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Report 1982: Megaliths, Parish Closes and Cider - Part 3 Northern Finistère

By Eleanor from UK, Fall 2011

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Page 4 of 32: Finding the Hidden Gems...

photo by MAW

Baptistry in the Church of St Berrien at Commana

Having read the different guide books for Brittany I was very disappointed. By the time you took out information on accommodation, traveling by public transport and eating, there wasn’t much detailed information about many areas. The ‘must sees’ were covered but the rest was skimmed over.

The older I get the more I have come to the conclusion that many ‘must sees’ are places to be avoided. There are some like the Carnac megaliths which do justify the title of 'must see', but even then there are similar, although smaller alignments to be found close by at Le Petit Menec and the Alignments de Kerzerho at Erdeven. As these get fewer visitors, it is possible to wander freely and have the stones to yourself.

I don’t want to spend all my holiday following the crowd and ticking off the 'must see'. I want to explore and get off the tourist beat.

I use a copy of Michelin 1:200,000 for planning and map reading in France. These can be bought from Michelin (see link in resources) or from Amazon.

They have icons for all kinds of historical/touristy things like châteaux, ruins, churches, abbeys, scenic view points, caves, Roman sites, megaliths. Designated scenic roads are marked in green. Some of these places do get a mention in Michelin Green Guide, but the vast majority are ignored by other guide books. Smaller places may not have a web site either.

Michelin also produce 1:150,000 departmental maps which have a lot of detail. These are excellent if you want to concentrate on a small area or want to walk. The downside is that you will probably need several as they don’t cover a very large area.

When planning routes I use the map to identify scenic drives, looking for small towns and villages with the icon for a historic church or château. Many of these places see few foreign tourists and repay exploring. Parking is rarely a problem. Churches are usually open and we have them to ourselves. Even the churches in small villages are lavishly decorated. Some like Commana and St-Herbot are the equal of the must-sees of St-Thégonnec and Pleyben.

Places like Locronan and Pont-Aven are very much on the tourist route and at times it is impossible to park. There are many other unspoilt towns in Brittany which have preserved their medieval centres but get few visitors. La Vraie Croix, Pont-Croix and Malestroit are just three examples.

We found some amazing places using this method, like the Grotto at Callac near Plumelec.

There are the occasional disasters like the medieval village of Goenidou near Berrien described on page 32, but they are few and far between.

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