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A walking city built on water

© By Mike Keenan

  Quimper's sonorous name derives from the Breton word kemper or "confluent" because the rustic city was built at the meeting of three rivers, the Steir, Odet and Jet. As such, we found it a terrific place for intriguing walks, observing sailboats and other craft with footbridges galore, always festooned with dramatic flower boxes to facilitate multiple travels across the welcoming waterways.
     Exuding a characteristic rugged Breton character, here you proudly find native language books and music, traditional costumes and delicious crépes and cider. Quimper is noted for its stylish, traditional pottery which is called faïence. A typical design often features decorative flowers and animals framed by blue and yellow borders. Faïence was originally created for traditional wedding presents and collector's heirlooms, but now is exported all over the world.
     Quimper boasts a Romanesque cathedral, dedicated to the city's founder, Corentin. Constructed in 1242, it marks the earliest Gothic structure in lower Brittany. Its distinctive twin towers stand 250 feet tall, the spires added in the 19th century. The 15th century stained glass windows are exceptional, and in this inspiring setting amidst the vaulted ceilings and vertical pillars, we raptly listened to a touring French chamber orchestra play exquisite classical pieces, a pleasantly melodic way to pass an evening.
     The capital of the Département of Finistere, Quimper sits inside a pretty valley, 34 miles northwest of Lorient, 111 miles west of Rennes and 303 miles west-southwest of Paris. Not far to the south, Impressionist, Paul Gauguin, painted the landscape and its inhabitants, working in Pont-Aven and Le Pouldu. At 35, he abandoned a secure career as a stockbroker to follow his bliss and embrace full-time painting, later to venture to exotic Tahiti to fashion primitive carvings and paintings now displayed in major museums. As with Van Gogh, Gauguin focused on the passionate yet simple quality of his native Breton's spirit, evident in Yellow Christ.
     Vieux Quimper boasts an array of crêperies, half-timbered houses and shops. Near the Episcopal Palace which contains the Musée Départemental Breton, devoted to regional history, archaeology, ethnology and commerce, lay ruins of the town's 15th century walls. Nearby, the Musée des Beaux-Arts exhibits a 19th century façade and an entirely rebuilt interior which houses a collection of 14th-21st century paintings, including works by Boucher, Corot, Oudry and Rubens along with canvases by such Pont-Aven school painters as Bernard, Denis, Lacombe, Maufra and Sérusier.
     It's easy to reach Quimper, the terminus of the vaunted TGV high-speed train line from Paris, which passes through Le Mans, Rennes and Vannes.

Mike Keenan writes for QMI Agency (Sun Media) Canada's largest newspaper publisher, printing 44 daily newspapers as well as a web portal, Canoe.ca. Besides regular columns for the St. Catharines Standard, Welland Tribune and Niagara Falls Review. Mike has been published in the Globe and Mail, Toronto Star, Buffalo Spree, Stitches, West of the City and Hamilton-Burlington's View Magazine. His work is found in QMI published dailies such as the Toronto Sun, Ottawa Sun, Vancouver Sun, London Free Press, Calgary Sun, Winnipeg Sun and Edmonton Sun.

Photo Credits
Mike Keenan

If you go
This Destination
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Office de Tourisme de Quimper Cornouaille: http://www.quimper-tourisme.com/
Quimper Faience: http://www.quimperfaience.com/
Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quimper,_Finist%C3%A8re
Wikitravel: http://wikitravel.org/en/Quimper

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