Debbie and I had come over to Le Croisic in Brittany, France, on La Cote Sauvage, with the Hertfordshire Chamber Ensemble for their annual concert series. Obviously, Debbie was here because of her expertise in bassooning and her brilliant singing voice. Less obviously, I was here because I would be narrating Pierre et le Loup on the Friday evening (Peter and the Wolf by Prokofiev, in case you had not guessed). This is the story of our week.
Saturday 20 July 2013
We travelled across by Eurostar to Paris and you can read all about that day here.
You can see photographs from Paris here.
You can see photographs from the Tour Montparnasse here.
You can see photographs from the Tour Eiffel here.
Sunday 21 July 2013
We arrived late on the Saturday and had seen that the house we were staying in was right on the coast.
It was literally a walk across the road to reach the beach, such as it was, and the rocks and the sea. The scene was very typically Breton and reminded me of childhood holidays. We woke too late that morning for me to do my workout and instead we enjoyed a breakfast with the others on the front patio, soaking up the morning sun, eating croissants and pain au raisin and drinking pure orange juice. We then walked to the bike shop to hire bikes for the week. There was no selection to be made, you just took the bike he brought out for you – clearly it works like the wands in Harry Potter. We rode back to the house so that Debbie could rehearse with the rest of the group and I got down to some work, before taking a scramble over the rocks at the beach. Lunch was a wonderful affair of cheese, salad and fruit, with copious amounts of water as the sun continued to shine down. Debbie and I then rode to the supermarket, but it was closed on Sundays, so we went back to the house, where I left Debbie to more rehearsals, before I rode back up to the station and then across to the port area to find other shops for the few bits and pieces we required. I thought it would be a good idea to come back on the coast road, which proved to be longer than I had imagined it would be, but on the plus side presented so many things to see over the next few days, if time became available. Anyway, it was mostly flat and I did not have to change gears on the bike, although I am not sure that I even knew how to do that. I got back to the house just in time for the daily swim.
The ‘beach’ in front of the house is mostly rocks, and big ones at that, so the only time available for a swim is about an hour around high tide, which is usually between 1700 and 1900 at this time of year. The sun had been bright all day and the water was a good temperature once you got into it. I swam out to a set of rocks which were not fully submerged, climbed up on to them, and was soon joined by others from the group. We swam around for half an hour before heading back inside. There was another rehearsal session after the swim before we all headed up to the port for something to eat, fortunately finding somewhere which would take all 14 of us.
I had the sardines and Debbie had the moules, and we both had ice cream for dessert. We had walked up to the port, so we enjoyed a walk back in the late evening’s heat. We heard music when we got back, but it was not our party. In fact, it turned out to be a festival in a village a few miles away, which was a shame because they were playing covers of tracks by The Pogues and The Waterboys, and I would not have minded popping along.
You can see photographs from the day here.
Monday 22 July 2013
I woke up and got straight down on to the beach to do my holiday workout drill. It only took me around half an hour and it felt very good. It was fun doing it on the sand, in the early sun, and you can read more about that in my training blog here.
Debbie had rehearsals through the day and I had work to do for people back at the office, so we stayed indoors and before lunch we had a rehearsal for Pierre et le Loup, the reason I was there. It continued to progress, and I was feeling more comfortable with the words, which allowed me to get some more ‘acting’ into my performance. We ate lunch at the house, then took some time to go into the port area to hand out leaflets to advertise the concerts, before rushing back so Debbie could do some more rehearsing, then finally getting out in the evening again for a swim in the sea. It was colder than the previous evening. We rode up into town after the swim to have a look around the port area, making sure we were back in time for the evening meal which had been prepared by Magda. It was delicious, with a savoury bread pudding starter followed by a pollock dish, both traditional French recipes. I am going to need to do more training if I keep eating like this.
You can see photographs from the day here.
Tuesday 23 July 2013
It had rained heavily overnight and was raining when we woke up, so I decided to miss my training session. We ate the usual Continental breakfast before riding up to town to Eglise de Notre Dame de Pitie for the final rehearsal before the evening’s concert. Fortunately the weather had cleared up. I was riding with Debbie’s bassoon in its case on my back, and my work laptop in my bag on my front. I am going to count that as being part of my fitness training plan. It is a stunning church and you can read more about it in my blog here.
I had to be there for the rehearsal because I was introducing I Got Rhythm by Gershwin and The Heavens Are Telling by Haydn. We had a morning break for a drink at a nearby cafe before taking a late lunch in the sun after rehearsals had finished. We returned to the house for a swim, and the water was cold again, before heading back to the church for the concert at 2100.
There was a good sized audience in the church for the evening, and the Hertfordshire Chamber Ensemble played a diverse and entertaining programme for them. Debbie either played bassoon or sang in all the pieces from the first half.
- Qui Vive – Ganz
- Scherzo Capriccioso op. 6 – Dvorak
- The Lord Is My Shepherd – Schubert
- Allegro Vivace, Divertissement – Bernard
- Locus Iste – Bruckner
- Czardas – Monti
After a short interval they continued with
- Divertimento in D major – Haydn
- I Got Rhythm – Gershwin
- Adagio from Serenade in Eb – Mozart
- Barbershop Ensemble
- The Heavens Are Telling – Haydn
Debbie had a part in all of those apart from the opening Haydn and the Barbershop Ensemble, and I introduced the Gershwin and the closing Haydn, in French, as follows :
I Got Rhythm de Gershwin – le celebre compositeur de Porgy And Bess et Rhapsody In Blue avait collabore souvent avec son frere Ira. George ecrivait les airs, puis les envoyait a Ira pour qu’il ajoute les mots. Cette chanson a ete ecrite pour la comedie musicale Girl Crazy, mais a egalement ete utilise plus tard dans le film An American In Paris. Lorsque Gene Kelly danse avec des claquettes dans les rues, il enseigne quelques mots d’anglais pour les enfants des rues et insere les mots “I got” – ecoutez pour ceci, avec des chanteurs doubles par la flute.
Les Cieux Racontent de Haydn – nous terminons avec le celebre vocal vibrant du grand oratorio de Haydn, La Creation. C’est une chanson d’affirmation joyeuse – les cieux racontent la gloire de Dieu, l’emerveillement de ses oeuvres, et plus encore.
The audience demanded an encore and they got it with When I’m 64 by The Beatles, and from my position in the audience I could hear them singing along to it. We (and by that I mean the Ensemble plus me) then enjoyed a little reception in the sacristy for some wine, soft drinks, and biscuits, before riding back to the house in the dark (again with a bassoon on my back) for a very late supper.
You can see photographs of Eglise de Notre Dame de Pitie here.
You can see photographs from the day here.
Wednesday 24 July 2013
I made sure to get down to the beach so I could do my holiday workout drill. The water was a lot further in so I ended up doing most of it with my feet in the water rather than in the sand. The schedule was changed around so that we had the afternoon free for whatever we wanted to do, but before then Debbie had rehearsal for her pieces at the Friday concert, and we both had a rehearsal of Pierre et le Loup, which again made good progress. I seem to be developing a good rapport with Al, who will be cueing me in to my speaking parts, and am getting to grips with the various timings of the sections, so I am taking them at just the right pace. It is not just me who is benefitting from these rehearsals as the five instruments work on their combinations, which I have to say I find quite fascinating.
We rode up to the port and left our bikes chained up and very safe (honestly, I did not have a moment’s worry that they would not be there when we got back), and went for a walk along the front. It was very sunny and hot, and perfect for a gentle stroll to take in the sights. I particularly enjoyed the variety of architecture on offer all around us, pretty much every step of the way. We walked along the main coast road through the port, stopping at L’Odyssee for a late pizza lunch. We carried on along the front, walking across a metal bridge which took us a little bit out over the sea, and then I came back through the Jardin du Mont Lenigo to see the cannon and the Cadran Solaire Du Croisic.
I was also overlooking the people playing petanque. We continued our stroll past the lifeboat station and the Place du Trehic before walking out onto the Jetee du Trehic, which would take us to the distinctive Trehic lighthouse with the green roof, the lighthouse having been built between 1869 and 1872, while the roof was replaced in 1963. The air was very calm and the walk out to the lighthouse was extremely pleasant, if in the full glare of the sun all the way there and back.
We came back and walked back along the Club Petanque Loisir Croisicais, which is when I noticed that the old people playing mostly carried some implement with a magnet on one end to allow them to easily retrieve their metal balls.
As we walked back past the Salle Jeanne D’Arc we were ushered inside to see a free exhibition of model boats. They had been constructed over the winter months and would now be on display for the summer. They were very intricate and quite stunning to look at, and I would thoroughly recommend you take a look if you are passing.
We left a donation and carried on with our stroll again, until it brought us to La Flotille creperie and more ice cream. We would ride it off as we returned to the house. The glasses the ice cream came in were stunning in themselves, with coloured edgings on the outside, but just in case that was not sufficient for us, they also came with a model butterfly on a stick, a bit like the umbrellas you get in the cocktails Debbie enjoys, and the ice cream was delicious. Actually, we would need to ride this off because we were going out for a meal with the other members of the Ensemble in the evening. There was just time for a swim before that, and the water was not getting any warmer. It seems like Sunday had been the best of it.
We would get in some more cycling before the meal, because not only had we rode back to the house, but now that we were ready we were going to be cycling along the bottom of the coast road to get to the restaurant. This meant I could see again all the landmarks I had seen on Sunday, the windmill, the Pierre Longue, the bunkers of the Atlantic Wall, and we rode almost round to the port. We were certainly off the Cote Sauvage for a while.
Now we were at Le Neptune, the restaurant frequented by the Ensemble each year, and it very soon became clear that the chef/owner knew them well. It turned out to be an excellent choice. The decour was delightful, a mixture of paintings and artifacts of the sea, which in many ways reminded me of the Crab Shack, and our group was able to be seated on one long table against the far wall from the door. There was far too much to choose from in the menu, so I ended up going with one of my favourites for the starter, Soupe du Pecheur Maison (fish soup) which was certainly among the best I have ever tasted. Debbie went for the lobster and crab baked in a filo pastry. I chose the Pave de Cabillaud au Coulis de Langoustines (cod in langoustine sauce) for my main course, and the fish and the sauce were delicious. Debbie followed one of her favourites and chose the thick piece of steak, which, despite the blunt menu description, she declared to be the best she had eaten in a long time. It was a fun evening, full of lively and interesting conversation, all in a very relaxed atmosphere, and there was no rush to get through the food. We got to dessert and now real choices had to be made. I had already seen a most wonderful ice cream delight being brought out for other diners, but there was no way on earth I could find a gap for that, so while Debbie decided on the vanilla creme, I did the done thing and selected the Breton dish, the Far Breton de Mamie Michele. It was an interesting dessert which left me feeling it probably filled as much of a gap as the ice cream would have done ! The evening was not quite over as the Barbershop group from the Ensemble got together to serenade our hosts, and the remaining diners, who gathered round to enjoy the sound and take photographs. I suspect they will be more than welcome again next year. All that was left was to ride home in the dark, after checking that all our lights were still working. The roads were quiet and the cars over here treat cyclists with such respect that the ride home was completed with no fuss whatsoever. It had been a wonderful evening to bring to an end a brilliant day. Now we had our day off to look forward to.
You can see more photographs from the day here.
You can see more photographs from the model boat exhibition here.
You can see more photographs from Le Neptune here.
Thursday 25 July 2013
The water was still in on the beach in the morning, so I splashed about as I did my holiday workout drill, and then went back into the house for breakfast. Most of the group had set off earlier for a boat trip over to an island, but Debbie and I had decided to ride over to the nearby Ocearium for the morning. You can read more about that here.
You can see more photographs from the Ocearium here.
We came away from the Ocearium and decided to investigate the Rond-point de la Reine, which was very clearly marked on our map. It turned out to be a turning circle at the end of a cul-de-sac. I am not sure the Queen would be very pleased to have put her name to it. We headed back to the house and later on I rode back to the port, but this time rode through the back streets before coming out on the main road on the other side of the town, then followed that coast road round to the Espace Escargots. You can read more about that here.
You can see more photographs from the Espace Escargots here.
I rode back along the coast road, past the Baie de St Goustan, the Baie de Castouillet, the Pointe du Croisic, the Baie des Cailloux (all such wonderful names for locations on the coastline) and stopped to take some photographs of the bunkers from the Atlantic Wall (plus the fake chapel which had been built beside them),
the menhir La Pierre Longue, and the Moulin de Bouvran, an old windmill. I got back in time for an evening swim and the water was about the same as it had been after Sunday. Even so, I was going to miss this swimming when we got home. Then we were off into the port area to eat, later being joined by those who had been away on the trip during the day, and we met a very fussy seagull who would only eat fish and not mere bread.
Friday 26 July 2013
The day had arrived for the performance of Pierre et le Loup, so I headed off to the beach to do my holiday workout before everything got on top of me. I returned for breakfast and then Debbie and I walked down to the Chapelle du Crucifix, although it seems we got that wrong because everyone else cycled over. It was not a long walk and the threatened rain held off, so all was well. The Chapelle is a splendid little church with a fascinating history, and you can read all about it here.
They had to rehearse everything else before Pierre et le Loup so I waited patiently, reading over the proper copy score which I had marked up, making sure I was ready for this final run through. Of course, now that we were in the venue we had to decide where I would stand. There was a lectern and it was decided to bring that to the front of the altar, so that as the muscians sat in the middle, I would be off to stage right, and Al would be just forward of the side door, which would allow me a clear sight of his signals. Our final run through was almost perfect, and we just amended a few little bits and pieces. My voice had carried through the church and I certainly felt ready for the performance now. I could see it was raining outside as we finished off the last few items and fortunately it was a passing shower and had moved on by the time we left the church.
We rode into the port to get some lunch and were very fortunate to stumble upon Creperie Le Bot, where we were able to see the crepes and other food being prepared while we sat at our table.
It was fascinating, and the chef made it look so easy that it reminded me of one the challenges from The Generation Game, and I could easily imagine it could go wrong in a million ways. The food itself was absolutely delicious. We took our bikes back to the hire shop and walked back to the house.
The time had arrived for the concert and this time we had no choice but to walk to the Chapelle as we had returned the bikes. It did seem like most other people had ridden here, though, judging by the number of bikes lined along the side of the Chapelle by the time we got to the start. And how many people had turned up ! We moved chairs around, took a table outside and left the doors of the Chapelle open, anything to allow more people to enjoy this as they kept turning up. By the start time the Chapelle was filled beyond standing room only, and it was good to see it filled with families for this young person’s concert. I suppose it should have made me nervous, but instead I was very excited about the performance being in front of the audience it deserved. Anyway, there was much to come before my part in it all.
- Czardas – Monti
- Les Animaux – Jim Parker
- De Animals A-Comin – Bartholomew
- Jeux d’Enfants (Trompette et Tambour, La Poupee, Le Toupie) – Bizet
From the very beginning the audience were loving it, which was certainly helped by Stefan’s wonderful introductions to the pieces. There was a very real sense of fun and enjoyment coming from inside the Chapelle, as demonstrated when one little boy came outside with his mother and continued to dance along to the music before departing with a broad smile on his face. Now I was hoping I would not spoil the atmosphere. And so, after a short interval, my moment had arrived.
- Pierre et le Loup – Prokofiev
- The Bare Necessities (from The Jungle Book) – Gylkeson, arr. Hare
I took to the
stagealtar and after a quick drink of water stood behind the lectern and arranged my papers. I found Al out in the audience and was happy I would spot my cues. I looked out over the packed Chapelle, I checked that the players were ready, I found my place in my papers, took a deep breath, “Ecoutez bien !”. From a personal point of view, I do not think it could have gone better. I could see appropriate and pleasing reactions from members of the audience as I narrated, although it must be said they did more come from the parents than from their children.
The introduction of the instruments went down very well, with Mary-Ann on flute, Janie on oboe, Mark on French horn, Debbie on bassoon and Richard on clarinet. The points of emphasis in the main text appeared to have the desired effect, and especially the “”Attention !” cria Pierre”, which not only caused the audience to jump, but also produced a wry smile on the face of a father at the front. So, of course, I was enjoying myself up there. An ooh went up as the duck was swallowed whole, there was tension as Pierre and his friend the bird teased and trapped the wolf, and finally there was a sigh of happy relief as it was revealed that the duck was still alive. Albeit in the stomach of the wolf. The musicians were excellent throughout and brought it to a driving end, prompting huge applause from the audience, who had clearly enjoyed the piece a lot. So we had done what we needed to do and I was very pleased to have been a part of it. There was still more to come as the singers finished proceedings with a rousing rendition of The Bare Necessities, which went down so well they had to sing it again ! The concert had been a brilliant success, and we all returned very happy to the house for an evening barbecue which went on late. I was not tired, or certainly was still buzzing too much, so I actually packed the night before we were due to leave, which is most unlike me.
You can see more photographs from the day here.
Saturday 27 July 2013
It was time to go. We ate our breakfast and as it was raining accepted the very kind offer of a lift to the station, where we caught the train to Paris. Debbie played Countdown on her iPad, which included an impossible conundrum. Impossible because the answer is not a real word.
I think you are taking the P there, Carol. On arriving in Paris, we headed straight across to Gare du Nord because we did not have a huge amount of time available, ate near the station and then went through to the waiting area for the Eurostar. We were just in time to see Richard and Marlena boarding their train, and as it turned out, Anne, Mary-Ann and Stefan were on the same train as us. We went very slowly through Dartford and eventually arrived at St Pancras, to find a new sculpture hanging by the clock. We did not have to wait for a train to St Albans and were very soon back home as the rain fell outside and the thunder and lightning burst overhead. I suppose we had been spoiled with the week of sun, and what a very enjoyable week it had turned out to be.
You can see more photographs from the final day here.