Brittany’s magical inland forest of Brocéliande
King Arthur, Merlin, Lancelot, knights and fairies. Who hasn’t heard or read about these legends? The French forest of Brocéliande (la fôret de Brocéliande, Paimpont) is the place said to have inspired these tales. Covering a vast area in the center of Brittany (Bretagne), it is a mystical place that up to the present day still attracts many visitors wishing to feel some of the magic that sprouted from the pages of literary classics such as Wace’s Roman de Rou and poems by De Troyes. I spent a few days there with my husband and an old friend, and was (almost!) transported to ancient times, or at least, it felt like it with no internet!
In about four hours, we drove from Paris to Maure de Bretagne, where we stayed in a ‘cabane’ (little house on stilts). Our accomodation in the countryside provided the perfect base for relaxation and exploration of the area. About half an hour’s drive from Paimpont, where the tourist information office is, and where we started our adventures in the forest.
You can choose the length of the trails for hiking, cycling or even horse riding, and the sites you want to see. There are several points of interest scattered across the area such as Merlin’s Tomb (le Tombeau de Merlin), the Valley of no Return (le Val sans Retour), the Golden Tree (l’Arbre d’Or) and the Fountain of Youth (la Fontaine de Jouvence). Some of these require a bit of imagination: for instance, you might imagine water nimphs appearing out of the bubbles in a creek, floating around you. Or you could just enjoy being outdoors in a lovely forest.
Drinks specialties in Brittany include cider, chouchen (honey wine) and there are some local beers. Salted butter and salted caramel are highlights of the region (made with locally sourced salt). The crepes (pancakes) made with buckwheat are omnipresent and available in sweet and salty, making them a good choice for every meal moment really. A local specialty cake is Kouign-Amann, consisting mostly of butter. We ate a lot of bread and cheese, because let’s face it, that is the best meal ever. Especially paired with French red wine.
The best part of the vacation was the digital detox. The gorgeous scenery helps of course, as does good company. I can wholeheartedly recommend a short break with no internet, though we did cheat a few times to use the gps. Most of the trip, we used old-fashioned road maps. From a book. Talking, playing games, gazing at the stars without light pollution, cuddling a cat and listening to the sounds of crickets and frogs: bliss.