I was in Brittany a few weeks ago, attending the wedding of a good friend of mine. My elder kids and my mum came with me. Even though we only had a week before the kids went back to school, we managed to see a lot of the Breton countryside (as well as a few places in Normandy too).
Carnac is one of the busiest beaches in Brittany – soft white sand, calm waters and one of the best ice-cream shops I have ever visited in my life. Oh, and they do sand sculptures too. Pah! Easy-peasy. Anyone could do it.
Carnac is famous for its 6,000 year old megaliths – granite pillars of varying size, aligned in rows and columns over a distance of almost 4 kilometres. Some people say it was a vast army turned into stone. Others claim it had a religious and astronomical purpose. I think myself it might have functioned as gigantic spreadsheet for Bronze Age accountants.
I found a number of imposing World War II fortifications in Gavres – a small village overlooking the city of Lorient. Lorient was a major U-boat base during the war. The city was practically razed to the ground during the first months of 1943.
Le Mont St Michel, in the extensive mudflats of western Normandy, is one of the great “must see” places in Europe. Built on a granite outcrop and accessible via a long narrow causeway, the monastery dates back to the 8th Century with the main fortifications dating from the 15th century. It even served as a prison for a while after the French Revolution. More recently, Peter Jackson used it as his template for Minas Tirith in the Lord of the Rings. Yeah, yeah, it’s touristy and kitchy inside, but even so, it’s an impressive and inpirational place. The views take your breath away.
Here are my kids in a classic “James Bond” pose on a concrete defense in Utah Beah, the most northerly of the main landing beaches in Normandy. The invasion sequence in the film “Saving Private Ryan” was shot in Ireland, on Curracloe Beach in Wexford. The similarities between the beaches are incredible. Now quiet and placid, it is impossible to imagine what the beach would have looked like during the summer of 1944.
Finally, a sunset scene: taken from the ship on our way back home.