Two days in Dinard, June 2006

by Rebecca P.

London fencing club trip to Dinard RebeccaFriday
It wasn't until the day itself that I wondered what the hell I thought I was doing, going fencing with a large group of experienced fencers who definitely did know what they were doing. At the airport I knew I had to look for Carlie as she had generously offered to include my foil with hers in her luggage allowance, rather than allow me to wave it randomly at strangers on the concourse and on the plane itself. Which I was secretly hoping I could do. I finally noticed a small group of posh-looking, confident men with huge packages for their weapons. Great, I thought. And then I saw the fencing group. I recognised Carlie very easily - perhaps due to the fact she was the only girl - so I got my weapon out and joined the friendly group.

After a good flight, we waited about three hours (that might be a slight exaggeration) for taxis at the airport, wondering what we'd find at the other end. We found a hostel-type thing called CREPS. (Why do I have to be the kind of person who MUST know what an acronym stands for? It bothered me all weekend, other than when I was eating, which was most of the time.)(Centre regional d'education populaire et sportive - ed.)

First came the Allocation Of Rooms. Sharing - eugh! Everyone looked down at the ground or out of the window when asked who they'd like to share with - of course the answer in every case was nobody. In the end most of the girls got a single room, and some even had their own shower, but I'm not bitter.

Showering for the first couple of days was interesting. It hadn't occurred to me to bring a towel, so a long, spare(ish) sheet was required. Each time I entered the sparse shower room, I felt like a Roman Emporess visiting the spa. I also forgot shower gel so, just remember I was towelless and soapless until the Saturday evening, so please forgive the smell.

Friday night was good - we went to a lovely place specialising in seafood. I had Filet de St Pierre (Dover Sole) which was the bollocks. Please forgive the language - I think I've been living in London too long. Afterwards I was ready for bed but no! We went to a little bar, with a little dance floor with delightful low-tech disco effects. I was ribbed for my choice of Benedictine Liqueur which it seems should not be drunk by anyone under 50, especially if you're a woman. Alas, there was none anyway so, very kindly, Tim bought me the most disgusting drink I have ever attempted to imbibe. It was very thoughtful of him. Just as my eyelids were drooping and I started seeing downy beds in each corner of the bar, others were looking appallingly bushy-tailed. I couldn't understand it. Eventually a few of us agreed to go home and I went straight to bed. Slept terribly - there were no curtains. What strange land was this?? It turned out the apparently redundant rod to the left of the window was a twister-turner thingy for an outside blind. Now you tell me.

Saturday

Breakfast was better than expected - along with the mandatory stale bread and jam and bowl of chocolate/coffee, there were strange chocolatey things and custardy things and yoghurty things. I piled high with this while holding up the queue of young basketballers. All the fencers seemed on good form, apart from Simon whose head looked strange. After staring at him for longer than is strictly polite, I put my finger on it. Not literally - I mean I realised that his hair looked as if a few baby starlings might appear at any moment.

So - for the first morning of fencing - the reason we're all here. I was delighted to see the skipping ropes and, even though they were limited, I hung on to mine like a spoilt child and danced and skipped around the room - pigtails flying in the breeze. Ah… if only this could last. But no, we had some bloomin fencing to do. I was awful. Precious kept hammering me senseless - it was terrible. She comes at you like the weapon she's holding is a rotating chainsaw and she's desperate to kill you with it.

St Malo in the afternoon where I almost burnt my face off. Lots of shopping which was delightful but a bit difficult for me as I have no money. I did eventually buy an expensive towel, which I was ludicrously pleased with.

We went to the casino that night. Gambling was on the agenda and more drinking was on the cards. Oh boy. The food was tremendous - lots of us had 'trio of fish steaks' - salmon, Mahi Mahi and tuna. Even though the fish were apparently dead, they still managed to swim around the plate in a layer of butter about three inches high. Yum!

Then - home time! Some decadents wanted to spoil the fun by doing no gambling whatsoever, and by refusing to drink any more alcohol. We had a leisurely walk home in the Dinard breeze and less than an hour later we were joined by the rest of the clan - they weren't allowed in the casino without ID! Even though some clever people had their passports Tim thought it should be a case of 'one for all and all for one' - a very apt motto of three hairy men who did a lot of swashbuckling in France. And I'm not talking about Will, Olivier and Jean-Christophe.

Sunday

The fencing was getting better. A lovely jog and hill climb started the day off well, and I only fenced with people who, although they were just as competent as Precious, had the added bonus of not wanting to kill people. And sometimes they even let me hit them by just standing there. Thanks for that, Alex and Leslie.

After a delightful impromptu dance lesson in the CREPS foyer, a few rebels avoided the canteen lunch (which was apparently delicious) and splashed out on a ludicrously decadent four-course seafood delight. I was the odd one out and went for the very politically incorrect Foie Gras (also known as 'Liver Pate Of Abused Geese') and Ris de Veau (?Neck Gland of Baby Calf Ruthlessly Separated From its Mother and Kept in Dark, Restrictive Conditions). They were both so lovely I groaned and moaned all the way through, prompting a whole conversation about sex and the differences between the French and the English. Hhhmmmn.

Throughout lunch Olivier and Simon, as usual, took several pictures of unwilling victims. I thought the lobster looked particularly pissed off by the final indignity of being snapped in the uncompromising pose of 'just about to be scoffed by Yu and Ying'. After I had force fed a slightly reluctant Jean-Christophe cheese and wine in a vain attempt to make him look less sickeningly fit, we finally made our way home to pack our smelly wet fencing gear until the next time…

Eat...

London fencing club trip to Dinard Carlie and Ibrat
Relax... (Ibrat and Carlie)

London fencing club trip to Dinard Precious
Shop... (Precious and Ying)

London fencing club trip to Dinard relax
Relax...

London fencing club trip to Dinard swim
Swim?..

London fencing club trip to Dinard run Will Ottley and Alex
Run!

London fencing club trip to Dinard Amie and Etienne
Run a bit more!..

London fencing club trip to Dinard fencing footwork
!!!

London fencing club trip to Dinard Amie Watson and Alex
Fence?

London fencing club trip to Dinard Ana Subia
Ana

London fencing club trip to Dinard Raymond
Raymond

London fencing club trip to Dinard Michelle
The French

London fencing club trip to Dinard coaches Frank Priscille
Our coaches: Franck Nicolet and Priscille La Poutge

London fencing club trip to Dinard fencers
Smile!

Photos: Olivier, Tim

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