Chris Slade describes the son et lumiere presentation at the abbey of Bon Repos called "Le Pays de Conomor" in Brittany, which takes place during the first two weeks of August.
Introduction to La Roche-Bernard
La Roche-Bernard is a small town in Southern Brittany. It is a very exciting place to visit for many reasons. The town is situated on the River Vilaine, and plays host to a myriad of small boats in its natural harbour. Two superb bridges span the river here, along with the remains of an old bridge sadly destroyed during the Second World War. This charming town features a number of interesting shops and good restaurants, including an establishment listed in the Michelin guide. The small port and the old quarter are both worth exploring too, as are the attractive side streets. Why not take a gentle stroll and enjoy the beautiful sights?
Many differing accounts tell the early history of the town. Most popular is the belief that the Normans originally settled in the area around 919. Their chief ‘Bernard’ considered the prominent rock (‘Roche’) overlooking the river to offer a good strategic position in what was then a very unsettled Brittany.
The French Revolution saw the persecution of the priests of La Roche-Bernard in the 19th Century. This tyranny resulted in an attack on the town by country folk from the surrounding area. Subsequent reprisals by the Revolutionary Tribunal followed (including the introduction of the guillotine) and peace returned to the town in 1802.
During WWII, German forces occupied La Roche-Bernard. After the Normandy landings, the Allied forces attacked the town from the air. Following the destruction of the bridge over the river during a violent storm, the town found itself on the front line. German forces were in retreat on one side of the river (defending the ‘St Nazaire Pocket’) and French forces stood on the other.
Eating Out around La Roche-Bernard
La Roche-Bernard is a superb place to visit if you like to dine out. The town is a self-proclaimed Ville Gastronomique. It prides itself on the quality of its restaurants and locally sold produce. Here is a selection of what is on offer……..
The grill restaurant on the bridge offers very good quality food at reasonable prices. It also boasts superb panoramic views over the town and river.
L’Auberge des Deux Magots, a high quality restaurant situated in the Old Quarter.
Crêperie Gatin – superb galettes and crêpes in an oak-beamed restaurant with large open fire in the Old Quarter of the town.
Bar Brasserie Pub Le Yackam’s is located in a prime position on the old harbour. It offers generous and delicious dishes such as succulent burgers, grilled meats, salads and homecooked dishes. All dishes are freshly cooked using seasonal ingredients and prices are very reasonable.
For a truly gastronomic experience, why not try L’Auberge Bretonne where Jacques Thorel was chef for 30 years before retiring in 2018? This restaurant is perfect for a very special occasion, but can require deep pockets. Its reputation is excellent, though.
Bee Keeping and Honey – there is a small exhibition of bee-keeping, where you can also purchase some interesting bee/honey products. Just take a walk down to the port from the old quarter.
Boat trips – ‘Les Vedettes Jaunes’ run pleasure trips between La Roche-Bernard and the barrage at Arzal in the Spring and Summer months. This is very relaxing – just sit back and enjoy the scenery for an hour or so. You can also eat dinner on board if you like. Booking recommended!
Canoes can be hired from the activity centre next to the campsite ‘Le Patis’ down by the main port. They offer lessons and tuition. Once again, we recommend booking!
Swimming – there is a public swimming pool in the town. Check locally for opening times.
La Roche Bernard Videos
Here are a couple of videos produced by Tourisme Arc Sud Bretagne