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Report 1980: Megaliths, Parish Closes and Cider - Part 1 Southern Finistère

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2011

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Page 3 of 26: Map Reading Around Brittany

photo by

Old road sign

Map reading isn’t my strongest point and inability to get right and left correct when giving directions doesn’t help.

I was using a copy of Michelin 1:2000,000 map which is a scale of 1cm to 2km. I was sure this would be detailed enough.


 However, once we arrived I soon realised that many of the minor roads are not marked on the map; a sure recipe for disaster.



Plans were often thwarted by lack of signs or my map reading skills. Michael’s patience often began to wear thin and there were muttered comments about sat nav.

Signing is inconsistent. Often there are no signs or different place names are used on successive signs. 
On rural roads signing seems to be designed to help the postman or white van man rather than tourists. At each junction there is a small sign listing all the names of farms or hamlets, none of which are marked on the map. If in doubt we took what we thought was the more important road. Lack of road markings doesn’t help in trying to work out which road is the ‘main’ one.


 Cross road signs are used for all junctions regardless of the number of roads. Advance signs are rarely used and when used nearly always seem to be placed near a minor road junction quite a long way before the actual junction. We would look at each other and ask “do they really mean this turn?”

In the countryside there are rarely advance signs before a roundabout. Where there are, names of major towns (e.g., Nantes, Brest, Rennes, Lorient) which can be up to 50 miles away, or tiny villages a couple of kilometres off the junction are used. This led to rapid scanning of the map trying to find out where these places were which I’d never heard of, as Michael kept saying, "I need to know which way to go."

We would drive slowly round the roundabout scanning the signs which used different names to those on the advance boards. There were several times we when we went round twice. Perhaps that explains why we saw so many cars with sides stove in. To add further confusion, the upright arrow is rarely used and an angled arrow used instead. It is not always clear whether signs mean straight on or turn right or left.

On the outskirts of smaller towns or villages there are no signposts. Instead there is a large board at the junction which looks a bit like a railway map as it has a diagram showing all the road junctions off that side turning with the names of the places they go to.

Although road numbers are shown on the Michelin map the number changes along the road and road numbers are not used on road signs.

We missed our turn many times. We took the wrong turn several times. Tempers got frayed and we missed some of the sights on my to do list. But we found some amazing places by chance...

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