Thursday, August 17, 2017

Summer 2017: The more things change...

"Plus ça change, plus c'est le même chose". That's the old French aphorism: "The more things change, the more they are the same." Many years ago, I decided,"Plus ça change, plus ça change"... "The more things change, the more they change". Never felt that more strongly than this summer in Brittany, where so many things are disappearing: antiques shops, markets, simple good food in restaurants. But I had a very good sojourn, for five weeks, so I'll talk about the good parts, and some of the high spots.:

Beginning with: Les Fermes de Betty, in Combrit, where I have stayed for a number of years:

That's my bedroom, right in the middle of all those luscious hydrangeas  (I remember the summer they were planted, such a hot and dry season that there was a watering ban on, and I really didn't expect them to survive at all). They did, and so does everything there:


That's a yummy climbing rose that grows just outside the breakfast room door.

It is such a perfect country setting (anyone's dream of what Brittany should look like), and there is some constant rural company: the two little donkeys Betty gave her husband for Xmas one year.


It is always fun to go into Quimper: this year, there was an exhibit of old travel posters at the Musee départmentale breton that was just stunning - click here to see for yourself! Judy and I went in to see it, stopping to admire the plantings on the bridge as we crossed.


I have the catalogue, so I can curl up here at home among all those gorgeous places depicted by all those terrific artists. That was the Golden Age of French poster art, and this is a wonderful grouping from that time.

Another day, we had lunch in  Pont l'Abbé, at a very good restaurant, "L'Essentiel". Excellent fish preparation and a yummy dessert. This is a fairly new place, and the best thing to come to that town, food-wise, that I can remember (so sometimes, when things change, it can  be for the better.)

I wanted to visit "My Ladies" while I was there:

This stunning group was created by the artist, Francois Bazin, who also did work for the de la Hubaudiere faïencerie in the 1920s. In my book, "Collecting Quimper", on. p.10, there is a picture of the principal figure seated alone. I think I have loved these ladies from the first moment I ever saw them, and I  have never been to Brittany, in all these years, that I did not visit them twice: to say "Bonjour" and again "Adieu".


Crêpes, of course, are the region's most famous delicacy, and no one makes them better than my friend Michel. To sit at his kitchen table, while he is deftly ladling and spreading his buckwheat batter onto a piping hot griddle, slathering them with butter as he folds them onto plates (yes, he has cheese, and ham, and other toppings available, but I prefer them just as he does: butter only) is a special treat worth ditching any diet regimen for and spending a weekend's worth of calories. He is also a fine gardener, so after lunch, we took a stroll to admire his plantings.



Another festive lunch was with my friends, Daniela and Henrik,  from Berlin who were there for several weeks. We went to Benodet, to one of my old favorites, Le Transat, sitting outdoors on their terrace, facing the Odet was one of the best days, weather-wise, of the whole trip (which was mostly standard Brittany chilly, overcast and rainy).


The one-day outdoor antiques market at Locronan has always been one of my favorites: not because I have ever found very much to buy, but the assortments have always been very interesting and diverse, I see people that I have known for years, and the village itself is such a lovely old spot.

I have always gone very early in the morning, so I can at breakfast at the hotel and watch the dealers setting up right in front of me.

This year was, sadly, dismal: the weather, the dealers, and the merchandise. Here is what I bought:

What are they? Five small silk handkerchiefs that look embroidered but are actually very delicately painted! The dealer told me such an interesting story about them, as follows: they came from a man in St. Nazaire, who claimed they came from a museum started by Mme. de Gaulle after the second World War, to honor the American soldiers who took part in the liberation of Brittany. When I pressed her for more information, she shrugged, and told me to look on line for more! Well, I have done so, and so far have not come up with anything whatsoever! If anyone can shed some light on these, do please contact me! The only thing I can add is my hostess, Betty's comment, "These are not typical French ways of saying things".

Anyway, I'm afraid that Locronan is one more pleasant memory, but no longer a viable market. The very next day, at another (uneventful) market in St. Marine, I ran into

Francois Nozières, whom I had seen at Locronan; he told me that after I left, the rain became so heavy that dealers arrived and simply turned around and left. I'm afraid that speaks more to the buying climate than the weather.


And then on to Paris, (of course, it was a gorgeous day when I was spending most of it on the TGV)  and one night in my old neighborhood in the 7th arrondissement.

That's the corner of the Boulevard Latour-Maubourg and the Rue St. Dominique, looking towards the Place des Invalides. At least, here, the owners' names may change, but there is still a brasserie on every corner.


And now..home! Still sorting, photographing, writing....

New web pages in early'll get a letter from me the minute they are posted. In the meantime, enjoy the rest of your summer...Joan