We checked out of our hotel and went straight to the French psychedelic psupermarket next door called Grand Frais which means ‘big fresh’ but also seems to mean ‘great expense’ which might have been appropriate because it was like the poshest psychedelic psupermarket I’ve ever been in. The vegetables looked like they’d been grown in the garden of a goddess and the grapes were laid out like supermodels on exotic beaches. It was the cleanest, most organised, highest quality food market I’d ever been in and when I asked a lady stacking the shelves (although rather than stacking the shelves she was caressing the cheeses into place) about it, she said that the place wasn’t that much more expensive than a normal psychedelic psupermarket. Maybe it’s a French thing, aesthetically pleasing, designed as if Cocteau himself got the job of setting it up.
We headed north, straight into a squall, the rain lashed the van, the wind rocked us from side to side. Big trucks were throwing up waves of water as we passed them and I could only have sympathy for the occasional motorcyclist caught in the downpour. The French countryside has a mythical quality, the evocative villages and their church spires, a sleepy history, calm and quiet but it’s incredible to think that these buildings were once new and these villages grew because something was happening at that location; a monastery, a market, whatever it was, people settled there and the buildings, often ruined, remain. Now falling quiet, older inhabitants reaching the end of their lives and no work for the young but perhaps now with remote working, these villages can be repopulated and the countryside reinvigorated.
We were on the way to our friends Arno and Virginie who live in a small village near Rennes in Brittany. We were going to camp but decided after a long drive, terrible weather and the difficulty of arriving at a campsite before it closes for new campers that we would look for a hotel in Châteaubriant, famous for its combined medieval castle and Renaissance palace. The first place was fully booked, the second just 10€ more and 50x nicer had a room, we checked in and drove to see our friends.
Music today has been David Bowie’s Low (1977), who needs a reason to listen to this album, but one reason was Arno, outside his wonderful Sweet Gum Tree project he was asked to record a Bowie song for a tribute album and chose Always Crashing in the Same Car. You can check out his music on his website here.