And so it was that I had a dream of north-west France long before I went there. In my head, Brittany was the wild, Celtic west of France, and my imagination was fuelled by images of ragged coastline under permanent attack from an angry sea, with hinterlands covered in heathery scrub and fiddle music in every pub.
I didn't want to admit it to myself, but the first time I actually found myself en Bretagne, I was a little disappointed. The sea was a gorgeous azure blue, the coastline was somewhat rocky and the gwenn ha dubh fluttered from the ramparts of Saint-Malo but the beaches were seaside resorts patterned with stripy parasols arranged in perfect rows and the coastal path was a concrete promenade bordered by the civilised gardens of English-style houses. (The crepes, on the other hand, were delicious.)
Since then I've learned a little more. West of Dinard, the sentier des Douaniers winds its way along an increasingly wild coast where modern bungalows and sandcastle shops are interspersed with promontories covered with heather and gorse. Particularly inland, the pretty stone cottages are there, and I even managed to find the fiddle music in Normandy. Still missing, though, were the jagged rocks and the roaring waves, and those magnificent lighthouses surrounded by clouds of sea-spray that you see on Breton calendars everywhere.
And then I went to Belle-Ile, and found everything that I was looking for.
|Boats at Sauzon|
|Pointe des Poulains|
|Aiguilles du Coton|
chicken, a sphinx and the profile of Louis XIV. Can you work out which is which?
We finished by taking a tour around the east end of the island, which was also very pretty, although less exciting, especially as we had mastered the technique of going round the bends on the scooter by that point!