There’s a storybook quality to the pretty little town of Rochefort-en-Terre, our last stop in Brittany. As the name indicates, it is built on a large rock outcropping, and has earned France’s appellation of “Petite Cité de Caractére” or small city of character. Flowers festoon window boxes and planters everywhere, and the main squares have old stone horse troughs full of flowers, tomatoes and herbs.
Of course, there’s a castle at the top of the hill. The original 12th century castle was destroyed when the King of France annexed Brittany and punished the Breton nobility who resisted. But Lord Jean IV de Rieux Rochefort was allowed to rebuild. The castle was destroyed again in 1793 during the French Revolution, and rebuilt yet again by the wealthy American painter, Alfred Klots in the 20th century.
Meanwhile in the medieval town, the peasantry lived downhill while the wealthier citizenry and church were closer to the castle. These buildings are beautifully preserved, with many styles from 16th-century half-timbered buildings to the stone buildings of the Renaissance.
Tourists with a bent toward shopping can find the usual stuff, but also real art in galleries and artisanal craft shops: glass-fusing, leather tanning, room perfumery, and candle-making. There are also several shops that carry interesting antiques.
The town stops traffic from entering during the day from noon to 7 pm so that visitors can enjoy themselves without worrying about vehicles. There are exceptions: an historic car picks up trash and a horse-drawn wagon sells fresh produce from the farm down the road.
At night, the town lights up the houses, creating more story-book charm. The lights go on at dusk, around 10 pm in August, and go off at midnight. It took us a couple of nights of trying before we stayed awake long enough to see them.
The gite we stayed in speaks to fairytales too. We’re surrounded by thick stone walls, large fireplaces on the bottom and second floor levels, and open beamed ceilings with a main beam about 18 inches thick. Sumptuous drapes separated rooms and created closets. The gas oven looked almost restaurant-worthy and the kitchen even had a dishwasher.
We loved our host who drove us and our luggage from the lower level parking area to the gite up the hill. She also thoughtfully provided us with a gift of Roquefort cheese, a bottle of wine, and a large load of bread. While Cinderella’s stepsisters may have looked down their noses at this repast, we appreciated it.
On one of our exploratory walks, we went down the hill to find a restored 16th century public washhouse using water from the nearby river. I could imagine Cinderella cleaning the step-sisters’ garments by hand at one of the stations. How nice that it had a roof to protect peasants from inclement weather while doing their laundry.
I have to reluctantly admit that in our party, I am the laundry Cinderella. Admittedly, it was not at the public washhouse, but in the depths of the gite, a height-challenged space under the house. The steep outside steps are being taken over by hearty spider plants living in the cracks, and the massive stone lintel does not budge when one bumps their head into it. Thank God it was not raining.
It’s the fair trade for Dianne doing all the driving. Still, if you’ve read some of my prior travel essays, you know I don’t like having to figure out these European machines, especially when they’re labeled in a foreign language. At least the upside of the laundry assignment at Rochefort-en-Terre is that the basement also had a dryer. But really, did my room have to be in the renovated garret on the third floor? Cute as it was, it’s a long way to the basement.
For other essays on our rural France journey, see:
If you like my blog, please leave a comment. You may also enjoy my book, Manifesting Paradise, available on Amazon. Receive my posts automatically by filling in your email address in the “follow” box at the top of the right column. And please join my mailing list.