Friday, May 6, 2011


Monsieur Pavie
Dinan is known for its half-timbered houses.
This is the house Auguste Pavie was born in.
He was an explorer of Indo-China.
there are flowers, flowers EVERYWHERE!
This is supporting the house?!?

Dinan is even better than my wildest imagining of it!  It really is dreamy...  aside from one huge spider in the bathroom that looked like it was made out of congealed brown gravy and a disgusting millipede creature that was feathering its many long legs around in the kitchen sink, I haven't had a single unpleasant encounter.  I don't know where to begin!  I will try to blurb out as much as I can to cover how it has been so far.  This will probably be an immense entry, and then I will aim to update every other day from now on.  I am sitting in the bar/cafe of the Best Western hotel, which is up the street and across the river from my cottage.  The cafe/bar is like a sun room, with a whole wall of windows overlooking the river and all the docked boats. There are even little chamomile flowers growing in the grass near the path along the river. And a few minutes ago a bird was hopping on the stone wall next to the window with a fat bug in his beak. This is the only place to get wireless internet, and it is perfect because all I have to do is strap my laptop onto the back of my bike with bungee cords and pedal down the bumpy street, take a left over the old bridge, loop back down alongside the river and I'm here!  The hotel staff has been very nice and all I have to do is order a coffee or whatever drink I want, and then I'm officially a 'guest' of the hotel, entitled to the free internet access.
Looking over the Rance River.  'La Vignette' is just out of
sight if you follow the river with your eye.
So, I will begin with the journey here.  The trip consisted of one flight to Paris, a connecting flight to Rennes, and then 3 bus rides between the Rennes airport and Dinan.  On the flight from D.C. to Paris, I had planned to sleep as much as I could, because I hadn't slept much at all the night before.  But I didn't sleep at all.  I was sandwiched between two of the most talkative people.... an elderly Hungarian man named Suprich (I've Americanized it because the keyboard won't allow me to spell it in Hungarian) and Lisa, who grew up on a dairy farm in Texas.  Suprich spoke very little English and wanted to teach me Hungarian, and he wrote all of the 42 letters of the Hungarian alphabet out for me and encouraged me to repeat all the sounds.  Lisa, who was on her way to India, was full of all sorts of stories... like how she drove across New Zealand all by herself and how she was once engaged to three men at the same time before deciding on her husband, who is her complete opposite but that she's been happily married to for 21 years now.  Every time I closed my eyes to rest, Suprich or Lisa had something to say, but really I didn't mind because they were so interesting.  At last we landed in Paris, and for the rest of the trip, I was like a narcoleptic.  I kept accidentally falling asleep in chairs, bus stations, buses....  on the last bus ride, I woke up every once in a while.  The bus driver was a really good whistler and he liked whistling along with the radio.  He got really excited when an American oldie came one... I don't know what the song is called but it has a nice syncopated beat and some of the lyrics say 'It's not unusual to be loved by anyone... it's not unusual...'  Well... I'm actually not sure if those are really the lyrics but that's what I've always thought the singer was saying.  Anyway, the bus driver loved that song and he was whistling it in a really loud, trembly way with lots of flair.   I think it's called vibrato when singers make their voices tremble... that's how the bus driver whistled.  There were all sorts of bright wild flowers all along the roads, and I saw a herd of fat Guernsey cows munching grass in a little meadow.  It was like patches of sun and cheery whistling between bouts of dozing off on the bus.
Espaliered Roses in the
English Garden

When I finally arrived in Dinan at the main bus station, there wasn't a taxi in sight.  My plan had been to catch a taxi from the station to the cottage.  There was just one girl in front of the station and no one else.  I walked the whole length of the building but I still didn't see any taxi.  A car pulled up next to the girl and I realized if I didn't ask her where I might find a taxi, I would lose my chance.  So I asked her.  And she said there weren't any taxis around that station, only at the previous bus stop, which would've been a long haul with my huge suitcase.  She said her mother (who was driving the car) would drive me to the other station.  Then the mother got out of the car and said she would like to drive me all the way to the cottage!  Her name was Suzanne LaCombe and she was one of those people that makes you feel close to them in a short period of time.  She told me that she had five children (the girl at the station was one of them) and that she was a retired English teacher.  Her daughter was just meeting her at the station to drop off her suitcase from school and then was joining her friends for a trip somewhere else.  I can't believe what a lucky miracle it was that she happened to be at the station at the exact moment I needed her.  When we got to the cottage, the two ladies from Les Amis de la Grande Vigne who were coming to meet me weren't there yet.  So Madame LaCombe sat with me on the little bridge that goes over the creek next to the cottage and we talked.  She was very beautiful with long white hair pulled back in a twist and an loving, open face.  I also liked her shirt, which was old and navy blue with little flowers all over it.  
creek beside 'La Vignette'
When the two ladies from La Grande Vigne arrived, Madame LaCombe left but she said she would come visit me one day because there are bike trails all around the cottage and she loves riding bikes.  I hope she really comes - I want to see her again!  The ladies from La Grande Vigne were also very friendly and they showed me the cottage, gave me the keys and then one of them took me to the grocery store to get a little food and drove me through the village so I would have a general idea of it.  In the grocery story parking lot, the air was filled with the scent of cow poop, and the lady said, "Ah, the air smells good!"  This is one of my favorite things about it here - it is a bustling village, with people and shops galore, and cars racing over the cobbles, and is ancient and rural and natural and modern all at the same time.
staircase in the cottage
bedroom window
Inside St. Sauveur.  Founded
I think around 1100.
The cottage, called 'La Vignette',  is right beside a creek (and then the river is just across the street).  All throughout the cottage, day and night, you can hear the water rushing... and the birds are just wild here!  They sing and sing and sing... it's like being in the middle of a jungle.  There is a tiny stone patio, enclosed with shrubs and a stone wall and a white wooden gate, and there is a little clothes line.  The front door opens into the kitchen and there are big windows that open inward over the sink and counter.  Then there is the small studio for painting, a tiny bathroom, and a wooden staircase that winds up to the second floor, where there are two bedrooms and a bathroom with just a sink.  When I arrived, there were little bars of pink soap that smell like roses at the sink and in the bathtub.  I liked that.  The Rance River runs right in front of the cottage and there are biking and hiking trails running all over the hills, or there is a flat trail that runs along the river.  The first bike ride I took was a real adventure... the path was definitely better suited for hikers than for an old Pugeot street bike. I am so happy that the bike was at the cottage for me to use and it works very well and the tires are all pumped up, but it's very rattly and sounds like I'm running a stick around the rim of an aluminum washtub when I'm peddling.  So not knowing where I was going, I set out on one of the paths through the forest.  The path got steeper and steeper until I had to get off and push up and I was trying hard not to slip in my backless clogs (the only shoes I brought here)... until finally I emerged.  It was like I came up through a hole in the forest floor and found myself on a little road.  There was a field of Holstein cows grazing with bells around their necks.  I rode my bike up and down the road and there were stone houses - some of them very big, like they had been elegant chateaus a long time ago.  But now they looked a little run down with some stones falling out and weeds growing, etc.  I saw chicken coops and curtains hanging in the windows, gardens even with little gnome statues....  Oh - there are the most beautiful lace curtains here.  I think lace must be a specialty of the region, I will find out.  Which reminds me - the day before yesterday, while I was out walking in the village, I stopped in a shop that had both contemporary women's clothes and a whole bunch of vintage linens and lace.  I love old linens - and there were a whole bunch of old table clothes and nightgowns!!  The shop keeper was a nice enough woman, but there was something just a little bit witchy and insincere about her... she was one of those types that likes to wear long flowy dresses cut at dramatic angles with big decorative buttons and unusual sandals, and she had her big white pet dog in the shop with her.  I think she thought she might be able to enchant me (a silly tourist) into buying something if she hummed  'La Vie en Rose.'  I could've been mistaken, but I imagined she was trying to charm me and  I didn't like it.  I thanked her and left the shop.  
Yesterday morning was the market... the BIG market that happens every Thursday morning.  I set the alarm for 6:32 a.m. so I could get there at the very beginning.  It was glorious!!!  I bought chestnut blossom honey (there are lots of tall, old, old chestnut trees here and they are all in bloom right now) and a bottle of sparkling alcoholic apple cider from the local apples and then I drank half the bottle while I was painting yesterday.  I bought one sardine, which I painted.  I've never painted a fish before and I enjoyed it very much.  
from the market
I could go on and on and on... but now I'm going out in the sunshine to explore more, and then back to the cottage to paint!  Oh - and one more thing - it doesn't get dark until 10 p.m. here!!  I'm sorry for all the mistakes that must be all throughout this entry... I don't want to edit right now!

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