Thursday, August 18, 2011

STAMP: Dinan, Brittany

I'm sitting in my hotel room in the 7th Arrondisement in Paris sipping champagne because it's my birthday. We're in the Hotel de LaTour Maubourg, small and delightful, and it looks out on a little treed square close to Les Invalides. Our room has a king-sized bed, which is almost unheard of in France, and very rococo decor - very fancy and lots of gilt - and several dark portraits of odd looking French men from a bygone era. Even a chandelier! And we're on the main floor, so no teensy-weensy elevator to take our baggage and us up four floors. Sweet!

It's cloudy, humid and about 25C here. Paris is quiet as it is August - the locals are all on vacation. Not one traffic jam on the way from the Montparnasse train station. Amazing!

We left St-Malo on the TGV at noon in brilliant, hot sunshine and went through fog, rain, and clouds on the way here. Looking forward to a shower and dinner in a local bistro. Tomorrow - St-Cler market for some bouquet garni and other herbs to replenish my supply at home. We just don't have enough time to do justice to the Musee d'Orsay. It'll have to wait to the next time.

YESTERDAY IN DINAN
We hoped to take the river cruise to Dinan from Dinard but it didn't run on Wednesdays. Instead we piled onto a local bus. We expected a rattletrap but got a modern coach with air-con and reclining seats for the 21 kms ride. Cost = E2.80 each. What a treat!

Upper Dinan
We roared through the countryside on the back roads passing typical Breton houses of stone with steep grey slate roofs, the older ones with dormers and the newer with skylights and solar panels. The second cut of hay was baled and drying in the fields. In less than an hour we were deposited in Dinan about 400m from the old town - veille ville. Here the streets are narrow and the half-timbered houses almost meet in the middle of the street, which still has a drainage channel where chamber pots were emptied. It's a medieval town with most of the ramparts still in existence. The streets were filled with tourists shopping at the little stores and enjoying the many restaurants and street cafes. It was very hot and humid, quite different from the cooler Dinard on the sea.

Down to the port
After an incredible lunch of a grande salade we walked down the hill to the river Rance. This was an even narrower lane, cobbled, with similar half-timbered houses, now turned into little boutiques and cafes. The walk was steep and about 600m. I was very glad we were heading down hill in the afternoon sun. Those walking up were dripping and stopping every 75m to rest. Dogs were lying down and refusing to go further!! But it was SOOOO worth the effort.

Vieux Port on the Rance
At the bottom was the  vieux port of Dinan on the Rance. Here the river has narrowed and can only allow pleasure craft to ply its waters. The bridge across stops the sailboats and only launches can go upstream from here.

Neither of us wanted to walk back up to catch our bus to Dinard, so we tried to get a taxi to the bus stop while drinking a huge bottle of water in a riverside bar. It arrived on our table in a child's seaside pail! No taxis would come so we squeezed onto the "Little Train" that took us up the hill with judders and stops all the way.

IMAGES: (c) Julie H. Ferguson 2011

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