Monday, April 6, 2009
The coast of Bretagne
A few weeks ago we visited southern Bretagne around Nantes in the Morbihan department, in particular around the salt fields of Guérande. The coast is quite rugged and the countryside lush and green with rolling hills. This past weekend we did a tour furthur north by Lannion, situated by the English Channel to visit our friend Geoffroy who was taking a break from Paris. B and I were also looking to take a break from urban living. Honestly, we were expecting fog, overcast skies, and reading by the fireplace. Instead, we got sunburnt. yay!
Being in this part of Bretagne was a strange déjà vu of sorts. The vegetation and rough beauty of the coast had me mentally situated in Monterey and Carmel. But the California coast has nothing as exotic and bizarre as the Côte de Granit Rose. For kilometres and kilometres the coast is defined by ancient natural formations of pink granite with names like The Witch, The Crepes, The Rabbits, etc. The granite is worn down, quite smooth in some areas by the water. The beaches for the most part are scratchy and gravelly. But then you stumble upon some beaches with smooth silky white sand when you least expect it.
The entire time we were here we ate one of two things. Seafood and crepes (also a heavy dose of bacon and potatoes one evening because everything shuts down at 9pm and that's all that was left in the pantry). And sometimes in marvelous combinations. Everything is prepared with sea salty butter and served with brut cider. We're not talking about sweet artificially flavoured apple cider, we are talking about the real stuff. Aromatic local apples, refreshing gold, dry finish, full flavour.
Apart from the local fare to admire, there is also the local culture which I find fascinating (and yes, that's because I am a history nerd). Bretagne is a peninsula in the northwest of France with origins more closely aligned with that of it's Celtic neighbours across the Channel than with it's Frankish neighbours in the majority of France. For a long time the Bretons were able to fend off being absorbed into France, mostly as a result of an alliance with Danish Vikings in the early Middle Ages. Even after joining France in 1532 the Breton language, culture, cuisine, etc. continues to be quite distinct.