The town of Landerneau lies on the Élorn estuary, a tributary that runs into the harbor of Brest some 18 kilometers downstream. Given its easy access, Landerneau developed into a prosperous linen manufacturing and trading port. As such, it developed a rich architectural history that is tremendous for such a small town. Divided by the uniquely developed Pont Rohan, old town Landerneau stretches on both sides of the Élorn. In 1921, three American architects from New York traveled much of France and illustrated excellent examples of Small French Buildings, among which were townhouses. Chief among this typology, Landerneau stuck out with four fine examples. In general, these historic townhouses were built in the mid-1660s and represented a type of Gothic residential urban housing illuminated by several notable features. The house known as Notre-Dame de Rumengol on the Élorn’s south bank is a beautiful example of these characteristics. For one, its warm yellow stone called Logonna comes from the quarries of nearby Logonna-Daoulas, 13 kilometers to the south. After the materials, the not so subtle, but intricate ornamentation is expressive. From the curved primary door to the elaborately carved dormer and of course the saintly statuette elevated on the building’s corner. Overall, these elements, from the differently weathered stone to the mis-matched window openings and statue give the building a strangely attractive asymmetry that accentuates the appeal. Only a block to the west is another great example, with features that mimic gargoyles on a Gothic cathedral. Both sides of the Élorn features such architectural marvels. See how many you can find.
Cycling Through Brittany by Canal
At 365 kilometers, the Canal Nantes à Brest is among the longest canals in France, if not the longest. To put this into perspective, the iconic Canal du Midi runs a mere 240 kilometers. To be fair, the Canal Nantes à Brest specialized in combining several naturally flowing rivers to form one continuously flowing body. As a result, only about 70 kilometers of the canal is manmade. Regardless, it took engineers 45 years to complete their work in its entirety. Once finished, the canal reached across Brittany and almost perfectly bisected the region. This was the goal. Initially, the motivation was economic interdependency, but it took a strategically military focus to initiate such an initiative. Napoleon was concerned with uniting the naval strongholds of Brest, Lorient, and Nantes with an independent inland route. The result was 238 locks to traverse the landscape. While some sections may no longer be navigable by boat today, the entire length is bike-able. A path alongside the canal allows for a wonderfully transparent and relaxing view of Brittany’s interior. The latter half of the 2018 Tour de France Stage 6 will largely follow the Canal. In fact, the Tour will start to run perpendicular to the Canal at about kilometer 90 and then meet up with it around Gouarec. In total, the route will be within 5 kilometers of the canal for about 70 kilometers, making for plenty of opportunities to see both the race and enjoy biking along the canal to see other sites like the Abbaye de Bon-Repos. For more on biking the Canal Nantes à Brest, check out this article by Wendy Mewes on Freewheeling France.
Côte de Mûr de Bretagne
In cycling-fanatic Brittany, there are a few places where the lore of legends rise to the top more than the Côte de Mûr de Bretagne. The 2018 Tour de France climbs this shrine twice in a loop around the town of the same name. Finishing on the Côte, a short but demanding 7.5% average gradient, this may be the first stage where we see a hint of the modern Tour leaders. No doubt, there will also be plenty of spectators along the roadside to witness the battle that is sure to ensue. The climb is a mere 1.6 kilometers long but rises an astounding 138 meters in that span. The Côte is featured in countless local races, but its Tour de France past is long and dignified. It was the highlight of the 1947 Tour along the longest-ever Tour individual time trial. During that day, Frenchman Jean Robic climbed into podium position and went on to win the Tour. In 2011, Cadel Evans won at the top on his way to winning the General Classification and in 2015, Frenchman Alexis Vuillermoz again conquered the Côte. To this day, however, Robic remains the favorite of town residents and presents big shoes to fill until a Frenchman again wins on its slopes to take Yellow and win the Tour overall.