Adventures and misadventures in France.

Posts tagged ‘Breton’

Beaches of France : Guerande and La Turballe

Part 3

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This funny instrument is called a vielle à roue, or a hurdy gurdy.

Guerande is a fortified medieval city just north of La Baule and St. Nazaire. We decided to drop by the inner city on the way home from our beach weekend to visit the original church, get some lunch, and maybe sample their Brittany wares. The region is known its heavy Breton influence, sailing culture, and coarse salt production. Today, the city is filled with artisans and their shops selling paintings and sculptures.

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Later in the afternoon, we wanted to get a look at the marais salants, salt flats, in La Turballe. Not much to see, just piles of delicious lying around.

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Oh boy! Salt!

Next to the flats, we found a parking lot with signage leading to a beach. Adding to our weekend of spontaneity, we decided to take a stroll to check it out. Fifteen minutes of marching through a forest filled with picnicking families and the beach finally came into view. On such a hot day, we were excited to finally see a natural and tranquil beach. We finally reached the top of the dunes and looked down to admire the clear water and the bay below.

The face of ignorance

The face of blissful ignorance.

Look at that view! The sand is so soft! Let’s go dip our feet in the water!

Hey that’s weird… there’s a woman swimming – naked? And there’s another guy and he’s – also naked? And those people over there… and… uh oh…

As it turns out, this particular beach was far more natural than anticipated. We had stumbled upon an unofficial naturist beach. Standing at the top of the dunes, we tried not to stare as couples, families, and groups of friends all paraded past us to enjoy their naked day at the beach. After a few moments of shocked silence and attempts at nonchalance, Max turned to me and asked:

Can we go back to the car now?

Maybe next time, Naked Beach.

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“Toss the Hay Bale” and Other Traditions

Another day, another local French tradition. We had the opportunity to visit Max’s hometown for La Fete du Roy, or the King’s Festival to celebrate France’s medieval heritage. Every year, the village gathers together and chooses a roi and a renne, who they then dress in traditional costumes and parade through the town. In the afternoon, we enjoyed crepes and a traditional beverage made with red wine, honey, and ginger, while people participated in a variety of games. One involved tossing a bale of hay with a pitchfork, a bowling-like game called quilles, and a  bocce-like game called palets played with small metal disks. Later in the evening, a theatre troupe called the Campagnie Patrick Cosnet gave a bizarre and lively musical homage to the comedy singer Pierre Perret.

Soccer and Disco

Max’s soccer team recently celebrated their fiftieth anniversary with a barbecue and soirée. It’s the only soccer team in a small rural town, so many of the town’s families have seen multiple generations of players. Max was mostly occupied with grilling and serving at the bar, but he took the time to point out some of the local celebrities:

That’s the oldest town resident. He’s 98 years old, and used to walk 6 kilometers to the neighboring town holding hands with his wife every day.

That’s the town mayor, also the only teacher at the school.

That’s the only town police officer, who’s also the local alcoholic.

Max’s brother was a team co-president this year, so he gave a speech. In the afternoon, the current team members played alongside alumni in a tournament. We even had a surprise visit from our patron and his dragster mustang.

In the evening, the team rented a hall and DJ for a dinner buffet with hours of dancing. Max’s dad surprised us all with his disco fever and ‘Gangnam Style’ moves. A couple of the team girlfriends roped me into attempting a traditional Bréton dance. Everyone had a wonderful and rowdy time.

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