We are camped at Port l’Epine on the opposite side of the bay to the town of Perros-Guirec. The coast-line is a little less dramatic than the Côtes D’Armor, there aren’t any high cliffs. Instead, the bays are decorated with pink granite rock formations. We have walked a little more of the GR 34. After setting up camp yesterday we walked east, admiring the knitted sea life creatures that were scattered around the village and port (think scarecrow festival but with all sea related things knitted). Today we walked around the sweeping bay to Perros-Guirec which is a lovely little town that straddles a hilly peninsular with a harbour on one side and golden sandy beaches on the other. The sea was out when we walked back so we were able to walk across the bay for a large part of the way watching kite surfers zig-zag across the shallow water.
We were caught out by the national holiday yesterday – all the shops were shut so we ate in the campsite restaurant last night. The campsite is Dutch run and the food reflected this - John had schnitzel! Not keen to repeat
our experience, tonight we have dug deep in the cupboards and John has created a delicious pasta dish - no, not tuna pasta bake (little in-house family joke).
After stocking up at the local Lidl yesterday, we headed towards Roscoff. The campsite is practically on the beach just on the outskirts of the town of St Pol de Léon. We cycled into the town today and did a tour of the sites including a church with the tallest steeple in Brittany. Whilst we were looking around the cathedral Pol-Aurélien, shelves of bird boxes behind metal grill gates caught my eye. The bird boxes had small heart and diamond shaped openings and were decorated with ornate script. On closer inspection, I realised they contained human skulls.
After exhausting the sites of St Pol de Léon, we set off to Roscoff. We cycle past fields of globe artichokes before coming into the town with its pretty granite houses dating back to the 16th
century. We had lunch in the sun overlooking the old harbour before exploring the town itself. In the early 19th
century, the Roscoff farmers wearing their traditional
striped tops would cross the channel to the UK to peddle their produce, pedalling their bikes with strings of onions hanging from their handlebars. Nicknamed “Johnnies” they gave us Brits our stereotypical picture of a Frenchman. Roscoff has a museum dedicated to them.
We have left Le Manche (the English Channel) and have turned south to France’s west coast and the Océan Atlantique. We are on the Presqu’ile de Crozon, a peninsular south of the port of Brest. The campsite has stunning views of the sea and Cameret-sur-Mer, a lovely harbour town that has become a haven for artists. The beach is a five minute walk from the campsite.
Today we cycled along the coast and around the Pointe des Espagnols. The point faces Brest and has played a strategic military role dating back to a Spanish invasion in the late 1500’s. A number of years later Napoléon built a few towers which the Germans took advantage of during the Second World War. The military presence on the Presqu’ile de Crozon was re-established in 2001 after the 9/11 attacks. We ate lunch overlooking another Napoleonic tower now inhabited
by a sailing club and the small harbour at Roscanvel. The sun is shining and there is barely a breeze to disturb the surface of the clear blue sea. It is one of those perfect days that you try to imprint in your memory to draw on over long grey winter days. After lunch we headed to the Cap de la Chevre on the south side of the peninsular. We stopped at Morgat to admire what, according to the Guardian in 2016 was the 14th
most beautiful beach. I’m not sure whether that was in the world or just France. Whilst the beach is very picturesque nestling at the bottom of a dip in the sea cliffs, I think the Guardian reporter must have only visited 20 beaches if they considered this 14th
best. Morgat was built in the 1930’s by the Peugeot brothers (of car fame) as a summer retreat. It’s clearly a popular place. It was busy today and we noticed the car park is probably bigger than the town itself. Across the other side of the Cap, the scenery was a more wild where it met the Atlantic. The narrow roads all ended at the sea and
the isolated bays of golden sand and surf were another big draw for the weekenders. We eventually found our way back to the campsite bottoms tender and legs aching.
The sun is shining again today and it threatens to be even warmer than yesterday. Walking today - from the campsite down into Cameret-sur-Mer and then round the Pointe du Grand Gouin and Pointe de Pen Hir. Cameret-sur-Mer was once France’s biggest cray fishing port but the only evidence of its past trade is the decaying boat carcasses in the harbour. It has a fully restored Vauban tower (named after Napoleon’s minister of defence who designed the fortifications doted around the peninsular). Next to the tower was the small Chapelle Notre-Dame-de-Rocamadour, dedicated to sailors and adorned with votive offerings of oars, lifebuoys and model boats. It had the classic wooden barrelled ceiling we have come to expect in churches in this part of France from which hung the model ships.
The views along the cliff top coast path are as wild and dramatic as they come. The heather and gorse in full flower grow close to the ground to
survive the westerly winds coming across the ocean. Cliff arches and jagged rock formations were being pounded by the Atlantic waves. Old German blockhouses are doted along the coast with one now housing the museum of the Battle of the Atlantic commemorating the lives lost by the allied seamen and German submariners. We passed a huge memorial to Breton soldiers of the Second World War.
There are two national holidays this week, yesterday and tomorrow but this time we are prepared. I think a lot of children may be on holiday this week too. There are certainly plenty at our campsite.
Yesterday we left the coast and headed inland to Huelgoat in the Parc Naturel Regional d’Armorique. The campsite welcomed us with a sign saying welcome to the land of myth and legends. The town sits on a man-made lake with an old watermill at one end. A narrow path down the side of the mill takes you to a secretive, green, boulder-strewn world, which has inspired wild Arthurian and Christian myths. There is the 'devil’s grotto', one story claims that the boulders were chucked here by a
Celtic giant, another says it was a grumpy Gargantua who threw the rocks around as a way of complaining about the nasty porridge he was served at Huelgoat. Further into the forest you come across the Grotte d’Artus, where King Arthur was meant to have had a bed in the woods, before arriving at his camp. The stories go on…… The giant mushroom rock formation was my favourite.
Lead and silver were mined in the area and the old mine workings along with narrow canals (think irrigation channels rather than Leeds to Liverpool) are still in evidence. We had a lovely day wandering around the area on the many footpaths taking in all the points of interest.
What better thing to do than visit the Valley of the Saints at Carnoet on Ascension Thursday.
It is the vision of one man to have, in the next 50 years, 1000 of the founding saints of Brittany made out of Breton granite and standing about 3 to 4 metres high. The website says there are currently about 50 scattered over the grassy hillside (not a valley at
all) but it felt like there were more. I was surprised by how busy the place was – all a bit surreal. Once John had completed his mission to take a photo of each and every sculpture, we headed south, back to the coast and the holiday town of Guidal Plages.
We cycled around the coast today and into Lorient. The day was overcast and it rained in the afternoon. Yesterday we had walked down to the beach and watched kite surfers racing across the waves. They were out in force again today enjoying the stiff breeze coming off the Atlantic. The cycling was easy and we just followed cycle route signs, not really knowing where they would take us. We had a general idea about what direction we needed to be going in (basically keep the sea on our right) so this wasn’t a problem. Once at Lorient, the cycle route took us through the huge working port, all very industrial but interesting. We didn’t explore the city too much, just had a cycle around what looked like the main commercial centre before heading back.
up for the moules, frites soiree at the campsite this evening, including dessert and dancing. It was like a family function, mass catered and full of kids running riot on the dance floor. We didn’t stay long…..
We have left Brittany and successfully avoided the temptation to buy a stripy Breton top or a cereal bowl with our name on it (which seems to be this year’s tourist tat of choice given the piles of them in every other shop). We are in the Loire Valley to enjoy some of the 800 km’s of cycle routes in the region. The campsite is on the outskirts of Montjean-sur-Loire. Yesterday we cycled downstream to the town of Ancenis where we crossed the river and cycled back upstream. It is flat, mainly arable farming and lots of vineyards. The cycle routes are really well signed and follow a mixture of very quiet back roads or are dedicated cycle tracks. In Montjean we admired some of the sculptures as part of a sculpture trail and the ruins of a huge watermill – all very picturesque. It had been overcast all day with the odd very
black cloud threatening rain. We arrived back at the van just in time to shelter from the hailstorm.
Today we headed off upstream for a few kilometres before heading back along the corniche de Angevine, a 100 metre high hill created as a result of a fault line and volcanic activity a few thousand years ago. Its height in the midst of such flat landscape meant we had extensive views over the Loire valley. We also stopped off at the site of an old coal mine that had an observation tower just in case we wanted to get more height from which to enjoy the view. Even more vineyards today and the odd glimpse of a modest Chateau. I have broken the news to John that it is french law that we have to visit at least one chateau whilst in the Loire Valley.
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