European adventure 2022: France

After three long years since our last visit, we return to France for long-awaited reunions, eating and drinking our way from South to North.

Hello friends!

It’s been a while since we updated this little travelogue of ours. As I write this, it’s 5:30 in the morning and I’m wide awake thanks to jetlag. It’s alright though – I love this time of morning. Everyone else is still in bed and the day seems full of possibility. Right now, despite the darkness of the hour, I’m envisioning a walk in the early-morning rain to see how the neighbourhood has changed in the past three weeks, with a destination of our favourite greasy spoon, John’s, where we can reminisce about our grand adventures from the past three weeks.

Our adventure began earlier this month with a less-busy-than-usual pre-departure routine. Even though we were renting out all three units in our house, we managed to get all our personal belongings and food out in good time, without the usual frantic, last-minute running around. This felt like progress. Maybe we’d finally figured it out after five years!

Vive la France

Our first stop was Paris. Well, technically, our first stopover was Paris, where we grabbed a mediocre airport croissant and coffee from the ubiquitous Paul bakery. We then flew to Marseille. We arrived at my cousin’s place slightly exhausted, but a quick nap and shower put us back on track and ready for l’apéro. We managed to fight the jetlag and power through dinner, but still crashed hard around 10.

We must have been tired because we slept in until 9. After a quick breakfast we hopped in our rental car and drove to Cassis, where we spent the afternoon on a terrasse on the port, drinking rosé and watching the world go by. The day was a very intentional calm before the family-visits storm.

Plage de la Grande Mer, Cassis
Cute street in Cassis

The next two days were spent catching up with family, in an intense two days of delightful apéros, meals and digestifs. We even got to play pétanque, with David throwing the winning shot for his team! It was really nice to see everyone after three long years of COVID-induced absence.

Heading north: Brest

Our next stop was Brest, in northwestern France, to see my dad and stepmom’s new home. Brest is the largest city in the Brittany region, but its population is still relatively small (140,000 inhabitants). The regional language, Breton, is related to Celtic, and equally incomprehensible. I had quite a time trying to pronounce unpronounceable words.

My parents’ new home is a lovely bungalow perched on a cliff, overlooking a small bay off the Atlantic. They are in a great spot for watching all the boats (and submarines!) enter the Rade (bay) de Brest, an important historical port. Their back porch was the perfect place for our outdoor apéro each evening. We were thrilled that the weather was unseasonably sunny and warm that week, despite the region being known for its maritime climate (i.e. constant drizzle).

Psyching up for a quick dip in the Atlantic Ocean (which felt way colder that 18°C)
Post Atlantic-dip apéro!
The pool was much more civilized!

We spent our time in Brittany exploring the area, discovering its various lighthouses and walking different sections of the « Sentier des douaniers » which lines the entire coastline of Brittany.

The Sentier des douaniers
With Mel’s dad in front of the Phare Saint-Mathieu lighthouse and abbey
Phare Petit-Minou lighthouse (nothing to do with a cat, but “mouth” in Breton, in reference to the opening of the bay)
Patrick and the Phare Kermorvan
Overlooking the Plage de Bertheaume
Modelling by the Fort de Bertheaume

We also had an educational visit to the Maritime Museum in Brest to learn about the city’s important naval history.

Exhibit at the Musée national de la marine
Elaborate figureheads at the Musée national de la marine
Boys and cannons…

We even visited a sail loft that makes and repairs sails (a highlight for David)!

Visiting Incidence Sails

And – of course – we ate lots and lots and lots of fresh seafood.

Oysters anyone?

Unfortunately this portion of our trip was cut short when our flight out was cancelled due to an air traffic controller’s strike (a strike in France? Shocking). As a result, we had to leave a day sooner than planned. Everyone was super bummed about it, but it meant we got to spend a stopover day in Paris, which we put to good use by wandering around the city, playing tourist and stopping into various cafés to people-watch (our favourite French pastime).

Grand Gallery of Evolution of the Musée national d'histoire naturelle
The Grand Gallery of Evolution of the Musée national d’histoire naturelle
Lunch at a bistro near the museum
Berthillon ice cream on Île Saint-Louis
Walking along the Seine in the rain
Strolling through the Jardin des Tuileries in the sun (less than an hour later)
Resting our weary feet by a fountain in the Tuileries
Requisite Eiffel tower shot
Aperol spritz and mojito for apéro

Where the wind takes us next: Sailing in Greece!


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