Wednesday, November 18, 2020

Early Tourism

In the early 20th century, organised tourism really got underway in Brittany. In Huelgoat, this was when the main hotels (Hotel d'Angleterre and Hotel de France) were built to cater for increasing visitor numbers. The central Hotel de France also made the investment of constructing an annexe of small appartments (above) overlooking the famous rocks in 1904 to provide self-catering accommodation for cyclists and fishermen. This rather unprepossessing building - social housing today - symbolised the shifting balance for the economy between industry and tourism. The granite Chaos which provided the main attraction in its forest setting was gradually being destroyed for building stone, and the Touring Club of France added its voice to a storm of protests that led to the preservation of this natural wonder as a resource for visitors rather than a practical exploitation. Quarrying stopped and holidays in the beautiful outdoors burgeoned. Cook's Travellers Handbook for railway holidays in the 1930 edition refers to its reputation as the 'Fontainebleau of Brittany' and describes the Roche tremblante as 'the finest rocking-stone in Brittany'.
Fishing and painting had long brought foreigners to the area, but there were also new pursuits. The dramatic scenery attracted many practitioners of early photography, which was rapidly gaining in popularity. One hotel included a dark-room in its advertising as a positive plus. The phrase 'English spoken' was another common boast in competitive publicity for rival accommodation providers, reflecting a lucrative market that had started back in the 19th century. English visitors passing through in 1880 said the hilly sylvan town on its lake reminded them of Switzerland, and that a 'taciturn landlord' urged them to stay for the fine fishing opportunities, showing them a well-filled visitors' book. 

After the First World War there was a further boom in travel and tourism in Brittany and a resurgence of cultural festivals. From 1921 Huelgoat celebrated
FĂȘtes bretonnes with traditional music and dancing in local costumes, which raised the profile of the town for outsiders in search of that quinessential Breton heritage. The poster above shows the celebration of a Pardon in Huelgoat used as advertising by the French national railway, encouraging travellers in search of the folkloric and picturesque. Ultimate sign of being 'on the map' - the town's first tourist office opened in 1923 to respond to the growing demands of French and foreign visitors.

Friday, November 06, 2020


THE STOLEN SAINT, my novel set in Brittany, is now available for pre-order (publication date December 1st). Here's the direct link to order:    
Thanks for all the interest already shown in this new venture. It's really appreciated in these very hard times.