Harbour wall and clock tower in Concarneau George East’s latest book “French Impressions – Brittany” was published several months ago. I read and enjoyed the book and thought it would be a great idea (with George’s permission) to publish passages from the book here, in a series that we are calling “On the trail of George East”. The excerpts are George’s opinions of places in Brittany that he has visited and we would like you, our readers, to add your comments, letting us know if you agree or disagree with George.

The latest excerpt is George’s view of Concarneau, a small town in the Finistère department of Brittany…

Concarneau is Breton for Bay of Cornwall, and if I could afford to live by the sea in France it would be in a place just like this.

I like ports and dockland cities where a living is or has been made from the sea. “Bustling” should be a red-card word for travel writers, but it suits this town of 19,000 so well. There is an air of things going on, deals being done and people getting on with their lives, which is because that is what has been happening on this part of the coast for centuries.

Adding to the interest is that, like St-Malo, Concarneau is a town of two halves. The modern part is on the mainland, while the medieval bit sits nicely cut off from the present on an island in the harbour. As with St-Malo, this separating of very old and not-so new has helped the old unedifying clashes, and there is a wonderfully theatrical drawbridge helping to keep modern times at bay. Though shipbuilding is at the core of Concarneau’s economy, the town’s wealth was originally based on fishing, particularly tuna.

Once a year the festival of Blue Nets has a thousand costumed townspeople strutting their stuff and reminding visitors of what it was probably not like in the old days. It might have been the weather or a rush of serotonin after a very good lunch, but for me there was something special about Concarneau.

I think it may have been the juxtaposition of the sea and ancient buildings and boat yards and real life and tourist fantasy. Whatever the reason I am in good company, as Inspector Maigret creator Georges Simenon set his best selling novel The Yellow Dog in Concarneau.

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