Max Jacob, writer, poet, Frenchman, has interested Charlie in his exploration of French literary characters for a while now. Specifically, Jacob’s poem Scene From the Fair piqued his interest. Not content with just a literary association, Charlie went in search of physical representations of Jacob’s literary heritage. During his investigation, which involved countless informal conversations, reading guidebooks, travel articles and of course, Google – he understood that Jacob’s parental home in Quimper, Brittany, had contemporarily been converted into a restaurant. Soon after, he booked his ferry ticket and our journey began.
We arrive in France on a mild October morning. The sky is a canvas of pastel watercolours brushed behind tall masts and weathered roofs that decorate St-Malo port.
Autumn in Quimper is bountiful. There are four distinct seasons not unlike our home of Plymouth. Now, as I narrate Charlie’s literary treasure hunt I think I ought to divulge the fact that Charlie and I are not travelling alone. Its him and me plus 40.
One of the hazards of travelling with a large group of people you have spent very little time with is you discover lots of new ways to embarrass yourself. I promise herein not to disregard the tiniest details despite their capacity to cause irreparable damage to some people’s reputations (mostly street-cred) including my own.
This is not the first time I or Charlie have found ourselves in such a ‘fish-out-of-water’ circumstance. Sheer lunacy, a sick sense of humour, or my preferred rationalisation – wanderlust prompts a group of lecturers (including myself and Charlie), each year, to accompany x number of students on a short-break. Usually a relatively recondite place (that admittedly I would neglect from one of my many bucket list drafts), these tourist destinations nevertheless, offer much more than most of our initial opinions recall or interpret. My first post Retracing Maigret’s Footsteps: My Experience in Concarneau, describes my first ResM fieldtrip and is a perfect how an unsuspecting destination makes for the best trip.
Grounded by a distinct tourism research agenda (sadly not a jolly as my friends and family all too frequently insinuate), previous field-trips have led us to Amsterdam, Lisbon, Concarneau and now Quimper. Our chosen travel route was relatively straightforward; a coach from Plymouth to Portsmouth, an overnight ferry crossing (Portsmouth to St Malo) a seven-hour south-westerly drive along the French A roads, through the Parc Naturel Normandie Maine to Finistére’s cultural heart and capital commune, Quimper. A little helping hand I would have greatly appreciated but unfortunately was never offered, is the destination’s pronunciation, which leads me to embarrassment nombre 1. Say ‘Cam-pair’ not ‘Quim-per’. This is a mistake I made frequently on the journey along the A303, until I was unceremoniously corrected in front of the forty-person cohort.
Alas, my embarrassment was soon muted by an inquisitive voice from the middle of the coach; “Did the Romans build Stonehenge?” spoke a male student as we passed the prehistoric monument. Fits of laughter erupted as disbelieving facial expressions were exchanged. As the hilarity subsided, the offender was corrected and the majority returned to their headphones and conversations.