Saturday, 2 August 2008

It's a fish. No, it's a peach. Or is it a fish?

The funny thing is, we actually had a very good time, The Incident We're Not Talking About Any More excepted. Looking back on the last few weeks, there are a few things that spring to mind.

Concarneau, on the Finistere coast, is famous for the medieval Ville Close, a walled section of the town on an island in the bay and linked to the quay by a short walkway. But there is more to it than that. It also has a stand selling the best ice cream in the world. Let me repeat that for you. Best. In. The. World. The cognoscenti talk about it in hushed tones. "Enter the Ville Close," they'll say, as if imparting a national secret, "and go to the first stand on the right. Do not go to any other." At this point you're saying to yourself, "That's as maybe, but the ice cream at so-and-so's is pretty good." I am sorry. But you have to accept from now on that it is, at most, only the second best on the planet. The caramel variety, made with salted butter, is other-worldly. I was thinking about how I could marry the girl behind the counter, being that it would guarantee a permanent supply.

I think Katie was harbouring the same thoughts.

The stand is on the right. Tell them I sent you.

Without talking about The Incident We're Not Talking About Any More, I can confirm that there is usually an invisible force-field that surrounds all UK-registered cars in France. The locals sense that (a) the driver may not be looking the right way at junctions, and (b) any collision is going to involve paperwork from Hell - so they tend to give you a wide berth. Of course, if you spend 80% of your time there driving a French-registered rental car, you lose this bubble. I can tell you that van drivers are the same the world over. Burger-guided missiles.

Despite what P J O'Rourke says, the fastest car in the world is not a rental car when it's a small French diesel hatchback.

And the Peugeot motor company is out to get me. The Incident involved a Peugeot. The French rental car was a Peugeot. The one I swapped it for in England was a Peugeot. After dropping this car off at the Avis desk in Birmingham I got a taxi back home. A Peugeot.

I was pleasantly surprised at how good my French became. OK, I'm not quite ready to join the Foreign Office, but a couple of weeks practical experience works wonders. I haven't spoken French regularly for 20-odd years but I was getting along quite well conversationally by the end of the holiday. That's what our kids need if we want them to pick up languages. All those hours learning genders and declensions are never going to work. And there is a universal language for garage mechanics the world over. The shrug, the sharp intake of breath. Who teaches them this?

I have to kill one stereotype about the French. The ones we met were, by and large, lovely friendly people genuinely happy to be dealing with foreigners. Apart from the armed policeman, but that's par for the course, I suppose.

And there is no pain that can match the red wine hangover. OK, maybe childbirth. Perhaps. But really, if you buy Vin de Pays in a 5-litre box, you should know what you're getting into, especially if you demolish a significant chunk of it in one sitting. Nurofen just wasn't putting a dent in it.

Those of you who prefer pictures to words might like to look here instead.

(The title? That refers to La Petite Peche. Great food, superb atmosphere. Owned by people who, if they were any more laid back, would be practically horizontal. If you're in that neck of the woods, drop in.)


tNb said...

beautiful photos! (sorry about the peugot conspiracy ...)

Rebecca said...

Was the ice cream so good it made up for the Incident That Shall Not Be Named?

Country Girl said...

I have lust in my heart...I WANT TO GO! The pictures are beautiful. Maybe THIS is where we scatter TBB's ashes...minus TITSNBN. What a lovely trip...and you are SO right about this being the only way to teach our children a language. Immerse yourself.


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