Carnac, Locmariaquer, and Vannes
There is a large
bay along the south coast of Brittany called the Gulf of Morbihan.
Apparently people have been enjoying its charms for thousands of years, because it is
the home of one of the world's largest collections of prehistoric standing stones. The
town of Carnac in particular has about 50,000 of these "megaliths" (large stones),
some alone (when they are called menhirs), some perched on top of others (called
dolmens), some grouped in lines (called alignments) or in circles (called cromlechs).
They were often
hard to find--we had to drive along narrow country roads,
park, and then hike a ways to get to them--but once you see them you can't miss them!
The menhir in the photo above right and below, called the Manio Giant Stone, is 21 feet tall.
Some are piled to form underground chambers, used as tombs, and called tumuli.
This group in
the photos below is known as the Kermario Alignment,
and contains 1029 stones in total, in 10 rows of stones stretching 4300 feet long.
At Locmariaquer are equally interesting prehistoric stones.
One arrangement of small stones forms a large spiral across the site.
There is also a tumulus-style tomb on the site.
Inside the tomb are large flat stones carved with various shapes.
There was a huge
toppled menhir here, that was once 67 feet high.
It was erected in about 4700 BC but collapsed around 4000 BC.
In the photo below
is the view from our table in the restaurant where we had lunch the
day we visited the megaliths--and where Joe had the best raw oysters of his life, he says!
At the head of
the Gulf of Morbihan is the city of Vannes. It has an extremely
picturesque old town, and we meandered happily through it--despite some rain--for hours.
Vannes has a beautiful medieval Gothic cathedral, the spire of which is visible above the narrow streets.
The old walls still enclose Vannes, and you enter and exit through its old gates.
Outside the walls, the city is not as picturesque, but has some interesting buildings.
Where the moat once surrounded the walls of Vannes a park has been created. The river still flows beside it.
Also along the river is the shelter that protected women from the weather while they were washing their laundry.
The castle that
once lay at a bend in the walls was remodeled in the
seventeenth century into a luxurious château, with manicured grounds.
A large man-made harbor connects Vannes to the Gulf of Morbihan.
These more "modern" buildings from the eighteenth century line the sides of the harbor.