Etang de Tricherie to Le Foret du Mesnil ~~~ Tuesday 21st June

Midsummer’s Day

as is our tradition, we rose at sunrise to greet the midsummer sun.  but it was overcast and murky, so we had a cuppa and went back to bed, since there was no other reason to be up at stupid o’clock.

when we rose again, we had breakfast. and then in celebration of midsummer, we danced.

to this:

and got a round of applause from one of the campers. 😀

then, to liven things up, a little, we danced to this:

aaaanyway.  once we were sufficiently invigorated, we were off again.  the plan was to find somewhere within easy reach of St Malo so we could head there the next day without too much fuss, and then spend the final day or so of our time away in St Malo, just so we would be sure of catching the ferry.  me and my paranoia.

anyhoo, we pulled up later that afternoon in yet another lovely motorway rest area, conveniently placed, and well appointed.  we spent a very relaxed couple of hours playing scrabble.

well, that isn’t quite true…

we’d started off nice and relaxed, but towards the end of the two hours, a creeping sense of unease had begun to settle in.  it all started with the biker.

he’d been parked up when we arrived, and we’d admired each others’ vehicles.  then we’d made a brew, and got the travel scrabble out.  the biker sort of hung around, made the odd call on his mobile, and generally just sat there.  at first, we were quietly sympathetic, since he had quite an old bike, and it looked as if he might have broken down.  but when he fired it up and moved further along the carpark, we were puzzled.  then we realised that there was this other guy, wandering around, and he had been for some time.  kind of trying to look unobtrusive, but actually looking like a drug dealer.   people were coming and going.  lots of people.  and what they were doing was coming, parking up, heading behind the bushes, being followed by scummy-looking hanging-around-guy, then coming out from the bushes and buggering off sharpish.  and all was being watched by biker-guy-who-clearly-hadn’t-broken-down.

dear reader, fuck. that.

we left.  very quickly.

so where now, then?  after we’d exited the carpark via the back gate that had a very big no entry sign on it but was nontheless open and inviting and the fastest way out of there, we headed for a little patch of forest which i could see on the map not too far away, hoping for a carpark to hide from the scary people and their dodgy activities.

by gum, we found it.

happy travellers we, as we pulled up in a near deserted carpark on the edge of the Foret du Mesnil and got the food out.  we even got a very amused “bon appetit!” from a Frenchman as he was leaving the carpark.

we knew from the map that there was some sort of ancient monument nearby, so after a delicious meal of omelette and salad, accompanied by red wine, we wandered into the wood a little way to see what it was.  it was nineish in the evening, but still very light, being midsummer, as well as an hour ahead of British Summer Time, and all.  what we found was wonderful.

the bones of an ancient long barrow, locally known as "le maison du fees" (er... i think..."house of the fairies", anyway...)

lots of legends surrounded this place, and inset into a nearby rock was this:

two beautiful ceramic tiles, one on each side of the rock. if you are able to translate the story on the tile in the right-hand picture, you will understand the reason for the small rock in the left-hand picture being attached to the large rock.

being as it was midsummer, and we appeared to be in a fairy wood, we thought it only polite to greet the locals, and share our food and wine.  with us, we had grapes, and a glass of red wine each.  so we left grapes around and about, and poured red wine at the entrance to the house.  and then, for the fairies’ entertainment, we marched deosil around the house, with me singing the only French song i could remember at the time (with apologies for dreadful spelling – i don’t write French very well):

il etait un fermiere

qui aller au marche

il avoir sur le tete

trois pommes dans un panier

les pommes faisent rouli-roula

les pommes faisent rouli-roula


trois pas en avent

trois pas en arriere

trois pas sur le cote

trois pas sur l’autre cote

(repeat until breathless and/or exhausted)

and then, because it was such a lovely evening, hubby said, “Fancy a walk?”

there was an information board at the edge of the carpark which we had perused before we entered the wood, detailing several shortish walks around the wood.  and ther were signposts clearly marking the walks.  or so we thought.

dear reader, do not ever, ever agree to go for a walk in a fairy wood, on a midsummer evening.  especially when you are slightly tipsy.  and wearing slip-on Doc Marten sandals (as i was)

it all started so well.  the walk we had chosen was only two kilometres long, and the yellow stripes on the trees were as clear as clear could be.  we followed merrily along for about half an hour, until we came to a road, and the trail we (thought we) were following took a turn away from what we thought it should.  no matter, there were several walks leading around the wood that started and ended at the carpark.  it was starting to get dusky by now, so we followed a signpost back the way we thought the trail ought to be leading.  and we marched on.  out of the wood and into the countryside.

the sky got darker and darker, and the yellow markings harder and harder to see.  still we followed, reasoning that the trail was circular and would eventually lead us back to the car park.

and then, at a crossroads in the middle of nowhere, the markings just….


oh. my. gods.

it was almost dark, we had clearly gone horribly wrong somewhere, and we were lost in the middle of the French countryside at eleven o’clock at night.

hubby normally has a very good sense of direction, whereas i do not.  i get lost very, very easily.  hubby does not.  but that night, he was as lost as i was.  completely, utterly, without a clue.  we thought that if we could just find the village that the carpark was just outside of, we would be ok.

i mean, how hard is it to lose a village, right?

not very, as it turns out.

at approximately midnight, we did find a village, but it was the wrong. bloody. village!  we had found a village that was several kilometres north of where we needed to be!

however, now, i had a reference point.  because i had been studying the map so fiercely earlier in the day, attempting to locate a safe haven from the worrying people at the motorway rest area, i had a general sort of idea where we were in relation to where we needed to be.  so we got our bearings and headed out again.  this time, oh, thank you, gods! we found a roadsign pointing us in the right direction.  we headed off up a seemingly neverending hill, lit by little more than the stars and the (very) occasional street lamp, back out into the countryside.

eventually, we found a turning that would take us towards the village we sought.  this was all well and good, but then…


there was no moon, no street lighting, and the forest was now on either side of the road.  as the trees began, it was like walking into the gaping maw of some nightmare wyrm.

i was terrified.  i have never experienced blackness like it.  every light in the universe was extinguished, and the stars would never, ever shine again.  and then i remembered.  in case of emergencies, i always carry a small LED headtorch in my bag!  O happy day!  i quickly dug into my bag.  and dug, and dug, and dug.

and then i realised:  i used that same torch at night in Talulah. it was probably even now hanging from a convenient hook in our camper, just waiting for me to grab it to read or make the tea or whatever.  for the first time in months, i had left my home base without my emergency torch.  and this was the first time i’d needed the blasted thing.  gah!!!  fortunately, though, i have a torch app on my fancy-schmancy phone, which had juuuuuust enough battery to get us through and out of the belly of the beast.

at the end of that road, there was a T-junction.  and no signage.  no indication of which way our village was.  we checked both directions, and neither seemed to be the right one.

dear reader.  i was cold, it was dark, it was one o’clock in the morning, and we had been walking for three and a half hours.  i was very tired and frustrated.  i was stiff and aching all over from the cold and the stupid and unsuitable shoes i was wearing.  and i was very, very lost, and not a little scared.  and i’m sory to say that i could no longer hold back the tears.  i cried like a pathetic little wuss.

not for very long, though.  i am prone to tears, but i am quite aware that in a situation like this, crying solves nothing.  but (and this is why i am prone to it more than any other reason), it does ease the pressure.  it is my safety valve.

once i had pulled myself together and apologised to hubby for losing it, we looked up at the stars burning overhead, and saw the international space station pass by.  filled with renewed determination, we headed back to the T-junction and tried again.  this time, hubby looked up and noticed the telegraph wires.  and followed them straight to our village, which was just around another bend or two.  after that, it was the wortk of ten or fifteen minutes to get back to our beloved Talulah, patiently waiting for us in the light of the new-risen moon.

this time, i really did cry, out of sheer bloody relief.