Our first drive of the day was a relatively long 80 km’s to Cocarneau, the problem is we are still nearly 1000 miles (1500km’s) from Portugal, and we are 12 days into our trip. So if we are going to spend a lot of time in Portugal at some point we are probably going to have to get on the Autoroute and suck up some tolls. But not today, or tomorrow for that matter as we still have plans for Brittany.
Before we left we decided to revisit the bakery we had stopped in briefly the day before to pick up a Kouign-Amann. Brittany is famous for this desert that literally means Butter Cake. The area we are in is close to where it originated. We had tried it on our previous trip and thought it was ok. Yesterday when we visited the bakery near the campground they gave us a taste of some of theirs and we both thought it was fantastic, the problem is that we did not tell each other until we got to the campground.
While we were driving Ton researched another specialty of Brittany called Chouchenn. It is a mead like drink made from buckwheat honey with apple juice used to initiate the fermentation. It is supposed to have come over to Brittany from Scotland with the Druids. We picked up a bottle and used it as an aperitif with our Kouign-Amann. They were both delicious and complemented each other well.
Our first stop for the day was Concarneau which is another port town. The old town is on an island in the middle of the bay and is surrounded by 14th century walls. As we were walking to the old town we came across a line of very nice sailboats flying a bunch of company flags. It is a professional sail racing circuit that operates in France. The boats were really high tech compared to the typical pleasure cruiser.
The old town was nice and we enjoyed walking along the old walls of the town looking out on the port and in on the old town. In addition to the professional racers there was also an Argentine Navy vessel visiting town.
After a couple of hours of enjoying Concarneau we headed to our main destination for the day, Pont Aven. It was made famous in the late 19th and early 20th century when Gauguin settled here and a bunch of other French and foreign impressionist artists moved in. Today it is still a center for art with a lot of galleries and boutiques.
The unexpected adventure of the day was trying to gain entry to the aire in town. When we arrived there was a gate and a machine that you paid your entrance fee at. These are usually pretty straight forward and I have mastered them. This one even offered English, everything was going smoothly and after I entered a lot of information it spit out a card that I was to use at future aires managed by this company, (the card cost an extra €5 which I was not happy about). When everything was done and my credit card was processed, the gate should open. But it didn’t. I double checked everything and no go. Muttering some bad words I tripled checked and still no go. At this point a French gentleman came over, he double checked everything and said it should be good. After a while another French couple came over and tried their luck, they confirmed everything should be good, but no luck with the gate opening. Finally, the lady went and got her cell phone and called the help line, and after some explanation and confirmation of my name, the company opened the gate remotely. Now I have a €5 card that I am not sure works if I come to another aire run by this company, but I am in the aire. Once again the kindness of strangers got us out of trouble despite no common language.
The highlight of the town is strolling down the river promenade. The river runs thru the center of town with shops and beautiful homes on either side of it. There are several picturesque watermills and bridges across the river. Near the bottom of town the river opens up to a port surrounded by mansions and a very thick forest of trees. It is a pretty magical place.
At one point Ton and I were relaxing and enjoying a nice view of the river and the town from a bench when we found ourselves suddenly in the middle of a large group of tourists who were getting a guided tour of the town. The spot we had chosen was the place where Gauguin had painted one of his famous pictures from the area. They were very nice and told us not to bother, but we were clearly in the way and decided to move on.
Pont Aven is a really beautiful town and the port and the river combine to make a really beautiful landscape. We strolled around for quite awhile and Ton took so many pictures it took her over an hour to narrow it down to 15 to send to me to post in the blog.