QUIBERON, FRANCE — To the adventurer go the spoils. These may be worthless mementos, priceless treasures, gifts from the road or the memories you look back on forever.
In Brittany, we stormed the castle and took them all.
In Quimper, we had found a homebase. This quiet little town delivers easy, unabating charm, flowing as steadily as the two slow rivers that meet under its carnation-encrusted bridges. So it was hard to pack up and head further down the road.
But what still awaited was amazing.
Carnac is one of the most amazing neolithic sites on the planet. It’s not as impressive as the larger and more famous structures of Newgrange in Ireland or Stonehenge in Britain, but what it lacks in postcard-power it earns back in sheer size.
The most extensive site of its kind in the world, Carnac delivers over 10,000 standing stones, called menhirs, organized in perfectly aligned rows over kilometers of rolling grassland. Legend has it that the alignments were the Roman soldiers turned to stone by the wizard Merlin, but in fact, the stones were erected as long as 7,000 years ago by ancient Britons.
We stopped in the baking sun to explore the site before heading further south. These incredible monuments were too large and too protected to put in our pocket, but just touching and walking among them drew a similar feeling to being in Newgrange or Ankor Wat and hopefully a precursor to even more neolithic encounters in the future.
The Quiberon penninsula is a sandy spit of land — so thin that you can see both shores at some points — that sticks out into the Gulf of Morbihan, one of Brittany’s most legendary coastlines.
This was the last stop on an incredible journey. A bit of beach and sun and beer before heading back to the real world.
Quiberon proper was one of the largest off-haulers of tuna ships coming back from as far away as the Indian ocean and sardine junks from the nearby Atlantic. Although the tuna pods and boats have dwindled, the industry has remained.
We stopped into the legendary La Belle-Iloise cannery, named after the “beautiful island” or Belle Ile, which sits about four kilometers off of Quiberon.
Here we loaded up on spoils: canned rillettes of mackerel or tuna and tasty sardines packed beautifully end to end in the oil of the gods.
Our bags were now doubled in weight thanks to briny treasures, bottles of crisp breton cidre, sea salt panned in the marshes along the coast and the sweetest, saltiest carmel you’ve ever tasted, with the buerre sal delivering a deep, rich flavor.
In Quiberon, we settled into a beachside inn and shared one last meal of oysters, fresh fish, crisp wine. On the beach, our first real sunset was the perfect farewell to a land that will haunt me with memories for as long as I can think.
Brittany, Bretagne — what a world for the senses. From the magical Mont St. Michel rising out of the sea, to the medieval streets of Dinan and Morlaix, the wind-swept coastline along Crozon, Finiestere and Morbihan, and the ancient taste of a true Belon oyster, this is truly, absolutely, inexplicably a world of enchantment. It’s no wonder that the stories of Arthur and his knights were born in these dark, secret forests.
The spoils you find here are akin to nowhere else in the world — and they leave a sweet, salty, briny taste on your tongue that never truly fades. And I hope they never do.