What about the landscape, I hear you cry. Tell us more about the landscape through which you must surely be driving all those kilometres? We need more detail. We want to picture it in our mind’s eye, through your eloquent and well-observed metaphors and similes. Paint a picture for us so that we may feel part of your trip, your journey, your odyssey.
OK. It’s mostly green.
Seriously, I’ve been giving some thought to how the scenery might be described, how it differs from the UK, what makes it different, exciting, awe-inspiring, marvellous, classically French? And the truth is, I don’t think I know.
For the most part, we’ve kept off the autoroutes and used good-quality and well-signposted secondary routes, through rural areas, all of which have had a neatness and tidiness that you don’t seem to see in the UK. Farms, many of them arable, don’t seem to have the same amount of abandoned clutter, outmoded equipment and rusting, tumble-down barns. There’s plenty of cattle in the well-ordered fields but no sheep spotted yet (although a Boucherie in Vannes market had the most fantastic array of lamb, including the double-sided Barnsley chops, although I suspect they weren’t called that in this particular arrondissement – and no, we didn’t check the prices.)
We’ve also been staying at ‘France Passion’ sites – a very simple and quietly-word-of-mouth-marketed national network of rural facilities which offer free overnight parking specifically for Motorhomes. We’re therefore mostly off the beaten-track and although the sites couldn’t be truly described as picturesque, they are ‘real’ and provide an unembellished insight into rural France (which, so far, has indeed proved mostly green.) When we arrived last night after-hours at a site which included a Farm Shop, we were able to negotiate with our Host to open said shop and allow us to procure sausage, lettuce, cider, a bottle of very fine Muscadet (which is currently lubricating the author as he types), a bulb of garlic, butter (just patted into a vague shape and wrapped in greaseproof paper), tomatoes, potatoes and a jar of local apple sauce, most of which became a very palatable in-van supper as the quietening dusk fell around us.
In terms of the greater landscape of the North Western French coastal region, we did witness one striking feature as we left Camaret-Sur-Mer, to drive across country with an early-morning mist solidifying in the heather-swathed valleys. A high bank of heather and ferns at the side of the road was floodlit by the low-angled light of morning sunshine, illuminating a carefully curated gallery of spiders’ webs – literally hundreds of them, each about the size of a dinner-plate – arrayed in close proximity across a hundred metres of foliage, with each and every carefully woven silken strand exquisitely and delicately highlighted by myriad droplets of morning dew, mirroring the sun and providing the most breathtaking and accidental natural artwork.
The only other observation to offer is that the landscape is Impressionistic, reflecting the vivid juxtaposition of colours (OK, mainly differing shades of green) which dominated many of the semi-abstract Impressionist paintings we all know, admire and love – but can’t attribute to specific artists through a frustrating lack of in-depth knowledge of the subject. Suffice it to say that the landscape and its artistic representations feel somehow cyclical in that they continually inspire, inform and interpret each other. Does that make any sense? Must be bedtime.