Monday, May 13, 2013

La Paimpolaise

My latest research trip was a few days in Paimpol as I'm writing something about 19th century Breton cod-fishing in Iceland. This incredibly arduous, grim and frequently fatal endeavour was elevated into a kind of super-heroism by popular culture of the time, notably the novel Pecheur d'Islande (1886) by Pierre Loti and the song summarising its whole story in six verses by composer Theodore Botrel a few years later. The latter has a simple and hence infuriatingly catchy lilt that keeps it going round and round in my head ...
J'aime Paimpol et sa falaise
Son eglise et son grand Pardon
J'aime surtout la Paimpolaise
Qui m'attend au pays breton

There are no cliffs around Paimpol, but that rhyme's an irresistible gift ...

This is what Loti dubbed the Widows' Cross, sighting point for the return or non-return of the ships. The excellent Musée de la Mer tells the whole painful story with a variety of documents and artefacts. Well worth a visit, and nearby is the unmissable Abbaye de Beauport. I've been numerous times and it was not on the agenda, but it's just too good to pass by, especially on a sunny May morning...

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