boat. Ended back at the same restaurant as last night. The waiter recognized me and welcomed me back. This night I had the 15E special. Started with terinne (pate) with salad, then duck with orange sauce, and crème brulee. Delish (at least to my uneducated palate).

The place played American music from the sixties. One of the waiters came over and asked if I remembered the number that was playing at that point. He said he remembered it as a teenager and thought I might be about the same age. I said I remembered hearing it in my twenties. When he heard how old I was, he said he thought I was much younger.

Well, guess what?! That brought me back for my last night in Paris the next evening.
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Sep 30th, 2013, 01:09 PM
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Last day in Paris. Did the bus and boat again. Stopped at the DOrsay and L'Orangerie. Big art museums overwhelm me.
Stood in line for 45 minutes to get through security at the D'Orsay. Standing is even harder than walking on a hurt foot.

Bought a ticket combo with L'Orangerie. Wandered and saw some of my favorites. I am especially fond of Millet, so I spent most of my time in that gallery. Stopped to see some others, hit the WC, and then decided I needed to eat.

The line at the café was long--20 minute wait, and then the seats were at areas where you had to get up on a bar stool to sit. I didn't think I would make it. But somehow in one awkward move, got myself seated.

Then a walk over to Orangerie. Not as impressed with this one. Maybe I was just too tired.

Back on the bus and boat. While on the boat, I met a young man who was in Europe forgetting his sorrow. His fiancée had dumped him two weeks before their wedding, so he said he decided to come to Europe and stay as long as his money lasted and then go home. I listened to his tale of woe and knew he had been living on bread and cheese and an occasional salad, so I invited him to supper with me at my favorite place.

I had the 15E menu again--this time pate, steak tips, and meringue dessert. I told him to have whatever he wanted and he ate like any healthy young man in his twenties. Wonder if they thought I had picked up a toyboy!

Then it was off to the Eiffel tower for me and he went off to see some more sights. He thanked me gravely as we went our separate ways and said it had been like being with his favorite great aunt for the meal.

Seeing the Eiffel tower lit up and then watching the sparkling lights come on was special. There were lots of people around and there was a collective ohhhhhh when the sparkles came on. sort of like when the first rocket goes up at Fourth of July fireworks.

The HOHO bus stops running at 7 in September so I got myself home on the Metro. Three changes, but made it to the stop which was right in front of my hotel.
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Oct 2nd, 2013, 05:37 AM
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I forgot to mention that I did revisit the Cluny Museum and enjoyed it as much as I did the first time. I am a fan of things medieval and the museum is small enough not to be overwhelming, but large enough to include many interesting artifacts and much information.

Overheard as I stood in line:

Wife (perhaps SO, sister) to husband (SO, brother)The last time we were here you got lost.

Man: We got separated.

Woman under her breath but loud enough for me to hear: You were LOST!


Just a few thoughts as I prepared to leave Paris:

I enjoyed Paris, but try as I might, I could not put it up at the top of my favorite places. I had been going to skip Paris this trip, but after reading so many trip reports here, trip reports that sang the city's praises, trip reports that were love songs, trip reports that were exquisitely written, I decided to give it another go. Still missing that heart felt appeal for me.

There seems to be an awful lot of graffiti in the city. I guess cleaning it up would be a Sisyphaen task.

There were many kind and helpful people in the city. The man at the ticket counter who thanked me for trying to speak French, the people at the front desk of my hotel, the waiters at the little restaurant, the patience of the batoboat man while I searched for my ticket that I had thought was right at hand in my purse.

Parisians seem to be very respectful of old people. Many times I noted someone give up a seat for an older person or someone with mobility issues. I was grateful to be offered a seat several times, though not quite sure that I am complimented to be thought old.

Dogs are everywhere, but did not see one single cat in Paris (unless you count the "Chatte Noire" magnets and postcards).
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Oct 2nd, 2013, 06:00 AM
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On to Chartres. I fell in love with this city.

As I got off the train, I saw my hotel right in front of me across the bus stop. A friendly welcome. The hotel may be a bit worn about the edges, but was clean and in a great location. I was delighted not to have a duvet here. Duvets may be great, but this time of year, they are too warm. I wanted something like a thin blanket or sheet over me but there was only a duvet in every other hotel. Even with the window open and feeling chilly, if I went to bed with the duvet over me, I woke up in the night sweating.

It was a short walk up to the cathedral. Inside it seemed dark and dreary because of the cloudy skies outside. But there was still much to see. Mass was at 6 pm so I stayed--a good thinking time.

As I came out, it bean to rain and I had not come prepared so I slunk into the "La Serpente" café across the street. I never thought I would enjoy a place named the Snake, but it was a haven of warmth and good food that rainy evening. I had soup and a salad.

Back to the hotel for my raincoat before the evening "son et Lumiere" show at 9. It was jawdropping! The technicians who put the show together must have worked long and hard at this! Along with everyone in front of the cathedral, I ohed as the show began. It was that collective awe and joy that everyone feels when the first rocket goes up on the Fourth of July.

The next morning was another dreary day, but I was up and out early to explore the medieval city around the cathedral. I was enchanted. Stopped at the stained glass museum. Fascinating video of the technique. Large backlit pictures of the windows of the cathedral with explanations of their stories.

Mass at noon was another moment for reflection and gratitude.

Then it was off to the train in the rain. I left Chartres wishing that I had not made reservations ahead so that I could have stayed another day.
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Oct 2nd, 2013, 06:40 AM
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I'm really enjoying your report. No turned up noses here, the smell of roasting meat would bring me into a restaurant for sure. And I love the story of bringing your boy toy to the restaurant where the waiter had complimented you on your youthful appearance.
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Oct 2nd, 2013, 07:23 AM
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On my way to Rennes. I had met a couple at breakfast that had just come from Rennes and said I would love the medieval part of the city.

Now the trick was to get there. The ticket lady told me that I would have to change trains in Le Mans.

I boarded a pretty full train and soon dozed off as the rain beat against the windows of the train. The next thing I knew the woman across from me was shaking my knee and in my stupor I thought she said, "Everyone out here!" Actually she must have been telling me that this might be my stop. I followed many people off the train before I realized that the station was not Le Mans. the train was chugging down the track before I could get back on.

I found the ticket man on the platform and explained what had happened and asked if my ticket was still good. He said yes, but that the next train was not for two hours. Inside I went to wait. The arrivals board kept saying "on time" but suddenly about twenty minutes before it was due, it flashed that due to a problem on the tracks, the train would not arrive at all. But the five thirty (next one) was still listed as on time.

A little old train came chugging up the tracks soon and those of us waiting in the station boarded. And we waited and we waited and waited. Finally several busses drew up and disgorged a herd of passengers. Apparently they had come from the stuck train. At last we went chugging off for Le Mans.

In Le Mans I had an hour to wait for the Rennes train. That train was fairly full as well. The conductor came around and frowned at my ticket and said it was only good on the earlier train and that I owed another 10E. He had a little computer like machine and I was able to pay with my credit card. He got several other people as well.

About 8:30 we pulled into Rennes. For some reason I had not expected such a big place. I guess it was all the pictures of medieval Rennes that I had seen on line. Checked into my hotel and to bed.

The next morning the rain was bucketing down and I went to pick up my rental car at the train station-- a little Fiat 500.
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Oct 3rd, 2013, 04:20 PM
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Thanks Nikki for your kind words and for sticking with my saga.

The office of Europcar was very efficient and helpful. They had my contract ready and when the lady saw me limping, she had one of the fellows drive me to the lot. We whizzed through two other rental lots. Hit speed bumps full speed ahead. Thought my head would go through the roof of the car.

I had a moment of panic as I saw another car go bucking off. I wondered if I would do that in front of the fellows working in the area. Luckily driving a stick shift came back to me and I made a smooth start. However I did have problems with the ticket at the gate, but it was soon sorted out.

The map they gave me was crappy--not much detail. But I knew enough to look for "toutes directions" to get me out of the city and onto the ring road. However, I missed the exit for Quimper and took the next one which soon had me out on a country road which was not on the map.

The first town I came to had a supermarket called SupewrU. I dashed in and bought a road atlas with lots of detail and some stuff for a picnic on the road. I was soon on the way to Quimper.

Rain still belting down.
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Oct 3rd, 2013, 04:35 PM
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The next day dawned sunny and I set off to explore the countryside. Went through several small towns all prettied up with flower boxes, etc.

I visited several town museums. They were just about right to give a picture of local life through the last couple thousand years or so. Not a lot of detail, but a decent overview. I reflected on how awful the time of German occupations was. Not enough food, the indignity of being searched especially if you were a woman, never knowing when you or a loved one would be picked up for perceived or real resistance activity, when you might be hauled off to a labor camp or worse.

I stopped in the very small village where my neighbor grew up. She and her husband came to this country right after the war and real example of hard work-move up sort of story. Her husband was in the resistance and barely escaped two or three times.

The town was just a few houses, a church, the main road through it, and a few little side streets that led off into farmlands. It was buttoned up tight on a Sunday afternoon. I only saw two other people--a couple of ladies who got into a car and drove off. In spite of flower boxes around the church and two houses which had recently been painted bright colors, there was a sad air about the place. There were quite a few houses that had been boarded up and appeared to have been long abandoned. But I took some pictures for my friend and said a prayer.

last stop Concarneau, a seaside town with a harbor full of little sailboats and a medieval fort at the mouth of the harbor. Wandered about and enjoyed watching the families on a Sunday outing. Watched a bunch of 8 or 9 year old boys horsing around and could just picture some of my students doing the same sort of thing.

Not much seemed to be open by way of places to eat by late afternoon except for a couple of unappealing looking bars, so I packed it in shortly after five and headed back to Quimper as it began to rain again.
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Oct 3rd, 2013, 04:52 PM
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Next day off to Quiberon on a peninsula into the Atlantic.

Stopped at several "standing stone" sites and several portal tombs. The tombs reminded me of ones I have seen in Ireland.
The standing stones at Carnac were amazing! It had been showery off and on during the day, but the sun came out at that point. The light slanted across the field and the stones stood out against a black sky. stunning! Wonder what they meant and why they were put up.

Stopped in la-trinite-sur-mer, a seaside town which I had seen mentioned by one of you fodorites along the way. The weather was moving in and there was a definite chill to the air as the waves crashed up on the rocks. There were some pleasure craft tied up in the harbor. Lots of people out walking along the shore in spite of the weather.

Back to Quiberon and the sun was out again. Drove along the beach, parked and watched the waves come up. They were mesmerizing! the sun was in and out of the clouds and I watched the clors on the water change a hundred times.

On the way back to my hotel, I had a scary experience. I saw this little narrow street that I thought led down to a harbor which looked as if it had photo potential. So I drove down, realized there was no place to park and no way out. There was just a tiny turn around and no rails around the edge! Glad that I had already had some practice with the reverse and that I knew how to find it.

I managed a turn around in five goes but I had visions of going over the edge and into the drink!
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