During my tour of Brittany I have discovered some spectacular coastlines, some calorie-laden cakes, some well preserved, ancient villages and a lot of standing stones. However, the biggest surprise for me has been the walled cities of Concarneau and Guerande.
I hadn’t originally planned to visit these cities; in fact, I didn’t have much of a plan at all. They seemed to just appear on my route and as the guidebook mentioned them in passing, I decided to stop and have a look.
Concarneau is the third most important fishing port in France, but it was the Ville Close (walled city) that I really wanted to see. Built on an island in the port and sealed inside the fortified 17th century ramparts is a delightful cobbled maze of souvenir shops, restaurants and cafes. I imagine that in summer the streets can be very crowded but in October it was pleasant to wander around the ramparts and pop into the art galleries and biscuit shops. I decided to take my lunch outside the walls at the Café D’Atlantique where a sweet young waitress bought me the ‘plat du jour’ of chicken in a garlic cream sauce, with goat’s cheese potatoes. It was warm enough to sit outside on the terrace and I had a lovely view of the Ville Close ramparts.
Guerande is located further south on the edge of the Grande-Briere marshes. It’s main claim to fame is the production of sea salt from the oeillets (salt pans) and many shops within the walled town sell the salt, sometimes mixed with chilli, herbs and even seaweed. Before entering the walls I drove a complete circuit trying to find a suitable place to park. Not always easy in a motorhome. The 15th century ramparts and surrounding moat are rather intimidating but once inside you find a warm and welcoming town with a strange mixture of tourist and practical shops.
Cars can still be found in both walled cities and this is an indication that people still live within the walls. However, I wonder how long it will be before the streets are pedestrianized, the houses become self-catering holiday flats, and all the shops sell products that only the tourists would wish to buy.