Thursday, May 31, 2012

Day of Disappointments

Per the plan, our excursion today should have been a scenic highlight. The guidebooks describe the run along the north coast of the peninsula out to Pointe du Raz as having dramatic cliffs and sea birds. A million French tourists come out to the point that is "land's end" to both France and Europe each summer.

In truth you don't see much of the coast, and it isn't very dramatic (if you've seen the California coast or for that matter, the west side of Ireland). The birds were conspicuous by their absence, and it didn't help that the sky was overcast until late in the afternoon.

First stop was the town of Douarnenez where there is a well-designed Museum of Boats. There are a lot of boats displayed and explained inside,


...and outside there were seven full-sized boats including a lobster boat and a steam tug, some of which could be roamed around in.


Climbing around inside the lobster boat (the big white one above) convinced David (as if he needed it) that the life of a fisherman is not for him.

Then we went on along the coast to Pointe du Millier, one of the few places where there is a road to the edge and one can hike a short loop that includes part of the Sentier du Cote, the hiking trail that runs the whole length. We did this maybe 1.5km route with a bit of up and down.


That pretty well convinced us the drama of this coast had been overstated. It's certainly nice, but you know. Meh. But we went on to Goulien where there is a seabird reserve, and again access to the cliffs. Marian checked out the cliffs and saw only seagulls. Maybe a couple of cormorants. So again a let-down.

We drove to the car park near the end of the peninsula, at Pointe du Van, and had lunch and then peeked at the coast ahead to where the land runs out to a point with a small lighthouse at Pointe du Raz. Quite unexciting. The car park at Pointe du Raz was not free, but was to cost €6. Those million visitors, remember? Who were not at all visible today, we were about the only car on the approach road. Just before we were committed to entering it, Marian says, "Wait, let's rethink this," and David ducked into a driveway and did a three-point turn and headed out, saving €6.

So we skipped that and went on to the last planned stop, an extremely quaint village called Locronan.


It is indeed pretty, although rather self-consciously so with lots of art galleries. It sits on a ridge and the guidebook says it "commands spacious views" but in fact, the only time you can see out over the countryside is from a road approaching or leaving the town. But we had a pleasant tea break.

So, the scenery didn't meet expectations which makes for a bit of a downer. Tomorrow the weather is forecast to be excellent, and the target terrain even more scenic. We'll see.

Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Easy Day Around Quimper

Took it slow today. After breakfast we sat around the hotel lobby (more comfortable than our small room) for two hours and brought the blog up to date with 4 posts about the prior day. This takes both of us. We go through the pics together and decide which ones to keep. David preps the "keeps," straightening and otherwise fudging them as needed, and uploads them to smugmug. Marian goes over the smugmug gallery and edits the captions and gets them in sequence. David drafts the blog post with the links to the pictures. Marian edits that and approves it for posting by clicking the "Publish" button.

That done, we went looking for lunch and found it in Place au Buerre (Square of the butter?) where there are five crêperies in a block.

Dueling restaurants on Place au Buerre

Then we browsed around the very pleasant center of Quimper.

It's like a nice outdoor mall, but with cobblestones.

The cathedral, of course, dominates the skyline.


From almost anywhere.


So we went to check it out. Here's the big picture.

Hard to get back far enough to get it all in.

Unusual, there were two homeless(?) guys spare-changing at the main door.


We stepped in the door and David immediately exclaimed, loud enough that Marian shushed him, "It's crooked!"

Which it bloody well is.

We bought a guide pamphlet for a euro but it didn't explain the kinks. (Wikipedia to the rescue: "...unlike other Gothic cathedrals it slightly bends in the middle to match the contours of its location, and avoid an area that was swampy at the time of the construction.") Just the same we took several pictures to document that the roof sections don't line up straight.


Just in case, you know, if somebody would want to sue the builders. But having been dead for 400-plus years, they're probably judgement-proof.

That was about it, although somehow it ended up 10pm and the blog not done yet. For more pictures (we don't link everything here, it would run too long!) you can browse the Quimper gallery. Tomorrow we'll get out of town for the day.

Landerneau and Plougastel-Daoulas

Getting tired? Honestly, so were we! But we stopped briefly in the town of Landerneau to see the Pont du Rohan, a bridge over the river Elorn that is occupied by houses. It's one of the last two inhabited bridges in Europe (the other is the Ponte Vecchio in Florence).

It's not as interesting as Ponte Vecchio, but it's pretty.

Especially from the upstream side.

The only notable feature of the enclosure at Plougastel-Daoulas is its calvary.


It was put up following a nasty episode of the Plague in 1598. Its two levels are jammed with more than 180 figures.


Here are the two thief figures. The good thief is attended by an angel; the bad thief by a demon (who rather looks like a monkey and not especially demonic). What's cute is, each of the attendants is holding what looks like a doll and presumably represents the soul of that thief.


Here again we meet the legend of poor damned Kattel Gollet being hauled off to hell.


A nice story is told on a plaque here. In 1944, American artillery damaged the calvary. An American officer and art expert, John Skilton, created a restoration fund that paid for restoring the calvary.


Plougastel-Daoulas is supposedly known for its strawberries. That was Marian's canny plot in making it last on the route, so we could have something strawberry-related for tea. Well, it took some searching, as the cafés of the town do not have any notion of capitalizing on the local crop. But we found a patisserie with a tea-room and with some fancy pastries that had strawberries in them. They were very good.

And from there we ripped down the freeway to Quimper and collapsed.

La Martyre, La Roche Maurice

We now view the oldest parish enclosure at La Martyre, dating from the 1450s.


Its most striking feature, at least the one most immediately seen, is that the church door is seriously out of plumb.


One of the figures on the door is playing lacrosse, or something very like it.


In the porch, when you reach for some holy water in the stoop, you are met by Ankou, Death.


La Martyre is where we found this image among many on the ossuary wall.

An anonymous commenter suggested this was an image of the Ossuarian doing his job. Hey, could be! Hadn't thought of that. (Oh! By the way, when you use the "Anonymous" comment method, it would be great if you'd include your name. Unless you really want to be anonymous of course. But if you are selecting "Anonymous" just to avoid the hassle of having to sign in, stick your name in the comment so we can tell who said what.)

Down the road we go to La Roche Maurice. Here the spire has two levels of gallery.


Here there's a stoup on the ossuary that is again surmounted by Ankou.


You can trace the inscription "IE:VOUS:TVE:TOVS" or Je vous tue tous, I kill you all. This kind of puts us in mind of the French cigarette packages. The bottom half of the front of each packet is filled by the mandated words FUMER TUE (SMOKING KILLS). Maybe they should add a picture of Ankou?

In the church, the nave is high creating a tranquil space.


The rood beam at La Roche Maurice wins the rood-beam prize.



Above the rood beam the ceiling is painted with angels and stars.


Here are the grotesques from the altar side of the rood beam

Wait! They're wearing goggles and riding toboggans?

This church has a window from 1539.



Lampaul-Guimiliau Enclosure and Roc-Trévezel

Five minutes down a green lane to Lampaul-Guimiliau. Its spire was truncated by a lightning strike in 1809.


We liked the carved wooden door on the ossuary.


The calvary here was pretty basic. But inside, it had a carved and painted baldacchino on the baptistry,


..and carved cross-beams and light color making an airy feel to the nave.


Carved beam detail.

Here we meet another frequent element, the Rood Beam, a cross-beam with a crucifix and other figures, at the boundary between altar and congregation.


Now we headed down some typical French secondary roads,


To a noted high point.

380 meters high, but only about a 30-meter climb from here.

Supposedly could see to Morlaix and beyond. Maybe.

Here we lunched in the car and then carried on down the road.

Parish Enclosures: St. Thégonnec and Guimiliau

The first parish enclosure we hit was St. Thégonnec, named for a Breton saint about whom we know nothing.

Overview of the church and enclosure.

Its calvary was one of the last made, in 1610.

The upper part of a calvary has crucified Jesus with other figures. Lower down, the two crucified thieves. Not sure who the guys on horses are supposed to be. Romans?

The lower level has a mass of figures illustrating various elements of the Passion. The neat thing today is how many are dressed in contemporary 1610 clothes.

Not sure what Bible story this illustrates, but check the cod-pieces!

At St. Thégonnec, one goes into the Ossuary (now a gift shop) and down narrow stairs to a small basement to see this life-size diorama.

The date carved in the railing is 1702.

Inside the church proper is a quite amazing oratory, carved by two brothers from a nearby town.

What with Gabriel and the cherubs, we could be in Germany.


On to Guimiliau – David enters through the triumphal arch.


It has a high, knobby spire, topped by a rooster weather-vane, not a cross, which is also the case with the others. Don't know if the rooster is a Breton thing or what.


The calvary in Guimilau is a double-decker, dated in the 1580s.


The figures are 12-18 inches high.


Don't know what saint this is, but David dubs him "Gandalf."


Here we first encountered the sad Breton legend of Katell Gollet, a woman who at her lover's request, stole a consecrated wafer. Alas, her lover turned out to be Satan, and she was immediately dragged off to hell by demons. The moral of the story isn't exactly clear, but it makes a dramatic carving.

Note devil with pitchfork.

Inside this church the baptismal font is inside a quite amazing carved oak baldacchino.


The organ here dates from the 17th century, and is free-standing on a carved platform. Note that it barely clears the barrel-vaulted ceiling.


Here we first noticed carved ceiling beams, which also turned up in some of the other churches.

All the churches we visited had painted, barrel-vaulted, ceilings.

Detail of carved ceiling beam.