Monday, June 13, 2011

Brittany and beyond, 1: Bays, beaches and a few sacred sites

This week was to be a bit of a feast, both literally as in oysters and other seafood, and figuratively as we discovered some of the bays and savage coasts of Brittany and some of the very old sights as well. We were constantly struck by the similarity of place names and housing styles to places such as Cornwall, Wales and even Ireland.
We began with Quiberon which turned out to be at the end of a peninsula (yes, we could have looked at the map before booking) with one access road down the middle, on a long weekend with the Festival of the Sea happening. Ah well, it was slow trip in. The hotel was a few blocks from the front which, on that warm afternoon was alive with people swimming and eating. The front is lined with cafes and restaurants. Of course we sat in the shade and had ice-creams and then checked out places for meals.

Quiberon beach with promenade and sand sculptures

Next day dawned quite grey. We checked out another local harbour in Quiberon, Port Haliguen, which charmed me with its hotels and the vast array of masts from the pleasure boat harbour.

Hotel, Port Haliguen
Just a few pleasure craft in the yacht basin, judging from the masts

Then we headed for Carnac, a pre-historic site with rows of menhirs called “alignments”. No one really knows what they were for except they were probably religious in nature. There are also a few dolmens (covered burial sites). I wasn’t prepared for the size of the site which has several interconnecting fields totalling over three kilometres. At times houses and farms were built across the site and well meaning people re-erected fallen rocks but even so, the view is impressive and rather difficult to capture on camera.

Carnac Alignments
Dolmen or burial cairn

Menhir. About 5 metres tall.
We also visited the nearby bays and villages along the coast, such as Carnac Plage and La Trinite sur Mer. We could see the people hunting for shellfish on the sands as the tide went well out.

Beach near Churchill Point
Sands near Churchill Point

At La Trinite some very expensive racing boats were in harbour. It is quite a sailing centre, especially for big multi-hulled yachts. We stopped for lunch and I had some excellent moules frites.

catExpensive trimaran

The following morning we headed for a one night stand at Le Conquet. As it was a long trip we took a picnic lunch and stopped at just one place, the Pointe du Raz and the Baie des Trespasses. This is right on the open Atlantic Coast and the Pointe is the far western tip of France. Nick had wanted to stay at the Baie but I talked him out of it as it looked so isolated and exposed. Still it was nice to visit, especially as the weather, while grey, was not rough.

Pointe de Razedited 
Baie des Trespasses and the two lonely hotels near the sea
WWII emplacement at Baie des Trespasses
Pointe de Razn
Pointe du Raz, tip of France

Up above this westerly area the winds whip through. We noticed throughout France that six or so wind turbines would be placed to serve a local area, but here it was lovely to see a few real windmills, still apparently in working order, waiting to catch the winds. Lots of others seemed to have been converted into houses.

Le Conquet turned out to be the most charming of places. We stayed the Hotel de Vielle Port, quite well known for its seafood and with a beautiful outlook on the harbour, the boats and the houses. The houses across the bay were beautifully lit with warm light at sunset, all huddled together for protection from bad weather with their backs turned to the possible storms. It was fascinating to watch the tides fill the bay and refloat the boats. As we ate dinner I had the scene through a window of the houses, the now blue sky and the harbour filling. It was like having a painting on the wall opposite. Just gorgeous!

Le Conquet, afternoon
From our window at dawn
Le Conquet, sunset
Cute boat
Next serve: From Ploumanac’h to Honfleur


  1. Wow you could actually be in a small fishing town in Ireland there. eg Cobh. Also so weird seeing a Portal Dolman ourside of Ireland.

  2. Lots of connections between Ireland and Brittany with names, looks of places and pre-historic sites. We kept exclaiming how like Cornwall or Wales they were (not yet having been to Ireland)