Morning came with a fog that surrounded the trees and buildings in an ethereal haze. It made for a slightly later departure which allowed us to linger over our breakfast a little longer. Bryan offered to prepare eggs and we enjoyed the delights of the region. Fresh eggs, croissants, butter, homemade comfitures, fruits, and good coffee would fill us until lunch.
Checking with our hosts on the best routes, today we were driving to Huelgoat to hike in the woods on paths along a stream strewn with massive boulders. Again, the roads took us through fields of corn and pastures with cattle and horses; through villages and hamlets; and through woodlands and forests.
We were not far from our destination when we saw a small sign to La chapelle de Saint-Herbot. As there was no reason not to take a short visit, we turned onto the small road and quickly arrived at the church.
Situated in a tiny village, The chapel was dedicated to Saint Herbot, the 12th century saint of sick livestock. The interior is notable for its Breton Renaissance style chancel with grotesque masks. The chancel is surmounted by a sixteenth century Renaissance style rood and oak fence, topped with a Crucifix and a frieze of carved panels separated by caryatids representing the twelve Sibylles and the twelve Apostles. Many other items dating back to the middle ages and before, including a beautiful hand-carved wooden Pieta from the 15th century.
The village itself was scheduled to hold its “Fete du Burre” or Festival of Butter on Saturday, the day after we were to depart the area. In a region famous for its butter the festival would have fresh bread baked in a village oven especially built for the purpose, apple pressing, clog making demonstrations, dancing, and lots of music and other foods. Needless to say we were very disappointed that we would have to miss it.
After noshing on a “pain du chocolat” or croissant with chocolate, we resumed our drive to Huelgoat and arrived near to the end of their market day. We parked next to a beautiful lake at the edge of town and walked to the market where we picked up fresh bread [pain], some cheese [fromage], and sausage [sauscisson] for a picnic somewhere on the trail.
The start of the trail was right in town along the stream fed from the lake. A 14th century mill stood at the small weir that controlled the water flow. From this point on the small valley through which the stream flowed was littered with enormous boulders the size of panel vans or small houses. Volcanic in origin, they were strewn about in piles that belied their size. The path wound around most of the massive stones though where some of the larger specimens leaned against one another the path went through the tunnel formed at their intersection.
Further downstream, the jumble of big rocks lessened a bit and the path took a more leisurely course along the creek that babbled under the dense green canopy of the forest. It felt magical as the breeze shook the late summer leaves; surely this was the place of fairies and elves.
The magic was broken however when we came across a memorial to three local men killed defending their town from the Germans during WWII. Flowers upon the small monument deep in the woods honored their sacrifice so many years ago.
We continued on for a while when we decided it about time to turn around. We were in a clearing under the trees with a small, rustic stone footbridge that crossed the creek. Again the magic of this place appeared and we imagined …
After lingering in this enchanted place for quite a while, we made our way back to town and to our car. It was well after lunchtime and we hadn’t touched our market purchases. We decided to hop in the car and go to the “L’arboretum des Arbres du Monde au Huelgoat” to have a picnic and see its collection of trees. This rich collection of trees and shrubs was created in the early 1990s, and contains 3600 species of trees and shrubs from 5 continents. One of the workers, showed us to a table in the middle of a small apple orchard, and we had our picnic with the smells of apple and flowers on the light breeze that eased through the trees.
After our lunch we returned to the road casually taking the rural roads toward Châteauneuf-du-Faou and “home”.
Along the way we made a short stop in Pleyben France to visit the 15th -16th century church of Saint Germain which is remarkable in the style of its architecture, a singular blend of Gothic and Renaissance. This contrast gives the ability to compare three kinds of architecture very different from one another. The massive 16th century “Calvary” in Pleyben is one of the most famous in Brittany.
This building is dominated by two bell towers one Gothic and the other Renaissance, and inside, the nave has a 16th century arched, paneled ceiling whose ribs are carved and painted subjects, mythological and 62 sacred characters. The church also houses a grand organ dating from 1688.
Leaving the church we wandered over to an art installation containing several interesting creations. We then returned to the car and after picking up some items for dinner had a leisurely dinner at the B&B.
Once again sleep came easily.