France Post 1 - Bretagne: Salty and Sweet


Why France? 

When I was young, I dreamed of France. It was one of those things that got in my head.

I asked my piano teacher for French music pieces. I read books from the library about France and looked at photographs. (Yup, no internet then.) 

I used a French dictionary to try to translate passages from French books. I read about baguettes and pastries.

As I got older, I got interested in other countries and was able to visit some of them.

Yet I started thinking about France again. There are more exotic places to go but France has a natural charm and is an irresistible draw. So I planned this trip. And - voilà - here I am!

This trip began in Bretagne. Bretagne is French with British and Celtic twists. I stayed in the historic center of Dinan, a beautifully-preserved medieval town.

It has a powerful back-in-time feel. Check out those building supports – how’s that for old?

It’s not just a few or even many historical buildings - the streets in Dinan are lined with them!

My BNB unit was on the top floor of this building, reached through the grey door on the left, with its ancient lock.

Yes, the building is old, like everything in this part of town, but inside was beautifully restored, roomy, and comfortable. 

I could hear the sounds of seagulls and mourning doves. The views outside my window were a nice reminder that I really was in France.

There was music on the streets sometimes - traditional French or Celtic, jazz, once even techno. There was a lot of music on Bastille Day, but I fell asleep early in the evening after being up for 34 hours. Slept right through the fireworks, too. I woke up energized and got down to business with sampling food. I started with a tartiflette.

The base of a tartiflette is a soft, flat pancake made with buckwheat flour. It is layered with potato gratin and topped with Reblon cheese. Prosciutto was served with this version, though lardons are often used instead. The constant that makes it a tartiflette is the Reblon cheese.

Later, I tried a galette. It is  similar in some ways yet has its own  flavor. It was also very tasty!

There are many variations of galettes. They are generally filled with Gruyère cheese, ham, and egg then wrapped in a package of a light buckwheat pancake. Mine had tomato, mozzarella, bacon and tomatoes. The buckwheat pancake is the constant.

Bretagne has incredible traditional pastries using local ingredients. Butter, cream, and salt (from the salt marshes of Guérande) are prized and plentiful in Bretagne. That makes caramel a natural specialty! These ingredients are also used in butter crepes and many luscious pastries. Salty and sweet!

This was my favorite pastry. Filling options were either caramel or raspberry – no losers here!

Bretons are proud of their history and culture. Objects marked with black and white stripes, like the tiny umbrella above, are their symbol. Bretagne is counted as one of the six ethnically Celtic nations in the world.

People really live here in buildings that just look like the places I imagine when reading historical fiction. 

Of course they have their quirks. Imagine the uneven floors…

The village has its grand churches, of course.

I was fortunate to meet up with in-laws who live nearby and learn a bit about Bretagne's history, customs, and local foods. Thanks to Vicky and Georges - parents of Danielle, my daughter-in-law.

Vicki and Georges were the only people I photographed in Dinan. Unlike when I was in Madrid last summer, no one here wants to be photographed when asked. That's OK, it gives me the opportunity to play with different subjects.

Salty and sweet was not just about the food. It’s also the unique mix of Celtic, British, and French, and Bretagne’s history from Druids to today’s pride in their culture.

I look forward to returning. Next, I was on my way to a totally different kind of place: Paris!