Brittany (5)

A last report from my trip to Brittany.

Starting with La Roche-Bernard. This nice little town, some 20 km (12 miles) from the sea, on the river Vilaine, was obviously founded by a Viking, Bern-hart (meaning strong, brave as a bear) in 919 as a strategic defensive place. The successors remained and swore allegiance to the Duke of Brittany. It was a rather important commercial port with a shipyard for a few centuries, until the arrival of the railway. Today it offers a nice marina. 

Next stop was at Guerande with its medieval fortified walls. 

The city overlooks large salt marshes and Guerande salt is famous. Salt has been produced here since the Iron Age. You must obviously wait until a warmer part of the year to find the thousands of ponds getting white. Especially famous is of course the “Fleur de Sel” (flower of salt), harvested sunny summer afternoons.  

Then we continued the trip along the rough coastline, “La Côte Sauvage”

… on the way to the little town Croisic. Artists have worked a lot around these places. Here we can see a water-colour by Paul Signac (1865-1935) from 1928.

We made a quick passage via La Baule, since the end of the 19th century a famous seaside resort with its 12 km (7.5 miles) long sand beach. The seafront, where you used to find a large number of private villas is now almost full of nothing but hotels and more modern residences - you still find some old, nice, villas behind the seafront.

Behind La Baule, Guerande and just north of the Loire estuary … you find La Grande Brière (The Brière Marsh), a patchwork of streams, reed beds, water meadows and hillocks (see top picture). It used to be occupied by people who were hunting, fishing, cutting reeds, digging peat… Today it’s of course more dedicated to leisure, tourism… The 6.850 hectares are commonly owned and governed by the 21 small villages on and around the marshland. The specific flora and fauna are protected as well as possible.  

Before closing the Brittany file, maybe some examples of nature from a - then - still early spring. 



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The history of the Brittany region is long and there are many landmarks to remind you of it. One of the more famous ones is the site just north of the city of Carnac – there are some 3.000 Neolithic standing stones, menhirs, and this is considered as the world’s largest collection. The stones can be found over a distance of some 4 km (2.5 miles). You can also find dolmens, tumuli… and what is referred to as the Manio quadrilateral and the menhir, Manio giant.  

Not far away you find the city of Auray with its port Saint-Goustan, today rather a marina. Although fairly far from the coastline, this was a quite important port for centuries, until the arrival of the railway. The tide allowed seagoing vessels to arrive … and it was here that Benjamin Franklin landed in 1776 to ask for French aid in the War of Independence.

I visited another landmark, the Suscinio castle. (The name doesn’t sound very local – it’s actually a mixture of a Roman prefix and a Celtic word and means “on the marsh”.) The castle was one of the residences of the Dukes of Brittany with origins from the 13th century, originally meant to be a place of pleasure, close to the coast and surrounded by nice hunting forests. It was later fortified and enlarged. Without going into details here, the castle has of course been involved in all kinds of movements between the Bretons, the French, The Plantagenets, the Lancastrians… During 1471-83 the castle housed Henry Tudor and his friends. Two years later he became the first Tudor King of England, as Henry VII, after having brought an end to the “War of the Roses” by defeating the last Yorkist King. Later abandoned, the castle needed heavy restoration when it was taken over by the Department of Morbihan in 1965. Although the restoration work is not yet finished, the castle has clearly regained the impression of a medieval fortress.  


Spring in "my park".

I haven’t quite finished with Brittany, but will make a little interruption. Just have to illustrate the SPRING, again of course in “my park”. (A already showed the top photo on Facebook. Sorry for the repeating.)

All the flowers were waiting for a visit, but not all were as lucky as the one showed on the top.

Here are some more general views.


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On a fortunately quite sunny day, we took the ferry from Quiberon to Belle-Île-en-Mer, an island situated some 14 km (7.6 nautical miles, 8.7 land miles) from the coast – a 45 minutes trip by ferry. The island measures 17 km (10.6 miles) by 9 km (5.6 miles). It was part of the mainland until some 6000 BC. Some 4000 people live on the island – I don’t know how many during summer.

We left the mainland at Quiberon, crossed the sea and arrived at the (modest) major port on the island, Palais, with its fortress.

We then went to another nice little port, Sauzon, where we had a very good lunch in the sunshine. 

Next goal was the north-western tip, “La Pointe des Poulains” with its lighthouse and a building (a transformed little fortress) which used to belong to Sarah Bernhardt and which she visited every summer from 1894 until the year before her death in 1923 and where she received a lot of friends and prominent guests - like King Edward VII.

The coastline on the western side, against the ocean, is rough and the vegetation is scarce.

This includes what is named “Port Coton” (the name refers to the foam of the waves, looking like cotton). The Port Coton “pyramids” were painted by Claude Monet in 1886 – here you can see one of the 36 he made. This is also where you can admire and visit the lighthouse, “Le Grand Phare”.

As from the south-eastern point, Locmaria, and following the eastern coastline back to Palais, the waterfront and the landscape are quite different. A lot of green... and placid beaches.


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In my preceding post I showed the coastline of the Golfe-de-Morbihan (Gulf of Morbihan), the “little sea”, by photos taken from the shore side.  Here are now some pictures taken during a boat tour.

The exact number of islands in the gulf can be discussed – some of the smaller ones disappear during the ebb tide -, but you may count around 40. Except the two larger ones, Île-aux-Moines and Île-d’Arz, most of the islands are privately owned and / or uninhabited. Île-aux-Moines and Île-d’Arz have a few hundred inhabitants during the colder months, a few thousand during the warmer months.

There are a large number of beautiful homes to be found on the shore side as well on some of the islands – many owned by well-known personalities in France.

The whole region has been inhabited “since forever” and different megalithic monuments can also be found in the gulf.  One example is the burial mound or cairn from around 3500 BC to be found on the little island of Gavrinis. Just in front of it there is another little island, Er Lannic, with a stone circle. A second circle is today submerged. This proves how the water level has risen over 5000 or 6000 years – this was then all mainland.  

In the northern end of the gulf you find the city of Vannes with its some 50.000 inhabitants. The city is named Gwened in the local Breton language. This refers in its turn to Veneti, a Celtic seafaring people, defeated by Julius Caesar in 51 BC.

Here are some pictures from the port, the city walls, the Cathedral of St. Peter and a number of timber-framed houses.

(For further understanding you may also refer to maps in the preceding post.) 


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I’m back from a trip to Brittany where I met some blogger friends (who unfortunately have given up blogging). As expected in this region, I met various weather conditions, but basically the (rather chilly) spring was present. I spent my nights at Arzon and at Arradon and visited a lot of other places in the region.

I will split up my “report” and will start with shores around Arzon and Arradon, meaning partly a coastline, but also the shores of the Golfe-du-Morbihan – (Gulf of Morbihan), Morbihan meaning the little sea in the local language. I will be back with a separate post about a boat trip on the Gulf.

The tide on the coast line here is generally some 5-6 meters (16-20 ft), a bit less, 3-4 m (10-13 ft), in the Gulf. The currents are very strong, for example in the narrow opening of the Gulf, where it reaches some 9-10 knots and it’s more or less impossible for a sailing boat to enter or exit against the current.   

Here are first some photos from the coastline close to Arzon / Port Navalo (and the port, Le Crouesty).... 

 … and some nearby ones from the Gulf coast.

There are nice walking paths along the Gulf, where you can watch a green landscape on one side, oyster farms, birds, boats… on the opposite side. These photos were taken between Arradon and Larmor-Baden.