Brittany, France

“It’s all very French.” That was one of my more acute observations made all the sharper because we were in France. In Brittany. And yes, it was all so very French.

Just like on the telly.

The French are as fond of their townlands as we are in Ireland, except they call them neighbourhoods. We were staying in Landes Ardennes, a neighbourhood of the nearby commune (village) of Coëtlogon.

Coëtlogon is close to La Trinité-Porhoët (locals are called Trinitas) where the Mairie (town hall) is very French (most if not all Mairies are, it being France and all).

Two storey stone building with two, 6-paned white windows on either side of a yellow door on the ground floor and three sash windows on the first foor. One dormer window in the roof with two chimneys at either end. Flower boxes in full bloom hang from all windows. A green sign above the middle window on the first floor reads HOTEL DE VILLE in gold lettering. Steps lead to the front door from both left and right with a green wrought iron railing.

The local pub is a hive for ex-pats (mainly British) who drop by on a Tuesday evening to visit the market and have a catch-up. It has some fab découpage by British artist Clive Mercer on the walls (I have some of his stuff on my walls, too – and he takes commissions).

Framed picture (Black frame) of 35 squares with paper cut outs of bodies doing things for example, curled in a ball or standing on its head or climbing a wall.

Lots of coloured strips of paper arranged layer upon layer in a large rectangular black frame

Church Abbey de la Trinité once belonged to the Knights Templar. I love the fact that the French keep their churches open, even in the villages – unlike Hungary. So much to see.

ornate altar piece with spiral colums and gold statues. A red carpet trimmed in gold leads up three steps to the front - an arched stained glass window to the right

In 1870, there were still fourteen small altars in the church, often served by seven or eight priests attached to the parish of La Trinité-Porhoët. Today, only four altars remain. According to local tradition, Mme de Sévigné would have offered an altar to the Church Abbey of La Trinité. The tree of Jesse, decorated at its base with the shields of the families of Rohan and Porhoët, traces the descendants of Jesus. He is represented on an altarpiece dating from 1675: in the center of this altarpiece stands a statue of the Holy Trinity surrounded by statues of Saint Peter and Saint Paul.

In all my years as a card-carrying Catholic, I’ve never seen a statue of the Holy Trinity. And here, there were two!

statue of a bearded man seated holding a crucifix on which sits a dove - statue is on a wooden base inscribed with NOEL 1835. Behind it, hanging from a rod with hoops is a dark velvet curtain trimmed in gold

I was intrigued by the image of St Fiacre, an Irish saint who came to France in A.D. 628. He is the patron saint for victims of venereal disease and haemorrhoids.

Church niche with a wooden altar - three panels - left and right are men in robes, middle is the holy spirit descending on the apostles. A crucifix below on an altar is flanked by three white candles on ither side - stained glass window to the right

The price list on the noticeboard confirmed what my pocket was feeling – France ain’t cheap: €160 for a burial mass and €18 for an offertory mass (it’s €6 at home in Ireland). Presumably, the anniversary mass wouldn’t be shared with anyone else, hence the €34.

Type on A4 white paper, in black Diocese de Vannes A partir due 1er/4/2020 les tarifs due casuel: Offrande messe 18 Euros Service 18 Euros Mess anniversaire 34 Euros Bapteme 60 Euros Mariage 180 Euros Service Solennel 100 Euros Sepulture 160 Euros Nevuaine de Messes 170 Euros Trentain 600 Euros STuck on a notice board with black pins

I found this postcard and am struggling to put the word grotesque into context. Maybe those of you with better French might have a clue.

Sepia postcard of a church and a town hall - by the church is written: AUX TOURISTES ; LA TRINITE PORHOET (Morbihan) Voyez ce pays romanesque L'Eglise et l'Hôtel de Ville Avec son sanctuaire curieux ; ; La Trinité parait grotesque, Dans son ensemble pittoresque ; C'est un centre si cotoyeux ! 0e, Henri ALLAIN. Over the roof the town hall is written La Trinité-Porhoet (Morbihan) L'église et l'Hotel de Ville. To the left - a man stands, ankes crossed, leaning on a bike. Four small figures stand on the steps to the town hall.

Even more curious though, was the remnants of a swastika cut into the render on the wall of a house taken over by the Germans during the war. I’d never have noticed had it not been pointed out to me but once seen, it’s impossible to unsee.

Fades swastika rendered in plaster on a crumbling yellow brick wall

Perhaps that’s why it all seemed so French – the lingering memories of a movie binge of WWII resistance stories set in this part of the world. I had no problem at all imagining the bicycles, the women in pants, the messenger bags, the parachute silks, the flashlights – it was like being on a movie set except everything was real.

We drove through the Forêt de Lanouée, a massive, privately owned forest (I think by a Canadian group, Boralex) of about 4,000 hectares. Once a haven of oak, beech, and chestnut trees, it turned to coppice so that the nearby forges in Lanoué would have wood for their fires (1756-1886). The drive through the trees was other-worldly. We came upon a clearing with two stone houses, either one of which I’d give up chocolate for, for life!

long staight road disappears in the distance through trees on either side

Stone house - a chimney at either end - two green shuttered windows flank a grey door above which is a a broken green wooden balcony in front of a partially open window.

Stone house - one chimney in the two-storey section in the middle which has two green shuttered windows flanking a green door above which sits a grey balcony flanked by two smaller windows. Either side of the middle is a one-floor section with a door and window - also shuttered in green

We stopped in Forges de Lanouée (the locals are called Fargerons). Down by the church, there’s a gap in the hedge through which you can see the Chateau de Lanouée, dating to the mid-1700s when it was built for the master forger. Today’s neo-Louis XIII-style residence has seen a few renovations. Owned by Armel Levesque du Rostu, it has an interesting history, as told by the octagenarian third-generation lord of the manor to Amélie Loho in an interview for Le Ploërmelais. The gardens were created in 1910 by Mme Renaud, to give jobs to the workers who had lost theirs when the forges closed, a nod to the follies of Ireland, perhaps. In 1933, his father saw the value in electricity and installed a turbine to convert the mechanical energy of water into power; they’ve been selling it back to the grid for 90 years. They also powered the hospital in Josselin during the war.  Levesque du Rostu has been living in the 900 sqm castle with his wife for more than 20 years and sees it as a gift, one he’ll be passing on.

Visible through a gap in a hegde of green trees is a neo-Louis XIII-style residence

We found another open church in Sainte-Jacques, a commune of Plémet. Here, we found an exhibition on Brittany’s Camino route. Further searches led me to the Tro Briezh loop, a 1500-km walk billed as Brittany’s version of Santiago de Compostela – this little church is a stopping point. Tempting?

Collage of two photos - old stone church with bell tower and blue door - and another of the interior altar in front of a narrow arched stained glass window

We ate locally a couple of times at a truck stop called Le détour near La Croix Chanvril. Us and all the truckers. They offer a three-course meal of buffet starter (including cockles, shrimp, and snails), a choice of six mains (pork, fish, chicken, beef) and six desserts for under €15. It was all very real.

COllage of four food photos. places of sliced meats and bowls of coleslaw and rice. 2. a bow of cockles. 3. bowls of salads 4. Bowl of shrimp in their shells

Thank you, Brittany. It’s been grand. A lovely spot. Very French.







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2 Responses

  1. Lovely pics, and I could easily imagine occupying the smaller of the two houses. My understanding of ‘grotesque’ has always been about decorative motifs and gargoyles on a church… which don’t appear on the postcard. Puzzling.

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2 Responses

  1. Lovely pics, and I could easily imagine occupying the smaller of the two houses. My understanding of ‘grotesque’ has always been about decorative motifs and gargoyles on a church… which don’t appear on the postcard. Puzzling.

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