Carnet de Voyage: Dad’s Delight

Carnet de Voyage: Dad’s Delight

Travel notes from the real France. Carnet de Voyage is a weekly personal travel story in France sent in by readers. If you’d like to write a story for Carnet de Voyage, head here for details on how to submit.

“Dad” was a lone, 90-year old who couldn’t walk too well, let alone manage stairs, and his sight was failing. He had been my father-in-law for forty-odd years. He said he wanted to take the whole family on holiday for a couple of weeks. What he meant, of course, was we take him, but he pays. That’s fine.

So where do we go ? Far enough south for it to be warmish; far enough north for it to be not too far. Somewhere with accommodation for eight, a bedroom on the ground floor for dad and an outdoor heated pool.

We thumb through the Brittany Ferries’ package holiday brochure and, amazingly, find the very thing, a gîte in the tiny hamlet of La Roche (needle in a haystack job on Michelin map 230 ) with the Nantes to Brest canal running along the botttom of the garden, near Josselin in south-west Brittany.

It’s now June and yet, again amazingly, the gîte is still available for the early July dates we want. A telephone call and it’s all fixed up in minutes. And it’s a snip!

At the ferry port we eventually get dad up from the car deck to his cabin. “Stay put, dad, and don’t wander off… please!” We slumber fitfully, dad deeply and serenely, across the Channel on the overnight ferry from Plymouth to Roscoff.

After a near blissful, early morning drive through the Breton countryside, we eventually find La Roche, hidden away in la France profonde, though nearly miss the gîte since the tiny hamlet comprises a mere handful of dwellings and the gîte sign is completely camouflaged by creeper.

Hervé, the proprietor and retired French army officer with a splendid moustache to match his rank, greets us and, subsequently, turns up most days with a couple of complimentary bottles of his home-made Breton cider. Nectar. He’s sorry his wife, Françoise, can’t be there. She’s maire of the commune and presiding over a meeting at the mairie just down the road in Guillac. But she, too, comes by on and off to brief us on this or that battle she’s having with her inert councillors. Well, to be fair, she’s obviously roused them from time to time, judging by Guillac’s recent transformation into one of the tidiest and prettiest villages around.

The gîte, a typical granite Breton farmhouse conversion, is set in an enormous garden, regularly but not overly tended by Hervé and Françoise, as becomes very apparent whenever we try to get at the basketfuls of fruit they tell us are out there. Not that we spend much time fruit-picking. Being poolside’s the thing, thinking about a dip; or lounging around the patio, watching the lizards and listening to the sound of water gushing over the weir by the canal down below; or even getting up occasionally to open another bottle of chilled rose from the fridge to go with the delicious cold lunch prepared earlier.

And then there’s the lock. Irresistible. The distant blast of a horn from an approaching canal boat is enough to whisk us off to help the lock-keeper heave the heavy lock gates open and closed, chat to the boat people and wave them on their way. Alas, poor dad gets there when it’s all over. No matter, he’s more interested in what the fishermen are up to anyway. A major part of his own life’s work has been teasing salmon and trout out of rivers and lakes back home.

Most days we pop into Guillac to see the young baker and his apprentice. They make classy baguettes and gateaux and bake mouth-watering pizzas to order. We walk on with our shopping to the café past the church to renew our nodding acquaintance with the locals, and down an apéritif or two.

For more serious refreshment we drive along the canal to the stunning medieval town of Josselin where, within walking distance of its famous landmark château, there are three really good eateries. Le Prieuré de Clisson, La Table d’O and the inevitable Hôtel du Château all serve terrific French regional cuisine without the pretension and silly prices of our restaurants. Much to the surprise of Hervé and Françoise, that’s about the farthest we go during our two-week stay.

Driving home, we stop off for a sardine or moules-frites lunch at the new marina in Pléneuf Val André and a plateau de fruits de mer dinner at Les Trois Crevettes, French maritime equivalent of The Three Ferrets, in Roscoff. Mmm. The Muscadet sur Lie wasn’t bad either.

And dad ? He’s had a wonderful time and wants me to book again for next year. That’s fine with us.

Read our other Carnet de Voyage entries here.

David Smith is a Fellow of the Chartered Institute of Linguists and retired Senior Lecturer in Modern Languages. A large part of his teaching career was taken up with running student field studies residentials on the evolution and development of tourism in Brittany and with setting up and monitoring tourism work placements in France. He has spent many summer holidays with his family in Dordogne, where his parents lived, and has travelled widely in France since he was 13.

Lead photo credit : Josselin, Morbihan © andre quinou / shutterstock

Share to:  Facebook  Twitter   LinkedIn   Email

More in Brittany, Carnet de Voyage, travel memories, travel stories

Previous Article Thirst for Quality in the Pays d’Oc
Next Article Santé! The Top 10 Wine Festivals in Burgundy and Jura

Related Articles

Leave a reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *


  •  Mrs Lindsay Jerome (Librarian of 20 years)
    2023-12-29 11:39:57
    Mrs Lindsay Jerome (Librarian of 20 years)
    I can't believe a linguist has spelled 40 as 'fourty'! Or is that American? Anyway, in English it is spelled 'forty'. Otherwise, a lovely article about a lovely holiday!