Joie de vivre! The French certainly seem able to demonstrate the joy of life far better than us Brits. They also celebrate Pharmacies to a surprising extent, as each village or town we’ve so far travelled through seems to always have at least two, advertising their presence with green neon crosses flashing excitedly outside their premises.
And this morning, when we stopped in Plabennec for our first boulangerie visit of this trip, we were amused by an outward demonstration of French joie de vivre, mounted proudly on the wall of such a Pharmacy.
While we Brits are busy bolting publicly accessible defibrillators to the outside walls of our retail and office premises, in a seemingly desperate advertisement of our current national state of health, the French, God bless ’em, are mounting Durex dispensers on theirs. I kid you not. There, proudly mounted on the wall of a busy Pharmacy, was a 24/7 put-your-money-in the-slot emergency condom dispensing machine. And not a defibrillator in sight!
So. The sun is shining, almost too brightly to see the screen as I type – sitting in the van, which is perched in a small car-park overlooking the blustery harbour and sea-front of Camaret-sur-mer, a cheerfully agreeable resort on the tip of the Presqu’Ile De Crozon peninsula, to which we have wended our way, after departing our trout-farm stopover of the night previous.
For the record, the evening prior, we enjoyed a 90-minute forest walk – accompanied by un grand chien belonging to the fish-farmer, and which appeared to be half-dog and half-bear as it hurtled around our feet and splashed noisily in the river along the banks of which we walked. Alarmingly, it then disappeared completely before our half-way point, to greet us cheerfully on our return to the van, a cool 11,000 paces up on our earlier tally. This thankfully justified an all-you-could-eat Ready Steady Cook in-van dining experience – enjoyed while fairly relentless heavy rain splashed noisily on our roof for most of the evening.
Morning thankfully provided a clear blue sky as we trundled off-site in search of the much-anticipated “aires” – free-to-use service points specifically for Knumpty Motorhomers – and for which we had a map dedicated to their locations throughout France. Well, despite the map and some more excellent navigation from The Last Capable Map Reader To Walk The Earth, could we find the damn things, which should have been locatable in municipal car-parks? Non.
Until we reached the small and intriguingly named riverside village of Hopital Camfrout, (an historic place of healing besides a sinuous stream, apparently) where we pulled up and wandered around on foot, almost giving up hope of locating the indicated Aire, when there it was – a small stainless steel monolith, sprouting taps, holes and gullies, into which we were delightedly able to empty waste-waters, refill and refresh and generally dance around like excited schoolchildren who’d just been given an extra day’s holiday for performing well at Speech Day.
Suitably refreshed and replenished, onwards we trundled, on surprisingly quiet roads and across amazing bridges as we reached the west coast we had been aiming for since we’d made landfall at Roscoff.
Now chronologically out of kilter, the story finds itself back at Camaret-Sur-Mer, where – after much driving about (including a gentle and rather surprising trundle through the middle of a funfair being set-up on the quayside) we parked up above – and overlooking – the town. Continuing bright sunshine coaxed us out for a walkabout, although a stiff sea-breeze kept us moving – out along the harbour wall and past the most amazingly large boats – all timber hulled and all abandoned very neatly together in an orderly row, rotting gently for the benefit of numerous photographers (including us), all striving to achieve the most artistic angles and pictorial compositions. The quayside Fisherman’s church sat squat alongside a solidly Napoleonic-looking, four square moated fortification and provided yet more photographic opportunities.
As evening arrived, we ventured into the town again, where the funfair was just getting its legs out, and while stallholders braved the continuing sea-breezes, we found the quaintest of the quayside restaurants, the imaginatively-named Restaurant Del Mare, where in broken Franglais, we managed to order dinner.
Emerging now into true darkness, we might have found the funfair in full swing, had there been anybody else but us to patronise it. The lights were flashing, the sound-systems were pumping, the smell of frying doughnuts mixed headily with that of freshly-stranded barbe-a-papa, and whilst being the sole inhabitants might have been a bit of an exaggeration, we did feel slightly sorry for the generally glum faces of the stallholders as a trickle of potential punters mostly promenaded in an orderly line down the middle of the street, avoiding as best they could any temptation to part with their money.
There were, however, two points of note on each of the two Hook-a-Duck stalls: they were both offering real live goldfish in plastic bags as prizes, a sight unseen since it was deemed politically incorrect (and probably downright cruel) to offer such livestock as motivation in the UK. And for those less fortunate clients who may only have hooked enough points to warrant a prize off the back-wall, these prizes were very clearly arranged into the best demonstration of gender-stereotyping since the advent of public toilets, in that one side of the stall was festooned with childrens’ novelties in every conceivable shade of pink, while the other half of the stall proudly displayed a range of camouflaged military-derived toys you could ever hope to shake a stick at.