By Wendy Wood-Prince
One of the eighteen official regions of France, Brittany lies in the far northwest. Brittany’s little peninsula juts out into the Atlantic and contains coastlines ranging from rugged and rocky beaches to quiet, sandy coves. Brittany’s name comes from its Celtic origins; it was settled during the Dark Ages by the Brits who were pushed out of England by the Anglo Saxons. The history and beauty of Brittany attracts many visitors as it has an abundance of locations that are both picturesque and historic.
Cathedral of Saint-Corentin in the heart of Quimper.
The ride from Paris to Quimper on the TGV train is about four hours and from there the train station in Quimper is just a ten-minute walk from downtown. Quimper sits at the junction of the Odet and the Steir Rivers which weave in and around the town and buildings, creating a beautiful vista at every turn. Quimper is also the birthplace of Faience pottery and earthen wear and the production of Faeince created great wealth for the region during the 17th century.
Rivers wind through town of Quimper.
The town is full of medieval buildings and structures. One of the most striking examples of Gothic architecture is the Cathedral of Saint-Corentin. Construction of the Cathedral began in the 13th century and was finished in the 16th century. Repairs and improvements having been made as recently as the 19th century with the addition of stained glass windows and the spires on the front of the building.
One very interesting place to visit is the Faiencerie Henriot-Quimper. One can watch the hand painting of their famous pottery as well as how the original molds are made. Generations of artisans have been creating this pottery for hundreds of years. The tour of the Faiencerie is about an hour and includes lots of interesting history of both the pottery and the region.
Abundant local produce at Les Halles in Quimper.
Les Halles, the open air market in Quimper is a feast for the senses and a must visit. Mounds of local, fresh produce and seafood from farmers and fishermen in the region are on display and ready to take home. The food in Brittany is abundant and delicious! The bounty of the sea and the surrounding land is evident in every corner of the market. Take a walk down Rue de Kereon and sample the multitude of creperies that line the street, or hire a guide to take you on a walking tour of Quimper, but try the night tour. The guide takes you through the streets carrying a torch as your only source of light, very fun and dramatic!
The beautiful harbor at Sainte-Marine.
One fun, albeit a tad touristy, thing to do is to take a boat tour from Quimper to Benedot. Cruise the Odet River and enjoy a delicious lunch as you glide by ancient castles and beautiful scenery. There are many different cruises to choose from and a variety of departure points. Check out www.vedettes-odet.com for information and departures in the area. Another cruise stop worth your time is Sainte-Marine. Sainte-Marine is a little like a miniature Riviera.
Although smaller than Quimper, Concarneau has some interesting and historical spots. La Ville Close is a medieval walled city that was built by the historic military engineer Vauban, who was also an advisor for Louis XIV. It sits on a picturesque island in Concarneau’s harbor. You can reach the walled town by drawbridge or ferry. La Ville Close also houses a fishing museum, as Concarneau is one of the largest fishing ports in France. The modern town of Concarneau is picturesque and nice to walk around in with lots of small cafes and pubs to enjoy.
The open air farmer’s market is bustling in Concarneau.
Concarneau has some very pretty beaches, which makes it a popular destination during the summer months. The Festival des Filets Bleus is a festival that takes place every August and celebrates the local catch with music, food and dancing.
Enjoy a lazy afternoon in Concarneau.
Pont-Aven is a small village in the south of Brittany, where Paul Gaugin painted many of its landscapes. It attracts visitors for the same reason Gaugin and other painters of his time were drawn there: picturesque views at every turn, water and nature all around and the fairy-tale-like houses and buildings. The riverside walks are filled with flowers in the summertime and the harbor is filled with boats. Pont-Aven continues to attract artists, many of whom attend the Pont Aven School of Contemporary Art. By far, the most charming place to stay is Hotel Des Mimosas, with beautiful views near the river, fresh, delicious seafood and great staff.
When visiting Pont-Aven do not skip the newly renovated Musee De Pont-Aven. With world class works of art, exhibits and activities, this small museum in the heart of Pont-Aven’s downtown is a little gem that should not be missed.
Idyllic views in Pont -Aven.
Brittany is brimming with charm and history and the places to see and things to do are too numerous to list. Golf, bike, beach and boat to enjoy natural beauty and amazing history while sampling the culinary delights unique to this region of France.