But if you have, these photos will be a happy reminder of how nice these three places are.
Cascais, Position: 38°41’52.9″N 9°25’11.9″W
Perched out on the western corner of Lisbon’s wide Tagus River estuary, Cascais is where Lisbonistas go to sail their boats for the weekend. Since the 1870s when King Luis set up his summer residence there, it has attracted people in droves.
Begin with a stroll out to the natural rock formation called the Mouth of Hell (Boca do Inferno), then stop for an ice cream on the way back. You pass by fanciful Palácio Condes de Castro Guimarães, attractive for its outré weirdness and general state of good repair. A large public park behind it sports lots of sculpture, chickens, tortoises, and an actual peacock.
The centre of town is all chic shopping and dining al fresco. The marina is very popular with international yachties, although we found The Marina de Oeiras just along the coast excellent, and significantly less expensive.
Roscoff, Position: 48°43’33.4″N 3°58’56.8″W
The tides are so big in Roscoff you can see boats suspended on the harbour wall. This charming and quiet town has lots of second homes and holiday rentals. But by early June things are starting to liven up.
We stumbled on a large open market on our way to lunch. This wasn’t the bargain shopping commonly found in Spain or the UK, where the goods ‘fell off the back of a lorry‘ and are sold at steep discounts. Rather, this is the Lake Oswego Farmer’s Market variety. A gathering where artisanal goats supply excellent raw milk cheeses and gardeners sell organic fava beans for four euros a kilo.
Carol wanted French food for lunch. A definition that ranged from ‘anything but another egg sandwich and chips’ to ‘anything with at least two Michelin stars’. Like American buffalo, we are grazers and hadn’t fully taken into account France’s strict eating hours. At noon you sit down for a five course meal accompanied by at least one bottle of wine and some sparkling water. If you turn up at two o’clock, the chef has left for the afternoon and, sorry, you are merde out of luck.
At 13:15 the little restaurant, Le Local, seated us for a delicious lunch with lots of Vietnamese fusion creativity. It had been months since such flavours and deliciousness had passed our lips. We were ready to stay for another week.
Gregory, our lunchtime host back in Brest, had recommended we tour Roscoff’s botanical garden. It was just the place to walk off our déjeuner. Blessed with a micro-climate that supports all sorts of exotic plants, the Jardin Exotique & Botanique de Roscoff has only six staff, but they are seemingly tireless. I especially enjoyed the historical notes telling the story of how a particular plant found its way back to France via one of many famous voyages. Think Bougainville, Banks, and Bruni.
Guernsey: Position: 49°27’19.6″N 2°32’04.5″W
Guernsey also enjoys a temperate microclimate. A favourite destination for sailors from the south of England, I always thought it would be a good place to write a book. Victor Hugo agreed with me, he lived in exile here for 15 years.
I first visited Guernsey 45 years ago with my girlfriend Annette. There I met her parents (we got on swimmingly), and she showed me around her childhood home. Back then Guernsey’s economy rested firmly on an agrarian foundation. Guernsey’s dairy products and tomatoes (some grown by Annette’s dad) were heavily marketed in the UK. They were always just that little bit better than the foreign stuff.
Walking through the narrow lanes on an early summer’s day, a few light brown and white Guernsey cows came to the fence in hopes of a treat. I used to have a mortal fear of anything larger than me, thus I was duly impressed with Annette’s gentle cooing and stroking of a cow’s forehead. It was the moment I began to reframe my thoughts on big animals.
It was Carol’s dad’s suggestion that we contact friends on our trip north that inspired me to Google Annette. Even though I only remembered her maiden name, Google in its wisdom (consistently) pointed me to Annette Henry Tours. So, I sent an email saying Carol and I were going to be stopping by on our way to Holland. Annette wrote back immediately and connection was made. The three of us spent a lovely day touring the island, walking on the beach with Annette’s dogs, and generally catching up.
Annette married Peter and together had three daughters, Emma, Kate and Alex. That her first two have the same names as mine wasn’t lost on any of us. Forty five years is a long time, but sometimes we pull on the threads of our memories and reach out. When we do, we are fortunate when we find stories of a life richly lived at the end of them.