Finistère (29), from the Latin finis terrae, the end of the Land. Sitting at the tip of the Eurasian landmass, it’s all about its end, it’s all about the coast.
On the South coast, this area is called Cornouaille, similar but distinct from the more famous Cornouailles britanniques (Cornwall). Near Moeland-sur-Mer, the waves (vagues) crash on tall granite cliffs. The coast is born out of the stubbornness of granite not to yield. Headlands (pointes), capes (caps), cliffs (falaises), peninsulas (presqu’îles), islands and countless islets take a constant battering from the waves. These all under daily challenge from the sea, and must be pummelled by the ocean during storms.
Even on a clear day, as you walk along the GR34 (sentier de Grande Randonnée – the long-distance walking trail going around Brittany), the wind is dizzying. The waves and the swell create a constant hum. The gorse, barely knee-high, flowers nevertheless. So do the cliff roses (armeries), so will the heather (bruyère). You walk on the sentier des douaniers, in the footsteps of the customs officers who used to patrol the coast. Lighthouses and blockaus (pronounced “blokoss”), remainders of the German occupation, are the only buildings.
The cliffs go in at Porz Teg, where a stream has carved into the land. At the top of the valley, it has created an area of irises under willow. Then it trickles onto a small sandy beach, sheltered on both sides by the cliffs. The waves gently lap the sand, away from the constant roaring of the open sea. The tide comes in twice a day, rearranging the seaweed and the sand, over and over. At high tide, when the sea has absorbed the warmth of the sand, it is a magical place to go for a swim.
On this Sunday morning, an elderly woman has brought her two grandchildren to the beach. As they collect seashells and other treasures on the beach, she does her tai-chi. Then she pulls out a bag and picks up the plastic rubbish from the seaweed. We talk. There isn’t a lot of rubbish, and it is mostly bits of old fishing gear. She comes here regularly, and there seems to be less these days. She gives me hope.
Further west, Pont-Aven is a pretty town on the river Aven (very similar to the old British Avon)…