This year we were quite adventurous with our holiday, visiting a lot of new places, in different countries, all with a Celtic connection. As this means I have a lot to describe, it will come out as a serial.
Brittany is the first of the regions we are going to visit. It is just a little bit too far to drive there in one day, so we are stopping the first night in the familiar B&B hotel in Rouen (see previous item). This means we have enough to start the holiday properly on our way down by visiting one of the cities we usually pass by: Amiens. We park behind the cathedral. The two disabled parking spots are blocked by three parked cars. So I park in the middle of the street to get J out into the wheelchair, and then park in a regular spot. Fortunately the blue badge still gives us the right to free parking. We walk around the cathedral to find the main entrance, which isn’t accessible, and to find a place to eat. When I find a restaurant, it doesn’t look accessible, from the bar to the eating area are two steps up. But when I ask if there is another entrance for wheelchairusers, the barman invites us in, saying: no worries I will help you. And true to his word, he pulls the chair up the steps. After the nice lunch he helps us down the steps again.
Then I try to follow the wheelchair-signs on the cathedral to find the accessible entrance. Fortunately someone else is looking too, and between us we find the ramp between two bits of scaffolding. The search was well worth it! This is an amazing building, with beautiful stonework. We spend so much time in the cathedral that afterwards we go back to the car, without walking around in the city centre.
The next day we continue our way towards Brittany on the motorway, but after lunch at our regular place on the Bay of Mont St Michel we continue along the coastal road for more sightseeing and a relaxed trip. We don’t go all the way to Cap Frehel, because we don’t want to pay for the parking, but enjoy the view it bit further down the coast.
After Saint-Brieuc we leave the coast and drive to our accommodation in the Trégor-region of the Côtes-d’Armor, the only region in Brittany that we haven’t visited before.
We have booked an apartment at I Need a Holiday Too (INAHT), in a former flax mill on the river Jaudy at La-Roche-Derrien. INAHT has been set up by a British couple, Jacqui and Carl, to be catering for disabled people and their carers. There are three larger and three smaller apartments on three flours. All are accessible, and there is a lift to get to the upper floors. Unfortunately our SatNav doesn’t recognize the address, but with some help we finally find the building. Coming through the gate from the road there is plenty of parking. I find Carl and son Max in the barn, which they are doing up to become a workshop with a new apartment for the family on the top floor. They help us with the luggage and show us to our apartment, which is on the first floor of the former mill.
We have one of the smaller apartments, with two bedrooms, but it is plenty of room for just the two of us. The larger bedroom has plenty of room to manoeuvre with the wheelchair and has a profiling bed in it. Next to it is a large bathroom/wetroom. If there is one point of criticism it is that you have to get to the door at an exact right angle to get through it with the wheelchair, and the door doesn’t stay open by itself. But there is plenty of room, even with a showerchair in it. The toilet is at the right height, with grabrails, and the washbasin is easily reached from the wheelchair.
Both rooms open to the open plan living room/kitchen with dining area. The kitchen is small but functional, as most guests mainly use the kitchen for smaller meals and dine out. As usual it takes a little while to figure out how it will function best for us, but it is very comfortable. On the other side of the living room next to the front door is the second double bedroom. However, this is not accessible for the wheelchair. It does nicely for me though, so I can have a few quieter nights.
Behind the building and next to the barn is a nice (communal) patio area overlooking the garden and the river. It is a little bit too far from our apartment for our wireless doorbell-alarmsystem to work, but if I leave the receiver by the front door of the mill I can still hear it if J needs me. If he is up J can even manage to get to the patio from the apartment on his own, although the ramp at the door and the camber from the door to the patio make it a bit difficult for him.
The garden is on the slope beneath the barn towards the river. There is a path going down to the river, which is doable in the wheelchair. Chickens and a pig live in the garden, which means there is somewhere to dump your kitchen waste, and sometimes there are fresh eggs for breakfast.
The building is situated at the edge of the little town and is not far from the centre. However, the road into town is steep uphill. That is okay if you have an electric wheelchair, not if you have to push one up the hill, or worse, back downhill.
During our stay at INAHT Jacqui organised several activities. One night there was a barbecue. The day had been nice and the evening started okay, unfortunately it became overcast with a threat of rain so we ate the abundance of food indoors. It was still a pleasant evening.
On a saturday afternoon we took part in a workshop candle making which was organized in the crafts shop in town. Most participants were local so the workshop was in French, but with translations if necessary. The shop is not big, but the workspace was easily reached from the wheelchair. The toilet is not accessible, but it is not far from INAHT. We went home with three different candles each. One a gel-candle with a composition of sand, shells and stones, one a scented candle with a scent of our choice, and one candle from a mould that we got to decorate. J found out that decorating is not so easy if you can only use one hand. A very enjoyable afternoon.
Every bit as enjoyable was the macaroon-making workshop at INAHT. A local baking lady came to explain us how to make them and we made some ourselves in different colours and with different fillings. The result was split between all the participants. Because the taste improves if you leave them to set for at least one day we sampled some that our teacher made the day before. J decided just to watch us making the delicious macarons, but he wouldn’t say no to tasting them!
While we were there we visited some of the towns in the neighbourhood and of course we went on drives along the gorgeous coast.
We visited Treguier, the capital of the region, on market day. Of course the most obvious disabled parking spot is on the market square, so that wasn’t available. However we found one not too far from the square. The town is on a hill, so visiting involved quite a bit of pushing, trying to avoid the worst of the cobbles. The market this early in the season was not very big, but still quite nice. I managed to buy a lot of fresh fruit for little money. Enough to make our early morning smoothies for a week.
We walked around the cathedral, but didn’t go into the museum part because the museum was about to close for lunch, and after lunch we never went back. We had a lovely lunch at a crêperie on the square, sitting outside in the sun. Later I found out there was even a wheelchair accessible toilet inside! After lunch we walked around the historical centre until we reached the car, and then drove on to the harbour on the riverside.
The day we visited Paimpol, a very nice little fishing-town, it was quite windy, so not inducive to a longer walk around As before, this town is also on a hill and the centre is cobbled, so hard work if you have to push someone around. Lovely town, though. We found a restaurant on the harbour for lunch after which we visited the abbey ruins of the Abbaye de Beauport just outside the town on the coast. The abbey is partly accessible. Sometimes I had to find a place out of the wind to let J enjoy the sun while I was running around taking photographs. There is a large park around the abbey with long walks, but we left that for another visit.
During our drives spread out over several days we managed to see most of the coast between Paimpol and Trégastel. The coast is absolutely gorgeous and changes all the time, so I had to keep stopping the car to be able to take a few photographs of the views. At some places I took J out of the car too to have a bit of a walk around. It looks like there are several places where you could actually get on the beach with the wheelchair, or get a special beach wheelchair. The closest we got to the beach was the quayside at the Pointe du Chateau at Perros-Guirec and on the coastal path at Ploumanac’h where we had lovely icecream. The crèpes at Le Trestrignel were quite good too!
In this area of Brittany there are a lot of gardens to visit. Probably the warm gulfstream again. As I like visiting gardens I planned some visits. Unfortunately it turned out that most gardens are not really wheelchair-accessible, especially if you don’t have an electric wheelchair.
The first garden I visited was Les Jardins de Kerfouler, to the south-east from INAHT. These gardens are relatively new, and have only been open to the public since 2014. They were started by a garden designer to show what kind of gardens are possible in this area, and therefore consist of several garden rooms. The terrace in front of the tearoom and a few garden rooms closer to the house are accessible but further down the paths are too narrow. Fortunately J doesn’t mind waiting for me as long as I find him a nice spot in the sun. The owner gave him a photo album so he could get a good impression. I was amazed at the amount of French speaking visitors in this garden.
Afterwards we went to the Château de la Roche-Jagu. Close to the parking-lot we had to cross a cobbled path, but the rest of the path to the Chateau was reasonably accessible. The gardens on the plateau around the Chateau are doable too, as is the viewing area over the river. However, a large part of the park are on a steep slope which we didn’t even attempt. Fortunately there was still enough to see.
Another day we went to the Jardin Exotique du Kestellic, on the banks of the Jaudy, just north of Tréguier. There it was already difficult to get the wheelchair to the entrance. Once there I was told that it was not really possible to take a wheelchair inside. So I had to leave J somewhere without a view, which prompted me into a flying visit. The gardens are true to their name, full of exotic plants, and with lots of trees. The banks of the river are very steep so it is amazing what they achieved in this garden. I wouldn’t like to garden here, and I was quite glad not having tohandle the wheelchair on this slope. It was difficult enough for me to handle on my own!
The next garden on the list was Les Jardins the Kerdalo, on the other side of the river, but once I got to the parking area it looked like a steep road down to the entrance again so I gave up, not wanting to leave J in the car.
Of course we can stay in Brittany forever, but for this holiday it was time to move on. It was drizzling the whole morning, so by the time I managed packing everything into the car I was quite wet. J was the last ‘thing’ to get into the car so he was still dry, but doesn’t mind if I turn up the heating in the car. Carl and Max and the animals waved us off. We drove to Lannion and then picked up the coastal road west again. The further west we got, the more the weather cleared up again, and by the time we got to Roscoff it was nice again. Nice enough for a walk round. We found a restaurant where we could have an early dinner. After dinner we drove to the ferryport to board a ferry to part two of our tour.