Further west, Pont-Aven is a pretty town on the river Aven (very similar to the old British Avon). Its mills used the tumultuous waters of the river, crashing around big granite boulders. It is the centre of pays bigouden, which is to Brittany what the Highlands are to Scotland.
Le pays bigouden has given Brittanny its emblematic black and white theme and costume: women, dressed in black, used to wear tall white lace headdresses at ceremonies and pardons. First in the early, promising paintings by Gauguin, before he discovered the colours of Tahiti. Then as Bécassine, the wide-eyed heroine of the one of the first comics from 1900s about a Breton servant going to Paris to better her lot. You also find them as naive “petit Breton” figures in the blue-lined Quimper faience, that has also come to be the most iconic Breton style of ceramics. Now, they feature on the popular car sticker “A l’aise Breizh“, amongst many others.
The town of Pont-Aven was made famous by the man it made famous, Paul Gauguin. Nowadays it is still an active centre for the arts. It is a lovely place to shop for paintings, or food. Breton cooking is based on crêpes, seafood and fish, and butter biscuits. Crêpes are confusingly divided into galettes (savoury, made from buckwheat, sarrasin or blé noir), and crêpes (really), made from froment, wheat, and with sugar. You can also buy fish tins, or fish soup in jars, a traditional product in the area. Bisque de homard (lobster bisque) wasn’t a luxury dish here, it’s what you shipped out to the poor in-landers who couldn’t access fresh seafood! On a cool evening though, with a few croûtons, it is truly conforting, if a little salty to my taste. As for the butter biscuits (galettes and palets), … they are just delicious.
Along the coast of Cornouailles, sometimes the sea and land gently meander together and merge…