Walking without a donkey: France 5

Saint Martin de Bréhal to Granville 5.5.17 11 kms 2.5 hrs

I left the Camping de la Vanlée before 8am to find breakfast. I had given no Shiatsu and hoped that that would give me time to write the night before, but I was too tired after the walk and all that fresh air.

After the howling wind interrupted my repose, now there was the soothing sound of the waves, a man trying to start his boat motor after tractoring it backwards into the water, and the odd seagull. It was cold though.

Grey pointed rooves and white walls are typical of the architecture along this part of the coast. There are huge rocks along the landward edge of the beach and I can already see Granville, a much bigger town, coming into sight. Hmm, hungry!

’Attention un viper’ said a hennaed woman with an alsatian. ‘I want to see one’, I thought, eyes to the ground, but no.

Soft grasses, swooping swifts, watching the horses on the beach, and hearing the tiny chuck chucking bird sounding the alarm as it hovers with wings going 100s of flaps to the minute.


On I walked, my knee complaining again. What does it do, I ask myself? It makes me pay attention to how I step, how my weight is distributed.


People warned me it would not be the same walking the second time (after the Camino Francés, Via de la Plata, and Sierra Calderona in Spain), and they were right of course: I have changed; I have reflected; written about my experiences; and integrated many of them. The pleasure is equal, however.


Kids are rock-pooling, there are colourful beach huts, and many people stop and ask about me and what I am up to, as I enter Granville. I regard a man taking advantage of the breeze, and flying a kite in figures of eight.

The swimming pool amongst the rocks on the edge of the sea is deserted at this hour. There are steep green cliffs with a beach at the bottom. As I climbed, I inadvertently entered a cemetery with great views across the bay. Huge mausoleums and ancient crosses are all crowded together.


I turn right on the outskirts of the town, getting accustomed to the traffic noise, and a house straight out of ‘Madeline’, a book by Ludwig Bemelmans (and film), which I shared with my daughters when they were young.

Then I saw a sign which I spontaneously followed to the Jardin (garden) de Christian Dior. I sat in the sun (and wind), shut my eyes and listened to the water, and to a particularly tuneful chanteuse (bird!). I smell the roses, and imagine that my walking baton is an elegant cane and I am strolling in my couture garments in the 1950’s.

Dior had a life shorter than mine has already been, and this gorgeous place captured my imagination. (See below for ticket information).


It turns out that the walk I am on, ‘mon chemin’, actually passes through the garden, though I had lost it and only come on a whim!

There are wonderful views from the Dior gardens.

Back down at sea level there is a hideous casino – how do town planners allow these buildings?

I suppose the casino has a sort of gothic (as in bell tower with bats) air about it.

The Hotel de Jeunesse is hard to find and shuts for a long lunch. The woman was brusque, but kindly phoned through to other places for me as it was a holiday weekend, though everywhere was full.

I had a room to myself, and was forced to stay a second night, which of course turned out to be propitious as the next day it poured with rain.

There are no shortage of municipal toilets here – I could have relieved myself at every corner!

Fetchingly decorated loos at Museum.

I recommend the Café Pulperia in an attractive row of shops etc very close to the hostel – the crab salad was in a plastic pot but it, the wine, and the fresh fruit salad were all delicious (€11) and I sat for ages with the wifi. There is also an Internet café next door which I spent hours in the next day (writing out of the rain).

I wander up to a church I can see.  A nice woman walks up the hill with me and tells me walking is good for the heart. Unfortunately the Eglise Saint Paul is, like many I tried to visit this month, shut for repairs.


You can buy anything you want here in the busy shopping steets, with so many cars, and pretty corners. I find a public park, Les Jardins, with llamas, peacocks, chickens, goats, and 2 black swans each on one leg, all happily coexisting.

My late afternoon walk takes me to the old town at the far side and up steep steps. The buildings are worth seeing as is the Modern Art Museum,  a collection of books and art work with visiting exhibitions.

From landscape painting,
to original essays gifted to the collector.
From Rodin,
and Colette.

I walked back via the port.

And here are a few extra photos to persuade you that Granville and the surrounding area are well worth visiting.

I was walking GR223 Normandy coastal walk.

Camping de Vanlées – Rue des Gabions – 50290 BREHAL Tél. : 02 33 61 63 80 / Mail : camping.vanlee@wanadoo.fr

Two of the outdoor spaces at the Jardin de Christian Dior.

If you want to visit Dior’s garden, it is free. If you would like to see the house (and there is a charming tea garden), you can get free access to it if you pay to visit the Modern Art Museum, or vice versa.

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