June 8, Finistère

Brittany (Bretagne), sometimes called Lesser Britain because of the strong cultural and language links to Wales and Cornwall inherits its Celtic character from late 14th century immigration out of western Britain. The Finistère or Lands End, the western most area of France, is said to have the strongest expression of Breton culture in Brittany. We had seen it in Quimper and were intrigued to explore more of the region. The weather was vacillating from broken cloud and sun to rain, the only consistency being the clamminess of the cool humid air. Heading south and west to Guilvinec, we passed through the modern, middle-class suburbs of Quimper, the architectural style distinctive, but the character not much different from home. We soon found ourselves amidst pastures, fields of wheat, woodlots, and small towns that felt a little like rural Wales and Cornwall. Pont-l'Abbé 5 km was inland at the head of the Odet estuary where even the large boats are left high and dry at low tide. Guilvinec was and still is an active fishing port, where brightly painted commercial trawlers were moored at the jetties. Behind them equally bright, painted stone, two and three story salt- box houses with massive book-end chimneys and black slate roofs lined the streets. The Sunday flea market, typical stalls of local produce, preserves, used furniture, clothing, books, and sundry junk, was setting up when we arrived. The city was sponsoring a photo-festival of maritime images adjacent. After strolling the jetties we visited the exhibition, a photos- documentary of Guilvinec's historic fishery by Jacques Thezac (1862-1936). The images were of Guilvinec's fishermen working, playing, attending meetings, spending time with family. Each image a powerful tableau of their life and times. Each image comprised of individual vignettes integral to the full image yet equally or more powerful in isolation. They were impressive. Taken with an old large format view camera, they enlarged well and as large 1 x 2 meter images they had a power and an impact that I don't think Thezac could have imagined but of which he could have been justifiably proud. From Guilvinec we headed west to Pointe de la Torche not knowing what to expect. We were met by a mass of motor-homes free- camping in fields adjacent to sand dunes. A little further on a parking lot, much of it with height bars to exclude the motor-homes and caravans was nearly full. It was frenetic, men and women, young and middle-aged, in wetsuits, carrying surfboards tethered to their ankles were literally running across the parking lot towards the dunes and the beach. In the water, dozens, perhaps a hundred or more surfers bobbed in the waves. Beginners closer to shore riding the smaller secondary waves, further out another mass waited, periodically being smothered by large breaking waves. Every so often a black shape would stand erect on a board, briefly manoeuver across the face of a breaker, and bail to avoid a particularly dense mass of other boarders. Even less frequently, a surfer would catch a great wave, find room to cut back and forth across the face, and even disappear under the curl before the wave broke smothering him in white foam. On the beach and at the parking lot, people were still running toward the water, surfboards under their arms, the mass of black bobbing on the waves becoming more and more dense. We did not wait, but in my imagination, I could see the sea turn black, so packed with boards that there was no longer room to ride. We left the shore to drive through rural Bretagne, rolling fields of grain and pasture, woodlots, and small well-kept villages reminiscent of Cornwall and Wales. Further along the coast we came upon Notre-Dame de Tronoen, a small chapel with a Renaissance Steeple and an adjacent Wayside Cross circa 1450. The cross depicted the life of Christ in free standing and relief stone carvings, the style primitive but strong. A few kilometres along we saw a much simpler wayside cross marking the entry to the smaller, simpler Chapelle Saint Eby set in a well-manicured grassy dale next to an estuarine marsh. We had lunch beside the chapel before heading back to the sea at Penhors, the town and seashore soft and unfocused through a mist of salt air and sea spray.  We looped back almost to Quimper before heading north to St- Pol-de-Leon, a few kilometers south of Roscoff on the north coast. We arrived a little tired to find the spectacularly situated campground almost full. All but one of the view pitches was occupied and it was on such a steep slope that it would be impossible to level the van. We found a reasonably level and private pitch, albeit a long walk to the sanitaire, only to discover after leveling and raising the top that our extension cord would not reach the power outlet.  C'est la vie. We ordered baguette and croissant for the morning, and settled for the night.
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
by David E. Moon
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
Slideshow Slideshow Route Map Route Map
View across the Tarn from camp. View across the Tarn from camp. View across the Tarn from camp. View across the Tarn from camp.

June 8, Finistère

Brittany (Bretagne), sometimes called Lesser Britain because of the strong cultural and lan- guage links to Wales and Cornwall inherits its Celtic character from late 14th century immig- ration out of western Britain. The Finistère or Lands End, the western most area of France, is said to have the strongest expression of Bre- ton culture in Brittany. We had seen it in Quimper and were intrigued to explore more of the region. The weather was vacillating from broken cloud and sun to rain, the only consistency being the clamminess of the cool humid air. Heading south and west to Guilvinec, we passed through the modern, middle-class suburbs of Quimper, the architectural style distinctive, but the character not much different from home. We soon found ourselves amidst pastures, fields of wheat, woodlots, and small towns that felt a little like rural Wales and Cornwall. Pont-l'Abbé 5 km was inland at the head of the Odet estu- ary where even the large boats are left high and dry at low tide. Guilvinec was and still is an active fishing port, where brightly painted commercial trawlers were moored at the jetties. Behind them equally bright, painted stone, two and three story salt-box houses with massive book- end chimneys and black slate roofs lined the streets. The Sunday flea market, typical stalls of local produce, preserves, used furniture, clothing, books, and sundry junk, was setting up when we arrived. The city was sponsoring a photo-festival of maritime images adjacent. After strolling the jetties we visited the exhibition, a photos-docu- mentary of Guilvinec's historic fishery by Jacques Thezac (1862-1936). The images were of Guilvinec's fishermen working, play- ing, attending meetings, spending time with family. Each image a powerful tableau of their life and times. Each image comprised of indi- vidual vignettes integral to the full image yet equally or more powerful in isolation. They were impressive. Taken with an old large format view camera, they enlarged well and as large 1 x 2 meter images they had a power and an impact that I don't think Thezac could have imagined but of which he could have been jus- tifiably proud. From Guilvinec we headed west to Pointe de la Torche not knowing what to expect. We were met by a mass of motor-homes free-camping in fields adjacent to sand dunes. A little further on a parking lot, much of it with height bars to exclude the motor-homes and caravans was nearly full. It was frenetic, men and women, young and middle-aged, in wetsuits, carrying surfboards tethered to their ankles were liter- ally running across the parking lot towards the dunes and the beach. In the water, dozens, perhaps a hundred or more surfers bobbed in the waves. Beginners closer to shore riding the smaller secondary waves, further out another mass waited, peri- odically being smothered by large breaking waves. Every so often a black shape would stand erect on a board, briefly manoeuver across the face of a breaker, and bail to avoid a particularly dense mass of other boarders. Even less fre- quently, a surfer would catch a great wave, find room to cut back and forth across the face, and even disappear under the curl before the wave broke smothering him in white foam. On the beach and at the parking lot, people were still running toward the water, surf- boards under their arms, the mass of black bobbing on the waves becoming more and more dense. We did not wait, but in my imagination, I could see the sea turn black, so packed with boards that there was no longer room to ride. We left the shore to drive through rural Bretagne, rolling fields of grain and pasture, woodlots, and small well-kept villages reminis- cent of Cornwall and Wales. Further along the coast we came upon Notre-Dame de Tronoen, a small chapel with a Renaissance Steeple and an adjacent Wayside Cross circa 1450. The cross depicted the life of Christ in free standing and relief stone carvings, the style primitive but strong. A few kilometres along we saw a much simpler wayside cross marking the entry to the smaller, simpler Chapelle Saint Eby set in a well-manicured grassy dale next to an estuarine marsh. We had lunch beside the chapel before heading back to the sea at Penhors, the town and sea- shore soft and unfocused through a mist of salt air and sea spray.  We looped back almost to Quimper before heading north to St-Pol-de-Leon, a few kilometers south of Roscoff on the north coast. We arrived a little tired to find the spectacu- larly situated campground almost full. All but one of the view pitches was occupied and it was on such a steep slope that it would be impossible to level the van. We found a reason- ably level and private pitch, albeit a long walk to the sanitaire, only to discover after leveling and raising the top that our extension cord would not reach the power outlet.  C'est la vie. We ordered baguette and croissant for the morning, and settled for the night.
A Sense of Place:  Travel, Photography, and Photo-art
© David E. Moon, 2014  All rights reserved
Route Map Route Map Slideshow Slideshow
View across the Tarn from camp. View across the Tarn from camp. View across the Tarn from camp. View across the Tarn from camp.