I am often being asked the question. “What do you miss most about home?” Especially when one has like me “Nationalité Française” printed on his passport; they automatically assume it is food. I was recently over, two weeks ago in fact and as I was about to enter the car deck of Brittany Ferries’ “Pont Aven”, I asked myself the same question. Could it be the “Joie de vivre”, that Anglophile cliché that I can never recall coming out of a compatriot’s mouth? I don’t think so. And frankly, when you look at the head of certain people I know, let me tell you, there ain’t no joy of anything, or maybe the “joie de complaining” about everything.
I have often wondered if it could have been the famous food markets, abundance of goods, colours scents and accents, a morning cacophony in most of the towns of the hexagon, big or small, they are pretty amazing I must admit. As a child, my mother had to drag me on the cold and wet cobblestones of Vannes, dreading with a growing agoraphobia the mysterious incantations and shouting of itinerant retailers; tin toys, leather belts, a whole covered market for fish and shellfishes, more outside, cheesemongers, that guy selling knives or the other haranguing the attentive crowd with a spray promising that you will never ever have to iron sheets and clothes again, hammering a loud and greasy “Madame” at the end of each sentence. No, it is tempting but this isn’t it.
The morning before heading back to Roscoff Harbour, I drove the short five kilometers from my Grand Parents home to the strand and marshes of Mousterlin. As I stepped out of the car, a gentle south west breeze welcomed me back to its shores. The Glenans archipelago to my south and Mouton Island lighthouse in the distance was standing proud. My old friend David told me one day about the smell of our native Golfe of Morbihan, as he came back from a year and a half hitchhiking in Asia. The smell of the sea, yes of course, but not only; I get it now. My Atlantic, this is it, what I miss is my Atlantic, my waves, my storms, my sea gulls and my Sanderlings, my rotting kelp torn from the deep or the magical twinkle at the stand of the tide when the wind blows from the east . They saw me grow; they saw me swim for the first time from Beg Meil’s pier around the corner. They are the inextricable part of me.
As the engines of the Ferry was still reassuringly rumbling, I got up early to catch the sunrise, wait for a few Common Dolphins dancing around the boat knowing that most passengers wouldn’t notice the amazing ballet happening below. We wouldn’t be docking for another four hours and I was looking forward to see Cobh Harbour, the last stop of The Titanic before its tragic fate. Gannets were resting on the still ocean and a few dolphins kept popping out, surfing the artificial waves our ship kept on ploughing. I stayed in awe in front of this simple spectacle and remembered the quote of one of my favourite French writers Charles Baudelaire… “Free man, you will always cherish the sea!”