Saturday, 23 June 2007

From Brittany to the Loire

This post covers our last 2 days in Brittany (including Sarah's semi-naked dash and my walkabout in search of chemical toilet emptying station) and our stay at a vineyard in the Loire Valley.

On Tuesday we decided to go explore the alignments of Carnac. Around this area of Brittanny there are thousands of stones erected by pre-historic people, similar to those at Stonehenge, but the stones are not as large. In one field at Carnac there are over a thousand, mostly in long rows. Nobody knows exactly what these alignments were created for, but it is generally thought these people had a great knowledge of celestial movements which may have influenced them in moving these heavy stones. You can’t walk around them in summer because of erosion in the area, although they did let a herd of black sheep roam in amongst the stones!

Above: Alignments of Carnac
Below: Vannes

We headed back to the campsite for lunch and then went and put a load of washing in. Sarah realised that she wanted to wash the trousers she was wearing, so I convinced her that no one was about and to whip them off and walk back in her pants. It’s only like a bikini after all! She walked back with a large plastic bag around her and just as we got to Ace, one of our neighbours on the campsite pulled up to get an eyeful!

On Wednesday morning I had a delightful early morning stroll with two Dutch men and their chemical toilets. We walked around for 15 minutes in circles looking for where we could empty them. After much debate and conjecture with some Germans, we realised that you had to open up a manhole and tip your waste down it. How uncivilised!

We left St Trinity and headed towards the medieval city of Vannes. After stopping at a Carrefour to do our shopping, we went and explored the city. There are lots of beautiful half-timbered buildings and the town walls are mostly still in tact.

At the toilets in front of the town hall, men could use the urinal for free or it was 20 cents for the toilet. Women had to pay 20 cents either way of course. Sarah was disgusted at this sexist toilet arrangement, but I thought it was another case of the toilet gods being kind to men for our duty in emptying chemical toilets. We shared an ice-cream then headed off towards our stop for the night. We left Brittany behind and entered the Pays de la Loire region.

Before we left, we became members of a scheme called “France Passion” where you can stay at farms and vineyards for free all over France. Services are limited at these stops, you may get fresh water, you may get a toilet, you may get a rubbish bin, or you may have nothing at all. From our invitation book, we chose a vineyard on a hill overlooking the Loire River. There were many windy and hilly roads en route to our stop and we lost most of our fresh water, again, climbing the hill to this vineyard, it was that steep!

Upon arrival we set up in the allocated space for us, a large area of tarmac overlooking the valley and grape vines. We greeted the owner and his dog Bacchus (very aptly named as Bacchus was the Roman god of wine!) The owner was friendly but not the chatty type, He reminded us that his cave (wine cellar) would shortly be closing if we wanted a bottle. I had fears of these bottles being ultra-exclusive €50 bottles so was a bit nervous! We were under no obligation to buy anything of course, but once we entered the cave we tried both a Muscadet and a Rosé and bought a bottle of each for the princely sum of €6.50 for the two. The lady in the cave recommended the Muscadet to us as we told her we had bought fresh cod to cook for dinner. This type of Muscadet is one of the two AOC wines this region produces. AOC stands for “Apellation origine controllé” meaning that only wines from this area can use a particular name. This system is not only used for wine but cheese too. Both of the bottle we bought had won gold medals at an event in Nantes, the nearest large city.

Back in Ace we cooked up a storm and enjoyed the wine, debating whether this really constituted a free stop. Sarah was of the opinion it wasn’t really free as you will probably always end up buying wine when you go to a vineyard. (Lack of willpower I say!) If it tasted as good as the Muscadet, I wasn’t complaining! We watched the sun go down over the vineyard, the clouds turning pink and blue in the June sky and the sun illuminating the valley far below.
Left and 2 photos above: Vineyard in the Loire Valley

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