Trip Report - Fringe Movements

Old Sep 7th, 2010, 01:31 PM
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<b>Brittany Part 4 and beyond</b>

Our last full day in Brittany begins once more with the sun streaming through the windows. It's Monday so things are starting to buzz when we finally get going. Today's mission is to get to the actual <i>Finistere</i> (note, misspelled above) - one of the points of Brittany that extends into the Atlantic about as far as one can get in France, in this case Point du Raz. We'll travel via a couple of other places, most notably the Quimper railway station, so I can see how to navigate the next morning when it's time to lose <i>la voiture </i> at the adjacent Avis office.

First stop however is the walled port city of Concarneau, from which most of the boats who sailed up the Aven for the festival came. Apparently the old town is highly picturesque.

Walled city. Port. August. France. Picturesque. Warning, Will Robinson.

… 100 per cent tourist schlunk and semi-schlunk: Creperies selling fish fingers and frites to whining English children, a shoal of cruise ship passengers (where in hell did they dock in this shallow region?) visiting every shop selling striped T-shirts and local cookies, lots of places to sit with a 4-Euro coke and watch your fellow tourists watching you…

Okay, the signs are clear. We're nearing our limit on quaint and cute places. Usually when this happens in France (which it always does) we scurry into some place like central Marseille for a gritty city fix, but in this area those options are few. Instead, we snap a few pictures, watch the seagulls fight over surplus hamburger buns tossed into the water by the assistant burger-flipper and his pals, and head back to the car to beat it. It's the Mont-Saint-Michel phenomenon all over, albeit at a tiny fraction of the scale.

Next on the list is a drive-by of the Quimper railway station, so that I won't have to cruise unfamiliar busy morning streets the next day, burning diesel for which I've just paid dearly to top up the tank pre-car-return.

Done, about as hard to find as an elephant in a telephone booth, so then we're off to the Phare Ouest as the Breizh Cola people say; the lighthouse at the end of the world.

The land once again becomes more Celtic-looking (rolls eyes) as we approach the peninsula avec lighthouse. Here again the building-design police have been very energetic - all the houses are painted one of three or four acceptable shades of white or Porsche yellow, with consistent roof lines and other design features. Not complaining - the overall effect is very pleasing, but hard to miss.

Anyway, the Point du Raz is labeled as one of the scenic highlights of France (so says the French government bureau in charge of scenic-place-labeling) so we park the car and stroll past the purpose-built crescent-shaped complex of souvenir shops and cafes, all selling fish fingers and frites, postcards and 4-Euro cokes, and head to the path out to the lighthouse and the cape. "10 minutes" walk says the sign.

As if. Ten minutes walk if you have the Bronze Medal in speed walking, maybe. For us, more like 30, up hill and directly into a blazing sun. Celtic Fringe my butt - feels more like Times Square ten days ago.

Aside from hundreds of French people (and the occasional Belgian, and obviously one Estonian group who left their Bentley near our car in the car park - yes, a Bentley with Estonian plates, go figure) the only other pedestrians visible on the path to the end of the world are bright green lizards, basking in the sun before scurrying off into the heather. I am still in the grip of my cold, and by the time we get to the florid statue of the Virgin saving a sailor (or whatever) I'm feeling woozy and overheated, so my time at the point is spent mostly sitting on a rock watching French teenagers tempt death by hopping around the cliff face a few centimeters from the end of the world.

I recover enough and make it back to the car, but I'm feeling the heat (badly burnt too, the sunscreen having been left conveniently in the hotel room) so we head back to Pont-Aven for a quiet evening of packing and sink-laundry. One more bowl of mussels and we're ready to head toward home, ironically by heading east the next day.


Morning arrives; one last Roz-Aven breakfast and we're ready to go. The street in front of the hotel is the site of the Pont-Aven market, so we have to weave through stalls offering fresh fruit, cheeses, kitchen knickknacks, baguettes, etc. to get to the motorway and thence Quimper.

Car returned, I sit with the luggage waiting for the train while herself goes off to explore Quimper for a little while; she returns reporting that what she saw (Cathedral, adjacent museum) is very attractive and worth a future visit. Then it's train time, first a hideously overcrowded and late-running regional train to Rennes, then a fast hustle to the connecting platform for the TGV to Strasbourg, which we make. Just.

Then presently we're hissing across France at a couple hundred miles per hour.

(A note on our weird routing. When I was booking air tickets I noted that American Airlines was offering triple FF miles on certain routes, namely JFK-Manchester and JFK-Zurich, and their returns. As it happened MAN was convenient to Edinburgh, and I could find a couple of upgrade seats on a ZRH-JFK flight on our days. Then I discovered that it's possible to go from Brittany to Strasbourg without having to take a taxi across Paris between stations, so the die was cast. We'd then take a direct train from Strasbourg to Zurich the following day, mission accomplished.)

We arrived in Strasbourg only a couple of minutes late (despite leaving Rennes a half-hour late) and checked into the Mercure hotel immediately opposite the SNCF station. Late dessert at a neighboring café, and it's into bed in a nicely air-conditioned room with a big bed. Not. Medieval. Good.

Our train to Zurich isn't until the following afternoon, so we find ourselves with a good half day to spend in Strasbourg. We've been to Alsace before, just not its historic capital, so the morning and lunch hour is spent wandering the picturesque (but definitely big-city urban) streets of Strasbourg. We notice in passing how much more cosmopolitan and diverse Strasbourg is compared with Brittany.

We see the great cathedral and the very cool double-decker carousel, do some people-watching and shopping, have a lunch of not-mussels (actually, spaetzle and choucroute) under leafy trees with business and government people all yammering at each other over beer and Gewürztraminer, then stroll through the "Petit France" district on our way back to the hotel and station.


The Zurich train is on time; a couple of hours through the Swiss countryside (rather manicured and soul-less looking compared to Brittany) and we're at journey's (almost) end. The luxury of a taxi to our airport hotel (another clean and mediocre Holiday Inn) and it's lights out.

The next morning it's AA to JFK, a towncar to Newark airport via Delancy and Bleeker Streets, a nap in our super-cooled Marriott hotel room, dinner with son (DIL just finished a 24 hr. surgery rotation, so she's whacked) and an early bed (not so early in French terms.)

And the next morning it's back into the embrace of Alaska Airlines for a faster-than-normal transcon to Seattle, where we land in low-humidity sunshine, are collected by a friend, who delivers us into the barking, wiggling, wagging frenzied presence of our dogs, who care not the least about Celtic fringes or singing Hamlets. They need baths and so do we. The fridge is empty; the washing machine awaits. It's good to be home.

* * *

A final note: My interest in Brittany was spawned by musicians, and I'd be remiss not to provide a link or two to some examples of the kind of music that sent me (and us) down that path. We downloaded a couple of albums to CDs, which we played in the car while exploring the coasts, coves, forests and moors of the parts of Brittany we visited. There are plenty of places in Brittany we didn't see, and now we want to. Fortunately there's also a lot more music available to accompany those future expeditions to the fringe.

Alan Stivell, Dan ar Braz, others: L' Heritage des Celtes - "Tri Martalod" (probably the national song of Brittany, something like "Waltzing Matilda" to Aussies -

Dan ar Braz, Elaine Morgan, Alan Stivell, others: L' Heritage des Celtes - "Borders of Salt" -

The same bunch at I think the same concert, "Green Lands" -

Link to the page with all the pictures and more -
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Old Sep 7th, 2010, 01:45 PM
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Still going through shots but this has been a fun vicarious trip. Nice pix and links. Where to next?
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Old Sep 9th, 2010, 07:11 AM
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I meant to include the website for our hotel in Pont-Aven. Highly recommended.
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Old Sep 9th, 2010, 07:40 AM
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Thanks much for your trip report. We're going to Brittany next spring and find your experiences very useful.

One question: There seem to be a number of towns named Kerascoët, more than one in Brittany. Can you tell us which one you visited? The one near Locronan? The one near Tremeoc? Or another?
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Old Sep 9th, 2010, 07:43 AM
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The one next to Névez just down the road from Pont-Aven.
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Old Sep 9th, 2010, 09:01 AM
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Thanks for an entertaining and informative report! Lots of good info.
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Old Sep 11th, 2010, 08:34 AM
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Well done - thank you.

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Old Sep 11th, 2010, 01:05 PM
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Old Sep 11th, 2010, 01:29 PM
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What a great report. I've only just skimmed it so I shall have the pleasure of reading it completely tomorrow. We, too, just returned from a trip to Normandy and Brittany. I'm so jealous of your opportunity to take in the festival in Pont Aven. It's such a beautiful little town and you got the frosting on the cake with a festival complete with hats. How I've wanted to see something where the women wear their hats! At least I get to see them in your pictures. Thanks for sharing those too. This is so much fun. Looking forward to tomorrow.
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Old Sep 11th, 2010, 05:53 PM
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<i>How I've wanted to see something where the women wear their hats!</i>

One of the pictures I should have linked to:
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Old Sep 12th, 2010, 02:02 AM
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What a perfect picture. See, there are some things that just wouldn't look right on a Cindy Crawford type.
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Old Dec 4th, 2013, 06:12 PM
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A co worker is from Brittany, thanks for the info.
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Old Dec 5th, 2013, 01:22 PM
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Hmmm... three years to revive a thread.

However, I had not read it before, so it was interesting.
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Old Dec 5th, 2013, 01:51 PM
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I didn't see this the first time so glad it was revived. Beautiful photos.
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Old Sep 13th, 2018, 06:05 AM
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In looking at this thread (another Fodorite just reported on staying at the same hotel in Pont-Aven) I realized all the photo links are broken (different server) so I'm taking the liberty of re-posting a few of them here.

Ancestral home village, Stokeinteighnhead, Devon

Mont Saint-Michel picnic

Dinan riverfront, Brittany

Oyster picnic, Belon

Sardine festival, Pont-Aven

Public garden allotments, Pont-Aven

Academie de la Biere, Strasbourg. Sign me up!

And now that we can put Youtube files inline, here's Tri Martolod, more or less the Breton national anthem.

Last edited by Gardyloo; Sep 13th, 2018 at 06:17 AM.
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Old Dec 27th, 2018, 09:59 AM
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Bookmarking, we're going in September.
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