In the summer, I love to take my little car and drive west with a few friends to visit. This year I went to château de Lassay, in Mayenne, with Hugues de Montalembert whose young cousins still inhabit this mid 15 th century military castle. Aymeri, Cecilia and their three super talented children (two girls are classicists at Ecole Normale Supérieure, the younger boy, 12, sings in the choir of the Centre de Musique baroque de Versailles and plays the organ in the village and violin in the courtyard. Victor Hugo was there and made a drawing of it. The hermit Saint Fraimbault who evangelized the Maine in the VI th century, is buried there. He is thought to be the inspiration for “Lancelot du Lac”. With its eight towers, its barbicans and ramparts, the castle is one of the rare intact examples of XV th century military architecture and has been in the family for centuries. There are constantly musical and historical events organized and on September 16, a visit at night of the castle is organized with lights and music. If you are near Mayenne and Alençon, do not miss it.
The vegetable garden had the largest purple dahlias I have ever seen and dinner was strictly made of red beats, vegetable and pears from the property. I then drove to the center of Brittany to Gourin, a town of 4 000 inhabitants, I had never heard of before, which is famous because its inhabitants left for Canada (there is a Gourin City in Alberta) and America in Lenox, Massachusetts, from 1885 to 1914 and again in the 1950’s, in New York, Louisiana and California, and became the largest community of Bretons in the US. I was surprised to find in the village square, a bronze version of Bartholdi’s Statue of Liberty with a American flag.
It is also the center for a competition in July to make the largest crêpe (pancake) in Brittany and a traditional music festival takes place the first Sunday in September. 45 mns north of Quimper, it is unknown to most vacationers and embodies the heart of Brittany culture. After this amazing discovery I was ready to head for the beach in the delightful little town of Sainte Marine. The water was freezing but the very long stretch of sand which runs all the way to Loctudy was a beauty to walk. Located across the Odet from Benodet, this little harbor is an unknown jewel.
I then rushed to Pont l’Abbé, the most exquisite town with three great pastry shops, an exceptional bookstore, an art gallery with Breton artists Galerie Brugal and a museum, but mostly the tablecloth shop of Le Minor which has made embroidered linen for a century. Its new owner, Thierry Morel, lives in London and fell in love with the brand before acquiring it. It has the most original patterns like the artichoke and the hydrangea in different colors and I never miss buying presents there. But you can also buy online.
A late summer wedding is always a treat and Nicolas Drach and Barbara Ballu’s was exceptionally sympathique in the church of la Forêt Fouesnant with children of all ages starting at 1 and two beautiful altar boy and girl. Barbara is an architect and a direct descendant of the famous Theodore Ballu 1817-1885, who rebuilt the Paris Hotel de Ville and the church of la Trinité. Nicolas, works in the food and restaurant world. They had the most relaxed and refined wedding with a reception on the water in Beg Meil nearby.
The exhibition “traveling women artists” in Pont Aven was a real disappointment. It is mediocre for many of the artists and one feels that the museum just surfed on the wave of wokism. But one film director made me laugh. Alice Guy made a series of 7 mns films in 1906, where men played the part of women as you can see on the picture above where the lady is smoking a cigarette while her companions iron and sew. Most of the artists travelled to North Africa like Marie Lucas-Robiquet in Algeria, Marthe Flandrin and Marcelle Ackein in Morocco or the American Grace Ravlin who studied with Lucien Simon, in Tangiers.
After visiting the city of Vannes a little further south which is a medieval beauty with a sweet museum and one large Delacroix painting, I ended my week in la Ria d’Etel, a very special river where the sea enters twice a day. The water is salted and it looks like a lake. The sunset at 8 pm was unbelievably beautiful and gave me a last boost to drive back to Paris for the Rentrée, which promises to be intense!
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