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Escape to Brittany

09/05/2011 at 1:14 pm

Posted In Events, Paris

by michelle young

It’s not often in the digital age that we can fully disconnect. While camping, our cell phones often get reception. When backpacking, the next town usually means an internet cafe. But in a special place in Brittany, I discovered disconnection was still possible.

In a bay just near Port Blanc is a land my boyfriend Augustin calls “savage beauty.” The craggy rocks are unmistakably Brittany but the bay recedes into the English Channel twice a day, leaving a a landscape that looks not unlike Mars. Charles Lindbergh lived here on Ile Illiec and author A. Scott Berg of  Lindbergh  describes the islands during low tide as as “weird, craggy hills among tidal pools- a wet desert, dead-quiet except for the birds and the the constant winds.”  It’s an apt description and I have truly have never seen any place quite like it.

Low tide

Augustin’s family has made an annual summer pilgrimage to this place since his great-grand father bought two islands here called Ile Marquer. On one island is a beautiful stone house, equipped with everything but electricity and running water. On the other, an old farmhouses have been modernized–but deliberately only to an extent.

During the day, we go exploring–on foot to nearby islands around the bay if it is low tide; in one of the row boats or kayaks if high tide. The children swim, play on the island pretending to be knights and build forts.  Augustin taught us how to catch crabs and sea creatures that hide away in the sand during low-tide.

Ille Illiac, where Charles Lindbergh lived 1936 to 1939 after the abduction of his son (photographed during low tide).

The nearby chateau along the coast

An abandoned fishing boat

We returned to photograph the boat during high tide

During World War II, the island was taken over by the Germans. There’s still a little bunker hole at the tip of the island looking towards the channel that was once a lookout point:

Oysters and other seaweed cling to the red rocks:

Fish and other seafood are purchased from a local fisherman who has known the family his whole life. But some days, they tell me,  you take a bottle of wine, sit on the rocks and crack open the oysters directly from the sea as the sun sets.  In the evening, we ate full French meals. Apero with saucisson  and apple brandy, followed by a five-course dinner with wine in candlelight.  Some images from inside the house:

We used a combination of oil lamps, candles and battery-operated flashlights

No running water, so we use these wash basins to wash our hands, face and brush teeth.

High tide–we can no longer leave the island.  

On the islands, they live according to the patterns of the moon and sun. When it is dark, we sleep.  I didn’t realize how much we offset our natural internal balance with electricity. And now, with constant and instant communication through computers and smartphones, it’s difficult to be out of reach.

As someone who is truly addicted to the mobile life, once on the island I didn’t really miss it. My email could wait. Limiting my thoughts to 140 characters could most definitely be postponed. I eagerly picked up a book and I didn’t have a headache for a week. I highly recommend a true disconnection, where you may find it. I did it last week during Hurricane Irene.

Ille Illiec is now owned by the Heidsieck champagne family. Nearby island, Saint-Gildas is owned by a member of the Belgian royal family–they were having a wedding during my visit. The closest town is Port Blanc, which is quaint and has a nice harbor.  Not too far away is the popular resort town Perros-Guirec.  

1 Comment

  1. Ann Lam says:

    Ah, what a wonderful week that must have been! Thanks for sharing. Lovely images.

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