Fashionable Mask Wearing in Beautiful Brittany

We weren’t sure whether we would make it to France and, if we did, what we would find here. It turns out it is both normal and abnormal.

After landing in St Malo, we spent the first few days on the Côte de Granite Rose on Brittany’s north coast. Camping Tourony came highly recommended and was a great site to relax on. Good bread was available every morning and we could walk to a lovely beach in the evenings and practice tai chi among the large boulders. So far, so normal.

The area was busy with visitors and masks were required on le sentier des douaniers that follows the beautiful coast among the boulders and trees. This seemed reasonable given the number of people but wearing a mask while outside is a strange experience that takes something away from the joy of being in the great outdoors; no smelling the surf on the breeze or the scent of pine trees when you are behind a mask. Elsewhere walking and hiking have felt pretty much normal and provided relief from coronavirus. On this walk you couldn’t forget this was DC (during coronavirus).

Mask wearing in fashionable France is interesting to observe. On le sentier des douaniers about 80% of walkers complied. The masks varied from the colourful homemade to disposable, but plain re-usable masks were most common. We walked back through the streets as these were quieter and masks were not compulsory here and around the shops.

The French have different ways of carrying their mask when they are not wearing it. Some tuck it below their mouth so that it covers their chin, like a sort of beard mask. Some go lower and put the mask around their necks. Quite common is leaving the mask dangling off one ear when not required, this is a relaxed and jolly fashion statement. Others attach their mask to the straps on their bag or camera or wear it around their wrist. Losing my mask has become a new anxiety for me. I keep mine in my pocket and am constantly checking it is still there.

Our masks are always handy!

Île-Grande, further west, was quieter and consequently more relaxed for a day out walking. The island’s circuit is easy and there is plenty that is interesting along the way. We walked around pretty bays, to craggy points and by marinas packed with boats. We climbed to the centre of the island for the view from the rocky outcrop and found the burial cairn, covered in two huge slabs of rock. My favourite time was walking through the warm and shallow blue water along the edge of the beach back to the mainland, splashing gently and not a thought for a virus.

Of course, much is still normal. The wine is good and cheap and you’ll be pleased to hear that France is as welcoming as ever to motorhomers. There are plenty of vans and their owners on holiday in Brittany and they are making full use of the campsites and aires and enjoying this beautiful country. There are campers from Germany, the Netherlands and Italy but the vast majority we have seen are French. Of course in these DC days everything is seen differently and French supermarkets that used to be such fun to explore now feel crowded. Numbers are not restricted and social distancing seems to mean nothing in the rush to shop. We’re doing as big a shop as we can fit in or small van in one go!

We’re being cautious while enjoying France and not dwelling on our quarantine time when we return too much.

Back on the road through France

09.04.2016 Verdon region of Provence (1)

The beautiful landscape of Provence in France

Newly retired and all the time in the world we were back on the road in our blue campervan.  We set off south in April sunshine hopeful we would find beautiful and interesting places and have some fun.  Just being in the ‘van is relaxing and we were soon in a meandering frame of mind, stopping when we found somewhere lovely, making coffee among gorgeous scenery and taking strolls to interesting places.  Our first night was at the popular aire at Pont au Mousson, our second in the lovely Bourgogne wine producing town of Beaune, stopping on the way to stroll around Langres, on its stunning hilltop position.   We passed through pretty honey-coloured villages where men chatted outside the Marie, drove by large fields hunted by buzzards and under trees dripping with mistletoe.

Leaving the vineyards of Beaune we got mixed up with the circus vehicles in the next town, around us were vans and cars blowing their horns to announce their arrival.  We used the aire at Bourget-du-Lac and had a sunny afternoon walk to the lakeside, the ruined Chateau St Thomas II and the bird hide overlooking lovely pools busy with cormorants, red-crested pochard and one great egret and we watched marsh harriers flying low as they hunted.  We also walked in to Les Bourget-du-Lac and found the priory with its stately garden.

The weather was being so kind to us and after resisting the urge to stop in the Ecrins we treated ourselves to a couple of nights in Digne les Bains to give us time to stretch our legs after days of mostly driving.  We were now among the rocky Mediterranean landscape rich with herbs.  Our early evening stroll from the campsite took us to the large orderly cemetery of the Cathedral de Notre Dame du Bourg; we strolled around the fascinating graves enjoying the glimpses in to people’s lives.  Later as we ate sitting outside the snow covered mountains at the end of the valley were pink from the setting sun.

The campsite in Digne les Bains was perfectly placed for the lovely circular three chapels walk.  The path with signposts followed a lightly-shaded path through small oak trees and broom, the path edges blooming with cowslips, thyme and marjoram.  The route is only around five kilometers but follows a steep rocky path to give great views over the town.  Chapel number one, St Vincent, is a large church-like structure above the town.  Continuing uphill we found chapel number two, the Chapelle de la Croix, a tiny chapel perched on the highest point at 870 metres.  We ate our lunch enjoying the panoramic views and the peace, just the butterflies busily flitting around the flowers and small lizards taking in the sun.  We followed the ridge and then took the path downhill, meeting a group of mountain bikers struggling up the craggy path.  Chapel number three, Notre Dame, is in the trees just above Digne.  This small ruined church has a shrine underneath it in a cave.  We found cooling ice-creams in Digne before walking back to the ‘van.

From Digne les Bains we drove through the stunning scenery of Castellane and Grasse.  The road climbed over cols and took us through woodland, the landscape becoming more arid and more dramatic.  We stopped to take in the staggering vistas on a mountain road; I was awestruck by the landscape of white layered limestone rocks dotted with attractive Provencal farmhouses.  Our final night in France was in Cagnes sur Mer before we headed in to Italy to catch our ferry to Greece.

05.04.2017 Beaune (4)
The pretty French town of Beaune