Monday, June 26, 2006

Weekend in Brittany (Finistere, France)

Oh no. We are doing it again.

Some guys collect rare LPs. Some guys collect old cars. Or motorcycles. Or, like our host in Paris, B, antique 3D cameras and projectors. Big Dog collects real estate. Not like Donald Trump, though. I only wish it were for investment purposes. He's got land and houses and commercial buildings throughout California and each one has its own sentimental purchase story and deep emotional attachment. We live on none of it yet, although the LA condo has served as a nice storage unit for the last few years that we have mostly been on the road, and the ranch in Central California was supposed to be where we would eventually call home.

It took us 4 years to find that ranch and now Big Dog is talking about offing it -- and buying a farmhouse in the French countryside! I'd always wanted to rent an apartment and hang out in Paris for a while and we discussed this while in Paris, but we went out to Brittany to stay with friends over the weekend and while waiting to get picked up at Quimperle station, Big Dog picked up a real estate guide. First sign of his addiction coming back.

But who could blame him. The countryside here is gorgeous and the Finistere (literally "Land's End") area is so quaintly Celtic. Loads of low stone walls, stone monoliths, unbelievably cute stone houses with curvy thatched roofs. You get to the town of Pont-Aven and parts of it are like a Disney storybook land. A big plus for me is the incredibly abundant and delicious shellfish.

C, another cross-cultural exile, grew up in the south of England, went to Asia to follow a New Zealand girlfriend but got waylaid modeling in Tokyo and getting married to a Japanese girl. I don't think he ever saw the New Zealander after London. A divorce later, he was in Belgium with a French girlfriend, S, who later became his wife. They got to Brittany via the south of France. In between film/video production coordination gigs, they've been working on their farmhouse, lovingly turning it into the most charming extended complex. Lucky for C, he studied under a cabinet maker during his youth in England.

Just by coincidence, another old time Tokyo expat resident and fellow production animal, G, was also spending the weekend with C&S. She had just escaped from the boredom of an advertisers' convention in Cannes and was on her way to Turkey to vacation with friends there.

"Seafood for dinner?"
"Of course!!!" the guests agreed in unison.
But before they took us to Chez Jacky, a shellfish restaurant in Riec-Sur-Belon, we stopped at their local bistro at the mouth of a river (must look up the name...) for drinks with their friends, C playing reluctant interpreter for his Australian-American-Japanese guests.

"How did you pick up French?"
"I took a class for illiterate immigrants when we were in the south."
"A sort of French for Dummies?"
"Yeah. It really helped."

He sounded perfectly fluent to our ears but there was debate among the Francophones over his actual ability. S claimed that he had a lazy tongue and would not enunciate properly.

"For an English speaker, though, French is a real workout for the facial muscles," said Big Dog, twisting his face around. "English is a lazier language in that sense, though I'd say the Australians were at the bottom of that heap." He looked over at G and laughed.

One of their friends, a Belgian with a beautiful dark haired wife who is said to be quite an accomplished cellist told us, "C's French is actually quite good, but there are times when we get a little confused. For example, he told us that you were a famous cellist in Japan." He looked in my direction.

"Oh, no! You must be so disappointed!"

He didn't say, but they must have been! They were supposed to join us for dinner at Chez Jacky but they never did show up.

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