While vacationing in Bretagne (Brittany) with my daughter Clara, in February of 2017, we stayed in a rental in Roscoff, on the English Channel coast. But we often drove to Morlaix, a historic Breton town 15 minutes away, a place we felt attracted to from the first time we saw it.
Morlaix had a very lively commerce, and we loved to shop there. We also liked the authentic timber-framed and slate-clad houses typical of Bretagne but much more common there. Most were in the historic center, a maze of cobbled streets with centuries-old buildings carefully decorated with carved wooden details. One building was different from the other, but together they formed a harmonious complex very pleasing to the eye.
One of the most elaborate of these houses was Duchess Anne’s – where Anne of Bretagne is reputed to have stayed – a quintessential example of Breton architecture. We heard a lot about Duchess Anne (1477-1514) in Bretagne, by the way. Married to two French kings, Anne of Bretagne is one of the most important figures in the history of the province. She fought hard to keep it semi-independent from France, and as the issue is still sensitive with Bretons today, Anne has an almost saintly status there. Every place she’s been to was marked with a historical landmark sign.
The same attention to details given to the houses we found at St-Melaine Church, a Gothic temple of the 15th century. The oldest church in Morlaix, it had painted images of saints, among the finest I saw in that very Roman Catholic region of France. Clara was even inspired to say a prayer, before we left it.
Morlaix is the third largest town in the Finistere department of Bretagne, and was once a prosperous merchants’ town. Its wealthy heydays may have long passed, but I found that it more than justifies a visit. I liked the fact that it’s a real town, not touristy at all, and totally off-the-beaten-path. Getting to know it added layers to our experience of this fascinating corner of France.