Apres Le Deluge

5EE4A8E5-B21A-441E-9F09-9DB576734491Today it has rained. And then it has rained some more. In fact, il a plu beaucoup. It wasn’t unexpected however, as the Navigator Par Excellence is also The Weather Girl in her spare time, so we were appraised of the situation even as we sat out yesterday evening on the deck of our shellfish farm, where the lowering sun witnessed our consumption of molluscs, crustaceans and ubiquitous frites.
However, we mustn’t let this continuing excitement run ahead of us, and yesterday’s exploits were promised today, as we did get rather carried away over a water-pump. So, you’re naturally and curiously asking at this point, what happened during the rest of our day?
Well, I’m very glad you’ve asked – because, like it or not, you’re about to learn more. And it involves a trip down what would normally be classed as Memory Lane, since we returned to visit Concarneau, a largish town on the west coast, where, approximately 26-ish years previously, we had holidayed with several small, and therefore demanding offspring. Admittedly, we were accompanied by relatives who were themselves also parents of similarly youngish offspring, so what should have been a holiday of mutual support just turned into a fortnight of 5am starts and mutual abject exhaustion. And it rained then too. For a fortnight. So much so, in fact, that the clasps on our cheap suitcases, stored under beds around our rented maison, all turned rusty – a tale which has entered and remained firmly embedded in family folklore.
So, Memory Lane having been extensively redeveloped into Exhaustion Highway, our arrival yesterday into Concarneau triggered absolutely no recall of our previous visit whatsoever. It was however, a very pleasant experience, as our Motorhome gave us privileges denied to lesser beings, in that we could access dedicated parking at an Aire, on the site of the now-disused Gare, a mere step or two into the centre-ville.
What amazed us was our collective numbers. There were motorhomes bloody everywhere. Mostly bigger, grander and more modern than ours but we delighted in the fact that one of the few remaining spaces available happened to be right next to exactly the same make and model as ours, bearing German plates and (wouldn’t you know it) occupants who of course spoke perfect English. We congratulated each other on our impeccable taste in ‘camping car’ as the French rather quaintly call them; fed the parking machine a paltry sum and strolled in warm sunshine down a bunting-dressed High Street to a delightfully cosmopolitan port, with a choice of pavement bistros, restaurants and creperies.
Our earlier water-pump activities had left us sans breakfast, so our first task was to indulge in two large savoury galettes (Breton buckwheat pancakes) stuffed full of every conceivable breakfast item we could think of, sitting in the sunshine at tables outside one of numerous eateries overlooking the mediaeval walled Old Town, of which neither of us again could recall from our previous visit.
Suitably fortified (geddit?), we entered the Old Town and were taken aback by a pedestrian Main Street positively buzzing with tourists and lined on both sides by low-ceilinged but cavernous shops, selling all manner of upmarket souvenirs, trendy art, jolly-matelot stripy sweaters and various intriguing sweetmeats. In addition, English was suddenly heard to be the prevalent language. Not, I hasten to add, from the good burghers of Old Town Concarneau keen to extend entente cordial or to boost their sales – but by the predominance of drained-looking English parents pushing buggies, roaming the cobbled alleyways and explaining patiently in that teeth-gritting way of the angrily suppressed English middle classes just why Jocasta and Henry couldn’t have yet another bag of marshmallows and James, please stop poking Sophie with your pirate sword, or I’ll take it off you. Ah, happy days.
A walk around the old town walls extended itself accidentally into a continuance along a promenade-of-sorts, and with her now pedestrianised map-reading skills still well to the fore, we enjoyed a gentle Fit-bit measured stroll of over 10,000 paces back to the van, almost unidentifiable amidst the assembled Concourse d’Elegance of The Numptydom of European Nations.
Onwards. Turning to our France Passion Guidebook of interesting places where we could stopover for free (ostensibly in exchange for our purchasing goods or services from our hosts, but no pressure) we sped as best we could towards a shell-fish farm, purporting to offer a range of farmed oysters, clams and other shellfish plus crustaceans such as crab and lobster.
As expected, the facility was on the water’s edge at the end of a pine-lined lane and was – perhaps inevitably – more industrial than picturesque, but we claimed the last slot amongst five other vans; introduced ourselves (as instructed by the guidelines) to a fairly indifferent host, and set about peering into all the gurgling tanks full of fairly passive oysters and fairly humongous lobsters.
Indecision about our evening dining plans quickly turned positive when we found a tabled-deck overlooking a sheltered tidal bay, and a menu which provided a vast array of seafood. With classic French salesmanship, a table in the completely empty restaurant could be made available to us at 7pm, and no later, so – excited by the prospect of hot in-van showers, we spent the next frenzied 15 minutes readying ourselves to dine out.
We enjoyed our simple meals of moule mariniere and crevettes something-or-other (which Google managed  to translate, intriguingly, as “shrimp pupils”) but my-oh-my, we were rather outshone by the couple on the next table who seemed to have ordered the entire Atlantic Ocean. This amazing menu item did appear to contain the entire edible content of the second largest ocean on the planet, served up on one huge platter, with two full-sized shell-on crabs as its centre-piece, surrounded by ring after beautifully arranged ring of oysters, clams, mussels, langoustine, prawns and shrimps, the latter of which simply hung over the edge of the dish as if clinging to a sinking ship. We couldn’t even begin to guess what it must have cost, but they did have the biggest, smartest, longest, flashiest motorhome on the pitch!

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