Sunday, May 25, 2014

Wendy's Monts d'Arrée

A rather wonderful thing happened when we got to the Troglogîte.

Wendy Mewes is my go-to writer when I want to know anything about Brittany, especially Finistère, and something of an all-round hero.  She lives very close to where we stayed, but she does guided walks and researches and writes about the whole region,and keeps a blog about her activities here. She is a power-house of information and knowledge, of imaginative, accessible but rigorous writing and scholarship, plus she's an indefatigable walker and loves dogs. Her first book I discovered was her History of Brittany, and it made me appreciate what it is to be a proper, trained, disciplined historian, who can assimilate and retain huge amounts of knowledge, evaluate it and present it in a form that's concise, readable and appealing. In addition, of course she's working with sources in a second language, which clearly doesn't bother her much but must make things a bit harder going, though in fact her books on Brittany are often translated from English into French.

I already had Finistère, Things to see and do at the End of the World, which covers the whole department and was giving me plenty of ideas - it's set out in fourteen scenic driving tours each rounded off with a comment with particular recommendations, pieces of advice and remarks about anything that has personal resonance or affection for Wendy herself, which is a nice touch.  When I noted on her blog that she was also bringing out a short guide especially about the Monts d'Arrée, the area where we were staying, I asked whether and how I made be able to get it for the trip, and she instantly said, though it wasn't officially out yet (it is now), that she'd drop one round at the gîte when we got there, she passed the place every day.

So within an hour or so of our arrival she came looming out of the fog, for which she apologized, with a copy, wouldn't stop since she had an awful cold and a lecture to deliver miles away in Morbihan the next day, though she did look over our shoulders and ask where Molly was, since she reads here sometimes and is a dog person (Molly was reclining comfortably on the sofa, which was suitably covered in a clean blanket and towel, I hasten to add).  She wouldn't take anything for the book and was nice about my blogging, which I took as a great compliment.  The Troglogîte people, who she introduced herself to and showed the book to before coming to find us, asked later how we knew each other, and had we met before, with that rather puzzled air that people who don't do this blogging/on-line thing tend to have about the friendly, familiar, generous relationships and contacts which it engenders.

So here a a few more long shots of the places she has helped us to explore. Thanks Wendy!

Up to Menez Mikel, the Montagne St Michel again, from near the gîte,

and from climbing it: looking west, 


and east over the Lac St Michel.

And from a drive rather further west, across the Rade de Brest.


the polish chick said...


WM said...

Wow as well. Fabulous photos and very kind comments. I'm very grateful for your validation and exact understanding of what I try to do. Thanks, Lucy.

marja-leena said...

So marvellous that you have this connection to the author of the books you love.

How much I wish to visit your part of the world, but seeing it through your eyes comes close. I'm so grateful for blogs and the internet for allowing such great armchair travel. Thanks, Lucy.

Zhoen said...

Modern pen-pals.

Dale said...

Oh, what fun! And what lovely countryside. Can you just ramble about there? Is it done?

Catalyst said...

Oh, if you're still there when you read this you must go to Quimper, find the Place au Beurre and visit one of the creperies. I'd suggest Au Vieux Quimper for galettes and crepes. If you meet the owner, tell her she has a fan in Arizona who thinks she and her crepe with vanilla ice cream hot chocolate sauce and roasted almonds are equally beautiful. I just saw the photos and read about the place in the New York Times today!

Lyse said...

C'est ravissant cette contrée et tes photos sont très belles ; Tu as pu faire de l'alpinisme en Bretagne !!!!
A toute à l'heure

Lucy said...

Thanks all.

Dale - yes, you can walk quite freely, and it's encouraged. There are plenty of well marked paths and it's best to stick to them so as not to disturb wildlife, get lost or whatever, but I don't think the landowners are difficult and there aren't many sheep, which tend to make UK farmers a bit twitchy about dogs etc in hill and moorland areas.

Bruce - Quimper's a bit further south, we know it a bit. Creperies are ubiquitous in Brittany, some are very good. Galettes are buckwheat and tend to have savoury fillings. I like both, Tom's not a great fan and we don't eat a lot of desserts really. Galette-saucisse is a great market day snack, a meaty sausage with mustard wrapped in a savoury buckwheat pancake - lovely!

Roderick Robinson said...

So this was the first time you'd met Wendy in person. And she reads your blog. And she knew about Mol. And others were mystified (Might this be in part due to the clumsy word "blog"; it seems to put off people who don't know.) Blogs are easily the best aid to those who find first meetings unnerving.

Recalling a distant yearning I have referred to more than once. Sitting in a Kensington restaurant and watching Graham Greene discourse charmingly with a woman in her twenties. Me desperately devising introductory remarks which I knew would never in this world be delivered. For the woman's sake as well as GG's.

What do you think of: "Mr Greene your books have given me a great deal of pleasure. Let me know the name of a charity you approve of and I'll send them fifty pounds. Otherwise: thank you."

Lucas said...

As well as the author-meeting sequence, fact rather than imaginary as was the case with me and Doris Lessing, though it could have been her emerging from an alley way when i was haf way though The Four-gated City, I was fascinated by the picture of dramatic skies and wild gorse on a much loved wild landscape.

Jeff S. said...

Really lovely, all the more so to me because I've had to curtail my summer travel plans. Posts like this are like a little mental holiday for the rest of us...