What to see and do in Guerande, Pays de la Loire | EUROtoday

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Half-timbered house in town of Guerande, Pays de la Loire

Pitch up at any certainly one of Guérande's 4 city gates and there's no query that you simply've arrived someplace slightly particular. With 1300 meters of unbroken ramparts and 6 imposing towers, the town partitions are among the finest preserved in France and probably the most full in Brittany.

The masonry appears to be like fairly spectacular now within the 21st century, an age after we are all used to massive builds, so think about the affect that Guérande would have had within the mid-14th century when the partitions have been commissioned by Jean de Montfort throughout the Breton War of Succession. This was clearly a city that meant enterprise.

White gold – the salt marshes of Guérande

Salt pans, Guerande

And the primary enterprise of this strategic group constructed on excessive floor close to the Atlantic coast was salt. Today Guérande is a part of the Pays de la Loire area, however till 1941 it was a part of Brittany, and Brittany within the 14th century was an impartial and highly effective Duchy. Only in 1532 did it turn out to be a part of France with the wedding of Anne de Bretagne and Charles VIII.

Guérande managed the salt marshes and with them a commodity as essential to medieval day by day life as fridges are to us right now, the prime technique of preserving meals shares. By the tip of the 14th century, Guérande was the second-largest city in Brittany after Nantes with some 4,000 inhabitants and a few 500 years later, I can nonetheless sense the ability contained inside these stable ramparts as I step via Porte Saint-Michel into one other world.

A go to to Guérande divides neatly into two halves. The walled city with its half-timbered buildings and historic streets, retail temptations and eating places. And the intensive salt marshes fed by a slender inlet from the Atlantic Ocean at Le Croisic. The two are inextricably linked, so you’ll want to see them each.

The city of Guérande

Guérande's ramparts have been categorised as a Historic Monument in 1877 and right now the city can be a part of the Villes & Pays d'Art et d'Histoire community. Stop off on the Château-Musée contained in the Porte Saint-Michel, which has served over the centuries as ducal lodgings, jail and Town Hall. The solely web site open to the general public contained in the wall itself, this medieval gem additionally supplies entry to greater than a 3rd of the rampart stroll the place you may peep over chimneys and rooftops into hidden gardens and cobbled alleys.

Then simply wander – it's not possible to get misplaced. The walled city is split roughly into quarters by two essential streets that intersect exterior Saint-Aubin Collegiate Church, its slate-clad spire seen from throughout. History unfolds at each nook should you preserve your eyes open. The exterior pulpit beside the primary door of the church. The historic buildings round Place du Pillori. And the walled Manoir de la Prévôté, house to the medieval Provost, highest rating dignitary among the many canons of the collegiate church.

Pretty streets of granite houses in Guerande

After a succulent salad on the terrace exterior Gout'Thé, a pleasant tea room and small store in Rue de Saillé, I head exterior the town partitions to Pradel on the sting of the salt marshes and the Terre de Sel customer heart to find how conventional strategies of salt manufacturing are nonetheless in use right now. Open day by day all year long, this glorious facility consists of an exhibition and well-stocked store, and is the departure level for guided strolling excursions of the salt pans (advance on-line reserving strongly suggested).

The artwork of salt manufacturing

Generations of salters or salt employees, have formed and managed the panorama right here for nearly 1500 years and in 1991, Guérande salt was awarded the celebrated Label Rouge. In winter and spring, the marshes are quiet as salters perform upkeep prepared for peak manufacturing season. Our English-speaking information explains to our small group how the salters fill their reservoirs by opening sluice gates on the primary canal to confess the robust spring tides. The water then runs right into a sequence of shallow swimming pools and finally evaporates from the impact of wind and solar, inflicting the salt to crystallize.

The result’s two totally different sorts of salt, painstakingly eliminated by hand utilizing long-handled implements. The coarse grey salt (Gros Sel), wealthy in minerals, is scraped day by day from the underside of the swimming pools, while the high-quality white Fleur de Sel is collected from the floor of the brine. As a common rule, use Gros Sel in cooking and Fleur de Sel on the desk for that additional particular salty tang. Mash potato and fries simply aren't the identical with out it, so I take the chance to top off – gradual meals at its most pedestrian.

Salt manufacturing is a extremely expert operation and Terre de Sel is run as a co-operative, many salt pans handed down via generations of the identical household. But a major variety of new salt employees are being interested in this historic lifestyle in a peaceable, pure atmosphere that’s house to greater than 180 species of chicken.

I keep in a single day on the charming Moulin de Beaulieu, a three-storey, one bed room windmill simply exterior the ramparts (unsuitable although for anybody with mobility points). And for dinner, take pleasure in an al fresco meal at Burger et Sarrasin beside the cathedral, a scrumptious Breton tackle the common-or-garden burger utilizing native produce and with a selection of particular bread containing buckwheat gold buckwheat.

What to see close to Guérande

Next morning, I potter alongside the coast to La Turballe, a serious heart for sardine canneries till 1989 and nonetheless France's 10th greatest fishing port. Take a guided tour from the Maison de la Pêche museum to go to the fish public sale rooms on the quayside; step on board a Sixties sardine boat, Au Gré des Vents; and find out about France's first offshore wind farm, the Parc Eolien en mer de Saint-Nazaire.

I additionally discover close by Piriac-sur-Mer, designated a Petite Cité de Caractère of Loire-Atlantique, the place granite homes face onto slender flower-fringed streets behind a tranquil marina. Head the opposite approach and also you're only a quick drive from the trendy seaside resort of La Baule and the tranquil wetland of La Brière Regional Natural Park, each effectively value a stopover. Join me there within the Spring subject of the journal to see why…

Tourist data from www.labaule-guerande.com

By Gillian Thornton, one of many UK's main journey writers and an everyday author for The Good Life France Magazine and web site.

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What to see and do in Guerande, Pays de la Loire