Thursday, July 25, 2013

Straw hat Sunday

Last Sunday was most terribly hot.  Nevertheless, my local blogging friend Lyse and I left our husbands sensibly taking siesta and ventured out to the Fête du chapeau de Paile in Quessoy (link in French). Lately I've made the acquaintance of a few bloggers in this area; we had a meeting a few weeks ago involving a walk, some local history and exchange of impressions and a couple of very enjoyable large fruit-filled Breton cakes.

Quessoy, not far from here, where I shop and pass through often, used to be famed for its straw hats, preferred by its inhabitants to the traditional black Breton felt ones.  This year, it was decided to commemorate this with a straw hat festival.  The wearing of straw hats was de rigueur - and on such a day not at all a bad idea - and if you didn't have one you could buy one for a Euro-fiver from this jolly young woman and her jolly barrow, which we did.

Wherever we saw her she always looked very cheerful despite the heat, as were all the volunteers there;

Some people were very merry indeed, a combination of sun and cider, I imagine, one chap who was doing very nicely kept trying to pay me for his straw hat while I was waiting for the above vendor to come back from her lunch. 

Sadly, these hats were not made locally, but presumably in a factory in the PRC or similar, but the money raised went to good causes, including the association Handichiens,

who provide and train these beautiful, noble dogs, mostly labradors, one golden retriever, to assist handicapped people.  

There were plenty of other stalls, including one selling real, handmade, local basket work -

which were enviable, but the price tags showed how much cheaper it is to bring things in from the PRC that have them made in the old ways by hand here - a large sturdy log basket with a strong plywood floor and lovely natural colourwork which I coveted would have set me back 130 euros.  I rather regret not buying a small egg basket or similar which I could have afforded, I'll have to look out for them elsewhere.

There was a woman selling painted glassware, and in the spirit of snap-now-edit-later, we pointed our little cameras at it like everything else.  She broke off talking to some potential customers (who took the opportunity to slope off) to ask defensively why we were photographing.  Lyse replied that it was possibly for her blog, and the woman looked a bit askance and asked if she was from the newspaper... In fact Lyse does write for the local paper too, she has a funny column written in Gallo, which she also blogs, of dialogues between a couple of earthy country gossips, Fifine and Torine, but she didn't choose to make anything of this.  I stood back and rather enjoyed the talking-to she delivered defending the rights of the blogger, the joy of sharing pleasant and interesting things with a wider public, and the possible advantages that might even accrue to such as the seller of glassware from it.  The latter was somewhat confounded, saying that sometimes people stole one's ideas... 

Frankly, seeing her work, I'm not sure why anyone would bother,

But I did find looking at an expanse of glassware on such a day, regardless of its aesthetic merit, did give me a pleasant sense of coolness.

Local fêtes here often seem to have a not-for-sale exhibition of a local persons hobby creations or collection, this woodworker is apparently quite well-known, and his models are certainly impressive:

In the one above the barrel bit in the middle was going round, not sure what manner of machine it is, something agricultural I imagine.

The wooden rocket transporter struck me as quite surreal, especially in front of the large emblazoned motto of the Republic on the wall of the Mairie behind, which I hadn't noticed when I took the photo.   In fact historically, Quessoy was a noted stronghold of anti-Republicanism; another local blogger, Quercus, crêpier of great renown (folk come from far and wide to Quessoy to buy his sweet crêpes and buckwheat galettes, and it was he who made the fruit-filled Breton cakes I mentioned) and very erudite local historian, recently wrote a post (in French) about how, back in the day, wearing the tricolour cockade, an obligation in Paris, could get you beaten up in Quessoy.

We took some refuge from the heat, and drank cold drinks under an awning in the school playground, where the ambiance and festivities were making the sometimes dour folk of this particular corner of the Pays Gallo act somewhat like rowdy Latins, took in the scene and chatted at length, about the matter of minority language and dialect, Anglo squeamishness about the matter of eating offal and calf-meat, anecdotes of growing-up in different times and places, and more besides.  

I picked up a kouignn aman from a bakers stall which was also selling little sponge cake Breton heraldic ermines,

and went home before the cake, and we, melted. Tom had requested I bring him back a straw hat, so I brought back two.  Lyse is modelling hers here, (with a bonus video of Sacha Distel singing Mon Beau Chapeau!) and here are some webcam pics of mine:

I know it's quite a lot of me, but I don't actually do a lot of self-portraits here, and I started to enjoy myself rather!

Lyse's account and photos of the day are on her blog here. It was fun, I hope they do it again.


Roderick Robinson said...

Gosh, it was nearly a case of fondre en larmes. Half a lifetime ago we celebrated our wedding anniversary at the restaurant which appears in Lise's preceding post (Guérande et la Brière); stayed the night at one of the converted cottages. The evening didn't start too auspiciously; I ordered champagne and the demure farm-girl attending our table seemed to burst into tears; must have been the accent; the same thing often happens here in Hereford. Please compliment Lise on her straightforward French which was a delight to read; why, she writes like a native.

No need to apologise for all those self-portraits. Fella with a big nose established a precedent. I believe he went on to bigger things.

Roderick Robinson said...



Soize said...

Yes, I hope too ;-)

Lucy said...


Robbie, what is it with you and waiting staff? What a coincidence about Guerande. We've yet to explore it in fact. Don't worry about Lyse/Lise, I think she uses both spellings anyway, it's a pseudo not her real name. I take it you didn't try the Gallo blog?

Soize - hey, bonjour! Desolée de te rater. À la prochaine!

Lyse said...

Bien joli reportage !
Comme cette journée fut chaude et chaleureuse!
Dommage que nous n'ayons pas pu rencontrer Quercus et Soize. Je pense qu'ils faisaient la sieste pendant que nous on fondait sous le soleil! LOL!
Merci aussi pour les liens vers mes blogs ( je n'en ai encore mis aucun sur mon nouveau blog)
Magnifiques tes photos avec le chapeau

Zhoen said...

Quite a fetching hat.

The glass painter, yeah, huh.

zephyr said...

nice hat, Lucy...and good that you had fun with the camera!

Ellena said...

Pâtisserie Au Kouign-Amann


The first thing that comes to mind when I think of my beloved Pâtisserie Au Kouign-Amann is butter – a shh load of butter. Your first impression will be nothing less, and that’s before you actually sink your teeth into one of their glorious pastries. Mouthwatering whiffs of bubbling butter escape and stretch far out the humble shop, putting you deep into a trance as you inch closer and closer to the entrance. As soon as you swing the door open, your nostrils flare, sparking your eyes to roll and your head to tilt back in pleasure. Watch the F-bombs, it’s a tiny place with all customers within an earshot. Awkward but totally understandable if you let one out, especially after getting physical with the goods.
Next time I visit 'Le Plateau Quartier' in Montreal I will look for that place.
Quel beau chapeau! Amazing what difference a lovely face can make in the world of hats.

Ellena said...

Me again Lucy.
Word verification was THelper. I guess I need help learning how to refer to other blogs etc the way you do it.

Ellena said...

Yes it's me again but I don't want it to be. I just reread what I sent and I'm blushing. Had not read the last two sentences of the article.
The only words that are mine start with "Next time......
I have such a knack of making a fool out of myself.

Lucy said...

Thanks again.

Ellena - pas de souci, I had worked that out! Kouign-amann was, I think a way of making a treat with some left over bread dough by adding as much sugar and butter as could be managed and rolling and folding it into a kind of feuilleté. It can be very good, this one wasn't bad, we ate it in small pieces throughout the week. The best ever were from a baker's in south-west Finistère, where you bought it by weight and it was literally dripping sugary butter. Sometimes it comes with pieces of apple in it but there's really no justification for that, why risk not clogging up your arteries with potential sources of anti-oxidants? ;~)

D. Jean Quarles said...

Ha! Ha! I loved your comment about the self portraits. Very cute straw hat!

christopher said...

I so rarely see pictures of you. It is way cool to see you here. Thank you for yet another lovely post.

Natalie said...

Great pictures - allo Lucie en chapeau de paille. I want one of those and the basket too and the K-A pastry.