Sunday 6 October 2019

Butterflies and Bungee Ballet

Well, that was good. There's nothing like a few days walking and church crawling in France to restore the spirits, reward the palate and punish the liver. I was with my brother and a friend in Brittany and over the border in Normandy, and our wanderings began with a walk along the spectacularly beautiful Breton coast near Cancale – where, on a breezy day of sun and (mostly) cloud, a fine flurry of fin de saison butterflies greeted us: Red Admirals and Painted Ladies in abundance, Speckled Woods, Common and Holly Blues, a Comma, a Brown Argus, and a wealth of Whites, Small and Large... This was followed by a lunch of superb oysters at a thriving huitrerie, and then into St Malo for the evening and night. Next day inland to Dol-de-Bretagne, a delightful small town with a fine, if architecturally puzzling, cathedral, many medieval buildings, and a good claim to be the ultimate home town of the Stuart dynasty (via the Fitzalans).
 Our next destination was Mayenne, just inside Normandy, and on the way there we had yet another demonstration (if any were needed) of how inexhaustibly rewarding even the more obscure corners of France can be. Breaking our journey at Fougeres, a small town of which none of us knew anything, we discovered that it has, among other attractions, one of the most extensive and spectacular castles you could hope to see anywhere. Mayenne, too, beautifully sited on the river of the same name, has a pretty impressive castle, though on a much smaller scale, and an imposing, much rebuilt basilica. And so it goes on: the following morning, en route to Le Mans (where I picked up the TGV to take me, ultimately, back to London), we stopped at Evron – another small town of which we knew nothing – and discovered that it is home to one of the finest basilicas in Normandy. Unfortunately we weren't able to take a proper look inside as a funeral was going on. Also going on, against a cinema-style white screen outside the basilica were rehearsals for a kind aerial dance show, or bungee ballet. Three very agile young ladies were practising some breaththaking vertical dance moves and acrobatics, rising and falling and swinging from side to side on their bungee ropes. Ah France, France...

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