Sunday, 26 June 2011

The Painted Lady, the Admirals, Some firsts and a Prima Donna

Little Egret near Lann Hoedic

Well here I am back from Brittany,reviewing my thoughts and my photographs and in desperate need of updating my blog. The Curious Fish and I had visualised endless opportunities to get on line (in Brittany) via Wi Fi and to keep our blogs up to date. This proved impossible because of the scarcity and limitations of hotspots and also the prohibitive costs on some sites which offered a WiFi (pronounced WeeFee) service (typically 6 to 9 euros for a couple of  hours). One of my personal objectives now I'm back in the UK is to find out about and cost more effective internet coverage for when we're travelling in the UK and Europe. I suspect cost will be a major factor in Europe. Any advise gratefully received.
Brittany is a beautiful place with wonderful, warm, welcoming and friendly people. It can be windy and for the last two weeks of our visit was very wet. The countryside is lush, verdant (not surprising considering the rainfall) and very unspoilt. The roads are quiet by West Midlands standards and population density per square mile significantly less than the UK. Drivers seem very courteous and everybody seems to obey speed limits.
The wildlife (which as you may have guessed from reading this blog is a particular interest of mine) threw me a lot of exciting moments and some thrilling 'firsts' with Avocets and a Black Winged Stilt (spotted by the Curious Fish) on the Salt Marches at Suscinio being top of the list. The Black Winged Stilt whilst close to the Avocets was actually mingling with the considerable numbers of Egrets which were feeding in the shallow waters.
Avocet at Suscinio
Black Winged Stilt in the murky distance
Did you just see an Avocet?

Sunrise at Lann Hoedic taken from Motorhome Wanda
The photographs (poor) of the above mentioned firsts are the best I could obtain in the wet and murky weather conditions. I even leapt out of bed at 6.00am one morning to try to improve on the photographs but the weather remained consistently grey and grim so my 15 min early morning drive to Suscinio was to little avail. The photograph shows the sunrise at Lann Hoedic near Sarzeau (that morning). This caused me much optimism (6.00am French time 5.00 am UK Time - Aarghhh!) but within 10 minutes it was pouring down again!!

I know the Curious Fish will be posting some photographs of Suscinio Castle etc on her blog shortly. Catch up with her as she catches up on http://www.

Order restored for moment, she's about to run!

Despite all the rain I had some huge belly laughs (suppressed for fear of frightening the birds) at the antics of a pair of Shelducks. The Drake was dignified and calm and trying desperately to be in control of his female, he kept calling her back to his side. She was having none of it and dashed off hither and thither to feed in various muddy dabbles seemingly at random. He was clearly nearing the end of his feather (sorry) as she dashed about...she was definitely the 'road runner' of the duck world. Duck 1 Drake 0.

Oh no she's off again!!
We did have quite a few sunny days which were great for Butterfly spotting. We were relocating from Trinity Sur Mer to Carnac when we stopped off to view the Tumulus of St Michael and parked in a sloping sandy gravelly parking area nearby (more about the parking in a minute). We visited the Pre historic tumulus which has been 'christianised' by the building of a church on top of it and on the way back came upon a Laurel at the foot of some lucky person's garden. The Laurel was in full sun, in full flower and awash with Painted Lady butterflys and Red Admirals I was overcome first with excitement and then with frustration for the laurel was probably 4 or 5 metres high with the flowers and the butterflies near the top. I did manage a few photographs when the odd beauty dropped down the bush nearer to my camera level.
Painted Lady Carnac
Red Admiral Carnac 
Now you know I mentioned the 'parking space' sloped downhill from the entrance which conversely means you have to drive uphill to leave. Our rig with motorhome, trailer and car is over forty feet long and weighs in at six tonnes. The mistake I'd made was to reverse into the parking area with my bonnet facing up hill, not the brightest thing I've ever done with a front wheel drive vehicle on a dusty slippery surface. I suspect the dust cloud we created when we spun our way out of the car park was probably visible from the moon. Oh well!! lesson learned (until the next time?).

When we left Carnac we moved to Lann Hoedic near Sarzeau where the above murky Suscinio bird photographs were taken. Whilst on site (during a sunny spell) I managed to sneak up on a White Admiral Butterfly sunning itself on a patch of dry grass. This was another first (apparently we get them in Southern England but I've never seen one).
White Admiral Pitch 92 Lann Hoedic
Oh Happy Day

Monday, 6 June 2011

A Butterfly, A Moth, and A Woolly Bear

As I wander around Brittany, camera in hand, I'm always looking for things which are unusual to me. To find a Garden Tiger Moth in a busy street in Quimper next to a very noisy and very dusty pavement re-slabbing operation qualifies as unusual. As I attempted to photograph it, praying it wouldn't be trampled underfoot it took the life saving hint and fluttered onto a nearby windowsill.

Now this type of moth has 'Woolly Bear' caterpillars, quite poisonous and liable to irritate if you handle them, I hadn't seen one in a long time and what do you think rambled across Wanda's doormat yesterday (In Carnac 5/6/2011). See attached photograph.
This one was beautiful with a double row of red spots running down its back.

Whilst I'm in mid ramble Carnac has also delighted me by having a flutter of Marbled White butterflies. Interestingly very abundant on the Tumulus of Moustoir within half a mile of our pitch. I suspect the foliage growing on the tumulus has remained unchanged for 6 to 7 thousand years and perhaps this availability of traditional food and habitat appeals to them.Now these beautiful but flibbertigibbet butterflies have an infuriating habit of flying fast and not settling for more than nano seconds. The attached photograph is the result of patience and determination.

Saturday, 4 June 2011

Ici mon bus pass

Hooray!! Hourra!!! We have arrived!! Nous avons arrive!!!
After months of saving, planning, researching and preparing - we're in France. This blog post starts on day three of the 'grande' tour.
We are comfortably pitched at L'Orangerie de Lanniron, Quimper (pronounced Compere allegedly), Brittany. The travel lag is wearing off and we're starting to relax into our wonderful surroundings. This idyllic spot was once the home of the Bishops of Cornwall - they certainly knew where and how to live. The site is on the side of the River Odet with the Chateau (formerly the Bishops Palace) positioned with terraced gardens stepping down to the river bank.
River Odet @ Quimper
We strolled into Quimper (2km) yesterday and found a lovely town built along one bank of the river Odet, the other side being tree covered cliffs. The Curious Fish noticed that the local Gallery of Arts was holding a Turner and Monet exhibition. We arrived their a little late in the day due to mingling in the Cathedral Square with the locals enjoying folk singing and eating crepes and were told it would be better for us to return another day (autre jour) as we would not have enough time to enjoy the exhibition before the gallery closed.

As advised we ventured back today and amidst lots of very good (but very common theme religious paintings) saw three excellent small Monets and two Turners. The larger Turner of  The Harbour of Brest (painted 1827) was very beautiful and frankly breathtaking. It is on loan from The Tate Gallery in London.

The French Language continues to be a problem in the sense that we are very poor at hearing and comprehension. In a nutshell we can ask a question but 'Oh My Lord' what did the answer mean??There have been quite a few gobsmacked moments. Fotunately (and embarassingly) the vast majority of the population of Brittany have a good command of the English Language even although they don't use it on a day to day basis.
The Curious Fish and I are determined to master this appalling lack of ability and are now considering private tuition with a fluent (preferably native) French speaker if we can locate such a person at home.
Returning to the Turner and Monet exhibition the Curious Fish was determined to find out if we could get a reduced entrance fee due to our age. After some considerable laughter we thought her initial preparation of the sentence Ici mon bus pass was a little lacking in substance.
She thought further and practiced Est-ce-que en offre speciale pour les personnes du troisième âge? This enquiry which was beautifully delivered received one reply we did understand ...."Non" from the smiling ticket seller.
As we stroll into town we pass a memorial which was recently erected (10/5/2010) in the grounds of L'Orangerie (see photo). This memorial is to the memory of the prisoners of the second World War who were interned in the grounds at Lanniron Stalag 135. My understanding of a Stalag is that it is a Prison Camp for non commissioned officers and privates.

If my translation of the plaque is correct the camp held 2000 French soldiers and 7746 soldiers from the French Colonies in Africa and Asia until liberation on 8th August 1944. At this point the fortunes of war turned and 3853 German prisoners were interned until the camp was closed in June 1946.