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France 2010 - To Southern Brittany

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To Southern Brittany

After spending a night on the large aire at the main town of Noirmoutier-en-Île we headed to the mainland back over the bridge as the Passage du Gois was covered by the high tide, and continued around the coast to the aire at La Bernerie-en-Retz, a small seaside resort with a pleasant beach. As often the aire was by the Salle Polyvalente or public hall and tonight we had "keep fit to african drumming" for accompaniment most of the evening! On to Pornic, a larger resort with a harbour on a river estuary, where we found free parking above the town centre for a quick stroll around. Heading north to cross the Loire on the very high bridge (now toll-free), to bypass St-Nazaire, joining the busy dual carriageway past La Baule to Guérande, where we were able to park by the town walls (daytime only for camping cars). It's quite a touristy place with narrow streets in the old town centre, and we heard several English voices for the first time in weeks. A shop window full of terracotta piggybanks waiting to be decorated caught our eye, and there were some interesting street sculptures around the church.
Flooded Passage du Gois
Passage du Gois at high tide
La Bernerie en Retz
La Bernerie en Retz
Guerande gatehouse
 Guérande gateway

Continuing through the fishing port of La Turballe we reached Piriac-s-Mer and an overnight stop by a sandy beach and low cliffs at the small aire at Parking de Brambel.
The next morning was wet as we continued around the coast towards Sarzeau and on to St Gildas-de-Rhuys, a small resort with sandy beaches and rocky coves, where we caught up with the sunshine. There was a small camping-car parking area to the west of the town with signs in English: "This is not a campsite - no exterior materials allowed", but as there were picnic tables, we risked getting our chairs out! We enjoyed a couple of clifftop walks from here into the main town where we came across a very tall bicycle but didn't see any giants!

St Gildas tall bicycle
a tall bicycle

The next morning we stopped at Sarzeau for their Art en la Rue event, with many stalls selling paintings, ceramics and crafts. We decided to head further west and joined the main road to bypass Vannes and Lorient, before turning off to Le Pouldu, another small resort with motorhome parking, free in low season, by a large sandy beach and more pleasant cliff walking. From the size of the car parks and the large closed campsites these beaches must be very different in the high season.

Evening tide  near Le Pouldu
Evening near Le Pouldu

Another wet morning followed as we drove along to Pont-Aven, an artists' town with many expensive galleries but no customers. We walked around the few gift shops that were open then continued along the main road to Concarneau and pulled into Camping les Sables Blanc, to the west of the town. Luckily the weather improved so we were able to walk along the seafront to the impressive old town on its fortified island. We ignored the tacky gift shops and restaurants but were tempted by the icecream parlour with an inviting display of many flavours.

Concarneau old town
Heading west we drove into the small fishing port of Loctudy, and came across an aire but no borne at Les Sables Blanc, a massive empty beach backed by dunes and empty campsites, where an old caravan was being broken up - a sad end, we thought, to what must have been an enjoyable holiday home for families in the past. After a brisk walk along the empty beach we drove on through small villages to Penmarch, where there are three phares (lighthouses) with the Germanic name of Eckmühl. Unfortunately the largest one and the museum was closed on Tuesdays so we headed up the coast to the extremely windy Pointe de la Torche, where we watched the kite- and wind-surfers. Nearby was the ancient weatherworn Calvary at Nôtre Dame de Tronoën, the first of many we were to come across in Brittany.

We continued north to Pont Croix then turned west to the aire at Cléden Cap-Sizun, peaceful by the cemetery until the school buses parked there started up at 6.30 in the morning. From there it was a short drive to the headland of the Pointe du Van, where other motorhomes had stayed overnight and then past a couple of restored windmills and the Baie des Trépassés, to Plogoff (and Plogon on the roadsigns), and the Pointe du Raz, the most westerly place in France. Once past the exhibition and gift shops, a bit smarter than our Land's End, it was a short level walk through a carpet of wild flowers, to the lighthouse and cliffs to look at the strong tidal races around the rocks and the very flat Île de Sein on the horizon. 

wild flowers at Pointe du Raz
wild flowers at Pointe du Raz

From there we drove back to Plogoff and across the headland to the Reserve du Cap Sizun, on the cliffs near Goulien, where we saw only kittiwakes and crows. Did our word capsize come from here we wondered?  
(from online dictionaries -
 capsize: origin uncertain 1780-90)

Geurande street art  Guerande piggy bank shop window  
Guérande street sculptures and piggybanks

cliffs near St Guildas de Rhuys
Cliffs near St Gildas de Rhuys

Beach at Le Pouldu
      Le Pouldu beach   

Pont Aven
Shop in Pont-Aven
Eckmuhl lighthouse
 - two of the three lighthouses

top of Eckmuhl lighthouse   surfers at Pointe de la Torche
Eckmühl - the third lighthouse                  Pointe de la Torche    
    Calvary at N D de Tronoen
Calvary at N D de Tronoën

Pointe du Raz
Pointe du Raz tidal races

Pointe du Raz lighthouse
Pointe du Raz lighthouse
windmill near Pointe du Van bird reserve de Cap Sizun
Audierne Windmill near Plogoff
Réserve du Cap Sizun
We drove the short distance to Audierne for another free night parked by the riverside (but next to more early starting school buses). Adjacent to the parking area is an Aquashow, (and an ALDI shop), and it's only a short walk to the pleasant town centre and busy marina full of yachts of all sizes. There are also sandy beaches nearby around the estuary.

The next morning we headed to Douarnenez which looked a rather industrial port, and inland to the old town of Locronan, a Petite Cité de Charactère (as well as a Plus Beaux village), where we booked in to Camping Locronan with fine views across the countryside.