A few weeks ago on this blog, I posted a photo of the charming village of Saint Briac, which is just a few kilometers west of our apartment in Saint Enogat. We have driven through several times, and stopped to snap a photo of the port and ocean beyond, but had never really explored the village on foot. Last Sunday we rectified this situation with a very nice ramble through the town above and the beach below.
I’m not sure how it is decided which villages in France are to be classified Les Plus Beaux Villages (prettiest villages of France.) There are only 159 of them in the whole country. At least 10 of them are here in Brittany, including Saint Suliac, one of our favorite spots on the Rance. When we first moved to Montmirail, the mayor asked us to host a visit from the folks who make these decisions, as the town was aspiring to gain this label. After the meeting, which took place in our dining room, one of the city councilmen told us that there was almost no chance for Montmirail to receive this distinction, as the criteria are very stringent. I wonder if Saint Briac isn’t on the radar. To my eye it is almost perfect in every detail, so picturesque, so pristine and so very high class.
There is not a building in the village which isn’t both lovely and well maintained. The streets were quiet on Sunday, except for the other tourists who were taking in the atmosphere. It has about 1000 residents, but we encountered only one.
The town was founded in the 4th century by an Irish priest, Briac, who crossed the Channel, as so many other of his countrymen did, to convert the locals to Christianity.
Both the church, with its ornate and unusual steeple, and the little chapel located between the port and the ocean, are very attractive. I especially like the honey-colored stone which give the buildings a sense of warmth.
The town is built up on a hill above the sea. At port level there are some very extravagant homes as well as a sheltered beach on a small bay, where most of the pleasure boats are moored, and a wilder beach facing the open sea.
Even though the day was not very warm, there were plenty of people sunbathing in both locations, as well as many, like us, who were simply enjoying the views.
The Château du Nessay has a commanding position and a storied history. Originally is was a château fort, a defensive castle to protect the coast. The British often raided the Brittany coast, and the town was burnt to the ground in 1758. The château was rebuilt in the 19th century and used as a private residence up until the Second World War. The Germans occupied it until the town was liberated by the Americans in August of 1944. Three Americans died in the process and the town has a memorial to them. After the war the castle was converted into a summer camp, mostly for school children. By 2016 it was essentially in ruins and the town did not have the funds or appetite to rebuild it, so after a certain amount of controversy amongst the townsfolk, the building was sold to a hotel consortium. 8 million euros was spent to renew it. It opened in July of 2018 to the public. Of course it has been mostly closed for over a year due to the pandemic.
Saint Briac also has the distinction of being home to the second golf course built outside of Scotland. It was created in 1887 by the Brits who were building their extravagant homes on the cliffs of Dinard. At that time they were invading the French coast with more peaceful intentions. The whole area was their playground. They also installed the first tennis court in France. Even if they are mostly gone (we have heard no English at all while here), they have certainly left their mark.
We really loved this street name found in the upper village. It amused us even more than one in St. Enogat.