Thursday, 18 August 2016

Discovering Dinan

Our sojourn in France has come to an end. We are back in Rome after a visit to Bretagne with our great friends Michel and Brigitte, hiking for nine days along the coast and visiting with Michel's family and friends scattered around the region.  There were many highlights with Michel, as ever, organising a very full agenda. I will make a more extended post about our hike along the coast a little later but as I've been going through photos and trying to make a bit of sense of them, I was reminded of the magic of the medieval town of Dinan and thought I'd make a quick post in an attempt to share the delights of our visit there.

Many people have heard of the walled city of Saint-Malo but like me, few know of Dinan, although the latter's history is much older. I myself had only become aware of Saint-Malo recently, thanks to reading the wonderful novel All the Light We Cannot See, which is largely set there (if there is a novel published in the past 5 years that would make a better movie I'd like to read it). After reading the book I was interested in visiting Saint-Malo, which was established by corsairs and made wealthy on the back of the slave trade. Largely destroyed by American bombs in World War II, Saint-Malo was rebuilt exactly as it was before the war by German prisoners. It was quite interesting and we had a fantastic meal there at a waterfront restaurant with Raymond - one of Michel's best friends from his childhood in Val d'Ize and his wife Jocelyn - whom Michel also knew from school.

Michel was happy to take us to Saint-Malo but said he had an even better treat for us, and he was right. Where Saint-Malo has wide streets with big stone buildings everywhere within its fortified walls, Dinan's medieval heart is still beating strongly, as I hope the videos and photos I want to share with you will show.

One of the delights was discovering a few musicians playing medieval music in the streets. I took a photo of a woman in traditional costume ...


... but when she started playing four or five instruments at once  I had to take a video ...



I thought that would do, even though the bloke with the bike got in the way briefly. However, when she switched to her ceramic bird whistle I had to take another ...


Maybe before I go any further I should locate Dinan and Saint-Malo for you ...

Dinan and Saint-Malo in northeast Brittany


We've visited a few medieval towns now on our travels to France, and one of the enchanting aspects of these places is the combination of narrow streets and old, wooden-framed buildings. Here a few photos to illustrate ...


Dinan Streetscape
Age of course does take something of a toll on these old buildings and here's one that is clearly a little tired ...


Sagging Dinan building
Others feel the effects of gravity differently ...

Yes, it really does lean that much!

Besides the lady playing multiple instruments there was a guy dressed in period costume playing a somewhat discordant string instrument which didn't quite tickle my fancy. On the other hand, there was also a very capable young lass playing the violin a little further up the street ...


In contrast to the grand harbour of Saint-Malo, Dinan's port is, not unlike that of Pont-Aven, quite tiny  and right up at the end of an estuary.  (In fact, Dinan is at the head of the estuary that empties into the sea at Saint-Malo.) Here's a photo Di took of the port as we were starting the walk leading to the city ...

The port of Dinan
After the walk up the hill one is immediately rewarded with a view of a very beautiful cathedral ...

Dinan cathedral
Nearby, on a smaller scale I spotted this lovely medieval drain spout ...

Drain spout
Brittany is a place that oozes history and tradition. This northern part of the region has such rich farming and fishing traditions that two Breton words are still commonly used to refer to the land and the sea, which are l'Argoat and  l'Armor.  Dianne and I have had two visits now to Brittany of about two weeks on each occasion, and feel there is still plenty for us to see. (Certainly there is still lots of the GR34 for us left to walk and who knows ... maybe a ride on the storied route from Paris to Brest could be on the cards one day, although I'm not sure about the full monty!) If you like travel and want something on a smaller scale at a slower place, we'd recommend a trip to Brittany with a visit to Dinan as part of the package.

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