Saturday, 31 May 2014


It was a very long drive from Douarenenez to Rochefort, broken by a stop at Pont-Aven where our regular rain cloud caused a deluge. We waited it out in a cunning bar which was connected to the patisserie shop next door; coffee or chocolate at the bar, choose your pastry at the patisserie and it is brought on a plate.

In the town it was the bikies day out, maybe 60 of them. They circled through the streets with a roar, twice, shepherded by guys in hi-vis vests and with sirens. Tough fellows! So it was amusing to see them using umbrellas to protect themselves as they exited the coffee shops from the rain they had just ridden through so triumphantly.

A few photos of the mill and the stream made famous by the likes of Gauguin, a giggle at the stone WC built out over the water (one hopes that is no longer the disposal method), purchase of some chocolate slab and a postcard for the grandchild, and off we went again.

The bikies come to town
Pretty houses
Near the mill
The WC over the stream

The countryside is under cultivation; waves of growing green wheat and lines of just planted corn, contented looking cows, several wind turbines which I always think are graceful and for the first time, two fields of poppies, neither of which I was able to photograph. The roadside is daisies and buttercups, Queen Anne’s Lace and pinky grasses with the occasional pop of red from poppies.Houses are changing from small Cornish looking, white or cream places to many of stone, with stone barns and curved tile roofs in a more Mediterranean style. Very peaceful country.

Into Rochefort and our GPS guided us right to the B&B, another lovely find With a little time to kill, and having evaded our rain cloud, we went to the square Place Colbert where competing cafes offered drinks in the sun or shade. After more than 400km that beer tasted very good. Dinner at La Scala, which contrary to Tripadvisor listings is Italian, not French, but very friendly and welcoming. Great appetisers, reasonable pasta/pizza. They also had meat and fish options.

The carousel
A pretty street
Roses almost block the footpath

Morning. A lovely sleep on very smooth bed linen and a comfy bed, a nice hot shower and an excellent continental breakfast including home made yoghurt and jams, local honey and good coffee. Off to see the sights which included the Corderie Royale, the place where ropes were made for ships. Fascinating stuff including a small demonstration in French and an audioguide of the process in English. The machine they actually used back then made hawsers from hemp twine in a building 374 metres long and was basically the centre of the shipbuilding industry in Rochefort in the 17th and 18th centuries.It burned in 1944 and was restored in the 1960s by volunteer labour. It is a wonderful exhibition and gallery space and a beautiful public park.

Part of the river frontage of the Corderie Royale. It extends past the building on the right
The rope maker machine that once ran 374 metres
Forcing the coil
7 tonnes of rope
Nick’s hand to the anchor rope

In alliance with that, the ship the Hermione is being recreated in the nearby naval docks, built originally by King Louis and Napoleon III. Hermione took Lafayette to America but was later wrecked. Using only pictures and plans of similar ships, Hermione is being recreated by a foundation. Planning began in 1977 and in 2015 it is hoped the ship will sail to America. As far as is practicable and safe, old methods and crafts are being used in the building. Fantastic!

Hermione, stern view
Main mast

There followed a stroll through the Saturday markets. I love the beef heart tomatoes, the huge artichokes, the shiny strawberries that perfume the street and the fat white asparagus. Plus the buzz of the markets themselves.

Market street
Strawberries and white asparagus. Yum!

Lunch in the Place Colbert. Nicoise salad and then excellent glaces, citron vert et framboise. Yum! Then a trip to a nearby area to see  a Transporter Bridge. This acted like a ferry but carried cars across on a sort of trolley on suspended wires so it did not obstruct the shipping lanes. It was superseded by a raising bridge and then eventually by a high arch.

Transporter superstructure
Now people and bikes only, swinging across the river

Then yet another Vauban fort. This guy was responsible for building defensive forts all over France and we have met him often before, most notably in Besancon, Briancon and the Gironde. The fort at Fouras is small but aligns with several others to protect the coast at Charentes. Worth a visit if you are in the area. Our storm cloud came back and rained on us, so home to the B&B.

Vauban keep
Beach below

On the way back, a glimpse of the fishing houses which drop a net and then lift it with a catch. Some are at the end of piers but this was in the estuary/bay.

Fishing hut and net

A light dinner out in Place Colbert again. Not haute cusine and not very good service from a busy waiter, but pleasant enough. This is a town that bears visiting and along with its nearby seaside companions would be an excellent stop for families. Lots to see and do in the environs.

Next stop: Brantome

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