Auray in Morbihan
"A Picturesque Harbour"
Most recent visit 8 October 2009 - Tips and new pictures will follow.
Auray is a place I never tire of and am always ready to make a little detour if only for a stroll around the harbour and a bit of people watching at one of the many quayside cafes in the historic St-Goustan Harbour where lovely restored examples of 15th,16th and 17th century architecture can be seen.
The town was founded on the banks of the River Auray and during its long history has undergone many changes.
A small Roman watchtower stood on the spot where, in 1201, a fortess was built and later played an important part in the long drawn out Wars of Succession between the French and the Bretons.
The victorious French, having defeated the rebellious Celts under du Guesclin in 1364, occupied the Fortress until the final battle in 1487. The fortress was destroyed by order Henry 11 in 1578.
It is interesting to note that just across the Channel, only a few years later, the Welsh Prince Owain Glyndwr, led another, ultimately unsuccessful, revolt of a Celtic nation against the rule of the English King Henry 1V.
In both countries the political consequences of those results still rumble on centuries later.
Work at St. Goustan, to develop the port at Auray as it can be seen today, began around 1614 with the construction of the two wharves which enclose the river, with the later addition of the Ramps and Promenade that connect with the old stone bridge. The exact date of the bridge is uncertain but is said to be from the 13th century, though it has certainly undergone some repairs and reconstruction.
By 1630 Auray was the third largest port in Brittany after Hennebont and Quimperle and it was from this position that the success and prosperity of the town grew - exporting to other parts of France and northern Europe - such goods as salt, wine and leather . It was from here to that explorers and adventurers set sail to establish links with Canada and America.
Its importance as a trading and commercial centre declined after the arrival of the railways in the mid 19th C. and by the early 1900's the main export was timber to provide pit props for the south Wales coal mines.
It is to the picturesque port that tourists have flocked for over 100 years
"Busy Cafes on the Quay side"
This was taken during an Easter weekend visit - busy but not heaving with tourists.
The picture was rather different on an October morning following 24 hours of rain. We arrived in the port before 9.30 am. Cafes were only just preparing to open and it was some time before we saw any other visitors. But it gave us a good opportunity to explore at leisure - to and find out what all the ongoing work around the quay was about.
"Watching the boats"
The harbour is home to many craft - boats for trips up the river and out to sea, small fishing boats and lots of private pleasure boats.
The growth of tourism has been responsible for both sustaining the prosperity and popularity of the area and the cause of considerable damage to the foundations of the port and it's wharveswhich I will describe in a general Tip.