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Sunday, September 23, 2012


We wish we could take them home, those special things we encounter in our travels.  Wouldn't the Eiffel Tower look great in Peacock Park? 
My family visited Josselin, a small town in NW France, two months ago.  Here are photos of great things we wish we could bring to Coconut Grove...
Every year the villagers clear out their attics for the "Josselin Attic Sale".   Participating residents pay ten bucks and the proceeds go to the local animal shelter.

What fun it was.  I bought an antique can opener for one Euro ($1.25).   A week later it was confiscated by an airport security guard. 
There's an identical one on E-bay for  $85.

My son, Ian, picked up this ivory cigarette holder.

Brittany was colder than  expected, in the 60's (at night) in July so Dylan picked up a sweater. 
Wouldn't it be terrific if we did this once a year in the Dinner Key parking lot?   Wouldn't it be great if City Hall said, "Yes!" to more good ideas?

We saw this wagon heading west on and Main Street. There were no tourists in the back, only potatoes.
None of the local $7 a gallon gas was required to make it move.

A town is indeed fortunate to have a river running through it or a bay beside it.  Of course, that's why people gather there in the first place.

The citizens of Josselin have the good sense to take advantage of this.

What do we do?
Coconut Grove blocks its public waterfront with trees, bushes, and the jumble of a thousand boats.   The City of Miami spent two years, five years ago, coming up with a plan to beautify and unify our waterfront.  The "Sasaki Plan" has gathered dust ever since.

 In Josselin the River Oust is easily seen and enjoyed.


 Where can you go in Coconut Grove to enjoy a picnic on the bay?   35 years ago one could use one of Peacock Park's picnic shelters.  They were on the water with nothing to block the view or the breeze.  The city knocked them down in the late 70's.   

    In Josselin last July, local British ex-pats invited us to the picnic you see above.   The food wasn't much but it was refreshing to be hearing English again. 
     One guy asked for my surname. When he heard "Terry" he replied, "Of course. All you Terrys are from Yorkshire.  We're your Lancashire neighbors and we fought against you in the War of the Roses 500 years ago."
His wife added, "We like to say you Yorkies are strong in the arm and light in the head".   

It seems like ever other camera shot includes Josselin's castle.  The Duke from the House of Rohan still lives there.  They say you can see him walking his Russian wolfhound by the river in the evening.

Should the Grove construct it's own castle?  It did a lot for Disney World.

Sadly, we have our own version of these edifices. They're called "condominiums".   In the Grove, people live in them so they can see over everything blocking the bay view.

Coconut Grove's waterfront is difficult to see or enjoy.   Have you every tried walking it?
We have something like a quarter-mile bay walk but it is so cluttered, zig-zagged, and threatened by boat-lugging  trucks,  you're better off at the beach.

Above, a family of four leaves the French village for a country stroll.  What delight it was to be in a place with no  cell phone coverage.  Our sons were force to talk with us.

Down the path we discovered this mill and its 15th century adjoining bungalow.   The owner, a gracious New Yorker, gave us a tour of his home, one you'd only expect to see in a dream. 
Said he, "I found the perfect place, an island on lovely river.  With my little bridge, I can walk to the market in ten minutes." 
At the expense sounding like the late Andy Rooney, an easy walk for groceries sounds good to me.

The houses in town aren't too shabby either.  Little lights embedded in the street illuminate them at night.

In the Grove we have a rule, "If your house was built before Leave it to Beaver, it's goin' down".


 This old house was goin' down on its own terms.  The last of its thatch blew away years ago.
   The walls still looked strong.  I imagined someone coming along, binding combed straw to its rafters, and making it habitable again.

Oh my.  There's that castle again posing with a villager who's had her picture taken too many times.

Coconut has not had a real farmer's market in twenty years.  We had once a lively, weekly gathering where the CVS now stands.
Across the street we now have Stan's Saturday Market under a tent.   It's fun to visit but its only Stan selling produce for high prices along with a few of his soap-vendor friends.

To see what a real market can be visit  Josselin in the summer.   Their Saturday market puts others to shame.

Farmers sell carrots so fresh they still have dirt on them (most French people prefer this as they say it "keeps them fresher longer".

It was a thrill to see so much tempting  fruit, fish, and French lace (plus one man selling fifteen different types of sausages.  The "kangaroo" below, was next to the "donkey").

There's a lot of art in this small town too.
Unlike the Grove, the artists actually have places to work.
Their studios are usually next to their galleries.

This particular one caught my eye as the smiling little sculptures reminded me of my own creations.  We stepped inside, met the artist, and toured his multi-level studio/gallery/home.

Wouldn't the Grove would be a better place if we created more space for artists?  We saw so many creative things in this small town.  It is obvious that by promoting art they promote Josselin.

Even David (pronounced "Da-veed") of David's Hair Salon proudly displayed his creations in his front window.  

The town's artisans went all out when they built their cathedral  in the 1500's.   We followed signs to the church tower at its rear.  When we to started to climb the tower stairs huge bells above us started to toll.  

Too loud to continue,  we scurried outside.  I asked a young church guide why the bells were ringing (it wasn't "on the hour").  She told me in her limited English, "Someone has died".
     We learned the tolling of the bells marked the end of a memorial service being held inside.  Their sad song continued like a long goodbye that you never want to end.  I thought about the bell ringers pulling on long ropes just a few feet away, inside the tower's base.
Gradually they slowed and we wondered which would be the last. After a twelve-minute carillon the final bell rang and gradually faded away.
      Remembering our visit puts a smile on my face.  Why can't our own hometowns have more of the above?   I can do without kangaroo but maybe if we put our minds to it, we can all enjoy a little more French flair.

1 comment:

  1. How absolutely glorious.

    You can't have that here and you summed it up: ....."if it's older than Leave it....." . Old and tradition get confused over here and never the twain shall meet.