Morbihan 2013

First steps in the narrow streets of Arradona

This is the second time we are participating in Grand Raide du Morbihan. Last year we were there with Benita and Imants (you can learn about this  here). 594 walkers finished the 28km Nordic walking distance this year, this exceeds the last years figures by almost 200.

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Day 1. On the way

We land in Paris according to schedule – at 11:30am. The weather is cloudy – not as hot as in Riga. It takes some 15 minutes while the jet gets to the parking place. Our “skis” (a bag with walking poles and some other stuff that did not fit into the hand baggage) arrive some 10 minutes after the delivery of “normal” luggage is closed. Then a decent walking distance to the railway station.

We drive to the Montparnasse station by train and tube. We did not find the tube line we need on St. Michel stop  therefore we move a couple of stops further and then switch to the tube.

When our Vannes train arrives we hurry to our 16th couch places 41-42. It’s great that 16 does not mean a number in a row – ours is fifth or so.

The train departs as scheduled – at 3:08p.m. It takes us to Vannes via Rennes. We were in Rennes some years ago during our first travel to Brittany – that time we moved from Rennes further to St. Malo.

We move through couple of tunnels initially, then follows the long way on the flat, then gradually it changes to a bit of hillocks. We move through a number of towns (I managed to catch sight the name of one – Vitre).

People get out and get in in Rennes, train moves on to Vannes. When in Vannes we print out our tickets to Brest (we need them on Sunday) and walk to our hotel La Bretagne. This is a little cozy hotel right in the old town near the ramparts.

The hotel when looking from the street is just narrow doors in between shops. On the other side of the doors we find a staircase to the first floor. Here a hotel reception is with a tall young man. He looks like a German and believes we are German as well 🙂 Our apartment looks as recently renovated. Not very large but space enough for two of us. We drop the baggage and off go stroll the old town.

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Day 2. Village of the Grand Raid Golfe du Morbihan

The village should be open at 10am. We get there around 10:30am to get our bibs and packages. The package has boxes of cookies as the last year, this time the pictures on the box show Nordic walkers (not runners as previously) .

It’s crowdy. The number of volunteers are busy to service the public. Some of the volunteers are of considerable age – everybody does his job with pleasure.

While we dig in the offer of the sports equipment firms the man with a mike recognizes Ilze as the last years NW winner and asks if she came to win this year again. That’s the man’s job – to stroll by the event’s tents and to entertain the public. He knows a lot of people here – somebody gets his bald head stroked before the interview 🙂

We return to our hotel to get rid of the participants packages and things we have acquired during the stroll. On the way to the hotel we find the place where one can get up on the rampart and stroll a little there.

After a short break we move out for a lunch. Unfortunately we have forgotten something you shouldn’t when in South – a Siesta. It is plain impossible to have a lunch – you have to wait till 7pm. Thank God there are Sandwiches and one can very well eat the sitting somewhere in the old port. After done with this we move back to La Bretagne to recreate for tomorrow.

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Day 3. The race

Weather forecast tells it’s 18-20 degrees and a slight breeze. Perfect for 28km race 🙂

We get to the village in the port shortly after 10am and join the group of other waiting for the shuttle to Arradon where the race will start. The first bus is ours – it takes us to the parking place outside the town. Everybody gets out and forms a long line of walkers to the town center. The usual procedure here – talks, warming up (supervised by the attractive black rapper this time).

At noon the race starts, everybody rushes ahead. Not much room in the streets of Arradon.  Still everybody behaves well – more or less.

I walk close to Ilze initially but after the first couple of kilometers decide to go faster. Obviously that was not a right decision because after another couple of kilometers I fall and get the head injury. While I asses the damage (bleeding, but not much) Ilze and a number of competitors outpace me. I collect what has left of my glasses and follow them.

Ilze is at the second position for women at the finish line (first in her age group) with a result 3:22:01. I am 13th in a scratch and 3rd in my age group – time 3:22:16. The finish time for both of us is about 10 minutes less than last year (still then the distance perhaps was some 800 meters shorter).

At 7pm 3 fastest men and women get awarded. All three men have the same finish time – 3:05:12. Ilze gets gorgeous bouquet and a cup – this time in a form of sail – looks great.

Celebrating at the pizzeria Villa Romana. Entrance from the pedestrian street of the old town, terrace is on the rampart with a view on a beautiful garden. We get the last table in an outer row. Those are popular – the table is taken immediattely when we leave. Nothing excessive – “pichet” of red wine, moles for me, Ilze gets particularly tasty Brittanies apple pie – hot, melts in your mouth (I know, I was allowed to taste).

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Day 4. Quimper, Brest

Last hours in Vannes. Walking down to the port just to take another glance. A lucky coincidence – we are there exactly on time to witness very emotional event. The 177km Grand Raid is finished by two teams who have run all the distance pushing bogies with disabled children inside. The team has about six runners who deal with bogie in shifts (one of them pushes, the other one pulls).  The first team comes with a boy of about 10-12 years. Just before the finish line they help the boy out of the bogie and he crosses the line all alone. He sure  gets more cheering and hand clapping than the leaders.

Loaded with good emotions we take a stroll in the old town, then proceed to the train station.

We are in Quimper (Kemper in Brythonic language) after an hour or so. More than hour to wait for the next train to Brest so we choose to take a glance on Quimper (luggage on). Just our of the station we see the towers of the cathedral nearby. Looks like we can manage to get there and back.

Our train to Brest leaves from the platform “I”. The sign points to seemingly unused branch, overgrown with grass. Looks so suspicious, we ask a women who stands waiting near to us. Turns out our worries are baseless – we are at the right place. Shortly after the train comes – it has only two wagons but removes any doubts and uncertainty.

We walk the beautiful alley that follows the stream. The stream is crossed by the number of pedestrian bridges covered with flowers. Soon we are at the cathedral – huge and impressive indeed. A short walk in the streets of old Quimper (they are nearby the cathedral, what a surprise 🙂 ) and we hurry back to catch our train.

We arrive in Brest at 7pm and find our hotel (Kelig). The front door opens for them who know the security code (we know), the keys of our apartment is in the doors. Looks exactly like a hotel near the train station. A little bit worn out. Leave our luggage there and off to find the port because tomorrow early morning we are going to Ushant island.

Close to the train station we find a kebab and get some tasty food (it’s siesta time again). We find the port with the help of the navigation application – it brings us right to the ship. We make sure that this is the ship that goes to Ushant we return in our hotel.

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Day 5. Ushant island – the North coast

We are in the port almost an hour before the scheduled departure time. Just after we arrived they start to allow passengers on the ship (the way to our ship goes through another one). As soon as we have taken places in the ship it starts to move – 40 minutes before the time. Turns out it is not our ship! Luckily it goes to Ushant – means we will be here ahead of the scheduled time 🙂 .

The ship is a compact one still moves forward at a decent speed (about 40km per hour). Initially we go between two peninsulas then move out in the waters of Celtic sea. The sea is comparatively calm – looking at the splashing waves left by the ship does not fill our harts with desire to think about the storms and likes.

In a couple of hours we are in a port of Ushant. It rains insignificantly but the sun is close behind the clouds.

We start to walk by the North coast. Shortly after we find the museum “Britanny A to Z”. Posters on walls of two rooms show the flora and fauna of Brittany for each letter in the alphabet. We learn that there are no serpents, frogs and salamanders on the island – the hedgehogs must be of keen appetite then.

The museum guide offers us to taste some honey of Ushant. The taste is very strong – we have not tasted a similar honey before.

We follow the path near the coast which is very winding, as the coast itself. This results in 21km walked on the island that is 7km in length. The North coast is full of rocks both by the coastline and in the sea. The rocky islands around the Ushant are good as a nesting place for all kinds of birds. Near the North coast Ushant has a privately owned island Ile de Keller which perhaps has the privately owned cloud. The cloud covers Ile de Keller almost all the time we are there.

A number of ships have crashed on the rocks of Ushant island. The lighthouses around and on the island did not manage to prevent this at an acceptable level as well. The people have tried to invent additional tools of warning therefore. Acoustic for example. There are remains of the trumphet fueled by four horses, and an underwater bell operated during World War 1.

We get on the very West end of the island in about five hours. This is the Westernmost point of France (not counting the colonies). One have to think staying here that there is nothing to the West (except what was discovered unwillingly by the Columbus perhaps).

Next we proceed East by the North coast of the Baie de Lampaul to the islands only town to find at the seashore our hotel – La Duchesse Anna.

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Day 6. Ushant island – the South coast

The morning is cloudy and windy. Having the breakfast at La Duchesse Anna and some food in the local grocery we move on to inspect the South of the Ushant. Initially we go west by the South coast of the bay to reach the cape then proceed by the windy South coast of the island Eastwards. The South coast looks different than the North one. Less rocks in the sea and more vegetation on the shore – the path goes mostly through junipers and blackberry thickets. Healthy for your legs, particularly when in shorts 🙂 All sorts of birds (seagulls, cormorants, jackdaws) and animals (rabbits, goats) around. Goats looking like livestock, rabbits – like wild ones (if you can talk about wild on a cozy little island 🙂 ).

About a half hour before we are back in Ushant port the rain starts. When we are safe inside the rain falls cats and dogs. We change our tickets and board on a ship an hour earlier – at 5pm. This time ship stops in Molene island as well (a destination for next time?).

When back in Brest we walk to the Citadel which happen to be located near the port. The citadel is built and rebuilt during a number of centuries starting from the Roman era. The famous military architect Vauban has been involved – he has designed several strongholds in Pyrenees and elsewhere as well. We walk round the impressive ramparts and then proceed to take a look at the bridge nearby. The bridge has two high towers. Initially we did not get what those towers are meant for. Turns out that the middle part of the bridge can be lifted (in horizontal position) to allow the ships through!

Having done with the bridge to we walk to our hotel.

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Day 7. La Conquet, Pointe Saint Mathieu

We drag our luggage to the Hertz. It is located near the train station, opposite side than our hotel. Lucky we that the streets go down. We get dark grey Citroen C3, diesel (this turned out to be really good).

We drive out of Brest across the same bridge we admired yesterday a small La Conquet town near the sea. Leaving car we use the pedestrian bridge to get on the North side of a river (river is narrow but the bridge – long, this is what happens if you have tides) and follow the coastal path to nearby Pointe de Kermorvan. The lighthouse and a small stronghold (redoutte) is located here. No access to the lighthouse though – the stronghold does not allow in 🙁 .

We return the same way to La Conquet and then follow the coast in opposite direction to Pointe Saint Mathieu – it takes about 4km to get to there to look at the lighthouse and ruins of the abbey. We seen them already when shipping to and back from the Ushant island.

The history of Saint Mathieu’s abbey starts in 6th century. It has been conquered several times by English forces but has been destroyed by the French revolution which made the abbey the public property in 1796. Now only impressive ruins have remained. We have a look on them, then return to La Conquet and drive to our next accomodation – guest house Aubegre de Bel Air.

The accommodation is located near Brélès on a shore of the river Aber Ildut. We find Brélès easily but then the element of adventure  comes in. We notice a road sign Bel Air and obey it to turn into a narrow road that brings us to the next sign Prive and a darling rottweiler picture below. Still we drive further to discover a building more reminding a ruins of stronghold than a guest house. This force us to return to the main road. Close to the Bel Air road sign we then find the correct one that reads “Auberge de Bel Air”. This brings us to the lovely guest house with restaurant, two peacocks, donkeys, a cat and a panorama view to the meadow full of cows at the opposite side of a emptied by a low tide Aber Ildut. Aber means creek in Brythonic, still they append it to the river names in this part of Brittany. Perhaps because the creeks are long and narrow here? Our accommodation is located some 3km from the seashore. The river turns into a tiny stream during the low tide while during the high tide the sea comes up to this place and fills all the ravine.

Imprudently we accept the offer of the hostess to have a dinner. This turns into two hours long gourmet orgy and a largest position in our bill. No doubt the dinner is very tasty still we refrain from repeating this. Which apparently goes out of scope of the hostess understanding of life. Pushes down the temperature of our relationship.

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Day 8. Ile de Batz

We drive about 70km to Roscoff. The boat to Ile de Batz there has two points to get in the passengers. One in the port – for high tide, another one at the end of a long pier – for low tide. When arriving we see the people moving to the far stop. We get the tickets and hurry in pursuit them to the boat. Ile de Batz is only 200m or so from the coast but the distance from port to port is longer – the boat spends about 15 minutes to get us on the island.

Getting out on the island we first proceed to the garden Georges Dalaselle located on an islands rightmost, the closest to Roscoff end. We find out there that the garden is open only on afternoons therefore we walk back to explore the island. We take a look on the town then proceed to the opposite end to search the place called Trou de Serpent (the serpents hole). We loose our way in fields  of scallions but then find at last the impressive composition of rocks at the seashore. Reminds the serpent a little bit. We explore it both using our eyes and legs. Then move on to the 44m high lighthouse built in 19th century.

Looking around from the top we can see all of the island, Roscoff, a see full of rocky islands. We can see as well a Creperie nearby – this is our next stop.

Having some galettes and crepes, and the second try for the garden Georges Dalaselle. Successful. The garden has a long history. They have there about 2500 species of plants, mainly from the Southern hemisphere. Impressive collections of palms, cactuses etc. Looks like the boats stop in Roscoff is closer than one on the island. Nevertheless – we have no choice. We reach the port on time when the passengers already get in. We follow them to the boat which stops in Roscoff in the point for high tide 🙂 .

We stroll about the streets of Roscoff and take a look on the church. Then drive to Bel Air.

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Day 9. Morlaix

The Old town of Morlaix is located in a narrow ravine. Across it the two story stone viaduct (Viaduc de Morlaix) was built in 1863. We decide that we have to see it.

We stop in Ploudalmézeau to visit the local market (the barred road to the town center was a good advertisement). The market offered a good entertainment both for eyes and nose – fruits, sea products, cheeses, vines. We notice on one of the tables the toy trains made of the letters – Latvian-like names Yanis and Laura between others 🙂

On the way to Morlaix we stop in Folgoët and Landernau as well. Taking a look on cathedrals, strolling the town centers. In Landernau we enjoy the old bridge that pair of houses with cafes and restaurants on it.

We stop next to the viaduct in Morlaix. The feeling is that it takes all the sky 🙂 . The cathedral that stays side by side with the viaduct is about the same height. It seems like there are two viaducts – one on the top of the other. The lower one is for pedestrians – about one third of the total height.

Just next to the viaduct there is a tourist information office. They tell us what to see in Morlaix – the pedestrian bridge of the viaduct and three streets of the old town nearby. Wide stone stairs take us to the pedestrian bridge (thank god it is only one third of the viaducts height). Gorgeous view on the town from there. We walk across using the passages in the huge supports of the Viaduc de Morlaix.

There is another reason why we decided to got o Morlaix. The reason is Chateau de Taureau (bulls castle) – a stronghold on a tiny island. We drive to the Carantec to look at the stronghold from the distance. Carantec is a typical place to spend your vacations. Looks like it is popular place for the rich people – the large beautiful villas tell us about this. The 0.5km long path takes us to the viewpoint on a shore where we can see the stronghold. Looks like it stands in the sea. Perhaps because of the impressive view we find ourselves shortly after near the pier where the boats start to the Chateau de Taureau. The next one is scheduled for day after tomorrow (Sunday) on 3pm, so we book the tickets.

The next adventure in Carantec is Route Submersible (underwater road). We have read about it – Ile de Callot is an island only when high tide. During the low tide it is a peninsula that you can reach by the high road (shouldn’t it be called low road instead?). The road sign tells that the high road can be used only during low tide. There is a table as well that tells you exactly when you are safe to use the road. We find that on Sunday low tide is from about 10am to 2pm – means we can put the Route Submersible in our schedule right before Chateau de Taureau 🙂 .

On the way back to Bel Air we detour to the town of Plouescat to search for the Menhir de Cam Louis. To do this we proceed behind the Plouescat to Porznéjen and leave the car at the parking place near the sea. We walk for some half hour to reach the stone. It stands near the shore, reminds a little the mystical figures from the Easter island.

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Day 10. Phare Trezien, menhir de Kerloas

Our agenda for today starts with Brélès (a town next to our accommodation). The two “e”s with “l” in between makes the name look like a hill :-). We have been driving through the town twice every day, now the time has come to take a closer look. Like the all towns it has a church in the center. Unlike the others we find sitting near the church the stone-made girl 🙂 .

Next we proceed to Lampaul-Plouarzel town for a seashore stroll. It is low tide and the lack of the water in the bay near the town looks so obvious that we decide to cross it on foot. We walk there between the yachts, seaweed and pools of water. In the very middle of the bay there is a tiny stream that we succeed to cross with one foot dry 🙂 .

We walk by the seashore from the Lampaul-Plouarzel to the pointe de Corsen – the furthermost Western point of continental France, where we take a bathe and then watch how the local kids jump into sea from the rocks. Then we move away from the sea for lighthouse phare de Trézien which is located about half kilometer from the seashore. The lighthouse is built in 1894. gadā, it is 37m high (86m above sea level). The lighthouse is open for the public only on afternoons, we use the time having a picnic nearby.

After having explored the lighthouse (and the views from the top) we start the way back (surprise – the bay near Lampaul-Plouarzel does not look anymore as a pedestrian area). Noticing a lovely tiny island reachable on foot because of low tide we make a short visit here. When coming back a couple of minutes later we have to wade quickly through the water up to our ankles to get safely on shore 🙂 And to learn from the anxious spectators that “sea comes everywhere around here”.

We find our car and drive in search for menhir Kerloas – a 9.5m high stone pillar. It is located a couple of kilometers behind Plouarzel (not to mix with Lampaul-Plouarzel). A word menhir comes from Brythonic words men and hir, meaning long stone.

Menhir of Kerloas is the highest standing stone in Europe. It used to be some two meters higher but then Englishmen came and made it shorter. Kidding. The top of the stone was brought down by the lightning some 200 years ago (stone slices were scattered everywhere around, a nearby farm inclusive). Menhir (as well as all other menhirs) is erected by a humans some 5 thousand years ago in a bronze Age. A local legend tells that about a century ago the newlyweds used to come hear to rub their bodies against the menhir. Men expected this way to get the male offspring, while women wanted to dominate in the family – women always did know better what to want 🙂 .

Having done with the long (longest?) stone we proceed further to Plouarzel (nearby) and Lannildut (not far from our accommodation in Auberge de bel Air). We take a look on an old nice chapel and one more menhir near Melon town (tasty name?) as well. The agenda is closed with the port, pier and church in Lannildut.

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Day 11. Ile de Callot, Chateau de Taureau

Driving early in the morning to  Carantec to get use of the low tide to get over to Ile de Callot. When out of the car we notice that there is still water on the lowest part of the high (low) road. Still the most impatient already are walking across. The sea retreats creating a powerful stream in the culvert below the road.

When we get there only a thin layer of water is left on the road. We take off the footwear and walk across to the island. There is a seaweed on the road edges and nearby somebody is busy collecting moles and other delicacies.

Ile de Callot is a pair of islands at the high tide and a narrow peninsula at the low tide. There is a bunch of houses, tiny church and an old school. The church is on the highest point of the island. It has a shape of a cross if look from above. It is soothingly cool inside, the light through the mosaic windows create colorful pictures inside. The major part of the visitors look like us – ordinary tourists.

When on the way back the sea has retreated even more – the culprit below the road is dry, only wet sand, seaweed and delicacy hunters around.

We drive the winding streets of Carantec to the pier. There we join other 90 passengers in a boat to Chateau de Taureau. Chateau de Taureau is the stronghold taking almost all area of a tiny island about a half kilometer from the shore. It has been built in 16th century both to serve as a prison and a fortification against the English pirates. The canons have been located on two levels – one may shoot the ships when they were still far away from the roof of the stronghold. When the ships managed to get between the stronghold and a shore one may use the lower layer of canons to shoot from the side. The famous military architect Vauban has been involved in the reconstruction of the stronghold. We find inside the building a citation. “If a town gets defended by Vauban, it is saved; if a town gets attacked by Vauban – it is lost” (my translation).

The boat gets berthed to the stone stairs, that take us to the bascule bridge and to the gate that takes us into courtyard. The stronghold has a shape of an oval, has two stores featuring prison cameras, rooms for the lower level of canons and premises for the garrison. The roof has been used for the upper canons. We use it to round the building and have a look around. A seagull has hidden his two-strong offspring behind the wall – but you can not hide anything from the tourist eyes.

During the hour we spend inside the stronghold our boat waits docked nearby. Then it brings it’s horn into action and is ready to take us back.

We climb the steep streets of Carantec to take a look on the church and then have galettes and crepes (with blueberries 🙂 ) in a creperie next to it. Then we roll down to the car and drive to Brest.

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Day 12. Homewards

The train to Paris leaves at 8:17am. It crosses the viaduct in Morlaix we admired a couple of days ago. Not much view from there – the old Morlaix shows up for a moment with the top of the cathedral right next to us. Then we are on the other side.