Winter spectacles in Brittany
On the first evening of our stay we could hear "chattering" outside the front of the Grand Longere gite. We were pleasantly surprised to see hundreds of starlings in our trees obviously getting ready to roost. I managed to get a quick photo before the murmuration set off over the hill. A task on the next visit is to find the actual roost and hopefully observe the huge flocks forming fantastic shapes in the winter sky.
What to do on a wet day in Finistere
We plumped for a day trip to Quimper, the lovely columbage captial of Finistere which is a fifty minute drive from Ty Hir.
We arrived just after 12 noon which meant, as is still normal in much of France, everything was shut until 2pm except cafes and restaurants. Dodging the raindrops we headed to the Au Bon Vieux Temps Salon de Thé overlooking the river Steir and treated ourselves to a tasty lunch.
After lunch we made for the Musée des Beaux-Arts de Quimper which can be found in the main square, just across from the cathedral. The art gallery was created in 1864 following the bequest of an art collection to the town by Count Jean-Marie de Silguy. The condition of the donation was that a museum be built to house the collection. Below I have described a few of the highlights of our visit.
The Flight of King Gradlon - Évariste Vital Luminais
The 'Fuite de Gradlon' was painted in 1884 by Évariste Vital Luminais. He was born in Nantes which was the capital of Brittany for hundreds of years.
Gradlon was the ruler of the legendary city of Ys, purported to lie in the Bay of Douarnenez off the Crozon Peninsular. His beautiful daughter Dahut lead a cruel and depraved life but her father was blind to her faults. The city lay below sea level on an island and was accessed by a gate. Dahut yielded to the advances of the Devil and gave him the keys to the gate which he opened and water poured into the doomed city. The king tried to save his daughter, but God speaking through the mouth of Saint-Guénolé ordered him to drop Dahut shouting three times "The demon is behind you!" The unhappy father obeyed and the waves subsided.
Washerwomen of the Night - Yan' Dargent
The story goes that if you visit the bog of Yeun Elez in the centre of Finistere on the night of a full moon, you may encounter the washerwomen of the night. These ghostly figures beseech unwary travellers to help them wring out their shrouds.
If an unsuspecting victim should spin a shroud in the wrong direction, the washerwomen wind it around their body, wringing them until all they are dead. You have been warned!
Le Port de Quimper - Eugène Boudin
This ancient capital of La Cornouaille (the southern part of Finistere) was painted by Eugène Boudin in 1857. Boudin was a mentor and friend of Claude Monet. I think that you can see how he influenced the style that came to be known as Impressionism. The painting shows the Cathédrale Saint-Corentin de Quimper overlooking the old port of Quimper which was established by the Romans.
La Chapelle de la Joie à Penmarc'h - Lucien Simon
The scene shows the burning of seaweed. This was an important industry in Brittany in the 19th century as it provided fertiliser which was used in the production of crops such as cabbages and artichokes.
You can still find coffin shaped seaweed ovens (four au goémon) dotted around the coast of Brittany. Finistere is France's top producer of seaweed. It is used in spa treatments, as cattle-fodder and served up in some local restaurants as a Breton speciality.
Hôtel de l'Epée - Jean-Julien Lemordant
This panel shows men and women gathering seaweed. The hotel closed in 1973 and the paintings were donated to the museum. The specially designed hall was not created until the museum was expanded in 1993, finally allowing these delightful paintings to be shown in context once again.