26 – 27 March 2019
The sun was shining, the birds singing and we were full of enthusiasm. The coastline was beautiful as we drove through Audierne and up to Pointe de Raz, the western-most tip of Brittany. Slightly further on at the Pointe du Van we walked along the cliffs looking across the Baie des Trépasses (named after the dead bodies that wash ashore there) to the the Pointe du Raz and it’s lighthouses.
We were surrounded by carpets of violets, bladder campion and sea thrift, with yellow gorse brightening the scene. Shags were nesting on the cliffs, kittiwakes inspected nesting sites and with our binoclars we had great views of the low-lying Île de Sein where we could make out gannets diving into the sea. The ‘Phares et Balises’ vessel “Amorique” which maintains lighthouses sailed into the bay – great job on a day like today.
Travelling on we made a quick stop in the beautiful medieval village of Locronan, so picture-perfect it was used in the movie Tess of the d’Urbevilles. The tiny village cenre appears unchanged and almost unreally quaint. Clearly a tourist trap in high season it is still a picturesque gem.
At the end of the Crozon Peninsular is the fishing village of Camaret-sur-Mer and it’s Aire is brilliantly situated next to a field of standing stones, great thing to see from your window!
The port itself has a Vauban tower which inevitably we investigated It felt a bit forlorn with a lot of the restaurants closed until Easter but it did have ‘Donegans’, an bustling Irish pub which sold the first snail pizza we have ever seen!
Before moving on we checked out some ruined towers we could see from the standing stones and found they were the ruins of a house owned by a poet we had never heard of – Saint-Pol-Roux. He adapted this house in the “Baroque style” which seems to mean adding as many turrets as possible. Nevertheless it had great views – standing stones behind and the wild Atlantic at the front.
In 1940 a drunk German soldier turned up, killed the governess, raped St Pols daughter, injured St Pol and set the house on fire. Our sympathy for the poet was reduced when we read he died not from grief over his daughter, but over the loss of his manuscripts!
On the narrow, bumpy but very pretty ‘Route Touristique’ we discovered the Pointe des Espagnols – Spanish Point. Here the cliffs overlook the channel to Brest from the Altantic at it’s narrowest point (1.8km wide) making it a key defensive point. Brest is a hugely important strategic port for the French and the French Naval base with nuclear submarine pens etc which we could clearly see when we walked out to the Point. Probaby the best way to see Brest… The cliffs here are bristling with military defenses from old Vauban-built, through the Napoleonic wars right up to WW2 Atlantic Wall.
The Point gets its name from an ill-fated Spanish expedition in 1594 to help a blockade of Brest in yet another Catholic-Protestant conflict. They were wiped out by a French-British force, remembered only because of the new nickname.
Leaving the Crozon Peninsular behind we took the guide-book’s advice and skipped Brest, heading past it to Pointe St Mathieu where a tall, elegant red & white lighthouse sits next to a chapel, the ruins of an Abbey, and a tall column commemorating all the French who died at sea fighting for their country.
A short drive along the cliffs we reached Le Conquet and our Aire. The village is a working fishing village and we trespassed onto the working harbour to watch the small boats being unloaded – the crabs and lobsters looked gorgeous.
Unfortunately for our stomachs – but better for our wallet – we couldn’t find an open restaurant to sell us some that evening!