Spent the weekend in St Brieuc and the environs. I fear I shall never like this dull town with its tortuous traffic arrangements, incohesive centre and claustrophobic streets, despite a scattering of handsome half-timbered houses. The cathedral, built with defence in mind, has a dour and forbidding exterior, hardly enlivened by the gloom inside, the unadorned walls punctuated by bishops' tombs. Certainly the building was badly used at the time of the Revolution, but the interior still seems inhabited by the miasma of an unholy trinity: defeat, loss and martyrdom.
The Bay of St Brieuc is an open relief after many attempts to leave the town are thwarted by poor signage and roadworks further confusing an already baffling one-way system. The tourist office had provided me with maps for my visit to the bay area. Unfortunately, these did not include minor roads so finesse of direction was tricky. It's a long time since I explored this area for the Footprint Brittany guidebook, but I had various goals in mind, thinking about the new book and old pathways. I drove along a road based on the Roman route towards Corseul, capital of the Coriosolites in Celtic times, before branching off along a beautiful curvy split route with trees on both sides and between the carriageways, to the small bourg of Hillion with its appealing Romanesque church,
I then walked the coast path beyond the look-out point at the Maison de le Baie. It's a weekend of high tides and this bay is famous for one of the longest recoils in the world, when the sea retreats for up to 7km. It was out for me, so there was plenty of bird-life on the exposed bed, including a flock of Tadornes de Belon. I'm fond of this chunky bird whose peculiar markings make it look unfinished, a work in progress.
Moving inland and onto the high ground in the commune of Yffiniac, I found the Fontaine des Sept Saints beside the little chapel of St Laurent, tucked unobtrusively into the hilside beside a huge racecourse. In this case it is seven healing saints, not the founding saints of Brittany, nor the sleeping saints of Vieux-Marché. It just goes to show the insecurity of the historical evidence for the Tro Breiz pilgrimage. References to the the Seven Saints exist in various documents, but which seven is far from clear. Here it is Guenolé, Jacut, Lubin, Tugdual (Tudwal), Méen, Cadoc and Armel, each patron of their own speciality disease, from rabies to eczema.
Last stop was Ploufragan to search for three ill-signed neolithic monuments. After two, the bitter wind got the better of me and I headed home. The highlight of my weekend was without doubt having the swimming pool at the beautiful appartments where I stayed (Domitys Le Griffon d'Or in St Brieuc) all to myself on two occasions.
Writer living in Finistere, French citizen, blogging about Breton history and landscape. Published work includes many books and articles on Brittany's complex past, real and legendary, walking guides and fiction. Latest books: Spirit of Place in Finistere (landscape-writing, 2017, also in French edition) and a new collection of Finistere walks. I also teach Breton history, give talks about Brittany and guide tours all over the region. See my website wendymewes.com