Huelgoat and Bretons d’ailleurs

Eventually I tired of the wind along the coast. I was near Roscoff,and it was blowing from dawn to dusk, kicking up the dust and driving off trains of thoughts. I headed both inland and inwards, to Huelgoat. Huelgoat, “the upper wood” in Breton, is pronounced “U-èl-go-a-t”. It is a quaint village in the centerContinue reading “Huelgoat and Bretons d’ailleurs”

Monsters, saints, queens, and shipwrecks

The Coast of Legends is dotted with shoals, rocks, islets, islands, peninsulas. Some islands are accessible on foot at low tide still, if you don’t mind risking wet feet. Rocks seem to rise up to the ocean. Mounds, towers of huge granite boulders won’t budge for waves or sea spray. Some look like petrified monsters,Continue reading “Monsters, saints, queens, and shipwrecks”

Tall tales of stone

On the southern bank of the aber Ildut, people have widened and deepened the river valley. The local granite, the renown “Laber”, is beautiful, with its pink feldspar crystals up to five centimetres long. It resists well to erosion, and is, apparently, easy to carve. It is also (relatively) easy to transport from here, asContinue reading “Tall tales of stone”

From Pointe Saint Mathieu to aber Ildut

In this treeless, ever-windy landscape, an important industry was the exploitation of wrack. In French it’s goémon, from the Breton word, or varech, which has the same Anglo-Scandivian root as the English word. It was used as a fuel, fertiliser, and animal feed. As you walk along the cliff top, you can still see theContinue reading “From Pointe Saint Mathieu to aber Ildut”

Pointe Saint Mathieu

The fabulously named Côte des Légendes, Coast of Legends, sits on the North-West tip of Brittany. From Pointe Saint-Mathieu to Roscoff, sea and land wrestle with each other and create an incredible mosaic of landscapes. The Brittany monster (see here) has been in a lot of fights; its ancient nose is full of scars, wounds,Continue reading “Pointe Saint Mathieu”

The Nantes-to-Brest canal and the land of Brittany

The technological advances gave nineteenth century people the sort of faith that can moves mountains. The canal connects Brest – the strategic military harbour at the westernmost tip of France, to Nantes, the historical capital of Brittany, and to the Loire valley. The Aulne is the first of five rivers whose courses were canalised. TheContinue reading “The Nantes-to-Brest canal and the land of Brittany”

In a peninsula far far away… (4/4)

If you head South from anse de Dinan, you will (eventually) reach the southern tip of the Crozon peninsula, the Cap de la Chèvre. The promontory is fairly disappointing at first, especially after Penhir. The view is nothing new. The Marine Nationale holds the best lands, once again. There is another memorial, to the deadContinue reading “In a peninsula far far away… (4/4)”

In a peninsula far far away… (3/4)

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 theContinue reading “In a peninsula far far away… (3/4)”

In a peninsula far far away… (2/4)

But the Crozon peninsula is not cut off from the rest of the world. Sadly, and surprisingly perhaps, war has imprinted its mark widely on it, and still holds it in its grip. You have to go to Pointe des Espagnols, its northern tip, to understand why. As you emerge from the walls and bushes,Continue reading “In a peninsula far far away… (2/4)”

In a peninsula far far away… (1/4)

The presqu’île de Crozon is the three-ended tongue of the Brittany monster (see previous post). It’s a world onto its own, diverse, remote. The locals say “En presqu’île” as if it was a country, or a continent. It is a big promontory surging west into the Atlantic, protected from the worst wilds of the oceanContinue reading “In a peninsula far far away… (1/4)”