Sentier Littoral – coastal pathway

There’s a pedestrian route, designated GR223, running litorally all along the coast of the Cotentin peninsula between Isigny and Mont Saint-Michel (a total of 446 km). It’s called the sentier littoral or the chemin des douaniers.

There are similar coastal routes in other parts of France (over 4,600 km in total), thanks to a law which guarantees public access to a strip 3 metres wide along the entire coastline. It’s enforced pretty seriously – on one occasion the army was called in to blow up a private wall that was blocking access.

The result is some fantastically scenic walking routes, not only here in Normandy but in Brittany, the Basque country, the Mediterranean coast and elsewhere. You can dip in and out or walk all day.

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Rugged coastal landscape at the Nez de Jobourg on the north-west corner of the Cotentin peninsula.

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Slightly tamer scenery on the sheltered east coast of the peninsula.

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The pathway is marked by these yellow bornes or milestones indicating the distance to the next destination.

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Here Shiro is inspecting a German pillbox left over from World War II.

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Living Swedish style

Our home for these two weeks is in a lovely leafy suburb about 5 km from the centre of Malmö. It is a quietly affluent area with huge parks and an astonishing number of wild rabbits. Our house adjoins a cycle and pedestrian path, part of a network that is largely separate from the roads, so that you can walk or cycle around safely without having to deal with vehicle traffic.

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View from our bedroom towards the city centre

We rented the house through Airbnb. On Tuesday morning we briefly met the owners; they were just about to set off on a two-day drive of their own, for a holiday in Croatia. They are completely laid back about having us living in their home; the only “rule” they posted on their Airbnb listing was “treat our house as if it were your own”. They also left us a bottle of wine with a note inviting us to help ourselves to the tomatoes and cucumbers growing in their glasshouse.

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We’re also free to use their bicycles, including this handy (and somewhat unwieldy) cargo bike for doing grocery shopping.

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Two things we noticed very quickly: there are no curtains and no clothes storage in any of the bedrooms.

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The lack of curtains is typically Swedish; we had noticed years ago that as you walk around a Swedish neighbourhood in the evening you can see all the people in their houses and apartments going about their evening routines. The explanation I have heard is that Swedes don’t approve of having something to hide; if you are not engaging in nefarious activities, why would you need curtains?

What we hadn’t realised is that in summer, the lack of curtains means you are woken every morning at 5 a.m. by the full force of the sun shining directly in your face like a 100 MW laser beam. Which is good in a way, because it means you get up early and make the most of the day.

The lack of any wardrobes, closets, hanging space or drawers for your clothes is a bit more problematic. It makes for a really uncluttered look—the only things in your living space are things of beauty such as photographs and artworks that you have specifically chosen. But it’s quite inconvenient. For these two weeks, we’ve got around it by just living out of our suitcases; we’ve left our suitcases open on the floor of one of the children’s bedrooms.

The dogs are very happy to have a big garden to run around in. They were predictably excited at first by all the rabbits, but there are so many that they may actually be starting to get bored with them.

 

Driving to Sweden—day 2: Monday

Another early start on Monday morning as our ship arrived in Rotterdam at 8:30 a.m. (which was 7:30 Irish time). As we entered the port, we stood out on deck to watch the scenery glide past. I was able to point out the new coal-fired station at Maasvlakte.

There was some delay getting access to the locked kennels, so we were left standing around impatiently with all the other dog owners, waiting to be reunited with our pets. But by 9:00 we had driven off the ship and entered the Netherlands, with no passport or customs checks of any kind.

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“This could be Rotterdam, or anywhere…”

The next leg of the journey was a 600 km drive across the Netherlands and Germany to the port of Travemünde, near Lübeck, in the north of Germany. The Netherlands is Shiro’s 10th country, and Miffy’s 6th. The weather was hot and sunny.

Thanks to the excellent motorway system in the Netherlands, and the surprisingly light traffic (for a Monday morning), we were able to drive across the whole country in about 2 and a half hours. We stopped to buy sandwiches for a picnic lunch at a service station near Hengelo, before crossing into Germany at around 11:30.

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Picnic lunch at a service area near Osnabrück, Germany

Despite getting stuck in some long traffic jams on the A1 (and seeing the aftermath of 3 traffic accidents), we made very good time and arrived in Lübeck at around 6 in the evening.

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Only 200 km left to go. Better watch out for that right turn coming up after 138 km!

We didn’t know much about Lübeck, but had been told that it’s a very beautiful and historically-interesting city. And so it proved.

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The Holsten Gate, Lübeck

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Gabled trading houses along the canal

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Monument to the composer Brahms

We didn’t have much time for sightseeing in Lübeck before it was time to go to the port and board the Finnlines ferry to Malmö. This overnight ferry, with its spacious and pet-friendly cabins, was by far the most comfortable part of the journey, both for us and the dogs.

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Comfortable accommodation on the Finntrader

Early the next morning, the ship passed under the Öresund bridge and, 2 days after leaving Dublin, we arrived in Malmö, our final destination.

 

 

お守り o-mamori—charms

On Thursday we took the dogs to inu jinja—the dog shrine—in Nagoya.

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At the dog shrine you can see a statue of 犬の王 inu no ou—the king of the dogs.

(This photo is by geocacher “eizo” and was not taken on our visit. You can see the head of the dog king in the top picture above, peeping out from behind the kadomatsu.)

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Most shrines and temples sell charms (protective talismans) called o-mamori. The purchase of these items is like a small donation.

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Each shrine or temple tends to specialise in charms for a certain purpose, which might be exams, marriage, travel, etc. For example, there is a shrine not far from here called 方違神社 houchigai jinja. If you are planning to move house, you can buy a suitable o-mamori there. Inu jinja specialises in charms to protect dogs.

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O-mamori only remain effective for one year, so at New Year you are supposed to return your used charms to the shrine and get new ones. There were boxes full of returned charms and other religious objects. These are burned in the courtyard of the shrine. It was quite smoky.

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O-mamori usually take the form of a brocade bag with something inside, tied with a characteristic knot. Here are the o-mamori we bought.

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Note on the word of the day:

The verb 守る mamoru means “to protect”. You can often make a noun from the -masu stem of a verb (mamorimasu -> mamori) so 守り mamori is a noun meaning protection. Adding the honorific o- gives us o-mamori, which is a protective charm or talisman.