Fishermanís House, Etel, France 1976

Before the Internet we used to write to a service in France and tell them where we were interested in renting and what our price range was. After a while we would start getting listings, usually on flimsy air mail paper, sometimes with pictures, and pick a rental. We learned early on that if something was described but not pictured it wouldnít be anything like the description. Some of the rentals left a little to be desired at first but I donít think we left any of them unhappy.


We always refer to this house as being in Etel, a riverside town in Brittany. The house is actually in Plouhinec on the other side of the river. On our first day there we went to lunch at a seafood restaurant and Gerry ordered a mixed shellfish platter. It looked beautiful but in amongst the many different clams and oysters were tiny little cockles and winkles. She couldnít figure out how to get the meat out and tried, unsuccessfully, to smash one open. We had noticed that there was a straight pin stuck in a cork on the table and finally put it all together. The pin was there to get the meat out of the cockles.


The side of the house that faced the road was blank, I donít remember even a window on that side. All of the things you would expect to be on the front of the house were on the back, including a grand staircase. The rental consisted of the first two floors on the right side of the drawing. The rest of the house was locked up.


Just inside our door was the kitchen and a curtained off bathroom. The bathroom sink was one of those with a compact water heater at eye level above the sink. The pilot light was exposed behind an opening at the bottom. When you turned on the hot water tap there was a loud whoosh and the flames shot up inside the heater. I think it made me jump every time I used the sink.


The houses on either side belonged to fishermen who were related to one another. They went out on very long deep sea fishing jobs. Their houses were extremely nicely furnished so I guessed they must have done well tuna fishing.


There were two little girls on one side. They and Amy got rather friendly and they played together often. Sylvie and Katrie didnít speak English and Amy didnít speak French but they got along really well. It helped that Gerry speaks French.



Text Box: At the end of the yard was a staircase that led to a muddy beach. In the river there were three or four huge derelict wooden fishing boats. I got the idea that they probably had been run aground by the Naziís during World War II. There is a drawing and some more photographs in the history page of Chapter 11 at

We found this great beach except for the fact that the water was freezing and the beach was littered with old Germen gun emplacements from the war. Very eerie and silent inside.

Mussel soup and cleaning radishes

This hook on our kitchen wall came from the bushes behind the house.

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All material copyright 2008 Neil Borrell