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.

Quimper: The Cutest French Town

I’ve just booked everything for my final trip, in May, once my TAPIF contract is over! I’ll be going to the south of France, Geneva, Scotland, and London. I’m especially excited for my adventures in the Scottish Highlands: new cities are wonderful, but sometimes, you have to throw in a little nature!

Thinking about what I expect will be one of my favorite places made me want to write about one of my favorite places I’ve visited so far: Quimper. This is by far the cutest French town I’ve visited. If I were to move to France—and I don’t want to, but if I did—I could live here. It has charm subtle enough that the city isn’t trending amongst tourists (yet), and it effuses a delicate shine—reflecting like glass the early morning light that reaches the water, brightening the whole of the river Odet in the middle of the afternoon, twinkling in the crystals that hang in lines in the air, like stars.

I started my day in Quimper in a way a bit out of the ordinary: I walked all the way to the end of Quimper, past the historical district to Locmaria and the older section of the city. I followed the dirt path along the river, where lots of runners took advantage of the misty morning and other people walked their dogs. I passed quaint little houses styled in typical Brittany fashions: white with gray rooftops and cobblestone.

The fog transformed the city that lay ahead of me into an empyrean cloud of light and settled on the houses on the other bank of the river, where another dirt path mirrored the one I was on and appeared to lead to a small orchard or something like it.

Back in the city, I first explored the main street, Rue Kéréon. It’s here you’ll find lots of shopping and adorable buildings with timber framing—some a light, dusty blue, others with bright pink framing around the windows.

Lots of little side streets wander off from this main street.

It’s on this street, too, that I saw two ponies waiting to give pony rides!

Up the hill is Place au Beurre, where a crêperie can be found on every corner.

At the far end of Rue Kéréon is Place du Terre au Duc, which is pretty but nothing too special, and another river, Le Steïr, around which a bit of wandering will lead you to a small park and a nice row of restaurants.

At the other end of Rue Kéréon is the cathedral, formally called Cathédrale Saint-Corentin. Of all of the churches and cathedrals I’ve visited in Europe—which is to say quite a lot—this one is my most loved, and it’s because of the tiny coats of arms on its ceiling. One is painted I think to look like a Brittany flag, and the ceiling itself is a pretty light coral-pink tile. The first thing I do now when I walk into a cathedral is look up: on many of the ceilings are coats of arms such as these.

The cathedral is lovely for reasons other than its tiny coats of arms, though. In contrast to those of many Gothic buildings, which may appear hard, rough, and intimidating, the exterior of this Gothic cathedral is delicate and sweet.

Inside, light streams through stained glass windows up high to play on the opposing walls. Along the upper walls are mini rainbows of barely-there color, while more opaque red and purple decorate the center of the cathedral.

In some of the chapels, paintings incorporate the old depiction of the halo, a thin golden circle around the head.

Turn around and the organ is small but magnificent, the definition of Quimper cuteness!

After visiting the cathedral, I walked down to the Odet and sat on one of the benches beside it for a while, taking in the blueness of the water and working myself up over the flowers in their boxes on the bridges. It was a tranquil way to end my day in Quimper and something I highly recommend doing!