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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
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
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
Another statue in the square is the green statue, a formidable looking
man called Laennec who was born in 1781 and invented the stethoscope
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
We got to the Hall with the concert half way through, and had to creep
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
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
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
So here?s to the next visit, whenever it may be.
Au revoir et merci.
Jennie Reid. June 2010