With a view to positioning ourselves within easy striking distance of the ferry port of Roscoff in preparation for our return home, The Navigator Par Excellence had guided us away from the wind- (and sadly mostly rain-) swept French Atlantic coast to kiss the edges of La Manche, where the wind dropped, the inhospitable waves abated and we found ourselves in the low-key and therefore very agreeable harbour-town of Binic.
Binic featured little in any of the tourist guide books we had consulted during our trip, save for a tiny dot on a map placed by companionable and better-prepared motorhomers than us, who had provided an extensive (and very beautifully catalogued) list of suggested locations which led us here.
Gratifyingly, we were clearly expected, as the now familiar “Knumptyers This Way” signage appeared on our approach to the town. A visit to the Tourist Office confirmed the availability of an ‘Aire’ just a little way inland from the attractive harbour, to which we wended our way, to find ourselves both pleased and disheartened in equal measure in that there was space for us amongst well-ordered double-semicircles of other Knumpty Vans, all parked up with just a noggin of breathing-space between each one.
We dutifully followed suit and parked up, unhitching the bikes and immediately setting out on a cycle-based exploration of the town. Centred around an attractive inner-harbour which was almost as well-populated with abandoned yachts as the Aire was with motorhomes, we enjoyed the relaxed and welcoming atmosphere of the open-fronted cafes, bars and restaurants. A little further beyond the Harbourmaster’s funky-looking post-modernist architect-designed offices, an outer harbour played host to an array of motor-boats, all at that time mired in mud, but all facing the gap in the harbour wall in excited anticipation of a returning, liberating tide.
There was an end-of-season emptiness to the promenade – which terminated in a combined gap-and-tunnel through natural cliffs allowing access to a further sandy beach beyond. This picturesque arrangement imparted a sense that we’d reached a continental version of Tenby, with a bit less overt commercialism and a complete dearth of Scouse or Brummy accents.
The sun shone. And we were warmed. In fact, it became so uncharacteristically warm that the Restaurant waitress who greeted our enquiry about a table for two for their hoarding-advertised lobster lunch became quite concerned that we wanted to sit at one of her pavement tables, in full sun. Until, of course, she realised from our accents that we were not only English but also Scouse and Brummy – and left us to roast while we tucked unashamedly into her delicious lobster and frites.
Meanwhile, a couple of maverick motorhomers had parked up on the harbour front, giving us license to join them, which we did, moving the Knumptwagen stealthily (and with some small degree of guilt) from the crowded Aire to find ourselves a level spot with an unimpeded view of the outer harbour.
This outer harbour was protected from the ravaging sea by an impressive stone-built breakwater wall which extended its protective arm out to a small lighthouse on its point. It was clear from the gathering of anglers already awaiting the incoming tide that this was an optimistic place to cast a set of mackerel-feathers so, replete and with pinkening skin, we then quickly made our way to join the throng, having tackled up a couple of our trusty fishing rods.
We’d already noticed that the beaches surrounding the harbour were unusually flat and extensive in their width, which confirmed our speculation that the tide would return swiftly. This it indeed did, rising at a surprising pace up the harbour walls and allowing us all – with unrehearsed synchronicity – to hurl leaded lines and flailing feathers into it’s swirling thrust. With these endeavours, a few of us landed small, but nonetheless rewarding mackerel, which we then took back and pan-fried like sardines for supper, with lemon and buttery juices mopped up with nubs of baguette.
We were so enamoured with the accessible charms of Binic that we stayed parked up on the harbour front for two nights, enjoying walks around the town and the harbour as well as a brief and thoroughly British attempt to sit on the beach (this adventure cut short by a disappointing and lengthy withdrawal of sunshine.) A further cycle-ride led us to the intensive exploration of a harbour-side and impossibly over-stocked Chandlery shop (with which I was so enamoured that I’d be happy to have my ashes sprinkled within); the best Boulangerie Patisserie of the whole trip and finally, a surprise street-market which sprang up overnight – which hosted an amazing selection of stalls including a horse-butcher; goats’-cheese specialist; greengrocery which included multi-coloured carrots and spiky-walled pyramids of artichokes and finally, a spectacular stall dedicated solely to onions of every conceivable shape, size and pungency.
Roscoff eventually exerted its influence, and we reluctantly set off for the ferry, via yet another airport-terminal-sized Leclerc hypermarket to fill the van’s remaining nooks and crannies with souvenirs, gifts and well, yes, since you ask, more wine. In good time, we joined a queue of other homebound Motorhomes – feverishly cleaning the interior of the van while-we-waited, much to the amusement of the couple parked up behind us before rattling and and rolling onboard for the journey across La Manche back to dear old Blighty.