Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Brittany and beyond 2: Churches and cairns

Into the trusty car and off again the next morning, this time to Ploumanac’h via a few fascinating church enclosures. An enclosure was a church and graveyard, a charnel house, an exterior calvary and a wall around the lot. Most date from the 16th century and the figures and decorations often reflect that age, so you might get a scene of the crucifixion with people in something approximating Elizabethan dress.

We visited Lampaul-Guimilian,  Guimilian (a local saint) and St Thegonnec (another local saint). I loved the first for the interior decorated and carved altars and the astounding life sized deposition made in 1676.

Rood screen Lampaul-Guimilian
Very busy carved altar scene
Gargoyle waterspout (with a cute smile)deposition1
The beautiful deposition scene

The second had an excellent Calvary outside but the lean on the supporting columns inside didn’t augur well for the future of the back wall. Lovely organ and carved baptistry though and a charming altar to St Joseph.

P1000433The flight into Egypt (love the hat) washing

I am a bit worried that there seem to be 13 apostles at the washing of the feet
Detail of snail on carved baptistry columns
A nice, young St Joseph for a change

The final one had very expressive faces on the granite carvings of the passion on the calvary and another deposition with beautiful faces.

On the carved Calvary in the churchyard, Christ tormented
Lovely organ
St Thegonnec. You can see part of the calvary just through the arch
deposition2The deposition

From Christianity and its expression in the 16-17th century we moved on to a prehistoric burial cairn built in two stages between 4500BC and 3900BC. This amazing, stepped cairn is 75metres long by 28 metres wide and contained 11 burial chambers. It sits on top of a hill at Barnenez and was neglected for a very long time, only really coming to light again in about 1850 and preserved in 1955.

Grand Cairn de Barnenez

Onwards to the Cote de Granit Rose and our hotel. The pink granite boulders have been carved by wind and water into extraordinary forms, often huge. You might see a house with a rock behind it that is larger in all dimensions. Most of the buildings are faced with the rock and the blue sea against it is an amazing colour contrast.

plou rocks
The very weird rocks close up
House, lighthouse and lifeboat ramp

Our hotel was right on the harbour again, with a view out over the boats and a small walk to the beach area all around the rocks. Many people walk the headlands as the scenery is quite stunning. This used to be smuggling coast though the area is quite dangerous and the rescue boats are nearby.

Tide’s out
A boat grounded by low tide
All afloat. Same boat, same position, high tide
Rose granite chateau on its rose granite island

Our excursion from Ploumanac’h was to Beauport Abbey, mostly ruined now but once very rich and prosperous, so much so that they got a bit lax and had to be called to order again. It used to be right by the sea for trade, but as with many places, the sea has retreated. A pretty place to explore, as was nearby Painpol harbour.

Beauport Abbey
Oyster boat, Painpol
The huge fireplace at Beauport
Painpol harbour

On then, to Honfleur, stopping on the way at Cancale for oysters. I had a dozen for lunch, but at a cafe, not from the waterfront vendors. Behind the tents is a midden of oyster shells from those who bought lunch here. The cafe over the road even sells wine by the glass to go with the shellfish picnics.


Honfleur turned out to be a city of half timbered houses centred on a port that opened off the Seine. Very historic and I was interested to see that it was from Honfleur that Champlain sailed to found Quebec. (Remember Champlain, we found his birthplace way back when we visited the fortress town Brouages from Mosnac)

Ancient half timbering
A yacht prepares to leave the inner harbour

We stayed in an old convent tastefully renovated (Coeur St Catherine) though the sounds of patrons as they walked across the floor in the room above rather kept us awake. However the place was very beautifully presented and its history explained.

coeurstCatherineView from our sliding door

The harbour was pretty. We appreciated the old wooden church of St Catherine, built by the shipbuilders, so built in wood and like upturned keels. It was temporary several hundred years ago. Nearby, a separate belltower because the strength of the wooden church could not have supported the weight of the bells.

bell towerThe separate wooden belfry

How ironic that so many brick or stone churches burn and these are still intact. Mind you, in 1944, a shell penetrated the church but did not explode. Had it detonated the church would have perished.

A separate “Festival of the Seas” was about to happen on the Sunday/Monday of Pentecost so the town was decorated with flags and rosettes, a naval ship was in port and lots of yachts arrived through the opening bridge to shelter in the inner harbour. The tall buildings surrounding the harbour reflected in the mirror like water.

The tall houses reflect in the still waters
More reflections
Outer port leading to the Seine

We wandered down the outer port, all decorated for the Festival, before going for dinner. More oysters for me.

And so we prepared to move on to Paris. The next morning we crossed the Pont de Normandie and were on our way.

P de Normandie
The interesting upwards and sideways curve of the Pont de Normandie
Ponte de Normandy
Through the windshield

Next stop: Paris for 9 nights.

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