Friday, 17 October 2014

Our European Journey 2014 Continues - On to Dinard, Brittany in France


Every once in a great while we discover someplace truly special. Someplace we will want to return to again and again. For me some of those places are: (1) the little  family owned Hotel Keti, half way down the spectacular cliff face, hanging precariously over the blue Caldera on Santorini in the Greek Isles; (2) the little walled town of Sirmione on Italy’s Lake Garda in the Marconi, a small inn run by the Visani family on the lake shore; (3) Positano on Italy’s gorgeous Amalfi Coast  at the tiny Casa Teresa; and (4) Sunion in Greece in a little taverna at the foot of the stunning temple to Poseidon, my favorite of all the temples and ruins I’ve clambered over.

Hotel de la Vallee
This week I’ve added another. I am sitting in my simple, but very comfortable little room, in the Hotel de la Vallee, in the town of Dinard on the northern coast of Brittany. I’m watching the tide go out. Now that may not seem like much, but when the tide goes out here, it leaves hundreds of sailboat flopped over on their sides in the mud flats. Then people from the town come out with rakes and nets and wander on the mud flats, collecting mussels. Six hours later the sea rushes in dramatically, and all the boats are once again afloat. We were here at full moon, the highest tide of the month, and the water is slapping up over walkways. Just to the right of the entrance to our inn is a sign warning motorists not to park there unless they want to see their cars underwater. What appears to be a dry road completely disappears twice a day under the incoming tide.
Low Tide in Dinard
Now I’ve seen extreme tides before. I live in Canada where we have the Bay of Fundy. But I’ve never seen anything as extreme or dramatic, or as much a part of the lives of the inhabitants as this.
But the ebb and flow of the tides isn’t the only thing to recommend Dinard. This part of Brittany lives in a surprising micro climate. We were in cold, driving rain just a few miles away in Normandy. We reached Brittany to find the sun shining, and the vegetation very different. There are fan palms and olive trees. There are century plants. In other words, this little corner of Brittany at least, seems almost sub-tropical in its vegetation. In October only the chill wind reminds us that we’re not in the south of France or in Italy.
Our inn is more of a restaurant with rooms on the floors above than a hotel. The restaurant, ruled over by an award winning chef, specializes, as one might expect, in sea food beautifully prepared in considerable variety. Our room is utterly simple, but has the most comfortable beds we’ve encountered on this or any other trip; the bathroom with a luxurious shower and lots of hot water works on every level; and we have heat at our command. The last two hotels at which we stayed (with more stars and considerably higher prices) could boast none of those comforts.
Dinard Homes
The town of Dinard is charming. It, like most towns in Brittany, was at one time a Roman settlement. It became a summer refuge for the rich and famous during the late eighteen hundreds, the period known in France as the “Belle Epoque”, “Les chateaux de bord de mer” or ‘palaces by the sea’ as it is described by a sign post. The houses from that period are made of stone and the architecture is varied and imaginative. Some of them seem to take off in all directions according to the original owner’s flights of fancy. There are chimney pots and turrets. But if one looks carefully at the cliffs below, one may see the ruins of the old Roman settlement.
St.Malo
Of course there are hotels, some very grand.  Dinard does not seem ancient in the way of Honfleur. It seems to be rather a holiday town. Its wide beach is sandy, not stony like the ones in the south of France. And we can see the ancient seaport of St. Malo just across the bay from here. Ferries sail between England and France regularly from St. Malo, making this part of Brittany a holiday destination for Brits. (Although at The Hotel de Vallee, we seem to be the only English speakers in residence.)
Yesterday, on our way to the hospital (continuing problems from the accident in Amsterdam) we happened on an International Film Festival. Roads were roped off. The hotels around the site were what I think of as generic “Grand’. That part of Dinard could have been Nice or Cannes on the Riviera. I like our part of Dinard much better.
Beach in Dinard
We’ve booked an additional two days here, first because we love it, but second to give our bodies a little more time to heal. The good news is where I was almost certain there was a broken bone in my left hand, there isn’t. The x-rays show everything intact. It’s just soft tissue damage. It will heal in time. The leg, on the other hand is badly infected. Keeping it elevated is not a problem when I can sit with a glass of Calvados on the table beside me and watch the boats and the tides and the mussel collectors all at work. 


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Following are my own published novels. For further details about my books and all my reviews of books I have read, go to my Goodreads page.
 
To purchase one of my books, just click on the book cover below and select the vendor of your choice.
.....................................................
 


COMING SOON!  Romantic Road, is a romantic thriller set in Europe.  It is due for release in late 2014 by Wild Rose Press!  Stay tuned.


Romantic Road ~ Takes you on a chase across Europe with our heroine who finds herself in a series of precarious situations.  She encounters a handsome stranger, but is he helping her, or is he dangerous?  This story has hair raising suspense, romance and a sprinkling of humour








.................................................................



The Memory of Roses, Blair McDowell
 • The Memory of Roses ~ The story of a secret and how it impacts two generations of the McQuaid family.  It unfolds on the beautiful Greek Island of Corfu and is a tale complete with beautiful and passionate women, handsome and fiery men, and an intriguing mystery.


"The Memory of Roses by Blair McDowell is simply an incredibly lovely story. It’s also a love story, and a story about finding yourself, and about closure. The theme running through the book is “all’s well that ends well.”  --  Marlene, Reading Reality
.................................................................


Delighting In Your Company, Blair McDowell
 • Delighting In Your Company ~ Delighting In Your Company is a paranormal romance set on an exotic Caribbean island, featuring a handsome ghost and an adventurous heroine who travels back in time to solve a mystery!

"Delighting In Your Company is a unique paranormal romance that brings together island folklore, history, and mystery with an unlikely romance between the past and present that had me going through a torrent of emotions and made it impossible to put down." -- The Romance Reviews
..............................................................


Sonata, Blair McDowell
 • Sonata ~ Sayuri McAllister has just arrived home to Vancouver to find that a robbery has taken place at her family home, and it is being investigated by her old flame.  She also has a new stepmother with a charming brother who is intent on bedding and wedding the rich and beautiful Sayuri. It’s a confusing and difficult time for Sayuri, especially when dangerous accidents happen to her father and herself – or are they accidents?


“I found Sonata to be a charming novel that left me laughing out loud in parts and gnawing nails in others. It was a delight to read.” – Night Owl Reviews

....................................................................


Abigail's Christmas, Blair McDowell
 • Abigail's Christmas (short story) ~ An enchanting tale of love and romance, with a magical touch of fantasy.
 
"Abigail’s Christmas is a sweet and special story that honors both love and the holidays."  -- Sizzling Hot Books  





Thursday, 16 October 2014

Next stop on our European Journey - Honfleur, France



Honfleur Harbour

The name Honfleur has always conjured up to me the beautiful boat and harbour paintings of Monet. I had not realized that Monet was not the only impressionist painter to find inspiration in this lovely little historic town at the mouth of the Seine. Gustave Courbet, Eugène Boudin, Claude Monet and Johan Jongkind, and others created the école de Honfleur (Honfleur School) which, in turn, contributed to the appearance of the Impressionist movement in art. I knew Honfleur only through the paintings of Monet I had seen in the Musee D’Orsay in Paris. The reality was a revelation.



St. Catherine's Bell Tower


Church of St. Catherine's











The town was not as all as I expected it to 
Timbered houses
be. I knew the dreamy pastel boats were probably a thing of the past, but I had not expected to find the town itself of such great historic interest. At first sight, Honfleur looks as if it has been plucked out of Tudor England. It is full of crooked, lanes winding through tall half-timbered houses. Of course this does not seem so absurd when taken in the context of history. Ownership of this part of France flipped back and forth between the English and the French many times. And before that, the Romans were here. Of particular interest is St. Catherine’s Church, the largest wooden church in France. When they built it in the 12th Century, the townspeople constructed the bell tower as a separate building, so that if it was struck by lightning, the entire church wouldn’t burn down.


Bridge Over Seine at Honfleur
At the mouth of one of France’s most important rivers, the Seine, Honfleur was a natural harbor for international trade. It was from Honfleur that Samuel de Champlain sailed in 1608 to the New World to found the trading posts that became Montreal and Quebec City, in Canada.



Today, nearby Le Havre has superseded Honfleur in importance as the harbor from which international trade is transacted, leaving tiny Honfleur still relatively untouched in its medieval beauty.  Although an impressive modern bridge now spans the mouth of the Seine and a state of the art set of locks now protect Honfleur’s harbor, the real beauty of this town lies in its sense of the past.



The wars of the French revolution and the First Empire, and in particular the continental blockade, caused the ruin of Honfleur. It only partially recovered during the 19th century with the trading of wood from northern Europe. Trade was however limited by the silting up of the entrance to the port and development of the modern port at Le Havre. The port however still functions today.


On August 25th, 1944, Honfleur was liberated together by the British army - 19th Platoon of the 12th Devon's, 6th Air Landing Brigade, the Belgian army (Brigade Piron) on 25 August 1944, and the Canadian army without any combat.
************************************************* 

Following are my own published novels. For further details about my books and all my reviews of books I have read, go to my Goodreads page.
 
To purchase one of my books, just click on the book cover below and select the vendor of your choice.
.....................................................
 


COMING SOON!  Romantic Road, is a romantic thriller set in Europe.  It is due for release in late 2014 by Wild Rose Press!  Stay tuned.


Romantic Road ~ Takes you on a chase across Europe with our heroine who finds herself in a series of precarious situations.  She encounters a handsome stranger, but is he helping her, or is he dangerous?  This story has hair raising suspense, romance and a sprinkling of humour








.................................................................



The Memory of Roses, Blair McDowell
 • The Memory of Roses ~ The story of a secret and how it impacts two generations of the McQuaid family.  It unfolds on the beautiful Greek Island of Corfu and is a tale complete with beautiful and passionate women, handsome and fiery men, and an intriguing mystery.


"The Memory of Roses by Blair McDowell is simply an incredibly lovely story. It’s also a love story, and a story about finding yourself, and about closure. The theme running through the book is “all’s well that ends well.”  --  Marlene, Reading Reality
.................................................................


Delighting In Your Company, Blair McDowell
 • Delighting In Your Company ~ Delighting In Your Company is a paranormal romance set on an exotic Caribbean island, featuring a handsome ghost and an adventurous heroine who travels back in time to solve a mystery!

"Delighting In Your Company is a unique paranormal romance that brings together island folklore, history, and mystery with an unlikely romance between the past and present that had me going through a torrent of emotions and made it impossible to put down." -- The Romance Reviews
..............................................................


Sonata, Blair McDowell
 • Sonata ~ Sayuri McAllister has just arrived home to Vancouver to find that a robbery has taken place at her family home, and it is being investigated by her old flame.  She also has a new stepmother with a charming brother who is intent on bedding and wedding the rich and beautiful Sayuri. It’s a confusing and difficult time for Sayuri, especially when dangerous accidents happen to her father and herself – or are they accidents?


“I found Sonata to be a charming novel that left me laughing out loud in parts and gnawing nails in others. It was a delight to read.” – Night Owl Reviews

....................................................................


Abigail's Christmas, Blair McDowell
 • Abigail's Christmas (short story) ~ An enchanting tale of love and romance, with a magical touch of fantasy.
 
"Abigail’s Christmas is a sweet and special story that honors both love and the holidays."  -- Sizzling Hot Books