MORLAIX, FRANCE — Already 24 hours behind a very tight holiday schedule, it was time to pack up and ship out of St. Malo in search of the true essence of Bretagne.
First stop: Dinan. This tiny village about 40km off the coast is one of the best preserved Medieval towns in Brittany. We worked our way through a chilly Atlantic downpour before parking just outside the old ramparts.
Inside, a ghost town. It was obvious that we were at least a month ahead of the usual tourist rush. That made it easy to skirt the occasional downpours and explore the half timbered streets and ancient architecture without bumping into fanny packs around every corner. When the rain got to be too much, we slipped into a warm looking bistro — a crackling fire, cool glace of Viognier and the place to ourselves.
Back in the cool afternoon, we explored the city from above. Dinan is one of the only cities outside of St. Malo where the ramparts lead all the way around the city. From above, the corkscrew of medieval streets looked all the more random, all the more beautiful.
Out of Dinan, we chased the blue sky peeking out between clouds. In St. Briec, we cut up to the northern Cotes du Armor and hugged the coastline.
The little port towns of Paimpol and Perros-Guirec were a bit sleepy on a Sunday afternoon. All the fishing boats were clanking softly in the harbor or pleasantly beached on the low-tide mudflats. Not even an oyster hawker to be found, so we split a bottle of sweet Cidre and watched the windsurfers fly with the Atlantic winds.
Evening coming on strong, we made our way down to Morlaix, a crossroad town and the gateway to Finiestere, Bretagne’s wild, westernmost departement.
Like most towns, Morlaix was a pasta bowl of winding streets. But you could tell this was a working city compared to the postcard-ready Dinan or playboy-funded St. Malo.
The crumbling town is lorded over by a massive 58-meter tall aqueduct. Actually a train bridge built in the 1800s to span Morlaix’s deep valley, it looks more like a holdover from the Roman conquest.
We checked into our mothball motel, rustled up some grub and settled into a dim corner of the hobbit-hole pub in the middle of town.
Tomorrow we set out for as west as you can go in continental Europe. The end of the world awaited.