Adventures in Brittany: La Côte de Granit Rose

Lately I’ve been thinking about the stories I’ll be able to tell in the future, both three months from now, when I’m home, to family and friends, and thirty years from now, to acquaintances sitting around a fancy table and sipping from delicate wine glasses. When I travel, I try to do things that could turn into stories. My first story is from the first day of the first trip I took after arriving in France.

It was an adventure, truly, in the sense that I had little idea of how to get where I wanted to go and even less of an idea of how to get back. I caught the once-a-day bus to some place maybe thirty minutes walking from Ploumanac’h, the most picturesque part of La Côte de Granit Rose, and walked through a small residential town to a dirt path called “Chemin du Phare,” which means “Way to the Lighthouse.” It was like walking into the woods: an arch of trees gave way to a couple of houses, nestled away, and finally to an outcropping of pale, dusty pink rock, the Ploumanac’h Lighthouse visible in the distance.

A bit one way was a house for a boat (I don’t know what else to call it—it had a roof and tracks leading out to sea). Just past that, the path continued past a pretty little stone bench set into the hillside and onto a beautiful miniature bay, where the water crashed violently over a rock across the water but was tranquil closer to shore. It felt like a paradise, a small haven carved out in the coastline just for me, where I could listen away from the noise of every day to the high-pitched tinkling of the rocks tumbling over one another, the water withdrawing back into the sea.

After collecting shells from amongst the rocks, washing them in the water and holding them in my hand, I headed back along the path towards the lighthouse, climbing around boulders and up stairs to the lighthouse. From there, I saw that the pink granite coast wasn’t constrained to only this stretch of coast but that it was in fact three times that size, with two more areas like this one extending at intervals into the ocean. I walked back towards the town via a path different than that on which I came, this one leading me past a gem of green—of ferns and trees the kind of verdant green that makes one think of New Zealand or of glens in the farthest reaches of Scotland.

Next I set out walking across town, around Port de Ploumanac’h, around an estate right on the water, over a quay, and through a larger town named Trégastel to La Grève Blanche, the (pebbleless) “white pebbled beach.” It resembled a resort at first on account of not only its seclusion and the whiteness of the sand but also a wooden fence that lined the steps down to the sand and a solid white one stretching the length of the sand, separating the homes and a waterside restaurant called Latitude (I didn’t go because it was a bit pricey, but it looked to have an adorable ambience and a fabulous menu) from the beach. Out on the water, windsurfers pulled up their sails, visibly fighting with corporeal might against the earthly splendor of an ocean breeze.

Curiosity led me around the point—I almost didn’t go because walking in the middle of that wide stretch of immaculate sand could have been enough, but I’m so happy I did—to the most striking location I’d visited all day. The rocks flanking the beach were dark, almost black: that’s what I saw first. Next the kayakers; then the coast wrapping around on one side, enveloping the sea; then the homes lining the beach; and the clouds, incandescent in contrast to the dark blue of the sky, beams of sunlight turning the sand white and obscuring the coast in scintillant light. I had to sit on the sand for a moment and feel, as I did, that I was in Brittany, this most elysian of places.

I could stay for but a few heartbeats before I had to walk back into town to call a taxi; I didn’t know whether or not I’d be able to find one available (all of the taxi companies here are individuals), and the nearest train station, in Lannion, was a three hours’ walk away. On my fourth try, I found one—and it turned out he was from Lille!—which meant I had a couple of spare hours, but I didn’t mind. Lannion was cute, kind of like a mini-Vieux-Lille bordered by a river lined in trees, a bed of flowers at one end, and it was here that I ended my day’s adventure.

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