Travel slowly, staying in vacation rentals (villas, farms, cottages, apartments)
Report 1980: Megaliths, Parish Closes and Cider - Part 1 Southern Finistère
By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2011
Page 24 of 26: Concarneau and Ville Close
There was low cloud and drizzle as we drove to Concarneau. It was fairly busy as we dropped down to the quay which has large parking areas. These are charged between the hours of 10-12.30 and from 2-6. It is fairly complicated with 20c for 20 minutes, 70c for 40 minutes or €2.40 for two hours. As it was 9.30 when we arrived, we went for a walk and then came back to buy a parking ticket for 10am.
Concarneau is big, the third most important fishing port in France. There are shops, eateries and large houses along the quay. There is a large Market Hall with bread, fish, butchers, fruit and vegetable stalls. We didn’t bother exploring further into the newer town.
We spent the rest of the morning in Ville Close, the small and well fortified city on a small island in the bay. It has a history stretching back over 1500 years. In the 6thC there was a small priory founded perhaps by monks from Landévennec. By the 10thC the population had increased and a church was built. By the 13 or 14thC a stone wall had been built round the settlement. The present walls and towers were built by Vauban in the 17thC. Large artillery platforms replaced the earlier towers guarding the entrance.
Concarneau was a thriving fishing port, specialising in sardines with canning factories outside the town. In the 19thC Concarneau began to spread rapidly outside the Ville Close and by 1900 there were 30 canneries employing 2,000 workers out of a population of 7,000. Today only four remain.
Originally there were two drawbridges guarding the entrance to the Ville Close. Now entry is across a causeway and through an impressive gateway into a triangular courtyard with grass and flowers. A second gateway guards the entrance to the town. Above are the 18thC quarters of the Maison Du Gouverneur which would have given him good views across the town. This is now a shop and there is access to the rampart walk from here. In the north west corner between the gateway and walls is the old arsenal and barracks which is now a fishing museum.
Through the gateway is the main street, rue Vauban, lined with 17-19thC houses, now shops selling gifts, clothes and biscuits as well as assorted eateries. We walked past an ice cream shop selling a wide range of ice creams with a display of beautifully sculptured ice creams in the window and a sign saying no photographs unless you buy. At the far end of the street is a large square, Place Saint-Guénolé. Most people don’t get beyond here.
Below is a grassy area with trees, small outdoor theatre and the remains of the facade of the church which later became a hospital. A gateway leads down to the ferry across the harbour to the fishing quarter (80c). As this was the main road through the town a ferry had to be provided.
A road running parallel to rue Vauban gives access to the back of the shops and houses. Steps give access to the ramparts and it is possible to walk round most of them. There are good views down into Ville Close, across to Concarneau and the pleasure boat harbour. The fishing harbour is further up.
Concarneau is very much on the tourist route and does get very busy so it is best to arrive early in the day.
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