Chris Wormald – A Photographer's travel blog.

Brittany 2017

May/June 2017

 

France, Brittany, Pont Aven, WatersideProperty, high tide1

Waterside living, Pont Aven, Brittany

Pont Aven and the Golfe du Morbihan.

France, Brittany, Pont Aven, River Aven, fallen tree1

The River Aven, Pont Aven, Brittany

 

France, Brittany, Pont Aven, river Aven & mill3b&w

The river Aven flows past the old mills, Pont Aven, Brittany

 

France, Brittany, Pont Aven, river Aven & mill2b&w

Pont Aven, Brittany

Sometimes the reputation of a place makes enough demands to ensure a visit; and so I packed my tent and headed for Pont Aven, a town that Paul Gauguin kept visiting to paint and frolic with other artists before heading East towards the exotic.

France, Brittany, Pont Aven, Frederic Tonnerre at work

Frederic Tonnerre, a painter at work, Pont Aven, Brittany

There is no getting away from it, artists over this century and the one before, have made a beeline for Pont Aven to the extent that I have never seen so many galleries and studios in such a compact area – ever.  There is one road, with a few lanes branching off, starting  from the very nice tidal harbour through the centre of town to the outskirts. Look around, if it isn’t a gallery, it’s a studio and if it isn’t either of those, it is a creperie. In Cornwall there would be quite a few tea shops, pasty shops and several pubs; plus the tidal estuary would be called a creek not an Aven.

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Poet and jounalist, Xavier Grall, memorial, Pont Aven.

Follow the river Aven, (confusingly the river is the Aven and all the tidal creeks are called avens). Walk up a pleasant footpath and you come to a chaos! Which is what they call an area of white water tumbling over boulders, making a lovely watery noise. This scene features quite a lot in gallery windows, in all sorts of different styles from photo-realist to bloomin-heck.

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Old water mill and River Aven. Brittany.

The large museum has examples too, plus queues of multi-national visitors dropped by the coach load, that walk through the town following their guides.

France, Brittany, Pont Aven, high tide2

Nothing half as nice as messing around in boats, Pont Aven.

France, Brittany, Pont Aven, boat stern, high tide1

‘ansom transom, Pont Aven, Brittany

France, Brittany, Pont Aven, boat stern, high tide2

Lovely counter, Pont Aven.

Concarneau, 8 miles up the coast is worth a visit. It is a very yachty town that occasionally hosts a maritime festival, attracting beautiful, classic yachts. The harbour area is interesting, as is the fishing museum situated in the old fort. It is easily accessible with good views from walks along the ramparts overlooking the marina and harbour.

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Evening in the fort, Concarneau, Brittany

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Concarneau reflections, Brittany

Vannes.

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The town hall, Vannes Brittany.

Big city feel and hustle and bustle. Enough clothes shops to service the residents of Western France and enough creperies to feed them ‘till they burst; a lovely port area with some seriously impressive boats.  Streets of well restored timber framed houses and shops, difficult parking. A must visit once or maybe twice if you are into cities!

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Vannes, centre. Brittany

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A maze of half-timbered shopping, Vannes

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A beautiful ketch, Vannes, Brittany

Auray.

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St. Goustan, Auray, the old port.

Over 20 years ago on a trip with my son, during a half-term, we glimpsed a town that has stuck in my memory and demanded a visit.

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Down the hill to the river, Auray

I picked up a well produced booklet in English, from the tourist office called “A stroll through Auray” and walked around.

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Many glimpses of old Auray, Brittany

There is an upper town and a riverside area, “Saint-Goustan” which was the port. There are some good views especially at high tide from the ramparts of the long vanished Auray Castle, looking over the bridge and quay.

France, Brittany, Auray2

And many nice places for a coffee, Auray

On both sides of the river the roads climb past some lovely medieval timber framed houses, some have become galleries and boutiques to tempt those people short on stuff.  In the upper part of the town are the town hall, church and shops. Hopefully the road works around the centre will be over soon. There are some half timbered buildings and pedestrianised areas with cafes, bars and creperies all very pretty.

France, Brittany, Auray, from river

The river at Auray, Brittany.

When reading the booklet with a little imagination, what has been lost casts a shadow over the now.  The 15th century, two story covered market place lasted through the centuries only to be destroyed in 1905 in an act of corporate vandalism. The replacements were destroyed in 1960 and 1998. The current marketplace is underwhelming, what a pity.

France, Brittany, Auray, Quay St. Goustan2b&w

Let your mind wander back to an Auray of the past.

The town hall dates from 1782 and sparkles classically white and grand amidst the roadworks.   Auray was once famous in France for furniture making, From 1890 to WWII, highly decorative carved armoires and dressers with spindles of brass, were made, employing over 400 people.

Shipbuilding was a major industry on the banks of the Auray river and all sorts of goods, from wheat and wine to iron and steel, were loaded and unloaded. The port based industries declined after the railway came in 1862, apart from exporting tonnes of Breton grown logs used as pit-props in the Welsh coal mines.

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Classic boats at St. Goustan, Auray

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A tide mill; there must have been many around the Golfe du Morbihan

The tourist industry has taken over and apart from some classic sailing boats taking the visitors into the Golfe du Morbihan and the Islands there seems not much action on the river this far up.

The villages to the south of Auray are very pleasant and concerned with oysters and boats with many little tidal harbours.

My favourite is Le Bono, a creekside haven with a proper little harbour with safe drying moorings and some lovely cottages, an expensive brasserie, a good general store, a boulangerie and two bars.

France, Brittany, Nr Auray, Le Bono1

Sheltered drying moorings at Le Bono, Brittany

Arradon is very yachty indeed with access to the Golfe not just at high tide from the Pointe d’Arradon and hire facilities for catamarans and dinghies.

Larmor-Baden’s, Port Blanc is an embarkation and drop-off point for ferries that approach the quays at alarming rates before slamming their engines into reverse and stopping inches from disaster.

France, Brittany,Nr. Vannes, tide mill1

Converted tide mill, nr.Vannes, Brittany

Square miles of water at high tide and mud at low tides, atmospheric ancient tide mills in ruins or restored and forests dotted with drop dead gorgeous cottages and manors. I love it!

 

 

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