Sunday 02 January – Bonne Année

Happy New Year.

We hope you all had very happy Christmases and enjoyed whatever it was you chose to do, if anything, to see in the New Year.

In past years, my first blog of January has been a summary of everything we had achieved in the previous 12 months.  This year, I will delay that to next week and use this week’s blog to showcase a couple of things we have done over the last 2 festive weeks to show that Kergudon is the ideal place to spend a Christmas and / or New Year with family and friends (human or canine!)

Other than change a couple of gîtes over as we said goodbye to some guests and welcomed others, I have not done a huge amount of work.  With the public holidays generally falling at the weekends over the holiday, David has worked his usual hours in Brest as well as had his private clients.  However, he too has managed to have some restful, festive days.

Our time over Christmas and New Year is divided between spending time outside on long walks with Garratt and Brandon and chilling out in front of the fire with something lovely to eat and drink.  We were helped in the former by having some pretty good weather and, as the UK, amazingly mild temperatures.

The week prior to Christmas we visited our departmental ‘capital’, Quimper, with a few friends to look at the Christmas lights.  Quimper is a small but very pretty city anyway, with lots of attractive buildings and multiple bridges crossing the river Odet which are always well maintained with flowers and, at Christmas, lights.

Quimper bridges illuminated for Christmas

The main attraction at Christmas is a Son et Lumiere (sound and light) show which is centred on the façade of the cathedral.  We have never seen this before, but our friends had been often and recommended a visit.  It was quite impressive.  The show started with a slightly obscure group of stilt walkers (illuminated from within their costumes) doing Breton dancing in front of the cathedral.  However, the actual Son et Lumiere was worth watching and animated the history of Brittany on the façade of the church.

Illuminated stilt dancers in Quimper

The accuracy of the lights to illuminate very small areas of the cathedral’s façade and effectively ‘paint’ pictures on the face was incredible.  We had seen this a couple of years ago on one of the local church calvaires (stone crosses) which had been ‘repainted’ in its original colour scheme by light.  The cathedral display was on a much larger scale.

These photos barely do it justice owing to the scale but show the face unlit, then with 2 of the ‘pictures’ projected onto the front.

The video is a much better demonstration of the effect.

Other squares in Quimper were also illuminated for the season and one was particularly fun with multiple mirror balls making you feel like you’d stepped into a 1970’s disco!  Again, the video gives a better impression.

Christmas light display in a Quimper market square

Christmas itself was very pleasant (although our Christmas Day walk was regrettably a bit damp) and, as I mentioned in the last blog, rather than it just be the 2 of us as previous years, while we couldn’t welcome David’s Dad, we did invite 2 friends whose own plans to travel to the UK were scuppered due to the late imposition of travel restrictions.  Claire, who joined us, created some amazing crackers to add to the table.

Christmas table 2021

Boxing Day (not what the French call it and indeed is a normal working day here in France) was amazing bright and warm so, after our walk (I said we did a lot) we joined up with some friends and went to the historic town of Locronan.  Locronan is a preserved town dating from the 17 and 18th centuries and, for the last 8 years, they have put up their own Christmas lights.

We also visited on Boxing Day in our first year here (2015) not realising that it was only the second year of Christmas illuminations (the French are so much less commercial than the Brits).  As such, there were very few people and, while there were some lights, there weren’t that many and it was pretty rather than amazing.

Evidently, year on year they have been adding to the buildings illuminated, all in the same style, and word has got out.  As such, this year the lights were fabulous and there were hundred and hundreds of people.

There was also, oddly, an artificial volcano as part of the central display which seemed a little incongruous and whose ‘smoke’ spoiled some of the pictures!

In line with the less commercial aspects of the French, which is sometimes good, the town is not crammed full of huts in a German market style fair. This meant that all of the shops were able to benefit from the crowds of people and all were open including an amazing épicerie which, among lots of other things, showcased Breton beer.

If you enjoy beer (as we do!) Brittany, as so many other regions and countries, has seen an explosion of artisan breweries setting up and producing some pretty good drink. This store appeared to have more than we had seen anywhere else although we didn’t buy any – although we did get a can of excellent lobster velouté that we enjoyed last week!

Our New Year was spent with our friends staying in Priory (it is so much more convenient when you only have to walk next door!) and we had a fun time.  Thanks to them for their generosity (and indeed for also hosting us on Christmas Eve when, they being of Polish / German / Danish ancestry, we enjoyed their traditions including the Polish 12 different dishes for dinner and present opening (Christmas Eve being the more traditional day for most European nations to open gifts).  We kept our own stocking and some presents to open on 25th!))

David started what he hopes will become a New Year’s tradition with a swim in the Lac du Drennec yesterday morning.  Having voiced the idea a few weeks ago, for reasons unknown, he became adamant he would do it when I questioned his commitment!  Amazingly, others joined him for the swim and, while of course I would have done, I needed to take the pictures and hand out the hot chocolate!

1st New Year swim in the Lac du Drennec

Apparently, while the air temperature was at record highs, the water temperature was rather cooler!

We did however, continue with one tradition of our own that we started since moving here, and had our New Year High Tea to finish some of the lovely foods that were still uneaten and have the final drink before the start of a dry January – although this year that may have to wait a week!

Tomorrow, 2022 starts properly and back to work on one of the many projects we have lined up for the year.

More of that next week!

As you can see, there is so much to do here before, during and over Christmas as we have tried to detail in the last couple of blogs and, we do like to make the gites look amazingly festive (as you will have seen from our blog on 12th December). We would love to welcome you here – we just can’t guarantee that the weather will always be this warm for late December and early January!

In the meantime, enjoy the last days of Christmas and have a very Happy New Year.