Military boats are a constant presence on the west coast of Crozon. As the locals say, “Ils font des ronds dans l’eau“, “they go around in the water”. As I visited the Pointe de Penhir, the western tip of Crozon, a training exercise was going on. The grey, angular shapes of the boats echoed the 70-metres-high sheer cliffs and their sheets of rock. Their firing, both light and heavy rounds, was an unsettling background noise to the monumental, stark, Croix de Lorraine, in memory of the Bretons of the France Libre.
Here the vegetation is ankle-high, only heather and gorse. Its panoramic view makes Penhir the most awe-inspiring promontory of Crozon. In front of you, the three formidable rocks of Tas de Pois (Pile of Peas, really…). To the left, the pointe de Dinan, with its “castle”, a piece of rock still joined to the land by a narrow arch. Beyond it, the baie of Douarnenez, and beyond, the long Cap Sizun, with its wind turbines, extending to the Pointe du Raz, its lighthouse, and the flat, precarious-looking île de Sein, in front of you in the far distance. To the right, the Atlantic ocean; in the distance, the Pierres Noires (“Black Rocks”, apt description at least), the islands of Molène, and that of Ouessant and its clifftop lighthouse, then the tall white and red lighthouse of Pointe Saint Matthieu, the mer d’Iroise, and, much closer, the Pointe du Toulinguet and its small lighthouse. Behind you, the peninsula, and far away, the soft, brown mound of Menez-Hom. Only the dizzying wind or the dazzling reflection of the sun setting on the sea can tear you away.
If you come back East and South, you come across the wide, open, golden anse de Dinan. Here is the windsurfers and kite surfers’ domain. They whizz from one side of the bay to the other at incredible speed, harnessing both water and wind for the sake of play.
Walkers have the choice between the beach, when the tide is low (à basse mer), or the path over the cliff and into the dune and scrubland behind the beach. That’s the GR, which has to practicable even when the tide is high (à pleine mer). I choose the GR. The easterly wind ruffles the cypresses the wrong way. Their branches, shaped by the dominant westerly winds, pan out and shiver awkwardly. The dune and scrub are a rabbit paradise, criss-crossed by trails of people carrying their kits back and forth to their cars or walking along the coast.
On the way back, I walked on the beach. I approached the rocks at the bottom of the cliff, and notices their lace-like erosion by the sea. But then I found, in the shelter of these rocks up on the beach, a white scum of urchin shells. Like soap bubbles, it feels almost miraculous that their fragile and light shells make it whole to the top of the beach; their anatomy is most… peculiar. In my experience, it is impossible to bring them home without smashing them into a thousand pieces.
If you head South from anse de Dinan, you will (eventually) reach the southern tip of the Crozon peninsula, the Cap de la Chèvre…