From Normandy we headed to the Breton coast. But first we passed through Mont Saint Michel, a large rock that sits in the crux of a large bay that divides Normandy from Brittany.
Mont Saint Michel is sometimes described as a tidal Island although it is in fact connected to the mainland by a man made road. There you'll find a small medieval town full of shops and tourists. As you climb towards the abbey, the view is spectacular. To give you an idea, here's an areial shot of the hamlet:
We were fortunate enough to visit the island at low tide when the water recedes for miles. In the distance we could spot small caravans of tourists crossing the surrounding sands.
The next stop was Brittany. Although the original population was believed to be of Gaulish decent, Brittany was settled by immigrants from the British Isles who fled from the invading Germanic tribes. This province has a distinct feel from the rest of France and this was accentuated by the proliferation of Breton flags and of the Breton language on the road signs as we headed west.
We stopped by St Malo, another island city famed for its fierce independent spirit. St Malo was home to many pirates and to Jacques Cartier, discoverer of New France (aka Quebec, my birthplace).
We also visited the Cote Granite Rose - a stretch of coast marked by beautiful pink granite formations.
As you can see from the photos, we arrived in Bretagne during a rare spell of sunny weather. I should also add here that the food was fantastic. Every day we sampled many of the local delights. This included oysters, moules, sea snails, galettes, crepes, apple cider and kouign-amann.
Our last stop in Brittany was Roscoff. Curious about what the local science was like, we passed by the Station biologique de Roscoff, a local branch of the Pierre and Marie Curie Universite. This institute is the equivalent to the Marine Biological Laboratories in Woods Hole - they use organisms from the sea to study basic biological phenomena. We were fortunate enough to meet a local investigator, Dr. Robert BellÃ© who gave us a tour of the premises. It turns out that Dr. Belle is one of many local researchers who study cap-dependent translation of mRNA - yes, a subject right up my alley. Specifically they're analyzing how the cap binding protein, eIF4E and its inhibitors, the 4E binding proteins, regulate sea urchin development.
OK that's it for today, next off a quick stop in Paris before heading to southern Germany.