The train left Brest at 12:36 and would normally arrived to Quimper at 14:17. This train served the west side of Bretagne. We had a little bit more than an hour in Quimper so why not visit it.
We rode our bike along the quai of Odet towards the old town. If you follow the story you must have noticed by now that in France or in Europe, the true heart of a city beats on the old town.
It was grey but not raining. I was used to this kind of weather by then.
I found the old town of Quimper to be sweet. The cathedral, Saint Corentin, may be the tallest one that I’d seen during the trip, but the ceiling remained simple. I think this is quite typical in Bretagne, which I adore. Like most of the cathedrals in Bretagne, it had a lot of statue of the holy saint inside; the stained glass however was more complex compared to those in Roscoff area.
The cathedral was located just beside the Breton museum and in front of the musée des beaux arts – that we did not have time to visit. We roamed around Place au beurre and Saint François hall where people were eating crêpes outside before went back to the train station.
While waiting for out train I stumbled on small cut of papers that turn out to be small stories that SNCF (france train company) provided to their passengers. way to go SNCF!
We hoped inside the train that went to Rennes to stop in Auray. There was 6 places for bike but there were eight people came with bike in Quimper only. This kind of biking trip is quite popular in Bretagne. We left Finistère and arrived in Morbihan!
We arrived in Auray around 16:30 but it was not our final stop. Auray had a small train station but it was crowded when we arrived. I was not sure whether it was always like that or because it was a peak hour or because it was holidays, but anyway a lot of people.
Apparently Morbihan was somehow a popular holidays destination in Bretagne. The Peninsula of Quiberon and the gulf of Morbihan were two sites that had to be visited.
Our final destination was Plouharnel that was on the line of Auray-Quiberon. This train line only operates during summer holidays. The train was old, the one that you may saw in the second world war movies. The train named “tire-bouchon” ,which is a wordplay in french, explained Philippe. Tire-bouchon means corkscrew in english, but tire itself means pull and bouchon is a slang for traffic jam. Since the peninsula of Quiberon, located in the south of Auray has only one main road of about 15km, traffic jams cannot be avoided during rush hours. So the train supposed to pull you out of this jams and you could then reach Quiberon faster. This made us question why would people still bring their cars, but anyway, what do I know.
After two stops we arrived in Plouharnel before we biked to our camping. The camping was more simple, there was no indoor swimming pool, no miss camping election, etc, etc. It was more familial but still private and was the cheapest camping we had during the trip.
I texted Afifa and Ayumi that should be around Auray at that time also to fix a meeting. Sadly Afifa’s train was cancelled. She told me later that two tourists left their luggage unattended inside the train station. Now France had been increasing their security after the attacks in Paris and Nice. So with those unidentified luggage, they secured the station and cancelled all the train for that day. Lesson for you not to leave your luggage unidentified!
The path just beside the camping was stunning. It appeared to be part of a GR (grande randonée/must-do hiking path). We walked quite far up to the village of Plouharnel itself then head back to the camping.
I discovered that the camping had the old shower system that you have to pull some sort of chain to make the water drops on your head. I immediately fell in love with the shower. Nevertheless I had a meltdown due to the comfort of the camping. Basically I wanted a real bed. But it was okay and even stayed in the same camping for another two nights.
Peninsula of Quiberon
The next day, despite my complaint, I actually slept well and even overslept. We started riding our bike around 9am. In Penthievre they had a biking path just beside the main road. We saw only few cars on the road. We passed by sable blanc (white sand) beach, the narrowest part before the peninsula, then stopped at a local market.
I bought a kounig-amann. The guy told me to pick one that I like. He talked a lot, not in a bad way. I told him to pick it for me. He looked and chose one for me and told me to eat it warm, not hot but warm, like a warm coffee. I said ok, pulled off to the beach just beside the market then ate the whole thing. It was still good.
We passed by the fort of Penthièvre, an active military base but had the monument and underground crypt open for public. Here we didn’t have option but to pedal on the main road with cars that started to fill the road.
We passed the bottleneck and arrived in Saint-Pierre de Quiberon. We checked the city center and the port orange then continued by the coastal path until the point of Conguel. So the point of Conguel is the end point of the peninsula. It was a natural conservation and really was beautiful. We walked on the perimeters of the peninsula for about 3km. The view was, how should I put it, with the beaches, the stones and pebbles, the rocks, the ocean waves, the blue sky. It was perfect.
It was a hot day and I took a swim. I shivered when my body touched the water but then it felt good.
After lunch we head to the city center of Quiberon. A lot of people compare to the coast.
We managed to meet up with Afifa and Ayumi. We chatted and took photos together to crystalized the memory.
Then we continued to the savage side on the west coast of the peninsula. It started to rain. The blue sky turned grey. But that’s Bretagne for you.
We biked, did some stops then parked our bike close to Kergroix before walked up to the Port Blanc. When I thought that this could not be more beautiful, the nature proved me wrong.
We saw a lot of surfers that took advantage of the big waves found on this side of the peninsula.
Around 17:30 we started to head back to the camping. Wrong decision! The road was horrible, I though I was in one of the roads in Jakarta. We managed to slide beside one car to another and passed the jam but it was horrible.
To manage my budget we didn’t go to restaurant every day. That night was one of few restaurant days that we had. We went to a crêperie in the village. On the sign outside it was written “Probablement la meilleure crêperie au Monde” (Probably the best crêperie in the world!). We passed by this place yesterday and already smelled the melted butter from the outside. The place called “Crêperie la clef de la presqu’île”. I must agree that it was probably the best crêperie in the world. We shared a forestière (mushroom), a roquefort (blue cheese) and a jambon-fromage (bacon and cheese) galette. They were delightful. The buckwheat crêpe or galette were crispy but still held the form, not that kind of crispy that break when you eat them. Normally other crêperie would try to show off the topping by serving an open galette, but there, the galette were closed, hiding the inside so you need to cut them open to discover the toppings. I loved all three galettes. For dessert I got myself a Plouharnelaise, a sweet crêpe form like a bean bag with caramel apple and vanilla ice cream inside, swam on a bed of cream anglaise with toasted almonds on top. Philippe got himself a tulip of red berries where the crêpe was form like an ice cream cone filled with red berries home-made ice cream. His silence was enough to describe how good it was as for mine could not be more perfect.
I would say that it was my favorite day from the whole trip.
Plouharnel-Carnac-Trinité sur mer
Another reason to visit the region was the menhirs of Carnac. For you who are not familiar with menhir as I did, the best explanation given to me was: “menhir is the stone that Obelix carries around”; that did it for me. They are basically standing stones.
The Carnac alignments are the most famous site in France to witness almost four thousands megalithic standing stones. They supposed to be erected by the local pre-Celtic people of Bretagne. The reason why I didn’t know, maybe the ancestor of lego?
So the largest one that we saw was probably the alignements du Ménec. The route from Plouharnel was Ménec – Kermario -Kerlescan. It was impressive but since we didn’t have any explanation it kinda meant nothing. You might take the small train that do a tour from Carnac to Trinité sur mer with an audio guide that may explain some things or take the guided visit from the maison des mégalithes; both were situated at the beginning of Ménec.
We also visited the Tumulus Saint Michel and Kercado and also the quadrilatère du Manio. For me personally the best visit was the tumulus Saint Michel. Due to its hidden location, it was calmer and offered the view from a high point of the area. The tumulus of Kercado was not free (1€)and I found it less impressive than Saint Michel.
Finished with the stones we headed east to Trinité sur mer. Trinité sur mer was one of the important port where maritime commerce happened. It is now famous for its watersports competitions. The hall aux poissons sold the freshest seafood and fish from the sea. The point of Kerbihan was definitely the spot to stop and enjoy the view.
The day was hot but grey. In Bretagne I never understood what to wear. I kinda put my jacket and sunglasses every time because it was hot but cold and wet and dry. I wanted to swim but it was windy so after passing several beaches I decided to swim in Saint Colomban back in Carnac. It was a low tide, and after walking for about 1km and still my body didn’t touch the water, I decided to swim anyway in a 50cm depth water. Saint Colomban was also famous for its chapel date back to the sixteenth century.
Until then we had never had any problem with reserving our camping. That afternoon we tried to reserve the camping in Vannes, our next destination, but it was full. We planned to stay for three days in Vannes, and hotels were not in our option. Vannes is super touristic and the hotel price would be out of our budget. After some megabytes spent and minutes calling we ended up reserving one hotel night and two camping nights that were further than the other one that was fully booked. The hotel was expensive but not very very expensive.
We head back to our camping.
The Gulf of Morbihan: Vannes, Ile d’Arz, Séné.
The Gulf of Morbihan is a natural harbour on the coast of the Département of Morbihan in the south of Brittany, France – wikipedia.
The day we supposed to go to Vannes didn’t start well. My bike counter’s battery was dead, the train to Auray was 15mins late, and thus we couldn’t visit Auray. Later Ayumi told me that Auray was nice and calm. I saw some of her pictures and regret not visiting it.
We arrived in Vannes around 11:00 then parked our bike close to the church of Saint Patern, close to the medieval area. From here we walked by the ramparts that was surrounding the intramuros of Vannes. The garden was really beautiful and was maintained regularly. We walked down the ramparts towards the port de plaissance. We arrived at place Gambetta which was the main gate to go inside Vannes through Saint Vincent gate. This was the main street of the old town. It was so crowded that I didn’t even want to get inside. We later found out that it was due to the local market and place des lices. After 2pm the crowd was less.
We headed to the tourism office at the quai Eric Tabarly, ate our lunch, and visited the old town – with less crowd. I do think that drivers from Bretagne need to pass another driving exam not to crash pedestrian.
Another main streets in Vannes were found close to the cathedral. The cathedral was huge. The street of Guenhäel was filled with old houses, maison à colombages in french (half-timbering houses). This kind of houses can still be found in north part of France such as in Alsace, Normandy, and in Bretagne. In Bretagne, I personally think that Vannes had the most houses with this type.
Down this street I found a Breton library. So in Bretagne they have a local language called breton. I have been collecting “Le Petit Prince”, my favorite book in different languages, so I was excited to find the Breton version. Unfortunately the guy told me that it was sold out and the next delivery would be on friday. It was wednesday and I stayed until saturday in Vannes, so I was planning to go there again.
The night at a hotel was really recharged me. The second day in Vannes we went to Ile d’Arz. There were lot of small islands in the gulf of Morbihan that we could visit. The biggest one was Ile aux moines and also the most touristic one. The second biggest one was ile d’Arz. Ayumi and Afifa visited Ile aux moines and Ile Gavrinis.
To go to Ile d’Arz (or Ile aux moines) we need to take the boat from gare maritime, at the south end of the port de plaissance. You need to arrive early to buy the ticket and queue because the boat was small. If you missed a boat you need to wait for the next boat. It took 30 minutes by boat from Vannes to Ile d’Arz through Séné.
We walked on the coastal walking path and really did 15km of walking. Despite some nice spots we found I though the island was kinda overrated. It was rather crowded for me. The nicest spot of the island definitely the Point de Brouel at the south end of the island.
If you want to swim, the beaches in east coast are better than those in its west counterpart. Since we started from the east to the west, I regret not to swim in the east coast. After walking for almost 5 hours we took the boat back to Vannes without visiting the city center. From Vannes we headed to our camping in Séné.
The next morning was the coldest morning of the trip. It was cold and windy. That day we visited Séné. Séné, where our camping was, was a small village at the east of Vannes and less touristic. We passed Barrarach, the port in Séné where the boat pass to go to the islands. Then from Port Anna we had a view to Conleau (the other camping that was fully booked).
We passed by Moustérian and Pointe du Bill then to Montsarac. For me the nicest spot in Séné would be the forest of Villeneuve at the south end of Séné. It was a small peninsula. I swam there and it was nice.
Another thing to do in Séné was to do a bird watching. After lunch we went to the natural conservation of Marais in Brouel. After paying the entrance fee and renting a binoculars we got inside. The conservatory offered five spots to watch birds. I thought at the beginning that I would get bored easily but it turned out to be more fun than I expected. It was like the find-the-object game but instead of objects I need to find birds, that fly and move, in the nature.
The day ended and we headed back to our camping. I finished Gilbert and read Moravia’s Gli indifferenti, in french.
The next day was saturday. We supposed to take the train to Nantes at around 10.50am. I went to Vannes just to hunt my little prince book. I arrived around 9am and the bookstore was closed. It said on the door that it opened at 10am. I roamed around Vannes for about an hour, back to the book store but it was still close. I knew that in France there are 5 to 15 to 30 minutes marge of what is written and the reality. So I waited for another ten minutes but it was still close. I need to take my train but what if it opened. Finding Breton book store was rather difficult since it started to become rare and more rare. I waited for another 5 minutes and finally…