French Photo Diary #8: Springtime In Rural Brittany
I thought I’d kick off the week with a few snapshots from my week in France, the general shots from around the house, on our walks through the forest, and around the very rural landscape we fell in love with when we purchased our falling down (no, really) stone barn and attached farmhouse that we have been slowly renovating almost a decade ago. Stay tuned for photos from market day in Combourg (our nearest town), Cancale (world famous for their oysters), and for another easy recipe from our French kitchen.
One of my favourite things about our rural area is the amount of beautiful walks to take whenever the weather is good. We’ve discovered our own favourite round routes through the fields and little hamlets around our house, and then there was the day when my Dad dropped my Mum and I off in the nearest village. He drove home with our baguette, and we walked the leisurely hour home through the village and bright yellow rapeseed fields. And there is Villecartier Forest, which I could happily get lost in on a sunny day.
As I mentioned, we’re still renovating the house. The order of the day this time around was to dig out and lay a patio around the side of the house where the sun reaches in the early evening; a perfect spot for our aperitif each evening. While my Mum mines the massive (but rapidly shrinking) pile of local stone that was removed from the house when we added more windows for pieces that are flat enough to use as pavers, my Dad lays the path, and I mix the cement. I’ve become a dab hand with the cement mixer, if I may say so myself. It’s thirsty work (I may or may not have a bit of a sunburnt nose!), so I was happy that the guys who produce Newton’s Appl Fizzics Apple Juice sent me a few bottles of their juice to try by way of a non-alcoholic refreshment for my trip. It’s a nice clean apple juice blended with sparkling water to make it lighter and more refreshing, and even if you don’t have any ice to hand, it is great chilled and poured over a few mint sprigs.
Since my last visit, we’ve had a big, comfy sofa installed on the upstairs landing, perfect for snuggling up on with a good book or a magazine when its raining or in the late afternoon when all you really feel like doing is lazing about. I read two pretty fantastic books during my trip: The Miniaturist by Jessie Burton (for you if you like compelling, inquisitive historical fiction which will take you to 17th century Amsterdam), and The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova (which is very different, for you if you enjoy an intellectual read, set both in the past and in present day, but you also don’t mind if Dracula happens to be both real and alive in it).
Obviously we ate out fill of local produce. A trip to Brittany would not be complete without buying a massive bag of local prawns to eat with French bread and Marie Rose Sauce, and to make my favourite Daddy/ Daughter Hot King Prawns In Garlic Butter. I’ve also become something of a fan of the local strawberries; small, sweet and brilliantly bright red. Perfect by themselves or with French vanilla ice cream.
A sculptor lives opposite us. When we first moved in, the horse was just starting to take shape out of its block of stone, and we’ve watched as people have appeared with incredible skill. I wonder what is going to appear next, and where these pieces are destined for? I wish we had somewhere to find a home for that horse.
When we were first looking at property to buy in the area, we stayed at Chateau de la Ballue, famous in the region for its beautiful gardens. The Chateau is now on one of our regular walks, and I remember the gardens being quite elaborate off-season. Now I’m a bit older and more into well crafted gardens, I’m going to head back again in peak season to take some photos for you all.
I’ve mentioned several times that while I love creating barbecue recipes, I’ve never been very good at the actual barbecuing part. So, in honour of our new built in stone barbecue on the front patio (it is almost finished, but we’ve already started cooking on it) I’m actually making the effort to learn to barbecue properly. And I think my first solo attempt cooking a couple of scraggly veal chops did not go too badly.
Sometimes it is important just to plan a trip to relax. It does not have to be on the beach somewhere, just somewhere quiet when you can totally switch off. It was the first week I can remember in so long where my phone (and therefore my only internet connection) stayed completely off for the whole week, and I’ve now become a massive believer that we all need a good digital and social media detox once in a while.