News for the week of April 15

AFGR News

Une soirée de conversation - part deux! Fluent or beginner - like to talk or just listen - everyone is welcome.  Come for conversation, wine and light hors d'oeuvre on Wednesday April 25 from 6:30 to 8:00 pm.

Chez la Porte Rouge
1825 Weymouth Drive SE
Grand Rapids  49508

Please RSVP by Mon. April 23  to Linda FitzGerald at linfreniu@juno.com or 827-7214

Letter from Brittany (France)

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Just before Easter, I had the pleasure of spending four days in Brittany, the northwest section of France. As with all of France’s regions, Brittany is almost a country within a country. It wasn’t until 1532 that the Duchy of Brittany was permanently reunited with France. Brittany is known as Breiz in Breton (a Celtic language). While few people still speak Breton, street signs and place names are in both Breton and French and many of the traditional songs are performed in Breton. The weather and the beautiful and rugged scenery also has more in common with Ireland than southern France.

On this short trip, I visited two areas of Brittany. The first was the coast of the English Channel (La Manche). Highlights in this area of Brittany included—

Cancale—a picturesque fishing village famous for its oyster “farming”. On a clear day, you can see the outline of Mont St. Michel.  Food is important in every region; besides oysters, another specialty is Breton butter cookies. If you want to have a “hands on” experience, I suggest taking the class at la Maison Guella (located just on the outskirts of Cancale). You can learn to make the type of Breton butter biscuits known as le palet Breton.  After making them in the class, your biscuits are boxed up to take with you. These are almost more like a buttery biscotti vs. other types of Breton biscuits that are equally delicious but taste more like Scottish shortbread. 

No trip to Brittany is complete without one lunch or dinner at a crêperie. At La crêperie Breizh Café in Cancale you can watch the chef preparing traditional sarrasin (buckwheat) crêpes. These delicious crêpes can be filled with a huge variety of toppings accompanied by traditional cidre (cider) from Brittany or Normandy. 

St. Malo and Dinan—are two other charming towns with fabulous views, fortified walls and winding medieval streets. Much of St. Malo was burned in August 1944 (one of our former AF book club reads was the 2015 Pulitzer Prize winner, All the Light We Cannot See takes place in St. Malo). The town was lovingly restored after the war. My visit to Dinan was far too short—but there was time for a wonderful dinner of beautifully prepared local specialties at the highly recommended Restaurant Les 3 Lunes.

The second part of my trip was the Golfe of Morbihan along the Atlantic Coast. Highlights included:

Golfe du Morbihan—A cruise with Vedettes Angelus is a great way to see this area which has about forty islands—some of them inhabited.

Carnac—With a total of over 3,000 menhirs dating from 4,000 BC, this is a “must see”. There are three impressive megalithic sites-the Alignments of Carnac, Megaliths of Locmariquer and the Grand Cairn of Barnenez. 

Vannes—Known as a “City of Art and History”, this is a true gem along the Golfe du Morbihan. There is a charming harbor, medieval ramparts and half-timbered houses (and great shopping). This is the perfect city to use as your base for exploring this area. When you are ready to go back to Paris, the TGV from Vannes is only 2 ½ hours.

~ Jane Larson, AF de GR

How well do you know Paris? Today we look at the 16th arrondissement.

1. How many lakes are in the Bois de Boulogne?

A. 1.
B. 2.
C. 3.

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2. In what year was a gilded bronze flame placed n the place de l’Alma?

A. 1934, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Statue of Liberty.
B. 1987, for the centenary of the International herald Tribune.
C. 1998, one year exactly accident in the tunnel that killed Princess Diana.

3. What memory does the word Trocadéro evoke?

A. The taking of an Andalusian fort.
B. A battle won by Napoleon’s army in a Piedmontese valley.
C. The name of the architect who built the palace (since demolished) for th 1878 world’s Fair.

4. What 624-square-meter painting occupies a whole room of the Museum of Modern Art of the City of Paris?

A. Claude Monet’s Water Lilies.
B. Henri Matisse’s The Danse.
C. Raoul Dufy’s The Electric Fairy.

5. What country is particularly favored in the place names of the 16th arr.?

A. Italy.
B. The United States.
C. Brazil.

Answers can be found at the end of the newsletter.

Travel in France: Top Ten Tourists Attractions

Answers: 1. B, 2 lakes linked by a waterfall; 2. B, 1987; 3. A, a fort situated near Cadiz, Spain; 4. C, The Electric Fairy; 5. B, the US.