We had been walking closely along the coast of Brittany until the city of Brest. From there, we started following the St. James’ Way rather than the GR34/E9, in order to reach Spain within two months instead of three or more. The price we had to pay was leaving the coast, but we soon discovered that the landscape of the inner part of Brittany was equally stunning. We found more and more reasons to love this region: People were simply fantastic, the weather was constantly changing, making for beautiful sights; and the little stone villages were just too cute. See for yourself:
We left Brest on day 286 and said goodbye to the E9. When we crossed the first bridge over the river Élorn, the E9 would continue for another 15 km along the estuary, only to return to the same point on the other side. Soon after the bridge, we had company; Jean-Louis was hiking to Plougastel-Daoulas, same as we were, so we walked together for a while. He told us that he had started walking the Way of St. James some years ago, but could not finish due to health problems. We talked a lot and he taught us some expressions in Breton. Our ways parted at the richly ornamented calvary in Plougastel; Jean-Louis walked back, while we stayed in the village, had dinner and waited for our hosts to arrive. The lovely couple of passionate trail runners had a cosy room in their house which they rented for visitors. After freshening up in the most amazing shower of the whole trip, we spent some time chatting with them over a glass of beer.
The locals have a saying that Brittany has excellent weather – several times a day. We could confirm that on day 287, when ice, rain, hail, sun, and clouds came and went in quick succession. We had an unexpected encounter with a lama; there was no way of finding out what it was doing there all on its own. The happy face you see Moiken make in front of the restaurant was caused by a wonderful discovery: Formule midi! At lunch time, most restaurants offer a three-course-meal with wine at a very accessible price. Imagine how great it was to have a good and plentiful lunch in the middle of a hiking day.
In Le Faou, where we spent the night, we could observe very well the effect of the tides on the river: When we arrived, it was almost dry; the next morning, the boat was afloat.
The next day, we were getting further away from the coast, and walked through a beautiful natural reserve until Port-Launay, where sailing boats anchored alongside the cars on the road.
Just compare position of the boats in the afternoon, when we arrived, to the situation the next morning, when heavy rain and the rising tide have leveled the river with the road!
So we had a very wet start on day 289, wading through the waters of the overflowing river to get out of Port-Launay. This being Brittany, the rain would stop soon after and make way for blue skies. In Landrévarzec, our destination on that day, we had some time to admire the wonderful stone buildings, before we arrived at our lodging for the night. Little did we know that the highlight of the day was yet to come. We asked the friendly couple who rents holiday apartments in their century-old family estate, where we could have dinner that evening. Sure enough, the closest restaurants were 5-10 km away. But there was a community evening with crepes and folk dance that day, if we wanted to join them? Of course we wanted! And so we had a truly memorable evening, eating homemade galettes (salty buckwheat crepes, filled with ham, cheese and egg) and crêpes with salted caramel, drinking cider and even risking a few steps on the dance floor.
During the following two days, we enjoyed the fantastic scenery and didn’t miss the sea a bit. We improvised a romantic Valentine’s picnic on February 14, met more friendly people, who really got excited when we told them we were walking to Santiago, and had our first stay in a pilgrim’s hostel. In a village with the telling name Saint-Jacques (!) de Bannalec, a Breton druid and anarchist ran the local inn together with his wife. Words can hardly describe this incredible place, so we leave you with the images instead:
We had a good breakfast the next morning, together with the druid and his family, then Moiken gave her first interview entirely in French! A local newspaper was interested in the story of our hike and published a one page article about it.
Before we left that special place, our host asked us to crawl through a rock for good luck. And really, something wonderful happened that day. Around midday, we were close to a private house, where our path was fenced off. As there was no alternative way, we decided to continue on the path, expecting an angry discussion with the owner. When we saw him, he greeted us in a friendly way, explaining that he was taking the sheep to their pasture and therefore had to close the way. We began to talk, and at one point Marcel asked us if we had had lunch yet. We hadn’t, so he invited us in his house for lunch. And what a feast it was! We started off with a soup, then he warmed up three different meals his wife had prepared for him for the next three days, followed by a selection of wonderful cheese. To finish, we shared a delicious homemade far breton, a moist cake filled with prunes. We almost didn’t want to leave, Marcel’s company and the food had been too good. But we still needed to reach Quimperlé, where we would spend an additional day to rest and organize some things.
Besides the usual activities of laundry, grocery shopping and dining out, we also needed to arrange our credentials as pilgrims on the Way of St. James. We called Mme Marie-Flor from the Association Bretonne des Amis de Saint Jacques de Compostelle, who was very supportive of our request.
In the coming days, we would discover that we had found the best person possible to send us on the way to Santiago…