Feb 27, 2019

La Vie est Belle: Petit Breton


Life is beautiful or, as they say in French, "la vie est belle." In the case of this tiny river named "La Vie" ("Life") in the Vendée, it's quite literally true. La Vie is beautiful. And even though it's a tiny river in a tiny town, it packs a big wallop of fun in the form of the inflatable water park, something that France and Europe has embraced.

La Vie is a long, tranquil river. If you know more about French culture and filmography than the average bear, you'll recognize that as the direct translation of a film title from 1988: La Vie est un Long Fleuve Tranquille. In fact, La Vie is a 62.3km-long tranquil river starting at Belleville-sur-Vie and ending in the Atlantic Ocean.

Walking through the tiny town, dressed in a bathing suit and carrying a beach towel, you may think the river's "beach" has been oversold.

The town is lovely, but the river doesn't exactly scream "swimming hole." Then, you walk a little further and it opens up into a nice wide spot with a small beach of sorts. The Apremont "Lake" -- i.e. the swimming area in the river -- was caused by a dam built in 1966.

For such a tiny spot, it has a surprisingly robust gonflable -- inflatable, that is, and more specifically in this case, an inflatable water playground. For 5, you get roughly half an hour; frankly, I don't think anybody's too bothered with the stopwatch. Given the amount of climbing and jumping, it's a pretty tiring half hour/45 minutes and seems to suffice. Fun for all ages.

The concept of the inflatable water park is really thriving all over Europe. We've played on them in Malta, Croatia, Italy, France, and more. Here I actually have photos from one in northern Croatia, at Opatija. This one cost a bit more than 5 (more like 10-15), but then again it's a bigger park in a more expensive, more touristy area:

We really flip over inflatables (groan). So yes, in every sense, la vie est belle!

THE CHEESE: Petit Breton

Petit Breton, literally the "Little Breton", is a pasteurized cows'-milk cheese that's been made in the northwestern region of France since 1921. It's a pressed, non-cooked cheese originally created by monks in the region's abbeys.

The milk is collected in Bretagne, locally -- within 50km of the cheesemaking plant, and aged for 15 days. The cows graze outdoors a minimum of 200 days per year, and feed on up to 17kg of grass per day, per cow.

With no colorants added, the rusty-hue of the cheese comes from the salt and the aging process. It's not a full-fledged stinky, salt-washed, orange-rind cheese, however -- more a mellow, silky, semi-firm cheese of only mild funk and lovely, grassy flavors.


I actually wanted to use Le Chouan for this story, then realized I had already used it -- quite appropriately -- for a story on Royalists in France. Yes, modern France. People ask me sometimes if I can remember all the cheeses I've tried. I do remember the lion's share of them, but here's proof that I forget the occasional cheese. I buy it, thinking I'm adding another cheese to my repertoire, when alas, I am only adding another cheese to my waistline. But I have such new nice photographs of my second Le Chouan, I can't resist sharing them.

But far be it from me to re-use a cheese. So, in the interest of counting up to 1000, I choose this Petit Breton instead. I photograph and eat this particular cheese in Apremont, just a couple minutes walk to La Vie, its little beach, and its rather sizeable inflatable water playground.

Like the beach river, Petit Breton is little and very Breton (it's right there in the name). Like the river La Vie, this cheese is also beautiful.


  1. I had that cheese recently. It tasted like death - extremely overpowering, with a bitter aftertaste. It was really the worst cheese I've ever tried. Even my wife, who likes strong cheeses, couldn't manage more than a nibble. After reading this I'm wondering if it was simply spoiled. "Mild funk" it certainly wasn't.


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