Tuesday, October 21, 2014


Eglise de St Trémeur
Carhaix presents something of a challenge for a guided tour. It's a town of exceptional pedigree, having been a major centre in Roman Brittany, a thriving focus for medieval commerce and the hub of transport networks in the 19th century, but with some sorry slumps in between. A Welsh visitor in the 1870s described it as 'a primitive place', and it was indeed forced into a depressing isolation by the re-arrangements of the Revolution which separated Carhaix from its natural territory of the Poher in central Brittany, leaving it a border town without administrative status on the eastern edge of Finistère. These days it is enjoying something of a revival, with a lively cultural scene and new economic initiatives to keep employment in the town.
The problem for a heritage tour is that whilst some arresting visual evidence of a significant past remains, these scattered nuggets are overwhelmed by the low-rise, dull white modern development that swamps the town even into the central areas. Some fine houses still stand in the rue Brieux and Place de la Mairie, odd traces of aqueduct linger in modern industrial areas and religious architecture offers a few beauties worth walking for, but getting around is generally not easy on the eye and physically constrained by cars everywhere and narrow pavements - many with cars parked on them to obstruct individuals, let alone a meandering group. Today I tried to devise a workable route and wasn't entirely satisifed, but will persevere. I'm going to give it a go with Brittany Walks next month, and the town will figure in a new book I'm probably going to do next year.

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