Friday, July 21, 2006

Family holiday territory

Today we're in Benodet - a whopping six miles from Loctudy. Benodet is a well-organised resort with a beautiful river, the Odet. We’ve been here before (see below), and we took the petit train which played a Benodet song, which we’ve been singing for the past eight years. Yesterday we saw the train but it was silent. Today we splashed out a ridiculous amount on taking the train and heard the song. Hooray!

I'm sitting in a hotel lobby where we have expensive but fast wi-fi access. No French keyboards, hooray!

Wednesday 19 July
Audierne and Loctudy

From Camaret we headed to Audierne, through the terrifying Raz de Sein – another deadly tidal race. It forgot to be terrifying on the day we went through – as instructed, at slack water, with very little wind and brilliant blue skies (see below). We allowed so much time that we were able to sail for part of the way.

At Audierne most people anchor or pick up a mooring buoy at the river mouth but Guy felt strongly that he wanted to be alongside, so we headed up the river to the town marina a couple of hours before high water. This was the source of some friction, as Sam didn’t really want to leave the anchorage, which was airy and a lovely place to swim around the boat, but didn’t want to say so. The entrance to Audierne was quite tricky, and of course the little marina was full so we had to raft up three deep. When we left the next morning Guy threw a wobbly because he’d wanted to stay another night. Not a big success, really, although Audierne is a pleasant little fishing town.

From Audierne to Loctudy, which is lovely – although the entrance is rather scarily shallow. For the first time since Treguier we were greeted by a man in a dinghy and shown to a berth, which made us feel very welcome. There are beautiful views up and down the river and its islands from the marina – the only downside is that it’s a 1km walk to the village and the beach. The most bizarre thing about Loctudy was that we realised we’d been there before – on a complicated family holiday in the late nineties, when we rented a house for two weeks at La Foret Fouesnant, just along the coast, and had Sam’s mother and brother to stay with us for a week. In case we had any doubts, we opened the Rough Guide to Normandy and Brittany, which I’d just discovered at the back of a shelf on the boat, and a receipt for a meal for four from Loctudy, from 6 August 1998, fluttered out.

Loctudy has a big fishing port which you walk through on the way to the village, so we were able to buy ourselves mega-fresh shellfish – whelks, mussels and prawns - for dinner one evening. (The boys had chicken. Sigh. However, Guy did cook it, which was a huge positive).

Cooking is becoming a considerable challenge, as Ben doesn’t like cheese, fish, rice, French ham or salami, mushrooms or French bread, and Guy has now gone off seafood, doesn’t like most vegetables and doesn’t like bread much either. Currently the only foods acceptable to the whole family are cucumber, pasta, potatoes, tuna, frankfurters and pizza. Fresh food has to be stored on board in our small fridge, which is switched off if we’re sailing or at anchor. Shopping is also a challenge, because most French towns, as in the UK, now have their supermarchés on the edge of town, easily accessible by car but not by foot from the harbour. In Benodet, where we are now, it’s a 10-minute walk to a big Champion, where Sam and I went last night. It’s the first time I’ve been in a big supermarket for five weeks and it felt a bit overwhelming. These guys know their clientele though – at the back of the store is an exotic food section, stocking not just Chinese and tex-mex but also Marmite, HP Sauce and Typhoo tea.

The other currently interesting fact is that it’s very hot – 32 degrees by late afternoon. However, as I understand it’s equally hot in the UK at the moment, it’s hard to know how much of this is due to the fact that we’re 300 miles south of our home. Our canopy and wind scoop are earning their keep and we’re trying to get into the way of having a siesta after lunch rather than rushing around in the scorching heat.

Monday 17 July

We enjoyed our day out in Brest – modern but interesting, with warships and weapons down in the port and lunch at a Subway (American-style long sandwiches) to keep Guy happy. In the evening Ben and I swam from the beach, where the sea had just come in over acres of baking sand and was really warm.

From Brest we headed very gently to Camaret. This was perfect, easy sailing: only 10 miles to cover, a gentle breeze in the right direction, tide with us, and flat, sheltered waters. Oh yes, and a baking hot sun. Bliss. Next time we get these conditions could be a while!

Camaret is a lovely fishing and tourist village which gets extremely full in summer. Arriving at 2pm on Sunday we were very lucky to take a berth in the central marina just as a French boat headed out of it. Even more luckily, no-one rafted up to us! There was a local craft fair running when we arrived which provided plenty of interest and atmosphere, a nice beach where we all swam, and we went out for dinner and had the obligatory assiette de fruit de mer – only a modest one with half a crab each, four oysters, a dozen langoustines, whelks, winkles and a few mussels.

above, Sam with potential restoration project...

I’ll leave Ben to describe the other main excitement of the evening as he was most closely involved. Here's a clue though:

From here we head through the next notorious tidal race, the Raz de Sein, and enter South Brittany proper. I’ve been checking my tidal calculations in my head for two days, but the winds are again quite light so we should be OK.

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