My hunger pangs now too boisterous to ignore as we finally reach Quimper, I suggested a stop to refuel and regroup. Charlie, still keen to find any Jacob commodity, made his excuses and continued on his search. Andreas, Jen and I continued on our quest for nourishment.
One of my fondest pastimes when journeying abroad is to immerse myself in foreign culture. This for me, starts with food. Sweet, savoury, á la carte, or artisan, my fernweh aches for not only distant places, but also the products it yields. France, undisputedly famed for its cuisine, never fails to impress. Obligingly, my colleagues pondered our rest stop.
This decision is made increasingly difficult here in Quimper by the diverse array of typical French cuisine including Crêperies and Artisan Boulangeries. A preference for more international cuisines is also catered for within Quimper’s restaurant scene. This includes Chinese, and international chains including Subway. Crêperie Chez Mamie was our chosen stop. Nestled within a quaint side street, the Shakespearean balcony above the restaurant-front is laden with potted Chrysanthemums and Geraniums, the same flowers that decorate the River Odet.
Our host Marjorie greeted us with a smile and seated us in a booth. If my cultural capital serves me correctly, a tourist should choose to eat where the locals do, to ensure you are not disappointed. This was most definitely the case here as I grew increasingly comfortable, rearranging a cushion whilst listening to the melodic hum of French conversation in the background. The bright colour scheme, traditional layout and quintessentially French atmosphere made Creperie Chez Mamie all the more inviting. What does this mean, quintessentially French? I use this adjective a lot. Too much perhaps. Use of such semantics is a very English trait according to my research director. What does that mean? After all, what quintessentially French means to me might not be the same for others. So I shall explain. It is, for me, not the sight of men cycling in monochromatic striped shirts, berets sophisticatedly tipped to one side with baguettes underarm. Nor is it the sight of well-manicured parisianesque women. It is in fact, hospitable local men and women completing mundane chores, with a smile on their face, who are always obliging when you may have lost your way or are struggling with the language barrier.
Lait aigre (sour milk) was the beverage of choice for myself and the other three tenderfoot travel writers. Before we could continue Marjorie alerted us to the restaurant’s use of local produce, detailed on the back of the menu. This terroir was extremely interesting to us tourism academics, and, as I peruse TripAdvisor from the comfort of my favourite chair post-trip I can see this is also the case for other tourists.
We savoured the last of our milk, then donned our obligatory wet weather gear and headed back onto the main street. The spires of Saint Corentin Cathedral dominate Quimper’s horizon. You can see the imposing nonetheless beautiful architecture from most vantage points in and around the town, but I must insist you take a look inside. I am not religious. I went to a Church of England primary school. Does that make me religious? No. I do not think of myself as religious. Nevertheless, you might occasionally find me sat in a place of worship, quietly admiring the architecture. After a little investigation, it transpires that the national monument as it is now, was upcycled from the remnants of an ancient Roman cathedral. The ochre walls turn almost golden as the sun penetrates the commemorative stained glass windows. Its imposing gothic ramparts and towers dress the skyline from head to toe dominating the town.
A faux par of this perusal around the town was the ignorance of myself and others in misremembering a mainland European tradition (not rule). Generally speaking, museums and such like are open for business on a Sunday and consequently close on either a Monday or Tuesday. The Musée Des Beaux Arts accepts this tradition, alas we never made it over the threshold. Nevertheless, we were treated to the sight of sounds an authentic French carousel.
Magnetised macarons pulled me toward exquisite window displays, jewel laden with colourful pâtisserie and chocolates. How do the French stay so svelte I wonder?
If I lived here I’d be the size of a Maison! My attention was interrupted by a zealous hand waving feverishly in my direction. It was Charlie. He had found Max!