Day 37 Thursday, 29 June 2017

Morlaix

A sightseeing day in Morlaix!  First we tackle the steep steps leading up to the viaduct. Astounded by the beauty of the design.

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There are views over both sides of the town from here, and you can see the terraced gardens behind the houses, including the Maison Pananault.  The two rivers joined where the Hotel de Ville is now in the top picture, and then were culverted twice at different periods, so the road would have been a quay in former times.

Descend down more steep steps to the Church of Ste-Melaine,  with wonderful medieval statues and a starry roof with dragons’ heads holding the beams.

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The Musee de Morlaix is closed for refurbishment so we we make our way to the Ville Close, the original town with ramparts, and to the Place Allende, where 15th century La Maison de la Duchess Anne overlooks the square.

Again they seem to be in refurbishment mode but we are allowed to go up to the first floor balcony to see the acrobat.

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This house has the most amazing ‘lantern’ – a skylight in the roof, four floors up.  Apparently it’s typical of the Morlaix houses and not found anywhere else.  The staircase is made of oak, one huge tree trunk, and beautifully carved.  We also admire the linenfold panelling on the door and staircase and round the room, and the enormous stone fireplace, carved with vines.  Reminds us of Tudor House where my parents lived in Halifax – same date exactly, 1492.

A break for lunch in Morlaix’s oldest pub, Ty Coz, in the same square:  lovely green lentil salad for me and homemade vegetable soup and a panini for Malcolm.  Then it’s off down La Grande Rue to the Maison a Pondalez – again a half-timbered house of the 16th century, with another monumental fireplace and a turning staircase with wooden walkways edging the vast central space.

There’s an exhibition in here all about the linen trade which brought so much wealth to Morlaix and the surrounding villages where it was produced.  The linen cloth was exported all over the world but the English took three-quarters of it!

And it’s my lucky day!  I get to go on a Petit Train at last.

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Revisit all the places we’ve already been and a few new ones – even go past the boat and notice how low the tide is on the other side of the lock gate.

Malcolm is mortified to be on the little train but I’m thrilled after all this time.  My dream has come true!  Celebrate with a lemon tart.  Might be my new favourite from the Patisserie.

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Day 36 Wednesday 28th June 2017

Morlaix

The day of the toilet.  Malcolm has a plan and sends me off to the Launderette for the morning in order to carry out the installation of the new pipe.  Dawdling on my way back I discover Le Manfacture, site of the tobacco factory, and the Fontaine des Anglais.

The story behind the Fontaine des Anglais.  On a July day in 1522, when the nobility and the merchants were out of town, the English,  coming in 60 ships and creeping up the river to Morlaix, attacked the town, burning and pillaging houses and churches alike.  Warned of a likely massacre, the Morlaix people came back straight away and massacred their drunken, sleeping attackers in the Styvel Woods (just behind our boat).  It is said that the spring here ‘flowed with the blood of the English’.  No wonder they built the Chateau du Taureau in the Bay to warn the town of future attacks!

 

 

Get back to find that the new pipe is too rigid to fit on the stopcock and we need to purchase another kind of pipe, which they have in stock at the chandlery across the marina.  On the way, we are fascinated by the mini cutter suction dredger.

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I’ve booked a talk on the Maison Penanault, the tourist office nowadays, at 4.30 pm, but Malcolm is still busy finishing the toilet so I go on my own.  Just as well, as it’s a guided talk in French for an hour and a half.  The house was built from granite and Morlaix schist and demonstrates the trading wealth of the town in the late 1500s and early 1600’s.  All the ground floors along the quay, which extended much further into the town in those days, were used as warehouses mostly for the chief export, linen.

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The roof structure in the tower, probably from a preexisiting construction to survey the activity on the harbour (to see if those pesky English are coming again), is in the form of an upturned boat (above).  The gardens behind the house are steeply terrraced,  to accommodate the steep slope behind the house that rises above the courtyard carved into the rock.

When I get back, the toilet is finished and working.  Great relief all round!  Malcolm is exhausted and black and blue from having to contort himself in a very small space for a whole day.  Make a comforting casserole with Toulouse sausages and vegetables and chill out.

 

Day 35 Tuesday 27th June 2017

Roscoff to Morlaix

Early start to catch the tide at Morlaix. Ready to leave at 7.15 am and just manage to get out before the ferry from Plymouth arrives. There’s no wind so we motor to the mouth of the River Morlaix, which is very wide but soon narrows as we head upstream. The Chateau de Taureau guards the entrance – yet another Vauban fort, complete with drawbridge. It was originally built in the 16th Century by the prosperous inhabitants of Morlaix to defend themselves against English pirates and then ‘Vaubanised’. Over the centuries, it’s been a prison, a venue for receptions by its rich owner, a German anti-aircraft battery and then a posh sailing school. Nowadays there are trips to the island or you can have a storytelling breakfast, a magic night, a theatrical visit or a guided visit by Vauban himself! I’d love that.

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Le Chateau du Taureau

 

Downstream there are beautiful, fairytale chateaux peeping out of the trees. It’s very grey today so no photos as they won’t look their best. The meandering river is well-marked with transits and back transits, as well as port and starboard bouys. Because we’d set off slightly early, and the tide with us was stronger than anticipated, and Malcolm increased the boat’s speed, we manage to get the HW lock at 9.20 am. There are only three locks: one and a half hours before HW, one on HW and one an hour after HW, and only in daylight hours. The lock-keepers (the same guys as the Bureau de Port) are charming and helpful, take our ropes and tell us which side the pontoon is on. It reminds us of Vannes – the same concept of the long river, the lock and the narrow marina which would have been the prosperous town dock. Some of the yachts, we have to say, look as if they’ve come here to die – so many broken dreams and unfulfilled ambitions.

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Morlaix is completely dominated by the railway viaduct finished in 1864 for the Paris – Brest railway. It makes the Whitby viaduct, seen from our house, seem small. It’s 58m high and 292 m long, with 14 arches, and it’s built in stone not brick. You can walk across at the lower level – a definite on Malcolm’s to do list.

After lunch on board – really scraping the barrel here – we set off for the chandlers on the other side and then the supermarket as I’ve run out of white wine. They deliver to the boat so try to buy heavy stuff but this Intermarche has very sad veggies and I can’t bring myself to buy fish or meat. Our driver takes us and our shopping back to the boat.  On the way I ask him about the best places to eat and he recommends and points out three restaurants,  and that’s how we end up at ‘L’Embollie’ later that evening. It’s full of French locals so that’s a definite plus and the food is very good. Wander round to get a taste of treats in store on the way back to the boat – lovely old timbered houses, a church to explore and the viaduct, of course.

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Rue Ange de Guernisac, with viaduct in the background

Day 34 Monday 26th June 2017

Roscoff

Collect our baguette and croissants from the office first thing and later go to the Bar on the Marina for coffee and good wifi (for weather and blog posting). Spend a lot of time after lunch talking about the weather for this week and deciding what to do: go to Perros Guirec and Lezardrieux or Morlaix? Perros Guirec has a lock which only opens HW plus or minus 1 ½ hours at springs, less at neaps and you may end up being caught inside as it can close for days (‘being neaped’). Not ideal for catching a plane from Guernsey. In the end we decide to go to Morlaix tomorrow, which was always our original intention. David Sykes, friend and intrepid sailor, highly recommended it when we were planning our route in the winter. Morlaix is up a river and sheltered from the bad weather approaching from WNW over the next few days. There’s lots to see and do here and a toilet to unblock – so that should keep us occupied.

Set out to walk into Roscoff but Malcolm gets distracted by the Uship chandlery just outside the marina in case they have the pipes for the toilet. They do have the pipe but not the coupler he needs so a very helpful young man with excellent English sends us off to another chandler.   There’s no shop at this one so we’ll go back to Uship, but in the meanwhile we stumble across the footpath that takes you round the point.   There’s a very pretty little Chapelle de Ste. Barbe (1619), which the Roscoff Johnnies used to salute three times on their way to England to sell their strings of onions. There are two gendarmes up here and two cameramen with very powerful lenses but we can’t figure out what’s going on.

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A view in both directions of the Bay of Morlaix to the east and the passage we came down yesterday, the Chenal de Batz, to the west. It looks very rocky and shallow at a Springs low tide.

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View east across Baie de Morlaix

 

In front of us there’s a fort, originally Roman, now Vauban (again!). And Les Viviers de Roscoff, founded in 1860, with a seawater reservoir for crustaceans. Between 1866 and 1875, 40,000 crabs and lobsters passed through the reservoir before being delivered by train to Paris or by schooner to Ostend. It’s now owned by a fish trading company.

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Les Viviers de Roscoff, Le Fort de Blascon

 

Carry on into Roscoff town, which we really liked last year, and discover some more old houses and carvings and a row of fishing boats hanging off the harbour wall.

 

Then, after a hasty beer, hotfoot it back to Uship to purchase the pipe.

Make a meal with the very last of our Brest delivery: Merguez sausages on a bed of courgettes and onions, new potatoes and carrots, followed by some cakes I found earlier in the Boulangerie in Brest, a chocolate muffin and a Breton Far (custard tart).

And we found another Verl 900 on the same pontoon as us!

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Day 33 Sunday 25th June 2017

L’Aber Wrach to Roscoff

After 25 years, the toilet is well and truly blocked! Malcolm spent the morning trying to unblock it but to no avail. Can’t repeat what he said, something along the lines of ‘What a sh…… y morning he’d had!’ So a bucket it is, until we get to somewhere where there are shops selling new pipes and clips. M says that’s what they did in the old days, but I’m not convinced.

Anyway, onwards and upwards. We leave L’Aber Wrach passing the peche a pied fantatics and anglers immersed to their waists, a fort with a smiley face on the seaward side, and the bouys named ‘Petit pot de beurre’ and ‘Grand pot de beurre’.

 

The sky is overcast and we’re wearing long trousers for the first time. Everyone coming into the estuary is wearing oilies – but maybe they’ve come over from England.

La Vierge lighthouse makes me think that we really are heading north now, rounding the corner to North Brittany. We talk about all the new ports and anchorages in South Brittany we’ve been to and which ones are our favourites. We particularly liked Houat with its wonderful beaches and Belle Isle, especially the contrast between quiet, sleepy Sauzon and Le Palais, bustling with ferries and the huge citadel dominating the port. And of course, la Golfe du Morbihan, with so many happy memories of spending a week en famille last July.

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La Vierge lighthouse near L’Aber Wrach

 

Our intention is to catch the afternoon flood tide to take us to Roscoff, but not to arrive too early for the Chenal du Batz as it’s still strong springs. Over the whole journey we averaged 6.5 knots but unfortunately we had to motorsail with the genoa as the wind was directly behind us. The rolling sea didn’t really allow the sail to set properly.

The mist came down as we approached the Ile de Batz off Roscoff and the lighthouse is obscured. We spent a day on the island last year – in much better weather.

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Ile de Batz lighthouse

 

A ferry – the ‘Oscar Wilde’, an Irish Ferry – is just coming out as we approach the marina, and seems to mow down a yacht from this angle, but she escapes!

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We are placed on Pontoon F, miles away from the Capitainerie and the showers, but there are loos at the bottom of the pontoon. We’ll need them! Order a baguette and croissants for the morning at the Capitainerie as the shop has closed down at the marina. We remember from last year how far it was to walk to the shops. The Wifi is rubbish so we’ll go to the Bar in the Marina tomorrow morning for the weather forecast and to post the blog. Meanwhile we snuggle down with another episode of House of Cards after pasta, homemade sauce and salad. Sunday night in!

Day 32 Saturday, 24th June 2017

L’Aber Wrach

As we came here last year and walked up to the mouth of the aber, we decided to walk inland on the sentier cotier, towards Paluden. Not a very promising day, with rain forecast in the afternoon: we’re just not used to having any rain, apart from the storm in Vannes.   The path doesn’t follow the estuary very closely and much of it is rather bocage-like, with high sides and tall bracken so you can’t see anything. However there are compensations in wild flowers and birdsong, and a great tranquillity. We are following the signs of the Balade de l’enfer (the walk of hell):

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Discover a sailing boat to rival Whitby’s on the roundabout near Trenchers,

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and a very nautical gate into a field,

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a view across a field of maize of the huge La Vierge lighthouse, just north of the entrance to L’Aber Wrach,

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and a planter which would just go with my house! Could be a job for Malcolm next winter?

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Call in for lunch at a café near the marina: Malcolm has Moules frites again (think he must have got fed up of my home cooking) and I have tagliatelle with scallops. It starts to drizzle and we move inside.

Go back to the boat to think seriously about our plans to get to Guernsey for our flights as we need to find a sheltered port as a jumping off point. We may also be there for days as the strong winds and swell start on Wednesday and carries on until at least Sunday, possibly longer. We go to Roscoff tomorrow, then look at Perros Guirec with tidal gates that only open an hour and half either side of High Water, and Lezardrieux, 5 miles down a river, with no tidal limitations but strong currents at springs. All this means missing Morlaix, but maybe we can go on the bus!

Day 31 Friday  23 June 2017

L’Aber d’Ildut to L’Aber Wrach

It was a quiet, black night as the pontoon didn’t have electricity (or water) so all our instruments and the fridge were switched off and there were no flashing bouys or entrance markers to be seen from round our bend in the river.

We have showers and then more passage planning and blogging, a quick recce of the shop for me to buy seaweed soaps.  Seems only appropriate!  We set off at 1.30 p.m. to catch the tide with us to L’Aber Wrach.  Boats laden with seaweed come in as we leave.  Each one is equipped with what looks like a builder’s crane on board to gather the seaweed among the outer rocks.  The boats are ‘goemoniers’ – the seaweed gatherers – a traditional but nowadays also a modern industry.    Seaweed is used in the pharmaceutical industry, for cosmetics and as natural ingredients in herbal remedies.

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L’Aber d’Ildut, looking upriver,  – we’re on the far pontoon

 

There’s a large swell and a light following wind, but luckily the 3.5 knot tide got us here in record time, although it was pretty uncomfortable.  My consolation is seeing more gannets: their young are darker and obviously being trained to fly in formation and dive for fish.  They are ‘fous de basson’ in French.  There are also some razorbills, cousins of our summer visitors to Whitby, the guillemots.  They’re called ‘pingouin torda’ in French!  We loved visiting Bempton cliffs at Easter with Orlagh, Finn and Tobin and saw both gannets and razorbills, as well as puffins, guillemots and kittiwakes, nesting on the steep white chalk cliff faces.

L’Aber Wrach is familiar because we came last year.  It’s a favourite stopping off point for British sailors who’ve come from ports on the South coast of England and are waiting for the right time to pass through the Chenal du Four.