July is our busiest month at Maison Conti, but this year, unusually, it is turning out to also be a month with much family time as well. Emily and Jos, after several months of shows cancelled and work put on hold, are now roaring ahead with many new projects. Often their work takes them on the road. Since school is out, they really need some help with the children, so we are on duty for two out of the four weeks this month. If it’s possible, my preference is to take them somewhere that offers more outdoor activities than we have at home, so I blocked out last week while they were with us, and we headed back to Brittany, taking another short vacation
This time we decided to go to the southern Brittany coast in the Morbihan, about an hour further down the way from St. Suliac and our last seaside adventure. I found a little inexpensive place in a town named Etel, an area we had never visited. I was rather attracted to the decor in the photos of the apartment we rented, which was Nepalese in flavor. The door of our room, for instance was an ancient artifact brought back from Nepal and retrofitted into the apartment. The location turned out to be ideal for us.
We were right in the center of town, with a boulangerie next door, the weekly market at our doorstep and a perfect little “lake” a few feet from the apartment. Etel is on la Ria d’Etel, a tidal inlet/river, not unlike La Rance where St. Suliac sits. From Etel, however, one can see the mouth of the river flowing into the Atlantic. Next to the port is a saltwater lake which we called “the lagoon.” It was surrounded by grass and sand and was so shallow that the children could swim there with out any danger. They spent each day splashing about and making up water games.
Just south of Etel is the very popular Presqu’Île de Quiberon (literally, the almost island), a long narrow peninsula, surrounded on three sides by water. We took a tour one of the days we were there.
The west side is the wilder rocky coast, while the east side has sandy beaches. There are several villages along the route and the landscape is flat scrub with wildflowers.
We drove down the west side and back up the east side. We stopped along the way to climb the rock formations and enjoy the sea views.
The coastline reminded me of northern California except that the rocks were shale rather than sandstone.
The weather was almost perfect the whole time we were away.
The children never tire of the ocean and neither do we.
We did some swimming at the very tip of the peninsula. When we arrived it was low tide, but my perch on a rock near shore kept moving up the beach as the quickly rising tide enveloped one sitting spot after the next
This time we were determined to get out on the water. It’s a wonderful spot for water sports and you can easily rent kayaks, catamarans, wind surf boards, to mention a few choices. We decided to begin with a kayak adventure on the Ria near Ste Hélène, a few miles down the road from Etel. There were many launching points up and down the coastline and this one was recommended as the best kayaking spot.
But the water adventures didn’t stop there. Rick has always wanted to teach Quinn to sail, as he was a sailor in his youth on Long Island Sound. I discovered that we could go to Carnac, known mostly for the enormous numbers of monoliths there, and rent a sailboat. Our last day in town we took a picnic lunch, drove to Carnac, just a few kilometers from Etel, and after lunch went to see what boat rental options were. Rick and Quinn were quite interested in a catamaran there. Zinnie took one look at it and sagely said “I’m not going on a boat without sides.” So she and I stayed on shore while the boys took to the rolling waves.
The ship was large and Zinnie and I watched as Rick and Quinn, pushed off. We had a nice view from the parapet.
As they sailed off, rather quickly I must say, I pondered whether we would ever see Rick and Quinn again. It was a joke, but as it turned out, not completely inconceivable.
They were gone longer than expected and when they returned it was with a rather harrowing story of misadventure. The rudders were incorrectly fitted and the boat was extremely difficult to handle. At one point it capsized and the boys was pitched into the sea. Luckily the sea patrol were on their jog and came out quite quickly to help them right their craft, which they were not heavy enough to do on their own. As the boat was coming back to right, it hit Rick on the top of the head. Happily he was far enough underwater that the damage wasn’t great. Quinn was quite delighted with the escapade but Zinnie and I were just as happy to have missed the whole thing.
Before heading back to Etel we stopped by the highbrow La Trinité-sur-Mer. It has one of the most famous marinas in Brittany as the starting port of many yachting competitions.
There are hundreds of boats berthed here, mostly private pleasure ones, but a few famous competition craft.