France: Château du Taureau

France is renowned for its magnificent castles – from defensive castles to residential castles. In fact, all regions in France have castles open for visit with their own fascinating story to tell.

Château du Taureau also known as the Castle of the Bull. :-)

Château du Taureau also known as the Castle of the Bull. 🙂

One of the beautiful pictures we captured while we were on the boat.

One of the beautiful pictures we captured while we were on the boat.

We took a boat to visit the Château du Taureau (Castle of the Bull), a 16th century island fortress redesigned by Vauban (famous French military architect during the 16th/early 17th century) while we were in Brittany. It is certainly a surprising place, situated in one of the loveliest bays of Brittany in the north-west of France, that was built on a rock in the Bay of Morlaix and welcomes you with open arms.

At the top level of the castle.

At the top level of the castle.

Excited to get into the castle.

Excited to get into the castle.

The boat that took us to the castle.

The boat that took us to the castle.

This 500 year old castle has a messy past and has had many different uses in its history – defensive building against the English raiders at first, then used as a prison where some of the first French Revolutionaries were locked away, then a residence in the 1930s, then it was occupied by the German forces during World War II, then recently a sailing school till 1980 and finally now a museum.

At the first level of the castle.

At the first level of the castle.

At the terrace.

At the terrace.

The tour started with a beautiful commentary by our guide while we were on a boat. One of the amazing things I have learned from our guide was about a black species of bird that thrives in the Bay (I can’t remember the exact name of the bird), which is able to dive 30 meters deep into the sea and stay there for about 3 minutes. In addition, our guide gave us information about the islands surrounding the area. On top of it, the views were great from the boat.

Beautiful view of the port from our boat.

Beautiful view of the port from our boat.

The view of the other side of the port.

The view of the other side of the port.

After a 45 minutes boat trip from Le Diben port, we reached this wonderful fortress. It is beautifully restored and has been renovated over the years as some parts were destroyed during the revolution. As soon as we arrived in the fort, the guide gave us a very clear picture of the history of fortress and then we were free to wander around for about an hour and let our imaginations wonder. The rooms are mostly empty except for activities such as chess, domino, etc. While roaming around, I could imagine what life would have been like for a prisoner of soldier inside this building.

When our guide told us the brief history of the castle.

When our guide told us the brief history of the castle.

One of the rooms in the castle.

One of the rooms in the castle.

Inside the castle.

Inside the castle.

In another room.

In another room.

To me, exploring the Château du Taureau is more than just another visit, this is a journey into the heart of History itself, and a tribute to the memories of the Bay area whose natural treasures are still intact. We meandered around the place, explored the bunkers on the terrace area, strolled along the passageways and had a look at the drawbridge. There are lots of rooms for wonderful panoramic views and stunning 360 degrees views from the terrace.

The view from the terrace.

The view from the terrace.

The view from the boat.

The view from the boat.

Another view from the terrace.

Another view from the terrace.

Our tour at the castle of the Bull was very nice and it was an excellent historical visit. The castle is rooted in local history and it was explained and presented well by our guide who knew how to tell it with passion. It was an experience to discover and it’s pretty rare to see a strong open sea.

One of the windows in the castle where the canon was used to be placed.

One of the windows in the castle where the canon was used to be placed.

If you wish to go there, there are many kinds of visits and many ways to feel the magic of a place such as – a guided tour, a theatrical encounter, a singing or a storytelling experience. In addition, this year, the Château du Taureau has offered new things to do including picnic spots, historic visits and “pirates for little ones” activities.

On the boat and our way to visit the Castle of the Bull.

On the boat and our way to visit the Castle of the Bull.

An island near the castle that people can rent.

An island near the castle that people can rent.

At Le Diben Port.

At Le Diben Port.

Trivia: the Castle of the Bull, because of its location, remains a fairly isolated place. The German army had a garrison there during the Second World War. When Germany capitulated, the garrison at the Castle of the Bull was so isolated that they did not hear about it. The U.S. army had to send a battalion to the castle to inform the surprised German occupants that they had lost the war about a month ago. The US officer in charge of this battalion returned as a tourist to visit the castle in the 1970s.

Little Lilly travel tip:

  • You need to book the trip in advance because the tides do not allow access by boat throughout the whole day.
  • It is not accessible by wheelchair, as there are steps from the boat to the entrance, and in between all levels of the building.
  • A great castle to visit for kids (at any age) and adults alike.
  • All visitors are free to roam around the three levels of the building.
  • There was no toilet in the fort for the public, but there were two on our boat.
  • There is a small gift shop in the fort.
  • When the bells ring, you have to say goodbye to the castle and return to the ship.
  • There is an island near the castle that people can rent.

Have you visited the Château du Taureau? What’s your favourite experience?

Advertisements

France: Le Folgoet Notre Dame Basilica

It was my first time here and I was wowed to see this superb little architectural masterpiece located in the Finistere of Brittany in the north-west of France.

Beautiful Le Folgoet Notre Dame Basilica

Beautiful Le Folgoet Notre Dame Basilica

I love the magnificent details of the Basilica.

I love the magnificent details of the Basilica.

With its stunning stained-glass and its beautiful tower, the Le Folgoet Notre Dame Basilica of the Virgin Mary is a gem of Gothic Flamboyant architecture. The Gothic style tower is simple yet magnificent. The basilica is topped by a wonderful spire and has an unusual square shape. The 15th century granite jube, the gorgeous 19th century roses adorning the cross chapel and apse and the charming 15th century statue of Our Lady of Folgöet, all those are remarkable. Certainly, this medieval Basilica is one of the most beautiful churches in the heart of Finistere and one of the most magical sights in Brittany.

dazzling stained glass

dazzling stained glass

The pictures on the stained glass represents the life story of Salin, the mad guy.

During the visit, I learned that a long time ago in the town of Folgoet there was a mad guy called Salin who always sang “Ave Maria” in the wild forest. When he died in November, a white flower grew and bloomed for 6 six weeks from his mouth with Ave Maria written in golden letters on the leaves. When the villagers saw it, they were surprised because it was unusual for the flower to grow as it was the end of autumn. So the villagers informed the priest and when they dug into the ground, they found out that the flower grew from the mouth of Salin. Because of this miracle a Basilica was built upon his grave in the 15th century. All this around the legend of Salin and lots more to discover!

A statue of the Virgin Mary

A statue of the Virgin Mary

So, when the Duchess of Brittany and Queen of France Anne heard about the miracle, she decided to give donations, and amazing sculptures and ornaments were created to embellish the Basilica.

Wonderful decorations outside the church

Wonderful decorations outside the church

It was indeed a great and interesting tour of this sumptuous site! Thank you to our brilliant guide from SPREV for making our visit a memorable one. 🙂

Little Lilly travel tip:

  • Excellent tour guides who belong to an organization SPREV which is dedicated to preserving and promoting religious sites located within cities are available in the summer.
  • There’s a museum across the street.

Have you visited Le Folgoet Notre Dame Basilica? Or do you have a favourite church for us to explore the next time we’re in Brittany?

France: Exploring Pointe St Mathieu

We headed from Kerlouan to Pointe Saint Mathieu on a sunny and clear day so the destination was all that more spectacular and, when we arrived there, the view was so clear that we could see for miles. This dramatic and romantic point is located in a province called Finistere at the very Western end point of continental France, on a rocky point, with craggy coast all around, with its lighthouses and ruins of an old abbey and cathedral, and L’Iroise sea outside. Pointe St Mathieu is a significant landmark and one of the greatest places to visit in Brittany.

There's so much history and so much to see.

There’s so much history and so much to see.

The Abbey of St. Mathieu

The abbey of St. Mathieu is about 1000 years old. It was built in 1000 AD and it was rebuilt into a church in 1200 AD. It was built close to the Atlantic Ocean and English Channel. The church was destroyed during the French Revolution. The ruins of the old Saint Mathieu abbey and church are really impressive and give a big contrast of modern and medieval building design.

Some parts of the ruins.

Some parts of the ruins.

Beautiful ruins of the church.

Beautiful ruins of the church.

The ruins and the newest lighthouse.

The ruins and the newest lighthouse.

The lighthouses

There were 3 lighthouses built around the church. The smallest lighthouse was built in the 11th century. The lighthouse with round orange on the top was built in the early 19th century and is open for visitors. If you don’t mind the 163 steps, it is well worth the climb. The gray lighthouse, the newest and modern, was built in the 20th century. The modern lighthouse is the only lighthouse that is functioning at present as it has modern equipment such as radar. I heard that L’Iroise is one of the world’s busiest sea routes, but also hard to navigate. For that reason, there are a large number of lighthouses built all around.

The first lighthouse built in the 11th century.

The first lighthouse built in the 11th century.

The second lighthouse built in the 19th century.

The second lighthouse built in the 19th century.

The third lighthouse built in 20th century.

The third lighthouse built in 20th century.

Magnificent landscape

The whole coastal area around Pointe Saint Mathieu provides a beautiful walking area and an ideal walk for nature lovers and for those who love to walk, with splendid views of the coast, the cliffs, and the lighthouse. The paths are well marked and safe, but provide some very moderate challenge of climbing up and down the hills. While we were walking, I saw many different types of wildflowers growing all around the cliffs and many different sea birds flying past.

It is a very nice place at the end of the land.

It is a very nice place at the end of the land.

It was indeed a good coastal walks.

It was indeed a good coastal walks.

The small museum

The museum provides historical information about the abbey and the church.

The cenotaph (National maritime memorial monument)

The national maritime memorial monument was dedicated to the sailors who died at sea during the different wars.

The monument at the background is the cenotaph.

The monument at the background is the cenotaph.

While we were in the area, we leisurely wandered around the place and I enjoyed the visit very much. I found the whole site more compact and very peculiar than I expected as it has something for everyone – lots of history (ancient and modern), culture, architecture, old buildings, nature, magnificent landscape, sea, hills, chilly wind, pleasant walk and some romance. I could imagine that it would be excellent to stroll in the evening or stand at the point and watch all the blinking lighthouses while listening to the waves in the dark. It is a geographically interesting place to visit and well worth the effort. Indeed, we had a beautiful seascapes and a relaxing break.

Even the wild flowers are beautiful.

Even the wild flowers are beautiful.

Little Lilly Travel Tip:

  • The parking area is free.
  • The access to most of the sites is free.
  • The entrance fee to the museum and to go up to the lighthouse is very reasonable.
  • Public toilet is just nearby the parking area.
  • There is a hotel just nearby the parking area.