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A (mostly) sunny day in Roscoff - News from Nowhere [entries|archive|friends|userinfo]

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A (mostly) sunny day in Roscoff [Oct. 21st, 2017|09:00 pm]

The weather forecast for today was horrible - rain and wind and hail, too. Luckily, we weren't actually planning to visit the Isle de Batz, even though our hotel (for the record, Chez Janie) is right by the jetty. First stop the Tourist Office, which confirmed what we already suspected, that the 'Maison des Johnnies' (information about the onion sellers) is only open in the afternoon - but while that was something we wanted to see, there wasn't any urgency about getting out of the weather, which was bright and breezy. The occasional sharp shower was over as soon as it started. We pottered around the town, browsing the shops which specialise in selling local products to tourists, and yes, we may have done a little light shopping: Algoplus add seaweed to everything, from soaps to soups, and I bought some of each; La Belle-Iloise is a fish cannery, but the really attractive thing about their shops is the colourful design of the tins, and I don't know why their website makes so little of it.

The church (Notre Dame de Croaz-Batz) was a delightful surprise. I knew, because you can see it from all over the town, that it has an impressively ornate spire (Renaissance, it says here, and perhaps unique in Brittany) and my guide book thought it worth mentioning, but only to say that its alabaster panels come from Nottingham, and are yet another sign of Roscoff's maritime history. I thought the best thing about it was its polychrome wooden roof, rich with garlands and figures - and completely renovated at the start of this century, "Ready for the next 500 years.." says the leaflet. But since I'm only going to post one picture, I've chosen a detail of the exterior:

Creature on the roof

Because the sky is so blue, and because the grey stone and golden lichen is so typically Breton, and because of the creature at the roofline. "Why does that bird have the hind legs of a dog?" I asked, and [personal profile] durham_rambler replied "Because it's a duck-billed platypus!"

We found lunch at Le Bilig de la plage, a little beachside café which offers a very sustaining fish soup, and local cider to go with it. Then on to the 'Maison des Johnnies' the Johnnies being the onion sellers who travelled from Roscoff to England each year to sell the onions which are grown locally - so called because their customers referred to them as 'Onion Johnnies'. There was less to see than I had expected. There's an outdoor shed, with a fine collection of discarded agricultural stuff; there's plenty of promotional material from today's onion-growing business (I scored some recipes); and there's the old house itself, which was inhabited by a family of five generations of onion growers and sellers, and is now a centre for the documentation of the trade, with a display of old photos and a timeline and such, which can't help being pretty superficial. I learned that in 1902 the Johnnies accounted for 2% of Britain's onion imports (but how many of our onions do we import?) and that at the peak individual sellers covered the whole of the UK - one man took onions from Roscoff to the Northern Isles. And I saw some wonderful photos of men with bicycles and strings of onions.

We had been planning to visit the Salon des Arts exhibition anyway - we didn't just duck in because another shower had come on! It was held in the old lifeboathouse, which is unlike most lifeboathouses of my experience in being surrounded by a little garden. It is also constructed parallel to the shoreline, which is not the best idea - and if it now has a door through which you could launch a lifeboat, it is very well hidden. There were four artists exhibiting, and I enjoyed the brightly coloured seascapes by Paul Leone (his lighthouse with aurora had been used for the poster, and you can see why): his technique seems to involve cutting things out with a jig saw and painting the seams white, but I haven't quite worked it out. Most of Catherine Caillaux's sculptures left me unmoved: giant seed and pod shapes, all very decorative. But just one - title 'Bulle something or other' - really appealed, though I can't find it on her website.

Back to the hotel to rest and read and doze and write this - jumping up in the middle of it to photograph the rainbow that had appeared beyond the harbour.

This entry cross-posted from Dreamwidth: comments always welcome, at either location.