“This landscape looks like it was painted by Georgia O’Keefe,” Robin observed as we encountered the huge stones of Brittany’s Cote de Granit Rose, the Pink Granite Coast. All sharp edges of the rocks had long ago been worn smooth by wind and water. They looked as though they’d tumbled down from the ridge above us and then hadn’t moved for eons. Depending on the time of day and angle of approach, the stones were colored pink, yellow, grey, orange, brown.
A few paces on, and I was reminded of Henry Moore’s sculptures, hulking shapes that were somehow organic. Brittany sits across the English Channel from England, and the surrounding landscape was reminiscent of many seacoast walks I’ve done in Cornwall or along the North Sea: brooding spiky gorse, purple heather blooming in the sunshine.
Our walk had been organized by InnTravel, one of a number of self-guided walking companies headquartered in Europe. They supplied the maps and walking directions; they booked our hotels and moved our luggage every day. But we were responsible for getting ourselves from place to place every day. Fortunately, even when things on the ground didn’t exactly correspond to the trails on the map, what we mostly had to remember was, “Keep the ocean on your right.”
Our walk began in Troezel Vras, a tiny settlement composed of one large manor house, now a gite, France’s version of an agriturismo, and the dairy farm next door. Here in this part of the Cotes d’Armor section of Brittany, the main crop was artichokes. The vegetable grows on the end of a tall stalk; the fields looked as though they were populated by little green men.
We stayed at Troezel Vras three nights, enjoying the home-cooked fish dinners prepared by proprietor and chef M. Jean-Marie Maynier.
Several days later, at Perros-Guirec, we gasped at the views out our windows from Le Manoir du Sphinx. The hotel, originally built in the early 20th century as a vacation villa, perches high on the edge of a headland. The hillside below — studded with blooming hydrangeas – runs down into craggy rock fingers reaching into the sea. The breakfast room was suspended out over the ridge, giving us views of beaches, ocean, rocks and white boats against blue sky in three directions.
The walking wasn’t difficult; it was mostly flat, as you’d expect near the sea. And the days weren’t long, usually a distance of nine miles or so – just under five hours, if you don’t take a wrong turn anywhere. We’d chosen to visit Brittany in August, when we had the best chance of warmish weather; the area is notorious for cold, windy, rainy summers. Luck was with us. We wore our rain gear only one day; the others were gloriously bright and cool, with temperatures rarely above 70.
Too soon, it was over. We boarded the high-speed TGV train to Paris…but that’s another story.