We feel like we have become residents of Audierne during the last 2½ weeks. We get a very warm welcome everywhere we go and keep bumping into friends and acquaintances both French and English.
After a week of rain the weather finally cleared up and stated off sunny but with a chilly breeze, but in the last few days the wind has changed and the temperature is now in the mid twenties which is lovely.
Last Sunday I paid a very brief visit back to the UK as I had an appointment with a neurosurgeon who is writing a report for the compensation claim. Jean-Louis kindly dropped me off at the ferry and I arrived back in Plymouth at 9.30pm after an crossing that was flatter than a pancake. I was kindly picked up by the friends who are minding my car whilst we are away (and I get to use it when I am there which is very useful), and had a pleasant couple of glasses of wine with them before bed. On the Monday I spent the day with Amy (my daughter), my dad and his wife. Had an enjoyable day and a lovely meal out in the evening with rather a lot of wine!
On the Tuesday Paula (car minder) kindly came with me to the appointment to make sure all went ok and to be there in case I needed moral support (thank you again Paula). The appointment went very smoothly, nothing unexpected and I now await his report that will be used in agreeing a settlement for my injuries. We spent the rest of the day drinking wine and tea and chatting. The one thing I miss being away sailing is girlie chats and so it was lovely. They dropped me back at the ferry for the overnight crossing. Two bus journeys later (total cost - 4 euro’s for 2 ½ hours travelling), I arrive back in Audierne.
It felt strange for the trip to be that way round, that home is now France – but it will take a while to get my head around what we are doing! Equally strange was buying food in Plymouth to bring back to France as it is so much cheaper there. Also picking up things we can’t get here like Salad Cream and Cornish Clotted Cream (see later)!!!
On Wednesday evening we were invited to another boat owner’s house for dinner. We met Silvie 2 years ago when we both took part in La Route de l’Amitie – the cruise we are here for again. She is a professor at a University in Paris and has a holiday home in Audierne which was built originally for her grandfather. When I say holiday home, it is a good sized house with the most amazing views of the estuary and out to sea. It is one of the best place houses in the town and there is a large balcony across the front which shares the same view. She served an amazing meal which finished with a tradition Brittany pudding; Kougin Amaan – the most amazing pudding which is made of little more that butter and sugar! It was another lovely evening and I practiced more of my French.
On Thursday we had some French friends over to the boat for a Cornish cream tea. I baked the scones just before they arrived and we treated them to some traditional English cuisine. We started with Pimms and ginger ale – followed by the scones, jam, and clotted cream (cream on top), served with Earl Grey tea. It all went down very well, and one of the ladies even took the wrapper with her from the clotted cream so she could get some next time she went to England.
On Friday lots of boats started arriving for La Route de l’Amitie. There are around 180 boats taking part, and it involves a party in port every night followed by sailing the next day to get to the next port and party. This will be the second time I have done La Route, it will be John’s fourth. Last time (2009) John took the boat over and I flew out just before the start and had to return home a couple of days after it finished, as I had work commitments. It is a tiring event and I needed a holiday to recover from it. This time I am hoping that being able to take things easier before the event I shall be able to take the pace and will of course be able to take it easy afterwards to recover.
It was my attendance at this event 2 years ago that prompted me to go to evening classes to improve my French. There are so many lovely people, many of whom speak very little English and last time I was here conversation was not possible. I am pleased to say that my studies have not been wasted and I can now at least make myself understood, even if my grammar is appalling, and am able to understand far more of what I hear. This does depend very much on the accent and the speed, but it is a distinct improvement. Many thanks to my teacher Cristel who has both encouraged me and given me the confidence to speak in French.
Saturday saw around 100 boats arrive in this little port and the harbour master worked his socks off to get everyone rafted up to corresponding sized boats. We remained at anchor in the middle of the harbour out of everybody’s way. The spring tides have returned and we needed to tweak the anchors again as we had dragged slightly. In the evening it was the “fest noz” for the crews, a tasty meal and a couple of bottles of cider with old and new friends saw out a very pleasant evening.