1990-04-17: Carnac & Concarneau

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17 April, 1920, St. Omer

Sun we drove to Carnac to see menhirs & dolmens. Arrived in town just after 1pm, musee closed. While looking at map, fellow walked up & gave us a flyer for restaurant. Not willing to deny fate, we walked around til we found it. The place was nearly full – of people & smoke. Someone waved us to a table, past a buffet table & the grill where a woman waving a long spatula looked very angry at someone – or everyone. We sat & waited. The place was a madhouse, with 3 people scurrying about to all tables, acting like waiters, but very badly. But they didn’t stop at ours & rarely looked at us. After 30 min we wondered whether to leave, but the smoke was clearing & we figured things would soon be under control. Wrong. Looking at other patrons, it was clear nobody was happy. But we waited some more. Finally woman took our order – we were given two aperitifs & pineapple juice for our patience. After we had our entree from buffet – which was pretty well wiped out by then – we waited some more. Some people were clearly angry & expressing it – others simply walked out. After waiting some more, we noticed the place was nearly empty. Then the cook apparently discovered there was a table that hadn’t been served & all hell broke loose in the kitchen. A waiter apologized to us & C got more pineapple juice. We finally got our orders, which were very good. Then we wanted to leave, but the guy in charge wanted to reward us for our patience with complimentary chocolate crepes & we couldn’t graciously decline. First he brought us a crepe that I think had been refused by another table, flambeed Marnier. I couldn’t eat it & he asked if I didn’t like it. Then he brought choc crepes – again very good. Then we paid – I had to tell him what we had ordered – & left. The whole lunch took about 2 1/2 hours.

The museum was still open for the afternoon. It seemed pretty good – all prehistory. We got a map of megalith sites & went to find the Carnac alignments. These were pretty impressive – stones from 3 to 10 feet tall – in long lines, but a few houses have been built among them & a road cuts across which somewhat disrupts the effect – not to mention the hordes of people walking, and climbing, among them. From there we followed map to two sites near highway. No other tourists & we could walk around & thru dolmens at leisure. This was really nice, could go through to look over the whole thing, then examine each stone for markings – C found a down-pointing arrow V about 1 1/2 foot long. The day was windy with scattered showers, but we didn’t get wet; warm in the sun.

Mon we drove further west through southern Brittany. This region has kept some aspects of Celtic past. Town names are given twice – French & Breton(?). For example: Carnac – Karnaq, Quimper – Kemper, Concarneau – KonKorne(?). Many place names begin with K; which I haven’t seen at all in rest of France. I’m sure there are differences in accent, but my ear can’t tell. I also haven’t noticed any physical difference in people, though there may well be.

We went to Douarnenez, seaport town with little or no tourist orientation. Walked around cliff edge & down to rocky beach, bought pastry which we ate on beach looking over pleasure-boat basin. Saw rain-wall coming as we headed for Locconan. Arrived at this strongly artist/tourist place ~1pm as rain hit. Parked & waited 5-10 min in car, then got out & walked around. Bought a few souvenir items & tried to get in creperie, but it was full. Took a lot of pictures of church & Renaissance houses. Passed thru Fouesnant, but saw no reason to stop, on way to Concarneau. This town has preserved walled part of city on island in harbor – inside is pure, and unabashed, tourist trap. On the way from parking, we bought more pastry & frites to round out lunch. Just inside gate was a group playing very nice ethnic music. They had cassettes, LP & CD for sale; I bought 2 cassettes. Later discovered many of the songs & instruments were ethnic of America Sud origin! S & C bought many souv., including the long-awaited dolls. Rain squall came thru once, emptying the street for 10-15 min, but it was gone very abruptly. On the way home, we watched the odometer turn over 10000km, average of 2km/wk. Also got stuck in traffic twice, either ‘rush’ hour or end-of-holiday traffic.


17 April, 1920, St. Omer

The restaurant in Carnac was one of the strangest events of the trip. We had been standing in front of a guide to restaurants and other tourist attractions near the museum, when a fellow carrying a motorcycle helmet and wearing a black leather jacket walked up to us and (I think) asked if we wanted to eat. When we said yes, he reached inside his jacket and pulled out a flyer for the restaurant, with a poorly done map. The chaos inside was at least partly due to the fact it was Easter Sunday, and that some of the waitresses or other help hadn’t shown up. We would never have waited that long at home, but something kept us there, and it was fascinating in a way (though not what I would call entertaining) just to see how it would end up. There was a dog at one of the tables, who kept going over to another table, obviously begging for something. Many people were angry about either the service or the food, and the people behind the counter were angry at each other or at the people who hadn’t shown up, or at the impatient customers or at everyone. At one table, it seemed some people were just getting their main course while others were finished with dessert. The whole episode was unbelievable, but memorable.

We much preferred exploring the two dolmens over viewing the Carnac alignments. One was nearly on the highway, a sort of tunnel with a few tumbled stones. To get to the other, we had to walk through a field and over a fence or hedgerow with thorns. It was more like a set of rooms, partially roofed and again some tumbled stones. We were the only people there, although we saw some other people going to view the second after we got back to the car.

At Douarnenez we just wandered around the shore. At one point Susan went on ahead of Chrissy and me on a clifftop path between flowering bushes and walled houses. Susan waved at us from up ahead, but I evidently missed the message she was trying to convey, and we walked well past her before we decided she couldn’t be up ahead of us. So we turned back and finally found her coming looking for us. From the look on her face, I could see she was upset at us so I said “You stupid woman! Where have you been!?”, in a drawn-out, disgusted tone of voice. This cracked us all up, and we went to where she had found a path down the cliff to the rocky beach. We climbed around the rocks and looked in tidal pools until it was obvious the tide was coming in rapidly. When we got back to where we had parked the car, we could see a squall coming ashore, with a very dark wall of rain rushing in over the sea. It was very dramatic, but didn’t photograph well. We weren’t threatened by the rain, but I think it must have been the same squall that pinned us down in Loccanon.

Concarneau was fun, especially listening to Mic-A-Mac playing and buying the cassettes. When I bought two, I got a price break. We’ve enjoyed listening to them ever since we got home, even though their ethnicity isn’t quite what we thought we were getting. (1991-07-12)

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