Looking out my window across the garden. The tide is out.
The first night in my little house of the blue shutters and I sleep ‘comme une buche’ (Like a log).
When I wake the next morning the rain has cleared.
Through the window I can see that the tide is out and boats and yachts are strewn across the sand on their sides as though also sleeping. (Except for one or two larger yachts propped up by stilts. They stand about looking ridiculous like proverbial fish out of water.)
And whilst they (the boats that is, not the fish) have to wait for the incoming water to right them again, I dont have such an imposition and I’m down into the kitchen and out the door in a matter of minutes.
The smell of fresh baked bread and cinnamon leads me to the boulangerie (Actually I already know it is around the corner, having passed it on my arrival the day before but even if I didn’t, my nose would have brought me there).
There is a queue of four in front of me and I hold my breath and shift impatiently from foot to foot as ‘Madame’ puts up her hand again and again to lift yet another large fresh crisply browned cinnamon smelling shiny pain au raisin from the slowly diminishing heap on the shelf.
It takes a while. Things must be discussed. Relatives enquired after. The usual etiquette of chat in a country shop must be followed, whether in France or in Ireland. (The talk about the weather is the same here as at home).
But finally it is my turn and I am in luck. With a quick twist of the bag she smilingly hands me the last remaining pastry.
I buy a fresh baguette also for my picnic
‘Merci Madame’ I sing adding ‘Au revoir, bon journée’ (you can see I am getting into the swing of things even though I’m only one day on the island).
Back at my house where the terrace looks across at the sea, the sun is beginning to hit the small rose filled garden below.
I choose the terrace for breakfast and as I sit, sipping my coffee and relishing the sweet crumbly, raisin-y, custard-y, melt-in-the-mouth, texture (so unlike the commercial Cuisine De France ones at home, not that I EVER buy them) I find myself wishing that there had been two left when it had come to my turn.
But I have a small niggle in the back of my mind which I try to swallow with each delicious crumb
Though I may be on holidays, a time when traditionally calorie counting is ignored, I am conscious that when I return home I have an appointment with my oncologist who, at my last review a year previously, had indicated, that though he was delighted with the lack of recurrence of my melanoma, advised me to lose weight. (He said he didn’t want to lose me to diabetes or heart disease instead).
I banish all thoughts of him and lick my lips for the last few crumbs and as I stand and brush the remainder (The ones too tiny to pick up) off my lap, I remind myself that the island is hillier than I expected.
Surely two hills equals one french pastry.
That calculation figured out, I hop on the yellow bike.
I have a baguette to fill.
The first hill.
I push the yellow bicycle up a steep slope.
The supermarket at the top opens at nine and I arrive at just five to.
There are two elderly farmers ahead of me.
Both are in wellingtons, one with a plastic bag folded and wedged under his arm and leaning against a tractor whose trailer is filled with fresh seaweed, the other holding on to a small pulley shopping basket.
They watch me approach and when I’m near enough greet me with ‘bonjour madame’
Now I feel really french.
I stand pretending to admire the holly hock cottage but am really eavesdropping on their conversation.
Of which I understand ‘rien’.
Inside, the camembert I choose is the smelliest on the shelf.
Along with a bottle of organic Sancerre and a few peaches I have the makings of fine picnic to go with my crispy baguette.
Now all I needed is somewhere to eat it.
But I have one other port of call.
Every Sunday morning there is a tiny market at the square in Vernoc, which is beside the bakery and just around the corner from where I am staying. It is setting up as I arrive, not that there is much setting up to do. It is a simple tractor with trailer and awning affaire.
Fresh vegetables sold direct from a local farmer grown without pesticides or herbicides in fields manured by seaweed.
I buy a head of lettuce, four carrots, a bunch of shallots, a head of garlic, a few tomatoes and of course a kilo of smooth delicious potatoes that the island is famous for. I add the tomatoes to my picnic basket and drop the rest of my market purchases off into the kitchen of my house.
The second Hill
I like maps.
I use them a lot, but in a backwards sort of way.
You see I like to explore first THEN look at the map later and see where I had been.
So after dropping my shopping off and on purpose not taking the map of the island, I once again face the hill and reaching the top, stand at a crossroads before choosing to head north along a sandy track towards where I had caught a glimpse of the sea on my way back from the supermarket.
The road (I’ll call it a bóirín) passes the ‘butterfly house’ where the butterflies surround a buddleia like snowflakes
and arrives at a a small bunch of clustered higgledy piggledy houses.
just beyond I am delighted to discover a ‘mannin like’ beach (As a family, loving the west of Ireland we compare every beach we come across with a particular set of beaches in connemara).
I have arrived at my perfect picnic place.
went for a swim,
Spotted others on an interesting cycling path,
Found my own interesting path,
Took a side path suspecting there is another nice place to swim,
I am right!
Tired now I head home passing one of my favorite shuttered houses
And so ends my first day on Ile de Batz…..two hills and many kms completed I think I have well worked off that pain au raisin .
Tomorrow I will be up earlier and first in the queue.
Part three coming soon……..