The (west) end of France

Went down to breakfast to find the table full but for two chairs at opposite ends. We said we’d come back. The château must be full. When we finally returned we chatted to a Kiwi couple. A relative of hers was born in Quimper and went to New Zealand in the early 1800s and she was on a mission to seek out the street in which she was born. This wasn’t the only reason they’d travelled all the way to Europe! They were visiting relatives in the UK and her husband had a conference to attend in Sweden. The only reason I know all this is because the woman was explaining it to the guy who runs the place but he seemed to have switched off so Mirinda was doing the nice thing and taking up the conversation.

We set off for Loctudy to go on a boat ride. Loctudy is beyond Pont L’Abbe so we had to take on the maze of streets and beeping cars that seem to exist within every French town. We found the booth for the cruises, parked and found a creperie for lunch.

Main street of Loctudy leading down to the water

After a lovely lunch we strolled down to the quay to wait for the office to open. Now, it’s important to note that we were not alone in doing this. There were quite a few others at various times, peeking through the glass, trying to read the brochure (which was also in English). I say this in my defence because after a while (or three) Mirinda decided to throw caution to the wind and read the brochure herself. Apparently the cruises do not operate from Loctudy on a Tuesday.

And so, instead of a cruise, we went to the Manoir de Kerazan. This stands as one of the only French tourist sites that has the intelligence to operate a café.

The guide sheet claims that Kerazon Manor is “The art of living in 19th century Brittany” but it is one of the oldest estates in the region. The right hand wing of the house dates back to the 16th century, built originally by the Kerfloux family. It was sold to different people down the years and added to as these things are until 1847 when Alour Arnoult, a notary from Pont L’Abbe decided to turn it into a magnificent residence.

Kerazon Manor

Arnoult’s daughter married a soldier, Joseph Astor and they made all the changes seen today. Their son, Joseph-George, added the entire left wing and many of the out-buildings. The Astors are the people most noted in relation to the house.

The rooms are all decorated with artworks from around the region, much loved by Joseph Astor. Most of them show traditional Breton images of coifs, fisher folk and pardons. The house sits in a lovely park with open spaces, woodland and a small lake. Mirinda enjoyed the walled garden!

There’s a lovely old billiard table in the room where the men would retire after dinner and the ladies drawing room is very girlie. I was particularly keen on taking a few shots on the billiard table but a very clear French sign indicated this was not the thing to do.

In the small chapel – now a small white room – is a magnificent faience cello. It is life-sized and won the silver medal at the Universal Exhibition in Paris in 1878. Although a complete cello, it has never been played as it is very fragile. It also took six attempts for Alfred Beau to get it right.

Faience cello by Alfred Beau

It was in this chapel that Monsieur de Saint-Allouarn was married. This name may be unknown to most people, however he has an amazing link with Australia. He was the navigator and companion of Kerguelen who claimed Western Australia for the King of France. At least he thought he did. It was actually a group of islands which he named the Kerguelen Islands. He discovered them twice and returned to France to be locked away for being useless. I can find nothing out about Saint-Allouarn but assume he didn’t accompany his mate to jail.

It was nice to sit under the shady trees and sip a coffee while we waited an age for Mirinda’s lemon and sugar pancake. As per usual, Mirinda paid the tab (because it was a tearoom) and left a ridiculously high tip. No wonder the woman in charge was grinning when we left.

We then decided to drive all the way to Pointe de Raz to see France’s westernmost point. According to our (old) guidebook, visitor pressure has played havoc on the place and arriving you can see how they’ve tried to alleviate this. About 15 tourist shops line the carpark and there’s a free bus to take people to the headland. Madness! The whole place was packed with people. The bus was full – not that we intended to catch it – and the path was amassed with walking family groups.

Heath on way to Pointe de Raz

We started walking down the long, heath-lined path towards the headland. It was a long, straight path towards a lighthouse. Once passing this, the track heads out towards the sea. The scenery is indeed dramatic if you ignore the hordes. A particularly ugly statue of the baby Jesus in Mary’s arms looks out to sea. We walked to the end of the path but other, more intrepid tourists, started crawling out across the pinnacles of the rocks leading out to sea. Insane!

We stood for a bit, admiring the view then headed back via the coast path, making a circle back to the car-park. The huge car-park has a charge to leave – €6 – which, one hopes, is used to repair the paths and natural landscape rather than to build more tourist shops. We’ve also discovered that this is, in fact, NOT the westernmost point of France. Just shows what you can do if you try hard enough.

There seems to be a lot of over confident small fluffy dogs in Brittany. So far we have seen three. Two of them trotting along the side of the road, obviously headed somewhere important and the other having a lovely snuffle of its bits in the middle of the inside lane of a roundabout at Crozon, as I reported earlier. None of them looked like strays. My theory is that it’s something to do with the fact that dogs are allowed anywhere in France and just take it all in their stride. The owners of these dogs probably said “Look, Fufu, I’m feeling a bit lazy today so how about you take yourself for a walk.” And off they go. Brilliant. I’m going to try teaching our poodles to do the same…yeah, right!

We drove back to the château before leaving for dinner in Landudec. We went to the same restaurant as yesterday, which was serving meals other than pizza. It was a great disappointment. I had scallops which were well overcooked and took about three days to arrive. Not particularly tasty, I have to say. The cider was very nice though.

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