Pont-Aven is a beautiful, sleepy little town located on the Aven River in southern Brittany. It is best known for the École de Pont-Aven, a group of artists, including Paul Gauguin, who frequented the area during the second half of the 19th century. The area is stunningly beautiful and the ebb and flow of the tidal estuary adds to the raw natural charm of the town.
One of the first things I did after checking into my room in a small riverside inn was take a walk down the river. About a mile south of town the river takes a sharp curve to the left.
I heard the flap of the sails of this antique boat before it rounded the corner. What a wonderful surprise and a magnificent sight!
I looked forward to exploring further downstream on one of these tourist boats.
When I think of Pont-Aven I think of strong, vibrant colors. Everywhere one looks, from the flowers, to the boats, and the houses, all are bathed in bold, bright colors.
The town of Pont-Aven is bisected by the river, but has many pathways and pedestrian bridges. It is extremely walkable with the terrain becoming steeper as you travel up from the river.
One place I wished to visit was the Tremolo Chapel, the inspiration for Gauguin's "Yellow Christ," and for that I needed to drive a few miles outside town and up a very plain country road (though I do remember there being hiking paths from the town to the chapel). The 16th century chapel is situated halfway up a hill with farmland above and a home below.
The view was outstanding.
The little chapel was incredibly charming and I continue to kick myself for not taking more photos of the exterior, though I'm sure it was because I was just floored by its simple beauty.
The Tremolo Chapel was rather dark inside and hard to successfully photograph. Besides the wooden yellow Christ cross, it has three wooden altars with carvings of figures that represent the seven deadly sins, as well as carvings on several of the ceiling cross beams.
It also contains very simple, but beautiful, stained glass windows.
Apparently, concerts are sometimes held in the chapel. How wonderful to be able to attend one!
The beautiful landscape outside the chapel enhances the interesting building and historic wood carvings on the inside.
The drive continues past the chapel and up the hill under a stunning canopy of trees.
Oh ~~ I can't remember the last time a thread made me so intensely wish to be there!
Were you just itching to have your own boat to take out on the river?
The pictures! Love that angle you use in some of them, getting almost on a level with the horizon. That said, the picture looking down onto the river through the trees, with the sunlight catching moss on one of them, is just killer. And the flowers .......... ooo!
Thank you, bixa. I'm so glad you are enjoying my report. Yes, I have several photos from my trip down the river to the Atlantic. I also have some taken with my old cell phone that I will try to dig up because they show the river with the tide out and boats resting on the river bed. It really is an incredibly beautiful place and I can understand why artists continue to be inspired by the setting.
Absolutely charming Htmb! My husband would just love watching people tinkering around in boats and even take me for a sail, which he is good at. I noticed the profusion of Hydrangeas with their beautiful blue flower heads. How did you come to go there?
Thanks for this, htmb. Another area of France that I don't know at all. You were lucky with the weather too, I see.
Tod, there are loads of hydrangeas in northwestern France. They seem to like rain. I have noticed too that they are often blue, so there is something in the soil that makes them like that. Here they tend to be pinkish. I was told that when the water runs off slate roofs, there is some chemical reaction that makes them blue, but I don't know how true that is.
Lugg, I'd love to hear more about your family time spent in Pont-Aven. I'm sure you have some wonderful memories. Yes, I did go to the little museum and spent about an hour and a half there.
Tod, yes there were a lot of hydrangeas and most were blue. Their color is determined by the ph balance of the soil. The choice to go Pont-Aven was a bit random mainly having to do with its reputation as an artist colony. I traveled by train from Paris to Quimper where I rented a car. I then spent three nights in Pont-Aven and one in Quimper before traveling back to Paris. I really didn't care for Quimper at all, but perhaps that's because I was tired and ready to go home.
Oh, bjd, you are so right about the weather. It was absolutely perfect! This trip was in June of 2009, and the week after I returned home Brittany was flooded with heavy rain for days. I watched a few news reports on the Internet that showed poor travelers huddled in camping tents, trying to keep dry. I was very lucky.
I will post photos of my cruise down river and back very soon.
A few miles south of Pont-Aven the river meets the Atlantic Ocean and the boat tour I took downriver was absolutely fabulous. I would love to go back and kayak the river one day (I'd love to kayak just about ANY river in France).
I stood on the back of the boat for better visibility since the front was covered. You will see that many of my photos are taken of the area behind us across the wake of the boat.
There is a path that runs on either side down the river, though I am not sure how far. The area to the left of the next photo is where I took the earlier shots through the trees looking down at the water.
There are some gorgeous homes overlooking the river. You will see I fell in love with the next one as I took photos of it both coming and going.
I'd love to know the stories behind each of these houses.
Besides beautiful homes on steep hills, we also passed farms and pastureland.
If I had my choice of isolated little cottages to visit for awhile the house in the next photo would definitely be my pick.
Great pictures, htmb. I have not been to Pont Aven. I have mentioned in the past that I have an odd aversion to going to Brittany for some reason -- it seems very alien to me when I am there. That's not enough to keep me out of Brittany, but it reduces the number of trips that I make there.
However, I always love the pictures that people take of Brittany -- except for the alien, unfriendly houses. I definitely have a mental problem.
Well, Kerouac, I can understand that a bit, though I have not traveled to many other places in Brittany. Interesting that Brittany feels alien to you, but not southeast Asia. I mentioned also going to Quimper and I hope I never need to return! Parts of it felt like a major tourist trap to me and it had the most bizarre traffic patternsl Not a place I enjoyed at all.
I really think I can appreciate the beauty of Pont-Aven much more after the fact than when I was there. I'm sure that had more to do with me personally at the time. If I wanted to be in an isolated place where I could enjoy nature, paddle up and down a tidal estuary of a river, and generally have space to think and create I could see going back to Pont-Aven. I wouldn't wish to be there in the winter, nor would I like the rainy season (and perhaps that takes up a good part of the year).
I found the architecture of buildings in the town to be varied and interesting, though I obviously wasn't able to go into any private homes. What I think I liked best, besides the water, was the bright color and the wonderful light of summer.
Unfortunately I have been unable to find my photos showing low tide. To me, that added another dimension to the town. I find it fascinating to see little boats sitting on the river bottom and large boats propped up by supports to keep them upright; then watching them all rise as the water rushes in from the ocean.
It's true that in the summer, Brittany and Normandy can be very appealing, but in the winter, no thank you! But I know that my own opinion is totally contradictory, because I find northern and eastern France completely appealing in the horrible winter weather. I just can't figure it out.
But please keep the photos coming, htmb -- they are ideal.
Kerouac, it's true that if you don't like beautiful scenery along a tidal river, and you crave excitement and lots of people, it's not the place to visit, but I can sure see how it would be a wonderful place to paint, take photographs of nature, or write a book.
Actually yesterday I was watching an excellent report about the Loire which is an excellent river for small pleasure boats because it is totally shallow, useless and full of sand bars most of the year -- so the banks are still full of wild camping areas, not to mention the small islands. In a continent as overpopulated as Europe, it's rather amazing that there are still plenty of unrestricted places that don't require permits and licences.