Chateaux Trécesson and Josselin

Bruce wanted to see the chateaux of Brittany. So we set out on a route of discovery from Nantes.

We found Chateaux Trécesson, beautifully surrounded by a moat. The classic French Chateau that you might see bleary eyed (in Australia) on those crazy nights you sit up to watch the Tour de France.

A group of walkers were picnicking beside it, waiting for opening time at 2pm. We couldn’t wait. Despite our slow travel, I suddenly wished it could be slower to take in such activities.

Close by was Chateaux Josselin, a romantic chateau in the flamboyant Gothic and Renaissance architecture.

This chateau is a family home so I thought – how romantic, living in one of these places in the highest point of the village with beautiful views over the countryside. Then I thought – how on earth could you live a private life when tourists are constantly descending on you. Perhaps I like my own quiet life better.

Whilst we were able to tour the inside, photos were not permitted, however check Bruce’s blog as he failed to translate the ‘No Photos Permitted’ sign. The ground floor which was open to the public was richly decorated and the sculptured panels and family portraits throughout show how important various inhabitants of the chateau were.

Logonna-Daoulas & Brittany

We found a lovely Bed and Breakfast in a tiny village called Lagonna Daoulas. The mansion was set in beautiful gardens and each room was individually decorated with a matching tea service provided. Breakfast, however, was expensive at €20 each person each day.

The village is set on an estuary near Brest in the bay Moulin Mer, and the old water mill, driven by the massive tide changes is testament to a once industrial village.

From there we explored more of the Brittany Peninsula, including a visit to St Cado, named after a Welsh monk who formed an order there. He tried to build a bridge to the islet where he established his church, but the tides defeated him. The devil offered to help in return for the first soul to cross the bridge. He sent a cat across and all other souls were saved. On our travels we have found other similar stories!

St Cado is the patron for deafness.

St Cado village has a much photographed fisherman’s house, set on an islet in the estuary. Even in the dull weather the famous blue windows stood out.

The tide was low when we visited St Cado, so the oyster farms, which we had seen in many places, we’re out of the water and visible.

From St Cado we travelled north to Huelgoat on the edge of the D’Amorique regional national park. We explored the river that runs through the town, with it’s beautiful mossy rocks. This is the site of another Devil’s story, and also tumbling or chaos rocks. There is an old mill, which is sometimes running. Alas, not today.

Northern Brittany

In northern Brittany we went chasing churches, castles and chateaux. First stop was the parish church of Guimiliau, famous for its Calvery carvings. The baptismal font had been brought in from another church, often the case, and it only just squeezed into the roof space.

We hugged the northern coast of the Brittany peninsular, visiting Morlaix, which didn’t offer much, but we drove up the estuary to see the village of Le Dourduff en Mer.

Further on we found Château Kergrist set in beautiful gardens, the sort of chateau you expect to be shown when you are sitting up late at night in front of the Tour de France. It was built in the 15th century by the Kergrist family. In later years it was acquired by Charles Huon de Pananster, whose wife Claire launched the first women’s magazine “Le Petit écho de la Mode”, which helped women manage households with hints and tips during difficult times such as war and depression.

Close by we found Château de Tonquédec, in not so good condition, but with a rather lovely lake in front of it. There were a couple of friendly goats and a dog that kept us company on our tour.

Continuing on the north coast of the Brittany peninsula, we stopped at Tréguier with its beautiful cathedral and cloister (Cathédrale Saint-Tugdual de Tréguier). The stained glass windows of sufferings in World War II were confronting.

St Malo

Brittany was our destination. Bruce had targeted St Malo and Mont St Michel as must see destinations.

We had found a very central and comfortable hotel, but the car had to go outside the city walls and sit in an open car park.

Here we learnt about the incredible tides on the Atlantic. You look and see the sea right up to the city walls. Next time you notice that the water is miles from the walls, and rocks appear with roadways to them.

And so, as we toured St Malo, we were taken by the walled city. Apparently it was largely destroyed during the second world war, and has since been painstakingly rebuilt.

In earlier days St Malo was notorious as the home of French privateers and sometimes pirates, controlling the estuary and the open ksea beyond. Famous sailors left from this port, including Jacques Cartier who is credited with discovering Canada as well as the first colonists of the Faulkland Islands.

The bay on which St Malo sits has a number of rocky islets which, in the 17th century, were transformed to advanced sentinels. The closest is the islet on which Le Fort National is built.

We watched Le Fort National being released from the water by the massive tide, then visited it. It was a place of defence and also a place to execute condemned men. It offered wonderful views of the ramparts of St Malo.

To top off our visit to the beautiful St Malo, we found a wonderfully eclectic bar called Le Café du Coin. Dolls and other toys were crammed into every spare space. I sat on a swing at the bar. It closes at 9pm so make sure you put it on your list for an early evening visit.