It was my last day on the Island and I awoke in a dilemma.
Should I stick with my original plan of having no plan and just do my usual i.e let the small sandy tracks lead me hither and tither,
or should I get the ferry to Roscoff and go to the market.
I blame it on Regine!
She made the market sound so enticing.
Sitting with her and Marie yesterday eating gallettes at the Creperie du Phare she became as animated as when I first met her and she thought the yellow bicycle was an antique.
Describing the various stall and the delights they offered, her blue mascaraed eyes flashed with excitement.
If only I hadn’t bumped into her yesterday, I wouldn’t have a clue about what was taking place on the mainland.
I just wanted my last day to be uncomplicated. To spend it alone. (meeting the two women for the 10.30 ferry meant company for a good part of the day)
For the first time in a glorious week of spontaneity I had to make a decision.
I wanted to go but I wanted to stay!
I wanted to go but I wanted to go alone.
I looked at the clock.
I am out of bed and through the door in 15 minutes flat. Teeth barely brushed, no time for coffee.
It is still dark as I cycle up the hill past the church, down the other side and along the seafront.
The tide is well out. I can just make out the outline of the boats sleeping on their sides on the sand.
This adds an extra minute to my journey as racing past the ‘tide in’ pier, I have to cycle on around the corner and down the long jetty way.
The ferry is there but the engine is chugging impatiently.
The handsome young lad from my first crossing, looks up from his work of untying the mooring ropes as I loom out of the darkness, the yellow bicycle clattering across the cobbles
‘Attend!’ I shout to him.
Laughing, He gestures at me to slow down.
The ‘low tide pier’ makes getting the bicycle on much easier.
No steps to struggle down.
I wheel it easily off the jetty and onto the boat.
Sitting down on one of the plastic chairs, I catch my breath as the sky turns pink and the sun appears over the horizon.
The 7.30 ferry pulls out and begins its journey across the bay.
‘Retour S’il vous plait et aussi le velo’ I hand over my fare brushing away any guilty thoughts of Regine and Marie and remind myself I hadn’t committed fully to going with them.
‘If I am not on the pier at 10.30 go without me’ were my parting words as I headed up the hill, wobbling slightly from the amount of wine we had drunk.
Plus they don’t really need me, they had each other for company.
Its only when the boat is half way across the bay that I remember Madame at the boulangerie. How long will she wait with my brown paper bag before she realises I won’t be joining her queue today.
Roscoff is pink in the morning light
Once again I find it much easier to bring my bicycle when the tides are out.
I wheel it easily onto the jetty and push it up the long sloping steps.
The market is underway already. I’m glad I’m there early. It gives me a chance to see every thing before the crowds start.
I buy a raincoat. Its bright yellow to match my bicycle and is lined with blue and white cotton. I also buy a Breton jumper.
Blue and white striped also.
I queue at the cheese stall and eavesdrop on what the other customers are buying.
I watch the Fromager lifting and holding up the huge wheels of cheese for his customer to view and I listen carefully, doing my best to understand what they are saying as they discuss the merits of each cheese before he cuts with a steel string the requested amount.
But its the small pats of smelly goats cheese that really catch my attention and the brie’s with their white/ grey mouldy rinds and milky oozing interiors.
Some of the goats cheeses are wrapped in nettle leaves, some in rushes, others are ‘naked’ the rind being enough to hold them together.
I watch as he gently presses each circle with the back of his hand before choosing one to wrap for his customer.
The array is mind boggling.
My eyes skim up and down, backwards and forwards.
Un …. non un …. et un piece de…. I practice to myself
And then it’s my turn.
I pronounce my choices in my best french and I receive a smile for my attempts.
‘C’est tout’? he enquires as I start rooting for my purse.
‘Qui c’est tout’ I breath a sigh of relief.
Not only did he understand me but he hadn’t spoken to me in English (A sure sign that I have passed the test.)
I queue at the vegetable stall along with women with baskets and men with pulley bags.
No one is in a rush and the crowd chat and joke and choose and hum and haw and change there minds.
I miss the last bunch of fragrant basil.
The small bearded man with a blue hat ahead of me, has snatched it up and is busy burying his nose in it.
I give him a minute, he might put it back?
But no! He lays it gently on top of the other items in his already bulging wheelie bag before paying and heading off, smiling smugly.
I am offered a handful of freshly smelling flat leafed parsley instead. I nod and add it to the head of lettuce before choosing a bunch of odd looking tomatoes. ‘Tomatoes ancien’ it says on the little wooden label.
‘Not for cooking’ says the stall owner ‘délicieux for eating without….you know?’ she makes the motion of stirring a pan and my audience nods their heads in agreement.
‘Qui! pas pour la cuisson’ they mutter.
Its when I’m at the bread stall that I see him.
I am busy discussing seaweed breads with the bread man, whom I recognise as being either Dutch or German but with really good french and speaking English with a french accent that is tinged with something more gutteral.
He is passionate about seaweed and describes collecting it. Especially his favorite, the chorda Filum variety.
I recognise it and tell him I know it as mermaids tresses but he is not listening! He is on a roll describing how you are only allowed by law to harvest it when it is a certain length. He pulls a measuring tape from his pocket to show me the mark allowed and tells me how he brings his tape everywhere with him in so he will be able to harvest it if he comes across it.
(He is definitely German, I can’t imagine a french man being so precise)
He also tells me how he not only pickles it but adds it to his breads and cakes .
His cakes are beautifully presented in unbleached cake cases, each decorated with a swirl of seaweed on the top.
I choose one and he puts it carefully into a paper bag even though I want to eat it straight away.
Suddenly his gaze shifts and he lifts his hand to greet someone behind me. I look around and there he is!
Jeremy Irons, tall thin dark haired with a touch of grey, a beaked nose wearing a white linen cap and crumpled white linen suit with a slash of a yellow silk scarf around his neck. He is holding a cup which, when he reaches us, he passes to the German.
‘You are not Jeremy Irons so?’ I ask in that round about way now that I see him at closer quarters.
‘Sorry to disappoint’ He smiles ‘but sadly no I am not, but you are not the first person to think so’
He says this in french but I can tell its not his native language.
‘He is an american in Paris’ laughs the German ‘or should I say Roscoff’. He takes a sip of the coffee whilst the American slips easily into our conversation.
We talk about Ireland. The american has been there often. His wife is from Brittany and they love all things Celtic especially the music.
A few clouds begin to build up above the stalls.
Will it rain I wonder excitedly (I have my new rain coat at the ready)
‘Non’ they look up ‘Pas de pluie aujourd’hui’.
I roll my new coat up and stuff it disappointingly into my pannier.
In the side that is not filled with cheese and lettuce and tomatoes and now seaweed baguette and cake.
The market is well underway and becoming crowded. Women are forming a queue at the seaweed bread/cake stall so I wave goodbye to my new friends and make my escape.
The town is very pretty and I could linger but I need a bit of space.
I follow a road through the town which brings me out to the coast road.
I follow the coast road past the parked campers.
I am happy it is just me and my bike again. I have talked enough for one day.
At a castle I spy a small lane way cutting across the tidal inlet
It’s my kind of road!
sandy and narrow.
what can I do but see where it goes?
And now dear reader, I could continue to describe my day in words but you are probably tired of them so maybe it would be nicer if I showed them in pictures and you can find your own descriptive words.
Suffice to say it was a wonderful sun filled day with clear sea’s.
Those looming rain clouds knew that this cyclist now had an adequate rain coat (thank you Regine and the market) so they stayed away.
Yes, my day slowly filled with bicycling along the coast, the warm wind in my hair, stopping for a swim here and there,
and further along stopping again,
for a wonderful bowl of Moules mariniere with copious glasses of white wine.
And finally catching the last ferry home.
Cycling tiredly over the hill and homeward bound, I see a small triangular figure in the distance walking in the same direction, weighed down with a full bag on each arm.
Like the coward that I am and feeling very guilty for being such, I brake and wait till the figure disappears around the corner and out of sight before continuing home to unpack my wares, have a cup of tea and take stock of the day.
To be continued……..