Megaliths and Thundershowers

Trip Start Aug 02, 2012
Trip End Aug 02, 2013

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Flag of France  , Brittany,
Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Carnac was only about 15km north of Quiberon and we parked just outside town at Le Ménec. The Carnac alignments, as they are collectively known, were erected in the Neolithic era, between the fifth and third millennia B.C., by sedentarised communities who raised livestock and farmed. These stone constructions, combining rows of menhirs (a Breton word meaning long stone) and enclosures, form part of a megalithic landscape comprising isolated menhirs, mounds (individual tombs) and dolmens (collective tombs). Le Ménec, located to the west of Carnac, has 1050 stones running over a total length of 950 meters. The village of Le Ménec was built within the enclosure, comprising of 71 blocks which almost touch one another. We walked along a path beside the alignments and were quite impressed by how well lined up the stones were over such a distance. We weren't allowed to walk in between the stones themselves as they are closed off during the high-traffic summer months. Although there are many hypotheses about the purpose of these stones, none of them are wholly conclusive. The most prevalent theory is that these alignments formed a sort of "Neolithic temple". It is believed that these ceremonial places marked off converging paths towards the enclosures, which generally occupied positions on higher ground and complete the megalithic layout. Following in this scenario, the combination of an open processional area (the rows of menhirs) and a closed off worship area (the enclosure) form the outline of the most ancient preserved “temples” in the history of mankind. We headed east along the path towards the Kermario alignments, which are probably the most visited of the lot because of the impressive size of the monoliths. On one corner of these group of menhirs, there is dolmen without its cairn. The stones are perfectly balanced on each other in what almost look like grooves in the rock and the whole structure is very impressive given its size and weight. We walked along to the end of this alignment, where we were able to climb an observation tower and get a view back over the alignment. From this perspective, one can really appreciate the scale of what was perhaps a Neolithic temple.

We had a quick lunch back at the van before driving on to our next campsite in Vannes. It was almost four in the afternoon by the time we arrived and we were ready to just sit in camp and have a cup of tea. However, it was sunny out and the weather was supposed to turn for the worse tomorrow so we decided to go in. The campsite had been advertised as being only 2km from town when in fact it was 4km so that thwarted our plans of walking in. We parked close to the historical city center, wandered along the canal and through the old city gates. We had a map of town and wandered along to the major sites marked on it. The most interesting sites were the old washhouse, the ramparts we could climb up onto and the leaning, half-timbered houses. The short sections of ramparts that we could traverse offered fine views over gardens just outside the walls. The washhouse, on the outside of the city walls, was built right along a bend in the river and had an adjacent lock by which the water level in that short section of the river could be controlled. On the way out of town, we stopped at a boulangerie to pick up a Kouign Amann to share with Sheahan and James and couldn’t resist picking up the largest chausson we’ve seen to date. The chausson was delicious and so large it could be shared (although Meghan was reluctant as she usually is when it comes to treats with apple) and we’ll keep you posted on the Kouign Amann.

The next day, we had originally been planning to drive down to the Marais Poitevin but since we had WiFi in the van and the showers were hot, we thought we might as well stay another night. It rained on and off the whole day and we only left the van to get a baguette (the best one I think we’ve had so far, crunchy on the outside, soft, and a bit chewy on the inside) and to go for a short walk around the bay. It was sunny out with a few non-threatening clouds when we started out on our walk, but about twenty minutes later, rain clouds had gathered in on all sides. We didn’t waste any time getting back to camp, except to take a few photos because the light was just too good. As soon as we reached the van, it started to pour. Later on that evening, Megs had an interview for a teaching position back in Vancouver so I made myself scarce. After dinner, we were out talking at the phone booth when two rainbows appeared, arcing above us from somewhere behind the campsite to in the bay. We could actually see the ends of the rainbows and it was so bright, we could tell the blue from the purple! Megs rushed off to get the camera and we started taking numerous photos, really glad that the rainbows had lasted till then. It had been a relaxing, yet productive day and we were all set to head off to leave Brittany tomorrow to meet Sheahan and James in Niort.
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