So we left Rennes on the bus heading to Paimpont
. The weather was looking dismal, but we had brought all the appropriate attire. We got into Paimpont at around 12:30 and only had until 6:30pm when the last bus was scheduled to leave. We walked into the tourist office and asked the girl for a map and asked what we could see in about 6 hours. She asked "by car?" and we said "no by hiking" and then her eyes got big and said that it was impossible for us to really see anything by foot. My heart sank. Here's a tip: if you can't find any information on the internet about hiking trails, there's probably a good chance that means there aren't any hiking trails. And the forest was a whole lot bigger than we had thought. My hopes of seeing all the sites were crushed. The girl told us that there was a guided tour to three of the major sites leaving in an hour. I hate guided tours. It makes me feel like the ultimate tourist, which I do not like at all. Oh, and the tour was only in French. Our only other option was to take a taxi to the sites, but it was really expensive. So we sucked it up and gave in and bought the tickets to the tour (not a terrible price, about 8 Euro each). I was still bummed and found myself getting in a grumpy mood, but I had to make the most of it. At least we were still going to see three sites, instead of none. So we hopped on the bus and headed towards the Chateau on the Lake. I wish I could tell you that we learned a ton of cool facts and information, but alas, our French is still pretty non-existant. So, we got kind of bored standing around listening to the French guide, who I am sure was really good, and we just wandered around on our own until it was time to pile back onto the tour bus. Then we went to the supposed site of Merlin's Fountain. This was much better because it was a 4km trail loop, and Ryan and I decided to just leave the group and hike by ourselves
. It was such a pretty path and you could totally see why they think this forest is enchanted and is so rich with legend! We made it to the fountain in good time (our group was so incredibly slow) and had the pleasure of enjoying it with only a couple other people. There are two types of people who come into this forest; people who love nature and hiking and are interested in seeing the sites, and then people who are a bit fanatical about the whole legend and myth and act it out in their day to day lives. Guess which ones we saw. Yep, we got to witness first hand a purification of stones ceremony in the fountain by a Robin Hood-looking fellow. Very bizarre. After that, our group finally made it to the fountain so Ry and I decided to leave and hike the rest of the loop. We made it back to the bus with plenty of time to kill before our group arrived as well. Then we all left on the bus to the grand finale: The Valley of No Return. It was quite unfortunate that we were not able to understand the stories the guide was telling because I am quite sure they would have been really interesting. It was another hiking loop so we left our group again. Along the way we saw the Fairy Lake, the Golden Tree, and hiked up the hill to see the amazing view of the valley. Absolutely beautiful! I was significantly less grumpy by now!
All in all we had a good time on our tour. I was disappointed that we did not get to see some of the really neat sites, but at least we got to go into the forest and see a few of them. I am starting to realize just how handy having a car would be...
What some of you may not know, is that I really enjoy medieval legends and myths, especially ones that have to do with King Arthur and characters. In Brittany, near Rennes, lies a forest known as Foret de BrocÚliande, where some of the supposed Arthurian tales came from, especially ones that have to do with Merlin. I was really excited to learn that there was a bus from Rennes into the town of Paimont which is in the middle if the forest. I searched and searched online for more information, because all we had to go on was a crappy hand drawn map from the Rennes tourist office that had a list of the major sites, but in French only. I found some really neat photos of some of the sites, for example, the Tomb of the Giant, Chateau on the Lake, a Neolithic burial site, Merlin's Fountain, and some really spectacular ancient trees. But no hiking trail maps. So I figured we would just get the maps at the Paimpont Tourist Info Centre.