The next morning the weather was still grim, prompting us to briefly resume our search for somewhere to sleep in Wales other than a tent, but to no avail. A few years ago, we probably would have said "f**k it" and booked a last minute flight to somewhere exotic instead, but in a commitment to a 'greener' travel ethos we recently agreed not to fly anywhere we could get to in a day by rail and/or ferry. We've taken the Eurotunnel a few times now to get across to the continent, but strangely - since we live so close to a cross-channel port - never used the ferry. Doing some speculative research, I was surprised to discover how reasonable a return ticket with the car was from Newhaven to Dieppe (£99). Newly inspired by this knowledge, we set about looking for somewhere to stay in Normandy or Brittany, only to be confronted with a similar "no room at the inn" scenario. Finally, when we had all but given up hope, I tried one last place - a B&B near Saint Lo - and succeeded in booking us in for three nights. To celebrate, and make the most of our day off in Brighton, we treated ourselves to an indulgent lunch at the ever splendid Terre à Terre.
After a smooth crossing the following morning, we were in Rouen by lunchtime. The whole city was practically deserted due to a public holiday, so it was great for strolling about, but not so good for shopping. I'd like to go back some time and check out the nightlife, it felt like a pretty cool city. From Rouen we carried on to Saint Lo, and after a couple of minor palavers (bits of the car falling off, and getting slightly lost), arrived at our B&B by early evening, to be greeted by the landlady and her handsome ginger cat, Raoul (so named because of his distinctive vocalisations). The cottage was stunning and in a very tranquil spot; we both breathed a sigh of relief and relaxed firmly into holiday mode. On Saturday we braved the weather and tourist hoards to check out Mont St Michel before heading over to St Malo for lunch. Whilst dining at Borgnefesse - a rather nice, tastefully pirate-themed restaurant (if you are thinking inflatable parrots and staff in tricorns, stop) - we discussed the possibility of going to La Route du Rock festival (which I'd seen was taking place up the road) for the evening. Ant's always easier to goad when being well-fed, so this was the ideal opportunity for me to secure a little compensation for missing out on Green Man. Anyone would think I planned it this way (I didn't, as it happens).
La Route du Rock Festival, St MaloThe weather still looked touch and go at this point, but it turned into quite a nice evening eventually, with even a bit of blue sky appearing during the first band - the excellent Menomena. The festival itself was small and amazingly tidy, but best of all, despite the weather there was NO MUD. None. We also saw French Cowboy, Girls in Hawaii (both of whom were entertaining enough) and stayed for the first few songs of The Ting Tings' set - enough to persuade us that they are very much a studio band. Sunday's cultural activities were altogether gentler, with a visit to the impressive Bayeaux Tapestry followed by the beautifully presented Caen Memorial - a deeply moving WW2 museum, and finally an abortive tour around a country Chateaux - about which more later. For me, no holiday would be complete without a trip to the seaside - and a sandy beach at sunset was the perfect spot to round off our mini-holiday. Throw in a slap up meal at a chic waterfront restaurant and one could not ask for more. On Monday we just had time to stock up with the obligatory wine, cheese and interestingly-packaged groceries at the hypermarket before catching our ferry home.
Looking at other people's photos of Green Man on Flickr this morning, I am reassured that we made the right decision not to go (though I'm still gutted about all the brilliant bands I missed). I'm only sorry that we hadn't made use of the easy ferry connection from Newhaven to explore Normandy and Brittany sooner. But now that we've had a little taster of the many delights that those regions have to offer, I'm pretty sure we'll be making up for it in future.