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A Breton Weekend

Writing.ie | Member Blog

Deirdre Conroy

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It was too good to be true, I was sent on a trip to Brittany to write about a food festival and a yacht race at the end of June. That was grand, but the allocation of a baggage allowance, a check-in suitcase, that was too exciting for words, books could be packed, extra shoes, summer and winter wardrobe, any amount of toiletries and the new mosquito armoury, not to mention the stripy Breton dresses, jumpers and t-shirts I’ve amassed and never wear in Ireland. I’m back home two days and the suitcase is still in Paris.


Star of Entre Terre et Mer and Prince de Bretagne

When we landed in Brest, the Intrepid PR lady, who’ll be known as Fenella, took charge of the mini-van and in no time we were in the quaint medieval town of Morlaix on Saturday afternoon. The sun shone, there was music in the streets, the inlet was filled with boats of all sizes, moored for the second annual Entre Terre et Mer festival, a celebration of food from land and sea, a collaboration of farming and fishing. The star of the festival was the Artichoke and I forgot to bring one home. Probably a good idea now that the case is missing two days.


There are towns in Brittany more famous than Morlaix, Pont Aven for instance, the historic artist colony. But for its preservation of traditional timber houses and its authentic character I’d definitely recommend a visit to Morlaix if you arrive by ferry. The Victorian viaduct is breathtaking in scale and execution, well it is if you get high on historic brick.


As I strolled along the quayside, photographing vintage tractors – I have a strange fascination with farming history – a band struck up, no ordinary troupe, the most eccentrically dressed brass band of men and women, quintessentially French eccentric, I wouldn’t have been surprised to see Johnny Depp in pirate gear jam with them.


The Winners La Route des Princes

The yacht race was finishing in the bay of Roscoff and we were booked into a hotel there for two nights. I’d never been to Roscoff before, it’s the ferry route from Cork to France and I imagined an industrial port. It couldn’t have been more different, another quaint medieval town with tempting shops and quite reasonable restaurants. Ok, yes, I’d forgotten that inimitable French thing, what do you call it? Irritability? Sullenness? Abrupt service? There was a bit of that in our Taliban Hotel but let’s put it down to the staff having an off day. Room rates were reasonable and it was very convenient, which is the main thing on a family holiday.


On Sunday I spent two hours literally chilling in a rib in the rather legendary fog of Finistere, photographing impressive trimarans crossing the finishing line from Plymouth. I’ve been wracking my brains ever since to figure out what poem I did in college that immortalises the weather system of the Breton cliffs. I’ll let you know if I remember or indeed answers on a tweet if you know.


Damian Foxall on Omanair

Anyway, from landlady issues to multihull-one-design yachts (or MODs to you), I got some great photos on my phone, not as thrilling as the action shots by Rodrigo the Portuguese man in charge, but they’ll do. I’ll be writing a review so I must gather my thoughts on the unassuming Irish ocean sailor, Damian Foxall, who was a charming interview subject. 


Our gala chateau dinner that night was in Carantec, the kind of place where you could bask on the lawn in the glowing embers of a Breton sunset, if it wasn’t for the freezing fog. Some angel hands were hard at work all day creating canapé heaven. ‘Diet starts Monday’ was probably the most repeated phrase amongst us. Now that she’s back from L.A. I’m at Blonde Racquel’s table tonight, so I’ll start that Diet thing next Monday. Welcome to Dublin Landlady, Fenella, and I hope your case isn’t full of artichoke puree.


The rain back in Dublin was ideal for writing, I’ve a review of 4 ‘beach reads’ to finish, an article on CHQ for the Irish Independent and a review of Brittany before I forget why I went. I also wanted to see what a Dáil vote was like, so I sat in the gallery and watched as the bell rang and members came through all doors like chattering, nervous schoolchildren coming into class. They grouped and tapped each other, shook hands, nodded gravely, smiled bravely and took their seats. The curtains opened and an illuminated theatre plan appeared on the wall, with lights on each desk to vote yes or no. At the signal, they all pressed their buttons, 138 green 24 red. Not so much X Factor as X Case.

  • The Dark Room: A thrilling new novel from the number one Irish Times bestselling author of Keep Your Eyes on Me
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