Following in the footsteps of Paul Gauguin the famous French Artist (admittedly about 120 years after him) we visited Pont Aven, just 40 miles South East of us in Finistere. Sitting on the River Aven at the limit of its tidal reaches it boasts a quayside, several old watermills and lavoirs (wash houses) along stretches of the river. The town centre is laced with waterways whichever way you look.
We visited on a Tuesday when the market is held along the quayside. We walked through the stalls to the sound of two young French men playing guitar and singing in perfect harmony. The aroma of fresh spices, fruit and veg, meats – both preserved and freshly cooked – lead us past the clothing, leather goods and sweet stalls. Potatoes frying with garlic, onions and lardons promised us a great takeaway snack; which only gave way to crepes and a beer in a quayside restaurant when we discovered we had no cash and our only means of payment was a debit card. Well, sat outside in the sun sipping a Breton beer was a very good second best.
After eating we walked back up through the town as the market stalls were closing, crossing the small bridge for some photos of the water mill restaurant. The evidence of Pont Avens artistic background is present, with virtually every other shop selling paintings and artefacts to suit all tastes. We assume from the lack of prices on the paintings that most of them would require the use of a credit card and so we stuck to window shopping.
Due to the landscape around the town, as well as the beautiful buildings around the centre you are continually seeing interesting private houses set back on their own against the banks of the river, with neatly kept gardens. Behind the main streets you can lose yourself walking across small bridges and through ornamental gardens. Water is a constant feature, seeming to come pouring out of every conceivable gap in the walls. There are walks to view the old lavoirs on the sides of the river, as well as the old watermills.
There are plenty of restaurants, cafes and bars to choose from, many with their own riverside gardens and vistas and one containing the workings of the watermill itself (apparently the only one which can still function). There is apparently a flower festival on the 1st of August each year including Breton music and dancing in traditional costume, which is said to be the prettiest in Brittany. Gauguin was post-impressionism; we were, well, just extremely impressed and will definitely Gau-a-guin.
Visit the Penlan Gite website for holiday accommodation