Saturday, September 28, 2013

Morlaix - exteriors

The weather was rainy then rather cool and overcast for the first couple of days of our stay in Finistère.  This had its advantages, not least because Molly, with her uncanny knack of scheduling such things just when a trip away is in the offing, went down with another of her ear abscesses the day we were leaving.  I said, sod it, we're going anyway, took everything required, figuring that she could as easily be ill there as here; she knows the place, Yvette and Paul don't fuss about her, the room opens directly to outside, and the floors are all shiny parquet and tiles in the event of any mess occasioned (I'll spare further descriptive details).  In fact she was brilliant, went for gentle little walks, took her painkillers and a reasonable amount of nourishment, was still able to show some interest in sniffs and smells and restaurant chips brought out in napkins, as well as a takeaway container of plain boiled rice that I ordered for her one evening in an Indo-Chinese restaurant where we ate, and otherwise she dozed peacefully either in the car (so cool weather was a blessing) or on her bed in the corner of our room.  The afternoon before we came home she got up, went out to the tiled bathroom and gave her head a good shake and brought the matter to a conclusion, experiencing instant and dramatic relief thereby as always, and picked herself up with a 'right, I'm better now, where we going then?' kind of attitude. This coincided with the sun coming out so we all jumped in the car and drove up the le Diben headland and walked around the little fishing port up there, which I didn't take any photos of but Tom did so I might pinch some of them later.

We also used the opportunity to explore the town of Morlaix a bit more.  It really is quite a treasure of a town, with all its different levels and angles,

and its mixture of architectural styles and periods,

all over-arched by its impressive viaduct.

One of the problems I find with photographing townscapes and buildings, without advanced lenses or editing skills anyway, is the way the camera distorts the angles so it's difficult to find a datum line from which to work.  In Morlaix this doesn't matter so much, since everything is at all different angles, and not much is parallel anyway.

Except for this beautifully coursed stonework. This blue schist type stone is quarried in the region.  It was popular for building in the area of Mont St Michel, where it was presumably shipped by sea.  This is the outside of an important municipal building but there are smaller chunks of it in the walls of the house we stay in at Kerbiriou.  It enlivens the browner colour of the other stone there, and looks crisp and smart when used in larger expanses like this. I'd not really noticed it before, but I was equipped with a guide book this time, Wendy Mewes' Saints' Shore Way, which is full of such interesting details.  Wendy Mewes is a formidable Brittany expert, she lives in Morlaix and, I understand, gives walking tours of the town and the area, and runs the association Brittany Walks. I'm gradually collecting her books; she's not only an excellent and serious historian, thoroughly immersed in the matter of Brittany, she's also very good at making it concise and readable in English.  She blogs at Brittany, the Mirror of Landscape, and she certainly gets about the region.

Morlaix also has a good Indian restaurant and a wool shop, so altogether we were quite happy.

This building is known as la maison dite de la duchesse Anne.  We were able to visit some of the interior of it, but I think that merits a post of its own... 


the polish chick said...

how beautiful.
sadly, it makes me shudder at the ugliness north america keeps building.

marja-leena said...

A treasure of a town indeed! It's a superior example of so many towns in Europe that have saved their historic homes, sometimes at great expense to the homeowners (such as my husband's grandparents' home).

This is so unlike many parts of Canada (and the US) where homes even neighbourhoods are built so shoddily that they are torn down in just a few decades to build bigger and fancier yet still not always better.

Looking forward to more of your lovely photos and stories, Lucy, to enjoy from afar.

Zhoen said...

A town most likely to have a model made of it. Beautiful, with a past.

Lyse said...

Très jolies photos de Morlaix.
Une ville pleine de maisons à pans de bois , avec ces constructions historiques. Dommage qu'on passe sur le pont et n'y descendons pas souvent, pourtant elle vaut le détour

Roderick Robinson said...

Given your photographic tour of Morlaix I wondered why it seemed so unfamiliar. Examined Michelin and realised I've never got further west than Lanion along the northern coast. I have been to Brest but the approach was by the southerly N166.

How substantial the buildings look yet how appealing. A bit like Bach extolling Lutheran certainties. There's probably a cantata that fits western Brittany perfectly - Ein Fest Burg, obviously, but probably something even more appropriate if I had the energy to scrabble. Meanwhile one of the cello suites in the nave of that church would go down very nicely.

As to elusive datum lines, Photoshop not only has Rotate 90 deg left and 90 deg right facilities but also a 1-deg-at-a-time option. It can help but I have a feeling you took an oath about that sort of thing. Tinkering akin to blasphemy.

I think of Mol as having a self-righting ability like a lifeboat. Glad it worked.

Dale said...

(Ai, yes, what polish chick said. Couldn't we scrape together a few scraps of all this tremendous production and actually make something lovely, that will still be lovely in a few generations? Just here and there? Our devotion to ugliness is really a little mysterious.) But -- anyway -- it's lovely, and fun, this post! And so glad it was a good out-and-about with Mol.

Lucy said...

Thanks all.

There really is shabbiness and ugliness a-plenty in Morlaix and in France generally. Many of the fringes of the town are oldish buildings but semi-derelict and probably never very handsome, and even in the centre here there are ugly stuck-on bits, such as bundles of wires and cables spaghetti-ed all over the place and a general mish-mash. I've cropped and picked over the photos to better effect- I rarely touch things right out but will crop them off the edge - and wonder about the virtue of doing so, and of course I've tried to cut out as many of the ubiquitous lumps of metal on wheels, but it seems disingenuous to grumble too much about those, after all, how did we get there?

In the wider country there are abundant fairly unbridled big-shed developments, industrial and retail, which it has been remarked are quite American in appearance and function, and groups of new residential buildings which are samey and unimaginative. Also, the inheritance laws and the relatively low value of rural property in particular, mean that many old buildings which could be either put to good use or demolished to make way for something better (including open space if appropriate) are left to rot and become eyesores since estates don't get settled.

Nevertheless, this is the Old World and there is charm in the old, and Morlaix is charming. I suppose we envy the New World its natural splendours and open space, and the grandeur of some of its cities too, and a sense of abundance and vitality. My occasional visits there have often left me with a sense that Europe is shabby and pinched and tired. Then I grow accustomed to it again, and wouldn't want to forsake it.

Lyse - c'est vrai que c'est une ville où on passe au-dessus, en-route d'ailleurs. Mais peut-être c'est ça qui la conserve plutôt?

RR - it does look somewhat Germanic, Hanseatic even, doesn't it? Very much a merchant town for centuries, perhaps that's something to do with it. As Lyse says, even if you know Brest or Roscoff, you're like to simply overshoot Morlaix on the even bigger road viaduct to the south and barely know it's there. I no longer have PS installed anywhere, though I've an old edition on disc somewhere. No vow taken, just laziness and not being inclined to give it the time. Picasa has a straightening tool, but straightening here means making crooked elsewhere, and it's lossy, which I'm not sure PS's is. I don't really take enough outdoor, wide-angle shots to worry about it, and if I were a serious photographer I imagine I'd have lenses that would be more appropriate. Never mind!

Catalyst said...

You could be a location adviser for a film company. Your photos make this town look beautiful and ancient.