Monday, August 18, 2008

Brittany 2008

Le Cosquer

We stayed in a nice little complex called Le Cosquer near St. Connec that consisted of a farmhouse, a few gites, a swimming pool and a games room. We (minus Lauren) stayed in the farmhouse. My sister and her family (and Lauren) stayed in the neighbouring gite. I'd never before stayed anywhere like it because the property was bought and renovated by an English couple. They renovated it with Brits in mind, even to the extent of fitting British plug points. In addition, everyone staying there was British. One had to leave the property before one could feel that one was in France.

Pontivy

This is a small town where we visited the market and small chateau.

Lac de Guerl├ędan

We parked our cars at a picnic site just outside Mur de Bretagne and walked around the lake to Caurel. We were aiming for Beau Rivage, but didn't quite manage to make it. Four hours and one ankle-injury later we gave up and settled for a pint in a nice hotel bar in Caurel instead.

Josselin

This is a nice, picturesque town. I would have liked to have visited its large chateau, but we ran out of time. The chateau was closing by the time we got around to it. Ditto with the central church's tall tower from which one is reputed to be able to see for miles around.

Carnac

A great day out by the seaside. We had a seafood platter to die for -- it was so fresh that I had to battle one of my clams for the right to eat it. We had blazing sunshine all day, even though Le Cosquer had had non-stop rain that day.

Feast of the Assumption

This is a public holiday in France, so everyone had the day off work. The festivities involved a big fete at the lakeside (at the aforementioned picnic ground near Mur De Bretagne). I was hoping to catch some traditional Breton costumed dancing, but unfortunately I didn't manage to.

In the evening, we ate at a small restaurant where the staff were good natured enough to put up with our feeble attempts to speak French. Upon noticing that we were English (not difficult to do), they immediately offered us fish and chips. It took a little persuasion to get them to show us their menus so that we could order whatever we liked. I had some delicious seafood in cheese sauce and some escargots in garlic, herbs and olive oil.

Nantes

We spent a few hours in Nantes before heading back to Nantes Atlantique to catch our flight back to Old Blighty. It would have been nice to be able to visit the cathedral there, but we didn't have time (again).

Sunday, August 17, 2008

The Olympics Thus Far

Beijing Olympics 2008 logoThus far, Great Britain (as an aside, if anyone knows why we're referred to as "Great Britain" instead of the "United Kingdom", even though the GB team includes Northern Ireland, I'd be interested to know?) are doing pretty well in the 2008 Olympics, as are the USA (our "home from home"). Today we finished in third place on the medals table, with the USA in second place and China taking the lead. Doing well in these games is all the more important this time around for Brits because it's a warm-up for when Britain hosts the games in 2012. It'd be nice if in 2012 we could have the added bonus of getting a fair number of medals too.

However, even with Team GB doing well, I still find myself asking the same questions that I often ask. How does the number of medals won relate to the population sizes or wealth of the participating countries? I also find myself wondering about how the types of events that a country is likely to compete in and/or do well in are affected by its wealth and/or cultural influences.

It seems that I'm not the only one to have wondered at the first question. A light-hearted Los Angeles Times article drops the USA's position from second to 40th and China to 73rd by taking into account the population size. For more analysis, you could start by taking a look at these articles:

Harder, better, faster, stronger
Economic Briefing Paper: Modelling Olympic Performance
Bill Mitchell's Alternative Olympic Games Medal Tally - 2008