One Step Back
Even after spending a week in the sunny south, Bretagne is still on my mind. There’s just one more thing I want to tell you about, before we let that trip slip into the pleasant past, and that’s the Île de Bréhat. It’s a step back in time, maybe even two or three steps, and although we only spent one night there I’ll be thinking about it for a long time.
If you’re lucky (as we were) you’ll pull into the harbor at high tide (as we did) and you’ll be staying at the Hotel Bellevue (as we were) just steps from the dock. If not, you’re in for a trek, since no cars are allowed on the island and there are several other places to dock as well as stay, none of them especially convenient for the luggage-loaded. Fortunately we had brought a very minimal amount of stuff on the 2 kilometer trip over from, as it’s called here, “the Continent,” since on our way back we ended up having quite a hike.
Although Bréhat is advertised as a vehicle-free place, there are actually rather a lot of tractors to haul stuff all around the island, and the city office has a couple of mini-vans. But personal vehicles are banned, and thus everyone either bikes or walks everywhere, which makes it a lot like Amsterdam, in a miniscule sort of way.
When we awoke in the morning and took advantage of the splendid view from our room, we got to watch the thrice-weekly supply ship offloading everything the island needs to survive, and taking away what it needs to get rid of. This turned out to be quite a lengthy process, as we’ll see later. After a very good breakfast, marred only by the fact that we had to beg the staff to turn down the Björk sound track, which was admittedly less horrible that the post-apocalyptic Björk-compatible sounds that had accompanied our dinner the night before, but still didn’t favor digestion, we set off to visit the island.
It’s a lush and flowery place, Bréhat, basking in the after-summer relative silence and the sun. I was especially interested in the glassworks, since glass is my favorite art medium. Plus, I think it’s the only not-strictly-tourism related commerce on the island.
If you’ve ever been in an American glass studio, you’ll see right away that this is not it. Check it out: no protective clothing, no goggles, no gloves, and in the case of one guy, not even any shoes.
What they do have is highly skilled (buff and bare) young guys turning out some really beautiful work, some individual, but a lot of it production-level. If you want to have, for example, all hand made glass doorknobs or cupboard door pulls,
here’s where you might want to get them.
I could have stayed far longer, admiring the glass and trying to find something that would fit in my suitcase, but you know what they say about time and the tide?
Well, this is what they mean. It looks like a huge foul-up, but as you can see here
the supply ship was in good company. It’s actually a parking strategy. The island gets two really high and two really low tides a day, and if your ship can’t take being run aground you’d better dock her elsewhere. In order to get off the island we had to walk all the way around the end of the point you see here, and then keep walking a good ways after that, back to deep water.
Here’s where we came to appreciate the fact that every single thing one brings on or off the island has to be transported somehow, including radiators
and the end-of-summer vegetables that outnumbered the island’s available diners and had to travel to the Continent for consumption.
It’s a special place, and I recommend that as soon as you get a chance, you go to the Île de Bréhat, bring your walking shoes, get a room with a bay window at the Hotel Bellevue, and if Björk isn’t your tasse de thé, be sure to bring your own soundtrack.