Brittany is so different from the rest of France, especially the departement of Finistere (29 Bretagne) which stretches to the “end of the world” and the most westerly points of mainland France. It includes the most pleasant port of entry by sea into France at Roscoff on Brittany’s north coast. Served by Brittany Ferries from Plymouth and Cork in Ireland and by Irish Ferries to Rosslare, this is an unhurried and civilised gateway – a working fishing port with a medieval centre. The fishing industry is important, yet it does not dominate the town with large industrial estates and warehouses, and you can be tempted to tarry a while and enjoy the port, the town and the Ile de Batz just offshore.
The town has a number of good hotels, and even the Ibis, which I usually expect to be another functional forumula businessman’s hotel is in the heart of the town, with rooms offering a view over the harbour and beyond.
It has its tourist attractions, including boat trips to the Ile de Batz and the Onion Johnnies Museum ( La maison des Johnnies et de l’oignon de Roscoff), which features the history of the local pink onions and the farmers who went far and wide to sell their onions. often off the back (or front) of a bicycle. Every August the town celebrates this local delicacy with a 2–day Fete de l‘Ognon Rose (21–21 August in 2008) It has its share of tourist shops selling souvenirs and “genuine” local specialities and novelties.
Compare the town of Concarneau on the southern coast of Finistere – another busy fishing port in a favoured position and with a world-renown medieval walled city – the Ville Close. A little separate from the modern town over a narrow moated entrance (for defensive purposes) the historic city looks impressive from the outside. However, on entering the Ville Close, there is little sign of any civic pride or care – weeds abound, the walkway along the city walls is closed at points because it is dangerous; grassy areas which would make attractive parkland or picnic areas have been left as scrub. The superificially smarter parts are along the main street with its wealth of tourist shops which dominate the place.
I do not want a Disney-type sanitised townscape, but compared to other smaller and less well-endowed places in France, the lack of any evident civic care, other than a few plants at the entrance, left me seriously under-impressed – indeed heartily disappointed. Which is why Roscoff made such a good impression.
However, a good reason to visit Concarneau is the Festival des Filets Bleus (blue fishing nets)14 – 18 August 2019 . Over a hundred years old, the Filets Bleus festival takes place every August, when it gives the town of Concarneau and its inhabitants an opportunity to go back to their roots. A typically Breton-flavoured costumed parade, with dancing and games that have no need whatsoever for artificial colouring. – see www.festivaldesfiletsbleus.bzh
To check timetables and fares for Roscoff and other French destinations see Brittany Ferries