Monday, March 5, 2012

Where Guidebooks Fear to Tread

Michelin's map of Brittany

Actually, guidebooks do exist about a couple of the lesser known places on David's and my itinerary this spring, but we had to special order them. While several books about European countries crowd the library shelves, there were none about the Brittany and Normandy areas of France. 

Still, we were undeterred. I've wanted to see Brittany ever since I read Mark Greenside's intriguing book, I'll Never Be French. When I wasn't laughing out loud about his attempts to understand French culture, I was delighted by his description of an area that seemed to jut away from France like some rogue appendage, 150 miles out to sea. A place where rivers meander aimlessly but, nevertheless, charmingly, down to harbors clustered with sailboats.  Not only is the whole of Brittany dotted with cobblestoned old cities and a few castles while a rugged coastline jogs along its perimeter, but it's inhabited by independent folks of Celtic and French descent. Add culinary treats like crepes and galettes (made from buckwheat), artisanal cheeses, and special buttery cakes called kouign amann, and you can see why I absolutely have to see this part of France.

David's goals are more noble. He's wanted to visit the Normandy battlefields since his dad first told him about World War II. He wants to walk every battle site, linger at the museums, and see the town where The Longest Day parachutists were shot as they floated down from the sky. We've scheduled four nights near Picauville, but it may not be long enough for him.

Then, too, both of us think it would be interesting to visit some of the areas that inspired the Impressionists. I've been to Auvers sur Oise, the tiny town that seems to meander beside the banks of the river, the place where Van Gogh spent the last few months of his life. But after having toured l'Orangerie Museum in Paris where Monet's water lily paintings are displayed, David and I are anxious to see the gardens that gave birth to that art. So, in addition to Brittany and Normandy, we've added Monet's home in Giverney to our list and hope to see a few of the other towns that inspired other artists, too.

The other place on our wish list this year is London which poses no problems in terms of gathering information; guidebooks, websites, and blogs abound about this great city. But figuring an itinerary and managing the logistics have occupied most of our wintertime musings.

Here are just a few of the questions we've pondered: Do we have to rent a car because we're covering so much territory in France? We're taking a non-stop from San Diego to London, so what's the best way to get to France to rent that car? Is it better to take the Eurostar train or the ferry? We don't want to re-trace our route in France, so can we pick up a car in one city and drop it off in another--and still get back to London? How can we avoid the Olympic hoopla in London?

I'll tell you all about our plans in the next few blog posts.

1 comment:

  1. Hi Dru,
    Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving a comment - I'm so glad we have connected! I appreciate your offer for help with Paris, and I just may take you up on that :)