14th July 2006 – Morlaix and the Bastille Day Celebrations
Morlaix turned out to be a good base for a weeks exploring of the surrounding countryside, with excellent rail and bus connections. Roscoff wasn't much to write home about, but a visit to Huelgoat (pronounced oo-el-gwat) in the Monts d'Arree was excellent value on the bus at €2 each, each way for the 20 mile journey. It is fascinating countryside, having steep wooded valleys, dotted with large unusually shaped granite boulders (Judith is seen sitting beneath Le Champignon).
Bastille day dawned rather cloudy, but by the afternoon was blazing sunshine for the planned festivities. Things started slowly with small enclosures of traditional children's games to try, like skittles and the equivalent of shove-ha'penny. Then early afternoon there was a demonstration of the traditional Breton instruments by the younger members of the marching bands. Apart from drums and accordion, there appears to be two other main instruments. Firstly bagpipes of various sizes, with varying numbers of pipes, with different versions providing treble and tenor/base pitches. Then there are oboe-like reed instruments, but shorter, with larger bell ends, and only a couple of keys. These produce a raucous, reedy, almost metallic sound and are a great match for the pipes.
Mid afternoon the musicians paraded through the town streets along with men, women and children in traditional Breton costumes. There were four different bands in the procession, with only a few yards separating them, so the melodies got rather confused at times, but it was all great fun.
After the parades, the crowd all settled down around a temporary wooden dance floor errected outside the town hall. We had an excellent position, cross legged on the ground at the edge with the children. From here we were entertained to two hours of beautifully choreographed Breton circle dancing, the music provided live by a trio of musicians, and the dance groups in different costume styles. There were just sufficient breaks between performances for us to sneak off to the beer tent and a nearby Patisserie for some supper.
The day was rounded off at 11pm by a superb fireworks display. The fireworks were launched from the viaduct end of the 'Bassin a Flots' the other end of which contains the marina. This gave and excellent arena for the fireworks, with the viaduct as background, the water for reflections, and plenty of space down the edges of the Bassin to provide uninterupted views for the large crowd.
So we had a most memorable day, which was followed the morning after with the fun of provissioning from the huge market that fills the towns streets and squares each Saturday. We will miss Brittany as our next destination is Falmouth back across the Channel. We have a few matters to attend to and then it will be on to Ireland (hopefully) via the Isles of Scilly.