Saturday, 12 April 2014


After visitng Concarneau I must admit the town looks nothing like I expected. Today it is not the quaint small fishing village that Simenon describes back in the early 1930’s. Quite the opposite, it is much bigger and less provincial. Yet this is not what surprised me the most. Modernisation can easily cause this to happen. What shocked me the most was that the town is “upside down”. Quai de l’Aiguillon lays to the left of the Hotel Admiral why I expected it to be on its right. And the Admiral hotel itself faces the wrong direction.

The old watch tower at Cabelou was another surprise. I had imagined an old abandoned tower not far out from the city. On the other hand when we made the trip out to visit it we found it to be much further away than anticipated. The abandoned fort, unlike how I had anticipated, was relatively big and a small house shaped building lay on the inside of it. The tower itself on the other hand much smaller that expected. Despite it not reflecting what I had imagined the walk out to Cabelou Point and the visit to the Fort were probably my favourite part of the trip. Sitting on the rocks overlooking the sea and the Glenan Islands, the fort had a magical atmosphere about it. Maybe this was because our visit there was accompanied by the beautiful musical notes made by two locals who were playing their instruments out there in the forest. I nearly felt bad intruding on them.

Having imagined the town Simenon depicts in the novel and seen the Concarneau one can find today, the two are very different. Yet this was no great disappointment. After all I believe that books are made to remain in the imaginary. An author does not write them so we can un-pick them and analyse them word for word. Maybe when writing The Yellow Dog  and describing Concarneau Simenon did not remain fully truthful to the towns layout. But after all he wrote a novel not a travel guide. The locations he describes serve the purpose of creating the setting necessary for The Yellow Dog mystery to unfold. In no way do I fell that was the trip disappointing because of this or the novel less enjoyable.


I arrived at Brittany Ferry’s port at 9 o’clock on the dot. The satisfaction of having arrived on time was short lived. I immediately realised that I had forgotten my passport. After spending all afternoon preparing for this trip. Tying up all the loose ends. Getting all my work out of the way. Packing the right things and making sure that everything was in order before departure. And yet throughout the whole day it never even crossed my mind to pack my passport. I can honestly say that this has never happened to me before. I like to think that in my disorderly way of going about thing there is always some form of underling structure that ultimately leads to order. Is it not a common saying that “out of chaos comes order”? I was truly disappointed with myself for forgetting my passport. I had spent a good portion of the day going over the novel The Yellow Dog to ensure that I knew the book well enough and that I wouldn’t make a fool out of myself when it came to discussing it. And there I stood in front of Charlie and Denise, bag on my shoulder and laptop in hand, having achieved exactly what I had tried so hard to avoid. I looked like a fool. I had forgotten my passport, the most obvious of things.

I ask myself if the same thing would have happened to inspector Maigret. One of the reasons I engaged so well with the novel is the similarities I found between myself and the inspector. He is sharp-witted and observant. I like to think I share these characteristics with him. But maybe I think a little too highly of myself! Or am I just being too hard on myself! I put the mistake down to the fact that for the first time in a while I haven’t had to organize the trip personally, worry about making the booking or going through an online check-in. Luckily, despite there being little time to spare, I managed to go home, get my passport, and return to the port in time for departure. An hour later, as planned, the ferry set sail for Roscoff.

Tuesday, 8 April 2014


“On Y va!” Tonight we leave for Concarneau. Back to France. It’s my third visit in six months. I truly cannot wait to get back onto the continent. More than anything I have missed mainland Europe’s culture. Moving from Italy to England the cultural difference is quite noticeable. I find it much easier to relate to the French way of doing things than to the English way.

This year with my trip to Brittany in October and to Paris in January, I have had a chance to polish up my French. From the age of eleven I studied the language for three years. To my delight I have found that my communication skills are much better than I thought they would be. Being already bilingual I have always found it easy to get to grips with other languages. My Spanish for example is also quite good. So compared to many people that would struggle placed in this different environment, culture and language I cannot wait to get stuck into it. I truly believe that to understand and thrive in another country “We must learn the culture just as we must learn the language” (Hooker, 2003). The best way of doing this is by engaging with the local community. Everyone is proud of their own cultural identity; I have found that locals are more likely to accept you and open up to you, if they see you making an effort to understand their culture.

This is what I find so appealing about traveling. Not going to visit the main tourist attractions, but engaging with the different cultures. Learning the language and understanding what identifies a different community. Concarneau is perfect for this. Simenon depicts such a vivid portrait of the French village and its people that I cannot wait to find out if the town has remained true to his description. Of course I understand that this is a different time from the one Simenon describes, but is Concarneau still a small village where everyone knows everyone? Will I be able to recognise the regulars, the established customers, in the Admiral Hotel Cafe? Will I still find the weekly market stalls in the square just off the Quai de l’Aiguillon? Our ferry lands in Roscoff tomorrow morning. Before lunch we should be in Concarneau. I guess it won’t be long until I find out.

Hooker, J., 2003. Working across cultures. s.l.: Stanford University Press

Friday, 4 April 2014

Food & Drink

I find one of the most exciting things about travelling to a new destination is discovering the local culture. Cuisine being at the centre of this experience. Maybe it is the Italian in me that makes me place so much importance on food. But wherever I go tasting the local traditional menus is nearly as important as discovering the new surroundings. 

I've already been to Brittany, and I look forward to having lunch in a Creperie again. The region is famous for its galletes or savoury pancakes and the prospect of eating them again, while drinking the local apple ciders, is making me hungry as we speak. As a student I don’t exactly have the most exciting meals. Pasta, chicken and potatoes are usually the order of the day. Well I’ve already decided that my dinners in Concarneau will consist of oysters, lobsters and scallops! 

Off the top of my head not much is mentioned about the local cuisine in The Yellow Dog. I do remember on the other hand Simenon describing that in Concarneau “In the open square stood some fifty stalls, piled with butter, eggs, vegetables …”. Somehow I find the prospect of walking around markets just as appealing as actually enjoy the food. I will be severely disappointed if Concarneau has not kept this tradition.


Last night, about 4 hours before leaving for London a friend of mine said to me “I don’t even know what to pack yet! Ah to hell it doesn’t even matter.” I find that deciding what to pack for a journey is probably one of the hardest things, and yet in the end least important. I never know what to pack and always leave it to the very last minute. Undoubtedly it is the image and expectations you have of your destination that influence your decision making process. 
I can’t say that I expect to find tropical weather in Finistère. In fact I doubt the weather in Concarneau will be very different from here in Plymouth. Grey, windy and rainy. In any case this is how Simenon describes it. In The Yellow Dog he depicts a vivid portrait of the French seaside village and over the course of the novel it is not till the final day that the weather in Concarneau turns from gloomy to fine.
As my friend I expect that I also won’t pack my case till a few hours before leaving and will probably plan on wearing very much the same as what I wear here in Cornwall. Clarks leather boots, jeans and my Barbour wax jacket. In the end I have come to realise that what you decide to bring with you on a journey is never as important as you think it is before setting out on one. Once you have arrived at a destination what you wear is the least of your concerns; you usually just want to get out there and explore.

Monday, 31 March 2014


I may be exaggerating in stating that my desire to travel was born because of my love of books. This notion had never actually crossed my mind until I got involved in Charlie’s project of analysing the effect of narrative on travel. By the age of fourteen I had read nearly every book J.R.R Tolkien had written. I wanted to explore Middle Earth. And eventually I did, four years later I spent over a month in New Zealand exploring everywhere from Hobbiton to the peak of Mt Ngaruhoe (commonly known as Mordor)! But what does one normally do before travelling to a destination? Why of course read a travel guide. The Lonely Planet, Rough Guides or any other guide. And I too have done so multiple times. Yet this time I am heading to Concarneau and all I have read is a novel; The Yellow Dog by Georges Simenon. And this is where the beauty of books is revealed. You conceive in your mind an idea, a picture of what you read. From reading the novel I have my own idea of what Concarneau looks like. There are specific areas described in the book which I hope to recognise when out there. Yet there is of course the time displacement to take into consideration, The Yellow Dog was written nearly one hundred years ago. Of course Concarneau will have changed by now, developed. But this is what makes me even more curious. In a way I want to go out there and become inspector Maigret. Look for clues to compare the small coastal town Simenon lived in and wrote about in the 1920’s to the Concarneau of today. 

Friday, 28 March 2014


“The world is a book and those who do not travel read only one page”, this is probably my all-time favourite quote written by St Augustine. I want to travel. All my life I have wanted to travel. To discover new places, the remoter the better.  It is only when traveling that I feel truly at peace with myself. Any journey is for me as much a journey of self-discovery as of discovery of an unknown environment. In just under two weeks we leave for Concarneau. It is still too soon for me to have the butterflies in my stomach as one might have just before leaving on any trip, but excitement is mounting. This time anticipation for travel is greater than usual. I would classify myself as a very spontaneous and last minute traveller. On the 3rd of January I went to Paris, I booked the flight the day before!! This time planning and research have gone into organizing the journey. I think this is the first time I've read a book set somewhere and then specifically planned to go and visit that place. The idea of participating in Charlie’s doctoral research into Literary Tourism just gives the trip all the more value. The build-up this time is greater, I’m getting more excited as I write this. I hope the weather is good because as Simenon says in The Yellow Dog that “It takes but a single sunbeam to transform Concarneau”. 

Sunday, 16 March 2014

The Unknown Town Project

The title of this web journal or web-log is drawn from the work of Antoine Compagnon where he writes of the novel as being like an unknown town, in which he wanders:

Un roman est comme une ville inconnue dans laquelle je déambule. 
(Compagnon 2006, 798)

The postings to this Travel Journal, or Carnet de Voyage, are by Antonio Nobile acting as a case participant for the field research of Charlie Mansfield.  The Unknown Town Project has a whole range of aims: 

  • to develop travel writing and journal writing skills
  • to test the themes discovered in contemporary travel writing
  • to provide a corpus of textual data on which grounded theory coding can be applied
  • to ask 'what is tourism knowledge?' and see how it is created by writing
  • to explore how value is created for visitors 
  • to explore Concarneau (our ville inconnue) with the aid of the Georges Simenon detective novel, The Yellow Dog (Le Chien jaune).    
Each day through the planning, reading and travelling AN will take one of these 16 themes as a prompt for his diary or journal entry:

Thematic Anatomy of the Late Twentieth-Century French Travel Text

Mounting excitement at the prospect of the journey, but also see xéniteia below.
Preparatory reading
Identity shifts possible in new clothing at the destination.
Thomas 2003
Displacement and time are components of travel movement so verb tenses will provide inroad to textual practice.
The travel text will add to the stock of knowledge.
Foucault 1966
Food & Drink, meal-taking
Strange new foods.  Meals prepared by someone else.  A pause in the journey is invested with more.
Kostova 2003
Images, sights,
The travel writer will see new and beautiful things, like views of Paris as a picture postcard.
The strange language may not appear connected to the travel writer’s own world.  Writer may choose to incorporate found texts, spoken or written.
Rolin 1995
Printed page will use white space as part of structure of travel text, reminiscent of the map
Diderot 1796 Ernaux 1993 and 2000
Responsibility shift
Traveller is at ease, responsibility seems removed allowing traveller to behave outside home conventions.
Self-identity inscribed in the text as exote but entropy may be at work
Forsdick 2000 after Segalen
Mode of transport contributes to literariness of text.
Giard and Certeau 1990 after Verne
Sights and new people will recall previous literary or artistic readings.
Scott 2004
The travel writer will report the ‘truth’
Diderot 1796
Used to render simultaneously truthfulness and literariness.
Rolin 1995
Deciding what to take with you on the voyage and what to leave behind.  Putting affairs in order to live an organised life.
Barthes 1977 (edition 2002)

Reference to cite this table from page 75    (Mansfield 2012, 75)

Mansfield, C. (2012) Traversing Paris: French Travel Writing Practices in the Late Twentieth Century; an Analysis of the Work of Annie Ernaux, François Maspero and Jean Rolin, Saarbrücken, AV Akademikerverlag. ISBN 3639441281


Barthes, Roland (2002) Comment vivre ensemble Paris, Seuil & IMEC.

Diderot, Denis (1796) Supplément au Voyage de Bougainville, Paris, abbée Bourdet de Vauxcelles [Edition used and cited here is: Chinard, Gilbert (1935) Diderot – Supplément au Voyage de Bougainville Oxford, Oaris, London & Baltimore, John Hopkins Press and OUP.]

Ernaux, Annie (1993) Journal du dehors Paris, Gallimard.
— (2000) La Vie extérieure Paris, Gallimard.

Forsdick, Charles (2000) Victor Segalen and the Aesthetics of Diversity – Journeys between Cultures, Oxford, Oxford University Press.

Foucault, Michel (1963) Naissance de la clinique Paris, PUF.
— (1966) Les mots et les choses – Une archéologie des sciences humaines Paris, Gallimard.
— (1969) L’Archéologie du savoir Paris, Gallimard NRF.
— (1970) The Order of Things London, Routledge.
               [English translation of Les mots et les choses with new Foreword]
— (1975) Surveiller et punir : naissance de la prison Paris, Gallimard.

Giard, Luce (ed) [Certeau, Michel de] (1990) L’invention du quotidien – 1. arts de faire Paris, Gallimard Folio Essais [new edition introduced and edited by Luce Giard]

Kostova, Ludmilla (2003) ‘Meals in Foreign Parts: Food in Writing by Nineteenth-Century British Travellers to the Balkans’ in Journeys: The International Journal of Travel and Travel Writing Volume 4, Number 1, 2003, pp.21-44,  Oxford and New York, Berghahn Books.   

Mansfield, C. (2014) Research Methods in Tourism and Place-Making, Toureme [online] Available at: [Accessed 24.12.14].

Nobile, A. (2014) The Unknown Town Project, [online] Available at: [Accessed 24.12.14].

Rolin, Jean (1995) Zones Paris, Gallimard.
— (1996) L’Organisation Paris, Gallimard.
— (2005) Terminal Frigo Paris, POL.

Scott, D. (2004) Semiologies of Travel from Gautier to Baudrillard Cambridge, Cambridge University Press.

Thomas, D. (2003) ‘Fashion Matters: La Sape and Vestimentary Codes in Transnational Contexts and Urban Diasporas.’ in Francophone Studies: New Landscapes, Modern Language Notes, (118)4, pp.947-973. Edited by Françoise Lionnet and Dominic Thomas.

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