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Trip to Quimper, France, 2010


Eight thirty p.m. on Thursday 27th May 2010 saw us all on the coach, bags and cases packed, waiting in glorious sunshine ready to start our journey to Quimper. With the coach full, the choir and Torpoint Twinners settled in seats, we headed towards Millbay Docks via St. Germans, Trerulefoot, Notter Bridge and Saltash picking up those who lived outside Torpoint.

At Millbay Docks we had one last passenger to pick up, Gill Upton, who would be waiting for us as she lives nearby. George our wonderful driver for the trip parked outside the Departure Lounge, but with no sign of Gill, Betty went to look for her. Still no Gill. We did a couple of laps around the car lanes trying to think where she might be. No-one had her phone number, but after a while someone phoned her daughter who in turn rang Gill. Betty went back to the lounge and found Gill who had been there all the time but on the second floor and had nipped to the loo when Betty went in the first time. Bless her!


Once aboard the ?Amorique?, which I believe is the newest edition to the ferries and very grand too, we all found our cabins, deposited our overnight bags and headed straight for the bar! The crossing was very smooth helped no doubt by the one or two drinks that were consumed! At 6.30 a.m. we were woken by a delightful tune wafting down from the ceiling above our beds. Bags re-packed and then to the café area for breakfast before docking. We were able to board the coach whilst on the ferry, which speeded up the process of getting off and on to dry land to continue our journey.

The weather was glorious and it was a long drive to Bénodet, but everyone was in good spirits. At the designated spot, the Twinners and TLS members who were staying with host families left us and we drove to the waterfront and had a leisurely stroll along the beach and promenade before descending on the various cafes to enjoy some refreshments. Back on the coach, George continued to our hotel, ?Escale Oceania? in Quimper, a fairly small hotel, but very pleasant and comfortable. Some of us relaxed in our rooms, while others explored the town, before meeting again at the hotel at 2p.m. to be taken on a tour of Quimper, with our excellent guide, Marie Helene, who provided us with a wonderful collection of historic and informative pieces of knowledge concerning the town, on a walk which took about 2 hours. Marie Helene pointed out the spot where General de Gaulle gave his last speech, the local government buildings, the Mayor?s parlour. We had a wander around the fish market and cheese stalls.


The River Odet runs through the city and all along it are small bridges which take people from one side of the town to the other, and these bridges were the only access the locals had to get from their houses many years ago. Near the top of the town the Odet River meets with another river ?the Steir?, this being called a confluence and above this is a bridge called by the locals, the wee wee bridge. Years ago there was a small building over the river nicknamed the ?wee wee house? which residents used for doing the obvious! This building ended up in the river, so the bridge was named after it. Standing in the river just before the bridge is a sculpture, made by a fisherman who took great exception to the government imposing high taxes on the fishing industry and as a protest, sculpted the figure. After finishing it, he found he had a knack for producing this kind of work, so became a somewhat famous sculptor.


Across the bridges and into the square, where the magnificent Roman Catholic cathedral of St.Corentin stands with its two towers. Constructed in the 13th and 16th century, the two spires were added in the 19th century. It is a gothic building which bends in the middle to match the contours of the location and because of the marshy ground it was built on. The cathedral was dedicated to its first bishop, Corentin. On top of the cathedral is a statue on horseback of Gradeon the great. He is a semi legendary 5th century "King of Cornouille" who legend has it was in love with a magician called Malgven. They had a daughter, Dahut. This was a city below sea level, which was protected by a gate to keep the sea out. The keys to the gate which were kept around Gradeon's neck were stolen by Dahut who drunkenly opened the gate and let the sea in. Gradeon tried to rescue his daughter from drowning with a magical horse but her sins kept dragging them into the sea. He was told to drop Dahut who was swallowed by the sea, becoming a form of siren luring men to destruction.

Another statue in the square is the green statue, a formidable looking man called Laennec who was born in 1781 and invented the stethoscope in 1816. After a very interesting tour, we returned to our hotel, before spending the evening, enjoying a lovely 3 course meal in the hotel itself. After a satisfying dinner and a few drinks, some of us had a leisurely stroll to yet unseen parts of the town before heading to bed and much needed sleep.

Rain greeted us on Saturday morning, but didn't dampen our spirits. After breakfast another short walk around the town before Marie Helene arrived again, to accompany us to see Concarneau and Pont Aven. Two interesting towns all the better to see as the rain stopped for us. Concarneau is a walled city, which going through an archway opens up to a delightful street, full of interesting shops, patisseries and incredible ice cream parlours. Pont Aven is very pretty with water wheels, bridges and the inevitable "wee wee house". Pont Aven translates to "bridge over the Aven" and on show by one part of the river is a painting by Paul Gaugin who came to the town during his travels. He was born in Paris in1848, and during one particular period of painting his style was to use no perspective, no shadows and only primary colours. The painting by the river depicts what the view in front looked like when he painted it. There are numerous Art galleries to wander around in the town also.

We had to make our way back to the hotel as we had been invited to attend the 30th anniversary of the Association House which was a concert performed by A Travers Chants and some children. Unfortunately we got back to the hotel rather late, so were in a rush to get to the Hall. No worries! Elaine and Betty had the instructions how to get there, so we should make it by 5 p.m. when the concert started.

We got to know the "Pharmecie", Funeral parlour and the roundabout with strange blue bobbly things on wires, very intimately as we passed them in both directions on numerous occasions trying to find the Hall. Finally we stopped at a shop and John asked the local butcher the way. Apparently the directions had left out one vital "turn left" instruction, so we got completely lost! Never mind, it was great fun and George kept his composure all the time, whilst going around round abouts three or four times, just in case we missed anything the first time!

We got to the Hall with the concert half way through, and had to creep very quietly into the back. Although we weren't sure what was being sung or said, it was very enjoyable and after the performance several Association members were presented with medals and bouquets.

It had started raining slightly again, but we went outside to be given a complimentary glass of Rose and wait while the room was made ready for the couscous meal. The food was excellent, and after eating, we were shown by some experts how to do the Salsa. Gill (the lost one) learned it very quickly as she grabbed a partner and salsa'ed away like a professional! I think it was the Salsa she was doing! Everyone was very friendly and we all danced the night away including George. At 11.30 we drove back to the hotel, for a well earned night's sleep.


Sunday 29th ? Concert Day!
This was Mother's Day in France and the flower shops were full of beautiful blooms. I did notice that Mother's Day cards didn't seem to be in the shops, so perhaps it isn't a custom to give cards as much as in our country. Another leisurely breakfast, and a wander through the town. Most shops being closed, but very relaxing and no rain, which was good. At 3.15 pm. George arrived with the coach and Marie Helene's sister to take us to Saint Claire Church. A quick change into uniform and then down to the serious business of singing. The two choirs rehearsed Down by the Riverside and Mon Amant de St. Jean, which went well. The church was beginning to fill with the audience, so we found our places at the side of the church, as A Travers Chants were performing first. They sang beautifully, in particular Amazing Grace, which they sang in English. As an encore, they sang another piece to the delight of the audience. Brian sang his solo, The Floral Dance, next, which went down very well with the audience who gave him a standing ovation. Someone asked afterwards if he was famous in Cornwall! Of course he is!!


Then it was our turn. Our programme had been altered slightly and after singing five songs we sat down, and Sylvia and Sue played two duets. Again, a very appreciative audience. We then returned to the stage to sing the remainder of our programme plus an extra one of "Welsh Cradle Song", and then A Travers Chants combined with us to perform the two joint songs. Everyone enjoyed it, audience and choirs alike. An excellent concert all round.

We then boarded the coach to take us back to the Association House, where once again we were given a splendid buffet and wonderful company and entertainment Janet presented A Travers Chants with mementos from us of an Alice in Wonderland teapot, a framed photo of our coast and a book on the history of our area.

Brian and Gill (the other one!) gave a brilliant performance of "There's a Hole in my Bucket", complete with props and actions, (some a bit too realistic, Gill, with the knife and water !!). More singing and revelry, and then it was time to say goodbye to all the French people, hosts, guides and choir, with promises to return and hopefully a visit from A Travers Chants again to Torpoint very soon. We are all such good friends now.


Monday. Our last day.
After breakfast, we checked out of the hotel, bags packed away in the coach and we set off for Bénodet. We stopped at a supermarket to try and spend as many euros as we could, then on to the sea front again to have a wander around, and something to eat and drink. Then it was back to the supermarket to pick up the choir members and families who had stayed with host families. Once on the coach our next port of call was a visit to a Garden, which we were going to see with the Twinners. We arrived at the Gardens for 2 p.m. to meet with the Twinners, but I think a break down in communication or crossed wires meant they didn?t arrive. (not until later after we had left). We decided to forego the Garden visit and go on a mystery tour and find some other places of interest.

With Sue (our "Ello Ello" guide on mike) we drove to Pont L'Abbe, where we wandered around the town, some of us stopping for a drink at a pub, sitting outside watching the local life go by. Then back on the coach, to go to the fishing town of Pen Marc'h which apparently had a famous lighthouse! As we neared the place a mist descended, so it was quite eerie, and then out of the mist, right there in front of us appeared the lighthouse, the very top shrouded and invisible. The lighthouse is called Eckmuhl and stands 65 metres high. Quite a sight! We had a walk around the sea front and some strolled around the town. Quite impressive for such a small place. On the coach once again to get back the the supermarket car park to meet with the Twinners who were coming back to Torpoint, we all met up in the Taverne Bretagne, final farewells to the French people and Torpointers who were staying there, then the long journey back to Roscoff to catch the ferry at 11p.m. back to Plymouth.


After we left our bags in the cabins we gravitated towards the bar once again, first some of us having a bite to eat and a look around the Duty free shop, then to enjoy a drink or two. Those of us left when the bar closed, decided to call it a night and get some sleep (we'd already lost an hour with the time difference!). Another calm crossing and I for one was asleep in no time, only to be woken what seemed like 5 minutes later with the music from above. 5.30 a.m. was a bit early to have breakfast, so I settled for just a coffee. At 6.30 we disembarked and rejoined the coach to take us all back home. We said cheerio to Gill, and then drove to Saltash to drop Gloria off and then all the other stops for the other people.
8 o?clock a.m. saw us back in Torpoint, rain teeming down as we got off the coach and collected our luggage. Quick goodbyes and then home.

It was a wonderful few days. We'll all have different memories to remember and photos to look back on. I'm sure those who stayed with host families and took excursions with them will also have many pleasant times to remember. Everyone got on so well, it was a pleasure spending so much time with you all.

I would like to say on behalf of the choir and "groupies" a huge thank you to Janet and Eric, Elaine, Sue and John for what must have been an enormous task to take on organising the whole trip. All the planning, phone calls and emails that must have crossed the channel over the past year or so getting it all arranged, are very much appreciated. Also thanks to Sylvia for getting us all in shape with the programme we performed. Our last Monday night practice was bit of a nightmare, but it all came together when it mattered. Thank you Sylvia!


Thanks too go to Gaye for being our excellent interpreter at the concert.

So here?s to the next visit, whenever it may be.

Au revoir et merci.

Jennie Reid. June 2010