The Green Guide: Brittany, by Michelin
It takes a special kind of critic to seek to rate as many things as Michelin does. In reading this book, and I must admit that even without a burning desire to see Brittany that this is a fascinating book, the author(s) of this work sought to rate nearly everything it seemed, including the altar of random parish closes in rural Brittany. As someone who is deeply dedicated to the art of critiquing and rating, I was impressed that even remote rural parish churches have a star rating for the various aspects of the church. This dedication to rating nearly everything can be found throughout this volume, to the point where the book even rates individual masterpieces in individual museums within the area of Brittany so that, to take one example at random, The Rennes Musee des Beaux-Arts (itself receiving one star) has a one-star masterpiece painting in The Newborn by Georges de La Tour, as well as another one-star masterpiece in Georges Lacomb’s Wave Effect. This dedication to giving stars and ratings is impressive to me, and if it is impressive to you as well then this is a book that you will likely enjoy. It makes me want to read more Michelin guides just to see what is rated in them too.
This book is a large one at more than 400 pages long, and it is divided in a sensible regional fashion to encourage travelers to look deeply at what each part of Brittany has to offer along with (perhaps unsurprisingly) a lot of driving tours. The book begins with a discussion on planning one’s trip, including driving tours, where to go, what to see and do, things to know before going, getting there and around, and some notes on where to stay and eat. After that the book turns to introducing Brittany, starting with a look at how Brittany is today and then looking at history, art and culture, and the beauties of creation. The rest of the book, almost 400 pages, is devoted to discovering Brittany. To accomplish this task the author first discusses northern Brittany by looking at such areas as the area in and around Rennes, then the Cote d’Emeraude (including St. Malo with its World War II damage), the area around St-Brieuc and Tregor, and North Finistere, including the port city of Brest. After that the book then looks at Southern Brittany, starting with South Finistere (including the provincial capital of Quimper), Morbihan, and then the area around the city of Nantes. The book then ends with an index, maps and plans, and a map legend.
Admittedly, more than any other book that I have read about Brittany, this particular book gives the sense of what one would want to see there and what would be appealing to a cultured traveler. The book discusses not only the history of the place and its obvious religious appeal to those who want to see Catholic churches, which is not something I must admit myself to be particularly fond of, but also the business districts of areas as well as art museums and castles. It is easy to see why Brittany would be appealing to someone who enjoys history and has a sense of appreciation for a culture that desired and has maintained a certain distance and separation from the rest of France. If you think that is a noble thing, and I do, for an area to have separatist tendencies from France, then this area has something to offer in a challenging Celtic language and an area with a mixture between thriving seaport cities and starkly beautiful rural areas with a lot of history to appreciate and plenty of reminders of the conflict that long wracked the area going up to World War II.