After driving through moist winding roads and up into higher elevations,we arrive early in Locronon. Our guidebook describes Locronan as “an exquisite hilltop village” “frozen in its ancient form” and we are eager to explore. Cars are restricted in the actual village, so we park in the designated lot and amble down the street that leads into the town. At the end of the street the towers of the Eglise St-Ronan and the church itself are swathed in mist. Beautiful granite buildings line the street and flowers spill from flower boxes, planters and gardens. Everything is lush and timeless here.
This is a peek-a-boo kind of town. Around each corner are visual delights, waiting to surprise and entrance. Each new spot offers a new vantage. Peek through a hedge, and see the rolling hills and farmland spilling down the hilltop. Glance around a corner to see a cobblestoned lane, leading on a winding path to some hidden destination. Walk past the chapel to see pink and purple hydrangea burst forth from a small, inviting garden, their enormous blossoms unbelievably vibrant in the gray morning.
We meander through the town and opt for a tour of the church. Among other things, our volunteer tells us the tale of St. Ronan and the Keben, a local woman who conspired against him. He shows us how to follow the dramatic story through the painted carvings on the pulpit. These are not tame stories and involve werewolves, infanticide, treachery and miracles. People still travel to this church to crawl under the supine statue of St. Ronan, hoping to cure their back pain. Fascinating stuff!
After our tour we visit boulangeries, and a variety of other stores. Following the advice of our guide book, we head toward Notre Dame de Bonne Nouvelle, a nearby chapel down a windy, green path, strewn with pebbles and warning signs about steep descent. The chapel is situated near a natural spring, and it’s a green, lush, vibrant, holy place. Used by the hemp weavers and as a washing place, this spring was a gathering place for centuries. As in most of Brittany, you can feel the weight of time in the weathered lichen-covered gray stones and in the cool reflections in the still pool of water. The weather heightens the feel—misty, mystical, and serene.
Months have now passed since my daughter, Lydia, and I visited Locronan and traveled throughout Brittany. I’m back in the classroom and Lydia is well into her first year of college. Though empty nest hasn’t impacted me as I’d feared, there are days when I yearn for the timeless tranquility of Brittany, for those traveling days, a respite from the unrelenting pace of teaching and a time for the two of us. Tonight as I write this, thinking back, and browsing through the pictures, I’m struck by how far away and dreamlike our journey seems. And I realize how much I would like to sink back into that months-ago summer day, and relive another carefree moment with my daughter in this beautiful hillside Breton village, suspended in time.