Spicy Blog

BRITTANY IN WINTER - TO THE BEAUTIFUL END OF THE WORLD

Andrea | 13.01.2020 | | France

Our decision was quickly made: We wanted to avoid the hustle and bustle of Christmas and New Year's Eve and this required a 10-day trip to a suitable region in Europe. Andrea had two alternatives up her sleeve: Camarque or Brittany in France. We opted for the Bretons and their beautiful sea coasts and ancient cities with hopefully not too rainy-stormy photo weather. After a total of 1,150 km and almost 11 hours by car from Lake Constance across the French country, we reach the well-known Saint Malo northwest of the English Channel. In this relatively short time, of course, only because we don't take too many breaks and at most take good note of the speed limits. French motorways are well maintained and free of traffic jams, which is mainly due to the fees that motorway drivers in France pay at toll stations. Between Lake Constance and St. Malo there are approximately 85 Euros in tolls, one way.

 

LE MONT SAINT-MICHEL

The first thing is of course THE photo motif of Brittany: The famous monastery mountain island, photographed millions of times, with its almost 30 inhabitants in the direct vicinity of St. Malo. It is known for its Benedictine abbey from the 11th to 16th centuries, in which monks still live and work today. But stop! That's not true at all, because this little mountain in the water (or at low tide without water around it) is not located in Brittany, but in Normandy. We were even in this French region for the first time in our lives. But only for that one day. The "border" to Brittany actually runs directly west along the famous location along the water of the English Channel. The Mont-Saint-Michel is situated in Normandy only because the Couesnon, as the border river between Normandy and Brittany, has shifted its bed and flows into the sea on the wrong side of the Mont. At least that is what the popular Breton opinion says.

We take the characteristic silhouette of the rocky island in the mud flats at a photographically sufficient distance to make a timelapse video of it, especially because the tide should come now. After all the strongest tides in Europe exist in this bay. At low tide the sea withdraws up to 15 kilometers from the coast. The Normans say that the tide that sets in afterwards hits the coast like a horse at a gallop. Somehow we were too early. We did not experience a flood or even a first tidal wave as predicted ... .. Or we were just too impatient. So we stopped our experiment (because we were too cold) and limited ourselves to beautiful photos from all possible angles at the coast. The next time we visit we will march over the dam that can only be walked / driven by pedestrians, horse-drawn carriages and shuttle buses to the island itself. If you are there very early in the morning or later in the evening, it should be very nice on the island - especially for photography.

 

PINK GRANITE COAST

We leave St. Malo two days later in a westerly direction and drive along the northern coast. Nearby we find the small town of Plougrescant, where we want to get the "La Maison de Gouffre / Castel Meur" in front of the camera lens. After a longer detour we find the house built between two huge chunks of granite and located right on the edge of the sea. Unfortunately there are two state-of-the-art cars of the residents directly in front of the that building, so we unfortunately have to refrain from taking suitable photos.

Our next destination not too far from here is the so-called "Pink Granite Coast" in the north of Brittany. Still on the English Channel. To do this you have to drive through a total of four intertwined and interwoven villages virtually "in one": Ploumanac'h, Saint Guirec, Trégastel and Perros Guirec. You never really know exactly where you are at the moment. We finally spend the night in a small, nice hotel with steep, narrow stairs inside directly on an equally small but very romantic bay. We obviously arrived in Saint Guirec without really realizing it. The next morning our hiking trail begins there (also called "customs officers' path", because customs officers used to patrol along here in earlier times): From Plage de St. Guirec always along the coast past the beautiful lighthouse "Phare de Men Ruz" and the opposite located Ile de Costaérés (with castle on it) to the Plage de Trestraou. We do not walk the entire 12 km, but first turn right to the sculpture park in Ploumanac'h. Those who like colored rocks will find their fulfillment on this coast. They come in all possible shapes and figures, there are no limits to your imagination. And in between the dark green-blue shimmering sea with great white spray. In our opinion the granite chunks are not pink, but rather brown, orange or rust-colored. Still awesome. You really have to go here, it's a sensational feeling early in the morning!

THE CHURCHES

We really are not churchgoers. But Brittany offers a lot on the subject of these venerable buildings. Almost every village, however small, has such a larger church, mostly made of bright brown-gray-white stone. Always with two pointed or square church towers and lots of embellishments on and around it. And often they are called "Notre Dame" like their big, recently burned, very famous sister in Paris. We got to know such a Notre Dame at the beginning of our tour in Chartres. An evening before Christmas Eve. And then again later in Quimper in western Brittany. The church towers in that town, however, tapered to a point. But both had one thing in common: A very unique colored light show on the front and towers front of the cathedrals caused by big multi-projectors from the opposite side. Accompanied by excellent classical music also with and without explanations of the light history to be viewed. Simply fantastic to look at and enjoy at the black night. To complement this travel blog please watch the small video about Brittany that we have put together: Either on our website here at https://spicy-art.works/en/cinema/video or directly in our youtube video channel on https://www.youtube.com/spicyartworks. Inside the cathedrals you can find some incredibly huge organs, dreamlike naves and insane ceiling architecture. What is particularly pleasant is that the churches are (almost) always open and often even heated. Entry fee is not required. A model for the other well-known churches in the capitals and cities of Europe. So it works like this.

THE LIGHTHOUSES, THE SEA AND THE WINTER WARM WEATHER

The Atlantic Sea in Brittany is - in contrast to the calm English Channel - unpredictable, dangerous and beautiful at the same time. This stretch of coast has a very special charm, especially in winter. Wild winter storms hunt across the Atlantic and metres high wave mountains thunder on the Breton coast. A number of lighthouses guide bold seafarers around the winding corners of the country even during the greatest storm. We are fascinated by how the towers off the coast defy the waves crashing against their walls. They look like colored matches, whose fate will be that one last big wave will one day take them away. The harsh climate has shaped the Atlantic coast. Lashing winds, violent storms and drizzling rain for over a week are not uncommon in winter. However we experience none of thouse in these days. Sun, wind, clouds already, it really only rains on the very last evening. And thanks to the nearby Gulf Stream, it's also surprisingly warm for this time of year: 12 degrees plus.

We have set goals to three of these lighthouses: The one at Pointe du Raz and the one at Pointe de Mathieu, which comes alongside with a large, ancient and dilapidated abbey. And the tower with the "red head" at the port entrance of Les Sables d` Olonne. His opposite green and slate brother is rather not so interesting in terms of photography. Unfortunately, all without the huge waves that should surround it. But never mind. They are always nice to look at. But we can experience a dreamy sunrise alone on a bright blue sky very early in the morning on New Year's Day and Andrea's birthday at the "red lighthouse". What a pleasure!

BRETONIC PLACES IN WALLS WITH DREAMLIKE OLD TOWNS

We particularly like Vannes, Chartres, Quimper, Dinan and Saint Malo (also in the order from left to right). Somehow the Second World War passed them completely (what a luck!), because the associated old towns, churches, castle walls, half-timbered houses, cobblestone streets and paths and other buildings are more or less completely preserved.

We just stand up and see a group of seagulls flying past the open hotel window. The sea is near and its messengers circle every morning over the slate roofs of Quimper's old town - or in Breton language Kemper. When we later come to the street with the Odet River in the middle, the two pointed towers of the Gothic cathedral of St Corentin stretch proudly in the morning light. It looks a bit like the canals of Amsterdam before we get into the city through the thick city wall. Quimper, the capital of Finistère, is one of the seven old episcopal cities of Brittany, the former capital of the historic Cornouaille landscape and a charming city. The beautiful, spacious square "Place-St-Corentin" with its inviting cafes and the town hall forms the center of the city. Quimper's main sights gather around him. From here it is worthwhile to explore the venerable old town with beautiful old half-timbered houses and inviting shops and also to appreciate the culinary offerings of the market hall. But Chartres, the smaller Dinan and Saint Malo are in no way inferior to this place. Almost at the end of our trip, Vannes made a special impression on us in the south of Brittany. You should definitely pay a visit to this city if you are already in this region.

THE MOST BEAUTIFUL VILLAGE IN FRANCE

We plan to visit Rochefort-en-Terre, the supposedly most beautiful village in France, despite the thickest fog. About 35 km from Vannes. We find it in the gray, damp weather soup and park at the gates of the small village. When we later walk through the romantic alleys, the evaluation described above is really confirmed. It is - what a blessing - not a place that has been artificially rebuilt for visitors and tourists like in other countries of the world, but everything is authentic and genuine. People live here, there are small shops, restaurants and shops everywhere. Very clean, cute and neat. It is definitely worth a visit. Matthias eats for the first time one of the numerous French, sugar-sweet delicacies, a kind of "apple cake" - deep-fried and greasy, but delicious !! Fills you up without end….

When we photograph the legendary Chateau de Rochefort-en-Terre in the fog, in which a witch named Naia was said to have once lived, we experience an unexpected surprise: In the integrated Naia Museum there is an exhibition on the subject almost all year round "Imagination Fantasy & Vision" (https://www.naiamuseum.com). Everything here is pretty scary and unusual. A total of almost 80 artists from all over the world show their works there: Pictures, figures, magical machines, shapes of light - like from another star. Cyberpunk, science fiction, symbolism, fantastic realism, visionary art, pop surrealism and singular art. "Les mémoires du futur …… tell us about the nuclear wars, the invasions from space, the conquest of the galaxies, the birth and the torment of civilizations that man will build tomorrow ... "(Quote from a review of John Atkins' forward-looking novel from 1955, in which a man from the year 3750, who discovered a lost library, made a journey from the 20th century onwards world history undertakes ....). The whole thing is presented just great.

 

GALETTES AND CREPES

From time to time the hunger and flagrance of galettes - the typical Breton, salty crepes made from dark buckwheat flour, traditionally filled with egg, cheese and ham or more extravagantly with goat cheese and honey - drive us to one of the crèperies that are really everywhere. While we let the thin, crispy dough of the godet melt on the tongue, we are already discussing which sweet crepe will follow as a dessert (if the stomach size allows it at all). Plus a freshly tapped cider that is produced just around the corner. The tasty and sour must pleasantly tingles the throat.

 

THE BRETONES AND THE FRENCH

For both of us the great and extremely positive surprise on these days and evenings were the French themselves, here - of course- the Bretons! Because they were not only always very friendly, open and helpful to us. No, you could actually have a good conversation with them, although we can't speak French except for a few words. Because they now speak English (even voluntarily!). This was not always the case with our European friends in neighboring France. In any case the topic of EU and globalization has a more than good side effect here. And it's really fun and enjoyable.

 

CONCLUSION

It was an interesting, exciting and extremely quiet short stay at the northwest tip of France. Until "Le Finistére", the end of the world as this region is also known locally. With very few tourists, a little Christmas spirit in the cities, without New Year's Eve bang and firworks. We come home a little enchanted and know that was not our last tour to Brittany. Oh yes - not to forget the wonderful, typical Breton (march) music with its bagpipe sounds, which reminds of Scotland and Ireland.

What we couldn't do in a short time was a visit to the small, romantic Ile Brehat (without cars) in the English Channel north of Ploubazlanec and the Ile Quessant from Le Conquet. Brittany ends on Ouessant (by the way, also without cars). The island is the westernmost point of Brittany and France off the Atlantic coast, exposed to the hardships of the weather and the sea. This is where the much-noticed, well-known French feature film "The wife of the lighthouse keeper" with Sandrine Bonnaire and the little-noticed, worth reading novel "The Sea" by Bernhard Kellermann play. And this is where Jean Guichard took his famous photo of a real lighthouse keeper, who is just stepping out the door when a huge wave envelops his lighthouse "La Jument" from behind. The next time both islands will definitely be on the photo and visit plan.

 

OUR VIDEO SPECIAL AT THE END

And as a cherry on the cake on this travel blog is the wonderful video

 

"BRITTANY - TO THE BEAUTIFUL END OF THE WORLD

to watch, enjoy and listen to (please turn your speaker on!):

 

BRETAGNE - BIS ANS ENDE DER WELT


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