At 9:30 p.m., watching a Celtic circle dancing the An Dro in the public square in front of Saint-Michel’s lighthouse, I realized I had the most cliché French day ever.
It started around 11 a.m. when my mom and I walked to the market held in Tharon, two kilometres from Saint-Michel. In the Pays de Retz, the historical subregion at the southern shore of the Loire estuary, everybody knows that Tharon hosts the farmer’s market on Friday. The market travels around towns—a smaller version comes to Saint-Michel in front of the church every Saturday, there’s a big Sunday market in Saint-Brévin, etc. I don’t when the market schedule was decided or who decided it but changing it would lead to complete chaos, family arguments and starvation—traditions matter around here.
These local markets aren’t your typical bobo (“bourgeois Bohemian”) city markets selling organic avocados, goat cheese and pricey food to go—taboulé, lasagna, quiches, etc.—for weekly brunches and busy executives eager to impress their friends with “homemade” food. These seaside markets feed locals and many tourists, most of them on a small budget, this isn’t the French riviera scene. The most popular stalls are those selling local delicacies like Breton pastries (layers of butter with butter on top), brioche, cold meats, mussels, roasted chicken and fish. By 10 a.m., everybody is already drunk—including stallholders—because there are also a few stalls selling wine and they turn into an informal bistro.
We brought back galettes (thin savoury pancakes) and a few baguettes, which is, I guess, another French moment.
In the afternoon, we enjoyed typical Brittany weather on Saint-Michel’s small beach—sunshine, rain, sunshine, rain and more sunshine.
When it started to rain for good, we walked home but, of course, it was sunny again ten minutes later. I suggested a drive to Pornic, one of the biggest and cutest towns around. We parked and behaved like first-time tourists even though we’ve all been there hundreds of times—we walked on Quai Leray, along the harbour, between the train station, the ice cream shop, the many bakeries, the casino and the Château de Barbe Bleue to the vintage carrousel, then back to the car under the rain.
In the evening, under a beautiful sunshine—starting to get why there are so many jokes about rain in Brittany? —I spotted a group of people donning the traditional Breton costume behind a stage in front of the harbour. I came back with Feng to watch them perform traditional dances as if I was doing that every weekend (I don’t, I must have seen Breton dances twice in my life).