Wednesday, May 02, 2007

Rennes: streets and statuary

Another thing about going to Rennes with a dog is that obviously shopping and going inside galleries and museums are limited possibilities. The parking is largely underground (rather more expensive than we're used to ie free or a couple of euros and free over lunchtime in St Brieuc and Dinan, but not in the same league as most British larger towns where a mortgage needs to be arranged), but we don't like to leave her in the car for too long, so she comes around with us. We make sure she's had a run around the fishing lake before we get there. But in truth there is more than enough to look at on and around the buildings of the town. What is here is just a sample; the weather was not always conducive, and we drifted and lingered longer than we meant to in the Thabor, so ended by rushing to get to the new planetarium on the other side of town in an unfamiliar location with a lot of building and road works still going on around , and when we arrived the show we wanted to see - 'The Birth of Stars', with images from Hubble - was all booked up, so we saw the next one, which was a rather tame affair about the solar system. Largely, we agreed, planetariums ( I don't usually care for Latin plurals) are a wasted opportunity; the displays haven't progressed as much as they should have done given the advances in technology. But anyway.

We arrived a little before lunch, walked through town in the rainy wet - it had been beautiful weather the few days before. I was somewhat jittery, anything like an extended journey in wet conditions on any kind of dual carriageway or above, has that effect, ever since many years ago I drove my elderly mini between Gloucestershire and Devon on a torrential day in February in failing light with a failing engine. I was driving behind Tom in the Citroen, a young and sprightly car at the time, who was unaware of my plight, and I was faced time and again with the choice of whether to sit in the backwash of enormous lorries which was driving into the engine and causing it to falter, or to try to get past them, with the risk I wouldn't make it. I wasn't very experienced in motorway driving at all at the time, but not young enough to have the want of imagination that renders such episodes insignificant in terms of trauma.

However, I relaxed after a time, and we picked up some info at the tourist office and decided to eat on the covered terrace of this restaurant, which oddly rejoices in the name 'Queen Mum'. That wasn't why we chose it. There was a lunchtime menu of a main course, glass of wine and coffee which was inexpensive and the terrace looked dry and comfortable, but then the nice young waiter said no, no, bring the dog inside. We hesitated, in enclosed spaces M. has a tendency to dance the maypole with her lead around table and chair legs, bark at people who come too close to the staked out eating territory of the pack, whinge if we take too long and generally be a pain. Outside she's normally OK. But in fact she was fine, even allowing said waiter to make a fuss of her without either barking at him or worse still slobbering on him. I think it was partly because the plate glass window we sat in came down to the floor, so she didn't feel so enclosed and could see movement and the world outside. The steaks were good, served with a lovely light and creamy garlicky gratin lyonnais and dainty morsels in the garnish such as baby artichoke hearts, and so too was the wine, for which the place seemed to have a reasonable reputation, though we only had the house stuff. So relaxed were we that we very easily allowed ourselves to be talked into finishing it with an enormous slice of tarte tatin, which increased the bill quite substantially.

Time to pay. Well, it really was a very good tarte tatin.

Out into the street and the sun was beginning to shine, and we made our way towards the Jardins du Thabor, passing the swinmming pool on the way,

with its ceramic sculpture and mosaics. I've never been inside, I mean to one day.

The decorative work was done by a celebrated family of mosaicists and ceramicists, the Odoricos, who came from Italy in the 1920s to undertake this commission. They also did some rather sumptuous black, red and gold abstract designs on a department store facade over the river, which we didn't pass that day, and sparked a vogue for mosaic shop fronts all over the place, most of which are unfortunately not quite up to their standards.

This very alluring lady is on a public building a little further on; her slightly pollution ravaged features rather add to her charm, I think!

At the exit to the Thabor is a granite and bronze sculpture memorial to Glenmor, a Breton poet and singer about whom I know very little. Glenmor means 'Land and Sea', and there is a beer of the same name. He seems to have been the model for a certain style of bearded, bardic Breton type, fairly prevalent in the region. (He played the Celtic harp, an instrument about which I have reservations; I'm going to see Alan Stivell next week, who also is a harpist amongst other things, but is slight and swart and not bearded, and produces quite a range of different musical sounds, so I shall see if that disposes me more favourably.) His statue is imposing anyway. Come to think, he doesn't look unlike Neptune at the swimming baths.

We never can resist the sight of a roof going on,

or old timber framed houses that always remind me of a very kitsch decorative plate I once had from a junk shop.

or, much as we love the quiet of the country, quite simply, the life in the streets of a town. And Rennes is really a very good town.


Anonymous said...

Lovely! This is the kind of day my husband and I enjoy, walking and exploring a new place and having a good meal. This adds to my desire to visit France and its small towns.

Catalyst said...

Reminds me of a walk SWMBO and I took around old town San Remo, Italy, a couple of decades ago.

Avus said...

Driving an ancient mini in heavy rain - you were lucky it went at all! The times I was called out to my wife's old min when it rained (armed with a can of WD40)!

stitchwort said...

Just one look at those buildings, and they are obviously not English!

Thank you for giving us a view of your environment.

The internet lets us all have a glimpse of lives in other parts of the world.

Beth said...

Wonderful post - I especially enjoyed the account of your meal and the waiter letting your dog come inside - and the photographs are just lovely.

herhimnbryn said...

What a gorgeous day ( despite the wet). The mosaics took my eye!

Lucy said...

The Brittany tourist board really should be paying me for this stuff!
ML - when you do, make sure you come and see us.
Catalyst - have you any pictures of that? I do enjoy bloggers'tours.
Avus - terrible things, deathtraps; that so many inexperienced drivers started out in them was a curse; the other downside of that for me at least was that when I was required to drive a larger car, my spacial awareness(never my forte) was mini-sized and I ended up banging into things! It was quite fun for bombing up and down the Cotswold escarpment between Celtenham and Stroud though.
Stitch - thanks. As I say, bloggers' tours are fun, and more personal than more official guides and travelogues.
Beth -glad you liked it. I very much appreciate having you as a visitor here; I enjoy Cassandra Pages a lot; I haven't got around to commenting there much, often because I need to go away and think about what you write there, and by the time I get back it will have moved on!

Lucy said...

H-somehow you must have appeared while I was writing that last!
yes,I thought of you with the mosaics, next time I'll try to get more mosaic pictures.

apprentice said...

Mmm I'm hungry after reading that. I love tarte tatin, another fav is clafoutis - I can't wait for the fresh cherries to arrive in the shops.

Great photos too!

Lucy said...

Hello apprentice!
Yes, clafoutis is nice, but not with stones left in!

leslee said...

Lovely photos and story. Makes me wish (as I leave Paris this morning) I'd been more clever and directed in my photo taking and notes, but Paris is overwhelming and one doesn't know where to focus. Rennes looks like a lovely town. We walked in the Ile St-Louis yesterday early morning and it seemed like a small town hidden in Paris.