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Brittany Brittany, June 2018


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Thursday June 14 2018
Foggy, drizzly. Sunny and warm in the very late afternoon.

Today we saw the Carnac Alignments, thousands of standing stones in lines in large fields (Neolithic - 6,000 years old). I have wanted to see these stones for a long time. They did not disappoint.

Yesterday late afternoon we drove from Bridport west to Plymouth where we got the 10pm ferry to Roscoff (Brittany Ferries). Traffic can be thick in the southwest so we left much earlier than we needed, leaving time to have dinner at Wagamama (an Asian chain restaurant that we love) in Plymouth, before getting in line for the ferry. We had booked a cabin and I was ready for it to be very small, but it wasn't. It was like a very small, London hotel room. Two very narrow beds, small table, small chair, ensuite bathroom with a shower. We had a window. The boat was not crowded. We boarded, made note of where the car was parked (the last time on a ferry we forgot where we parked the car!), went to the cabin, had a cup of herbal tea, and went to bed. We slept well. The only downside is that we had to get up much earlier than usual - 7am France time which is 6am UK time.

By 8:30 we were driving off the ferry, driving on the right with our car designed for driving on the left. The weather was grizzly - foggy and drizzly. Steve did the driving. My Garmin GPS (SatNav) was not working again and I realized that during the last update some of the maps were deleted! That is why it wasn't working in Italy, but it did work in the UK. It would also work in Finland and Poland, but not France. I used Waze on my mobile phone instead and it worked well.

We stopped in Morlaix for breakfast - espresso and a croissant. We did not have anything on the ferry - too early! We are staying in Morlaix the second week of this trip and the town looked delightful. We found a great cafe in the center and a very good bakery. In the bakery they had a long loaf of bread - several feet long - that they sold by weight. They cut of the size of chunk that you want.

It took about 3 hours to get to La Trinite-sur-Mer. We got to the house at noon and checked in. It is a small cottage on a residential street a block from the harbor. I think we will be comfortable here. The internet sucks but I am using my phone instead of their wifi and it is better.

We walked around town in the drizzle, got groceries, had lunch at home, napped and then felt much better. The rain stopped in the afternoon so we drove to Carnac. This time I drove and it really was not problem. I just say "drive on the right" over and over again. The roads are not busy here, so that helps.

Carnac is a cute town, with a lovely old church. We had coffee at a cafe, got a lot of good info from the tourist office, and then drove to the alignments. At the alignment closest to Carnac, the Menec Alignment, there is a large parking area and a tourist office (Maison de Megalithes). We bought a couple of books and they gave us maps and detailed directions to see the stones the best way, and other sites in the area.

From the tourist office you can walk out to a viewing area but you cannot go into the field with the stones. It is fenced off. You can go in on one of their tours. But if you follow the walking trail, you walk along the alignment and get close enough to touch many of them. We walked along the first alignment and up to the edge of the next one. There are three alignments stretching over a few miles. There are also dolmen, menhir (standing stones) and other prehistoric remains all over the place.

The sun came out while we were walking. We got the car and drove along the three alignments. We will walk them tomorrow. Then back home and drove around our town, La Trinite-sur-Mer. Lots of restaurants and shops, a beautiful harbor with sail boats, lovely old buildings mixed with modern ones. I think we will have a good week!

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Friday June 15, 2018
The weather was good today. High 68F, some cloud. Sunny in the afternoon.

In the morning we went to the weekly market in La Trinite-sur-Mer. It is a great market, half food products and half clothes and household goods. We got some organic vegetables, local strawberries, Brittany cheese, local pastries, good bread, and I bought a beach blanket (because the weather forecast shows a hot day next week).

We waked around town a bit more. The street along the harbor is lined with older buildings turned into shops and restaurants. Up from them are the older, historic homes and the church. There is a good looking bakery up by the church. Our vacation rental is on a street going away from the water, lined with a mix of lovely, large older homes and modern homes. We are in a small old cottage in front of the owners larger, modern house.

Lunch at home and then we did a very nice walk around the point. It took two hours and was flat and easy. It reminded me of the Cap d'Antibes, a long point of land with big houses along the water, but a footpath between them and the sea. We had lovely views of the bay, then walked around the point for views of the Carnac beaches. We walked by a salt pond that is being reestablished.

Our friend Dana was supposed to arrive at the Auray train station at 6pm but there are delays, and strikes coming up in the next few days, so we are not picking her up until 8pm. She is from the US and spent the last week in Portugal, then flew to Nantes and train to Auray. She stays here 3 nights then is off to Paris but has to rent a car and drive because of the train strike.

Our friend, Dana, an experienced Europe and World traveler, got on an express train instead of the local so when we arrived at Auray to pick her up, she was getting off the train in Quimper, an hour west of us. Her express train went through Auray so fast that she didn’t even see it.

She gets a night in Quimper and we will see her tomorrow morning. These things are so easy to happen when traveling in an area you don’t know!
I thought Guerande was in the south of France! Thanks for the info. Everything has Guerande salt here - butter, Carmel candies, even chips (crisps).
Pauline, if you read the first few pages of that book I mentioned above (Fleur de Sel Murders -- follow the Amazon link to "Look Inside"), you will see some vivid descriptions of the area that show why I was intrigued.

Here's another excerpt from the book that explains why the Bretons are so chauvinistic about their salt:
The fleur de sel is the finest and most refined salt of any in the world, and also the most rare. … Right after harvesting it has a violet fragrance and slight rosy shimmer. After drying it’s dazzlingly white. … A mild wind blows the fine salt crystals floating near the surface together, which produces an ice-like layer. Fleur de sel floats on the water. If the wind is too strong or the water in the harvest pools is moved carelessly, the fleur de sel sinks to the ground and is lost.” Unlike ordinary salt, which is 99% sodium chloride, it contains 60 different trace elements. ”That’s what gives it its unique flavor. It’s much milder, yet tastier, more aromatic and full-bodied than crude salt. Without any bitter notes. The only salt with a bouquet!”
I can't recall ever having fleur de sel, but now I want to try it! I suppose only the most exclusive Guerande salt is the true fleur de sel, which must be very expensive to produce.
We’ve been using Fleur de sel for years. I always buy some in France, but you can get it in the US. It is the best salt. I bought some yesterday!
Monday June 18 2018

The weather has been back and forth, but starting tomorrow will be forth for the rest of our trip, according to my weather app. On Saturday it was overcast with some sun, on Sunday it was nice at times but by the end of the day we had rain and fog.

We had a busy couple of days with Dana. We visited the Carnac Alignments, the Giant Menhir and the Quadrilateral (rectangle of stones). We drove to the end of the Quiberon peninsula and walked on a good footpath around the point. We went out for dinner twice, first to a seafood restaurant (where I got stuck with a salad for dinner because none of the restaurants offer vegetarian meals), then to a really good creperie (several vegetarian options).

This morning Dana took the train to Paris and we explored Auray. It was Market day and the town was packed. It reminded me of Dinan where we went last summer - historic town overlooking a river, steep street lined with old houses, down to an interesting port area. There was even a footpath along the river. Not as beautiful as Dinan.

Then we went to the Locmariaquer peninsula where there are more significant megaliths. A Dolmen with carved rocks, a huge Menhir that fell over in an earthquake and broke into 4 pieces. We walked around the point with views into the Gulf of Morbihan and saw a few more dolmen.

Photos in the next posts.
Tuesday June 19 2018
Warmer, 70F, but overcast until afternoon. Then sunny and hot.

What a fabulous day! The plan was to do a long walk along the Stone Alignments. We packed a lunch, drove to Carnac, parked and walked for 4 hours (just over 7 miles of easy, flat trails).

We started at St Michael’s Tumulus, a huge tumulus over 10 meters high that is really a man made hill with a 100 year old stone chapel on top. This replaced earlier chapels. We looked over the town of Carnac and could see where the Alignments are (but could not see them because of all the trees).

We followed good trails through woods to the Alignments. We walked along the Alignments, our third time viewing them.

The Alignments are large fields with long rows of standing stones of various sizes. They are fenced but you can get close to the stones. In winter you can walk in the fields, or by going on a tour. There are three main Alignments, all in a row. Starting from the west, where the visitors center is, they are Menec, Kermario and Kerlescan. There are wide paths around the first two. For the last one you walk on the road, but it is not busy. A tourist train on wheels and a open top bus brings people on the road by the Alignments. There are several parking lots, spread out along the road, so you can visit by car instead of on foot.

We walked along the Alignments, then visited The Giant and the Quadrilateral again. We continued on to a last, smaller Alignment, Petit-Menec, which we loved. I don’t think many people go there. It doesn’t have a parking lot and is marked on the tourist map, but is hidden away. The area is not fenced so you walk among the stones. The stones are not that large but there are three long lines of them. We had lunch there and saw no one else.

We walked back all night the Alignments to the car.

Next we drove up to two sets of dolmen north of Carnac. One was visible from the road - Mane Kerioned Dolmens - with signs and a parking area. Three small dolmen and three standing stones. The map showed more dolmenon the other side of the highway, so we drove to them. These were harder to find and we had to walk through fields for 10 minutes - Dolmens de Keriaval - but they were more interesting. Three large attached dolmen. The tourist office told us about these.

Home to collapse. By now it was hot and sunny. Dinner at home then an evening walk along the harbour and on the coast path. It doesn’t get dark until 11pm. We are an hour later than England even though Dorset is straight north from here.

Wednesday June 20 2018, almost solstice (noon tomorrow in France)

Woke up to sunshine for the first time here. Sunny and hot, 80F.

We drove to Vannes, about 20 minutes east, city with population 50,000. It was a Roman City and some of the walls remain. We drove into the center and found street parking along the harbour. It is on the Gulf of Morbihan. The historic center inside the city walls is charming. We found a great kitchen shop and got a flame tamer (I forgot mine, French stove tops, like Italian, don’t adjust low enough for the way I cook) and new thermos mugs for coffee (our last ones were horrible).

The weekly market was on making this our third market in a week. While I enjoy a market, they tend to take over a town center and hide the beautiful squares and buildings. We walked around for an hour. Lovely colourful timber framed houses, a big garden outside the walls.

We drove down to Pointe d’Arradon, where my guidebook says you get a good view of the Gulf (you do) and had our lunch sitting in the shade, looking at the water and islands. We walked a bit - the coast path goes through this area.

Next stop was Saint Anne of Auray (Ste-Anne-d’Auray), “the second greatest shrine in France after Lourdes”. Saint Anne, the mother of Mary, visited a farmer and told him to build a church. The present church was built in 1872. This is a stop on a pilgrimage route. Pope John Paul II visited here in 1999. We walked by the building where he stayed. The church is large and beautiful. People inside were signing hymns. They have a good religious shop and I got 2 key chains, one for Brittany, one for Saint Anne.

We drove home and visited a few shops in La Trinite. It is hot. We should have gone swimming but the good beach is in Carnac and when we were there the other day we saw sand bugs. We got ice cream and walked along La Trinite harbour instead.

We’ve had a great week here. The towns are fun, there are lots of hiking trails, and the Carnac Megaliths are incredible. This area has the largest concentration of prehistoric remains in the world (I think that’s what I read).

Tomorrow we drive to north west Brittany, back where our ferry arrived, for a week in Morlaix.

Pauline, I loved seeing your photos of Vannes and the Gulf of Morbihan, after just finishing the book set in that region.

Tomorrow will be the summer solstice, and La Fete de la Musique. I hope wherever you're staying has some musical events going on for the fete. We were there on June 21 a few years ago, and it was great fun.
Thursday June 21 2018 (the solstice)
Sunny but cooler, low 70s F in La Trinite, high 60s in Morlaix.

We are in Morlaix! What a fabulous town. And we love the cottage we rented - The Gardener's Cottage in Manoir de Coat Amour. Thank you @Ann for recommending it. http://www.coat-amour.fr/

We left La Trinite and arrived at the cottage in Morlaix at 12:30. It was an easy drive. The inland part of Brittany is somewhat empty - all the busy towns are on the coast - so driving from south Brittany to north Brittany is pretty easy. It was mostly forests or crop fields. We drove over a moorland that looked a bit like Dartmoor in Devon, but sunnier. I read about some remaining ancient forest inland near Huelgoat and we may drive back there for a hike.

The cottage owners let us do an early checkin so we did not stop along the way. We were both feeling a bit worn out today, so that was good timing. We unpacked the car, made lunch, then napped.

In the later afternoon we spent a couple of hours exploring Morlaix. We can walk there from the cottage in 20 minutes or so but we drove in so we could pick up groceries. Morlaix is a lovely town. Lots of shops and restaurants (way more than La Trinite), many colorful old timber buildings, a huge arched viaduct across the center of town for the railway, and a port area on the tidal river. It was cooler and windier here, more like the weather we get at home.

We visited the tourist office and got information on the area and the walks.

Tonight is the Festival of Music as Roz posted about. They were setting up stages all over town. We saw the start of it - a children's choir - but then we left to make dinner at home.

I will have trouble eating in restaurants here. We looked at several menus and the only options for vegetarians are salads. I like salad, but not for the main meal. Creperie will work - they have vegetarian options. But I am surprised to see no vegetarian mains (plats) on menus. Last year we saw some in Cancale, but this year none in La Trinite or Morlaix. Fish and meat, that's it. Which is fine because we like to cook most of our meals anyway. We will go out for crepes one night. And I will look on Happy Cow, the vegetarian restaurant app, so see if it has any suggestions.

We did not go back into town for the music festival. I am just too tired. I'll have a good sleep and be raring to go tomorrow.

We love the cottage. It is a small stone cottage on two levels and they added on a room on each level - kitchen on the top level, bathroom on the bottom. So the living room on the top and bedroom on the bottom are in the old stone part of the cottage. Very thick stone walls. A comfortable sofa (the one in La Trinite was horrible). Comfortable bedroom (the one in La Trinite smelled of the rattan carpet and was a bit stuffy). We only have six nights here.

My only complaint is that the internet is very slow. It was bad in La Trinite too.

Friday June 22 2018
Sunny and warm, 65F.

Today we did a wonderful walk on the coast path starting in Dourduff, 15 minutes north of Morlaix on the Bay of Morlaix, to the Barnenez peninsula. We walked for 4 hours, 7.5 miles. The tourist office suggested this walk.

The coast path here is pretty flat and has good views to the water. Some parts were in shade, going through forest. Many parts were overgrown.

We walked to the top of the peninsula and had our lunch at a picnic table. Then we found the road and went to the Barnenez Cairn, a significant prehistoric site. It is on a hill overlooking the bay, a huge cairn of stones with dolmens around the edges. A beautiful setting.

The coast path is well marked but there were no signs to get back to the path. We didn’t want to walk back the way we came, but instead to cut back to the path. I saw a path that was probably the one we should have taken, but there were no trail marks, so I looked for a path shown on my hiking path (the ViewRanger app). We ended up walking down a steep field, up to our shoulders in ferns, where we finally got to the path but had to climb over a wire electric fence, which happily was not turned on. Very elegant. As we broke through the ferns other hikers went by on the trail. They must have wondered where we were coming from. From there an easy walk back.

There were people out on the trail, but not very many. The views out to the bay were extraordinary. We saw a lot of islands, including one that was a castle. We watched the afternoon ferry leave Roscoff. Smaller Ferries took people from Morlaix around the bay. There were flatbed oyster farms. We walked through a couple of small villages. We walked by large manor houses.

It is beautiful here. I am at the point in the vacation when I am thinking we should stay an extra week. I think we can change our ferry ticket. And there are lots of places available on AirBnB.

Saturday June 23 2018
Sunny and warm, 70F.

Morlaix has a market on Saturday, all day. We walked into town. There are two ways to walk in from the cottage. The short way is 15 minutes and you are on a busy road for a few minutes only. The long way goes on very pretty streets and takes a hiking path part of the way. This is only 20 mins.

The market was excellent and busy and fun. Lots of organic (bio) vegetables. We bought cooked artichokes for lunch, some French cheeses, fruit and vegetables, bread, and some of that pastry, Keuign Amann, to take home.

We had lunch at home. The artichokes were great!


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