Tuesday, June 1, 2010

The Emerald Coast

Brittany's Emerald Coast, la Côte Emeraude, stretches west to east from Cap Frehel to Cancale, with the Rance estuary cities of Dinard and St-Malo along the way. It covers wild shores, resorts, fishing villages, lighthouses, mansions, and forts. A formal "community of communes" groups nine villages in the center of the coast.

Cap Fréhel, a dramatic point jutting into the Gulf of St-Malo, for centuries has guides mariners with its lighthouse. The first lighthouse, built of granite and erected under Louis XIV, burned coal and then fish oil. The present lighthouse, erected in 1950, is one of the five most powerful lighthouses in France.

The rocks of the Cap Fréhel rise some 200 feet above the ocean.

The steep cliffs don't have fences or guard-rails along their edges. The people standing on the edge of the cliff in this photo provide an idea of the size and immediacy of the drop.

Parts of the cliffs, especially some free-standing pillars, shelter sea birds. I saw a cormorant feeding its young.

Looking east from Cap Fréhel, you can see the rocky, jutting points that that characterize the Emerald Coast.

At the end of one of the points stands the Fort de la Latte, built in the 14th Century and reworked in the 17th Century. Gaps in the supporting rocks serve as natural moats.

Other interesting buildings stand all along the Emerald Coast, such as this, uh, discreet little structure.

Very nice houses in the Breton style have been built along the shore.

The well-to-do in earlier times tended to build slightly inland. People a couple of hundred years ago who gained wealth from fishing built mansions called malouines. This malouine, near Saint-Coulomb, is called la Motte aux Chauffe.

Of course, people still earn their livings from the sea and shore. These structures near St-Jacut-de-la-Mer are posts for the cultivation of mussels.

In the same area, people also take to the sea for sport, such as kite-surfing.

Crossing the estuary of Rance, passing through Dinard and Saint-Malo, and continuing east in the direction of Cancale, you reach less developed, non-resort areas such as the beach of the Anse du Guesclin, just north of Saint-Coulomb.

Simpler, more rustic structures stand above the rocks and waves, such as this old customs house. A hermit lived here for several years, up to the winter of 2003.

Just off the east end of the beach, on a rock separated from the land by the waters of high tides, stands the Fort du Guesclin. The first fort on this site was built in 1160. The present fort dates from 1758; it was built to defend the coast against attacks by the English.

Continuing east, you'll reach the Pointe de Grouin, which separates the Gulf of Saint-Malo from the Baie Saint-Michel.

In the distance, past the rocks, past the lighthouse, on the edge of the horizon, you can make out the distant coast of Normandy.

And as you near Cancale, looking southeast into the bay, you can see the silhouette of the Mont Saint-Michel, rising from the tidal flats like an aquatic mirage.

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