Sunday, August 24, 2014


Summer is over on the moors and heathland that make up the landes of the Monts d'Arrée, highest hills in Brittany. Together with the sharp crests of schist/quartzite and the peat-bogs (tourbières) these provide the distinctive shapes and colours of the area, which far from being an unrelieved wasteland has a full palette of colours changing with the season. Molinia or moor-grass dominates by its quantity: lush green in recent months, now browning and finally to turn to shades of biscuit tinted lemon in the low winter sun. There is some sort of heather in bloom most of the year, punctuated by stabs of yellow from gorse or broom. Anatole Le Braz, the great Breton writer and recorder of oral traditions, called the amalgamated smells of the landes 'the scent of Brittany.' Or perhaps 'essence' would be a better word.

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Saints' Shore Way

Yesterday took my friend Jeanne out for a day on the Baie de Morlaix coast, an area covered in the Saints' Shore Way book I researched and wrote early last year for the Morlaix and Lannion tourist boards. We had a windy picnic at St Samson and walked past the imposing Pierre Double (with the island fortress of the Chateau du Taureau ever-present in the background). Brief visits to Le Guerzit and Le Diben followed by a drink at Terenez completed our very leisurely trip, with no rain despite dire forecasts.

Saturday, August 09, 2014

Out and about

I've been out and about a lot lately with friends (including Welsh travel writer Victoria Trott - over here to enjoy all the many pleasures Brittany has to offer. Douarnenez, Locronan, Huelgoat, the Abers, Ile Vierge and the Monts d'Arrée have all figured on the tours, with several sessions in Quimper as well. My impression is that there are far fewer visitors around this year at the hot spots but more people than usual in the interior, walking and cycling. Festivals are at their height, with the customary Breton triple of music/dance/food pulling in crowds everywhere.

Monday, July 28, 2014

Visitors to the wild west

Céline, Greg, Beverley and Daragh
Delighted today to give a tour for some special visitors to the Monts d'Arrée, and make the acquaintance of journalists Beverley Morrison, Daragh Reddin and Greg Ward, and their escorts Lionel and Céline. Great for Ireland, Scotland, England and Wales to meet together on the Breton summit. I hope they all liked what they saw in the wild west: this little known area has such potential for original experience of a different sort of Brittany. Just wish there had been more time to talk aside from 'business'...they were all such lovely people.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

On the top

The moors take on a new and uncharacteristically tender appearance in summer, green hues punctuated by colour bursts from gorse, heather, broom and this year the greatest profusion of orchids I've ever seen. Here is the highest spot in Brittany, the rock to the right of the mast, on a beautiful morning.

Friday, July 18, 2014

The allure of Nantes

Nantes Cathedral
Working in Nantes this week, with temperatures in the city centre up to 32° as I caught the train home yesterday. Altogether a scorching interlude and not really conducive to rushing about checking things out, but there were some great moments, like being shown round the fabulous new OKKO hotel and being upgraded to a spacious appartment at Park&Suites where I was staying.
The usual fun and festive atmosphere prevailed around the city, with new works of art and exhibitions everywhere - a creative vacuum in Nantes is unimaginable.
Even the chateau and cathedral are constantly re-inventing themselves with new expansion into old spaces, like the crypts beneath the latter, which are not only beautiful in themselves but made functional by a stylishly simple exhibition about the chequered development of the church ever since the Vikings destroyed an early version in 843.
All this seduction is almost irrestible. Maybe I will do that book about the city after all...

Thursday, July 10, 2014

Playing games - the Chateau de Landal

I have been in Combourg for a few days and on my way back stopped off at the Chateau de Landal which has come up with a creative way of raising money for restoration. The entry fee pays for a roof tile which you can sign and illustrate, thus forging a permanent personal link with the chateau and its progress towards new life. The whole place - courtyard, towers and basement rooms - is devoted to games, mostly of the simple, traditional variety, but pretty addictive and endlessly fun for kids and competitive adults. I spent a long time throwing stuffed socks at these medieval heads. For a surcharge you can even get locked in a room and try to solve clues to get out - I didn't risk it on this occasion. They also offer gourmet picnics. Great family visit - highly recommended.