We had travelled up and down this part of Cornuaille, the Breton Cornwall, the southern corner of the westernmost end of Brittany before, years ago, but had kept to the direct inland route to take us up to Audierne and beyond. That must have been six or seven years ago at least, before I took photos much or had this blog, or even a computer, our pre-digital time. I am struck by the difference that having the means to record things makes to my memory of them; it's not only that the words and photos are there as reference, I think that having made the record and presented it for others' consumption I do actually remember things more clearly.
I suppose looking on the road map at that time, the small winding coastal road down the Bay of Audierne, with its forks and dog-legs and staggered junctions, its branches and tributaries which led nowhere but to the sea or back on oneself into unknown villages, must have looked too complicated to navigate comfortably, but in fact, it is a well-maintained and waymarked road, with pretty signs with yellow lettering and a sun motif directing you at each otherwise uncertain turn and keeping you on La Route du Vent Solaire.
This name is a reference to a book by Pierre-Jakez Hélias, one of the region's luminaries, whom I must get round to reading some time. The route is as beautiful as its name suggests, and lined with wonders and treasures and unexpected magic. It begins a little to the south of Audierne, where we drove to one wet morning during our trip not really expecting too much from the day, since the weather was miserable and the inland towns and villages looked drab and uninviting. But by the time we reached that rather pleasant harbour town the sun had come out, and everything seemed a little brighter. We looked in an art gallery displaying oil paintings so garish, badly drawn and generally atrocious we couldn't understand how they managed to pay the rent on the strength of them, and I took some pictures of the huge grey mullet nonchalently loafing about in the shallows of the harbour.
We didn't stay long, but decided to head out to the point where the map said there was a lighthouse and a good view, and eat our picnic. We didn't find the point, or the lighthouse, but we found a picnic spot behind some dunes which was nice enough, then set out to see what the sea was like the other side of them.
The photos don't, of course do it justice. I should know better really than to keep pointing the camera at sublime expanses of empty sky, sand and water and expect to capture anything much of what they are like, but I couldn't help it.
Where we live, the sea can be wonderful, and more than wonderful, but it is still the Channel. Growing up in the UK, we make much of being a Sceptred Isle, a sea-going folk, of having an incredibly long and varied coastline, and quite right too, but most of it is Channel, North Sea, Irish Sea, Bristol Channel, Firth of this or Sound of that. It always sounds odd when I hear Americans routinely talking about the sea as the ocean. Not until one gets out to the furthest west of Cornwall in Britian can you really consider yourself to be on the edge of the ocean. I do remember on the west coast of Ireland people proudly saying that there was nothing else out there until you get to America. Ocean is different.
Here at the coast by Audierne you can look north and west out toward la Pointe du Raz, finis terra, Brittany's Land's End, and the eerie, tragic Baie des Trépassés (literally, the ones who have passed over, that is, the dead, diverging from the same root as 'trespass'), where we didn't go this time,
or south round the sweep of the bay which ends eventually at the point of Penmarch, where our journey finally took us.
Molly and I scrambled up the rocks and onto the cliff path,
where there were chunky lines of fragmentary dry stone walls, and clumps of thrift, and clear, delicious air, and we could have walked on and on,
but the Road of the Solar Wind was calling, though we didn't know it at the time, and we turned back.
(There were also sculpted rocks and rockpools, embroidered with veins of seed mussels, and flowers and butterflies galore, but they will have to wait...)