Most parents will be familiar with the challenge of getting children to willingly go on a walk. It’s much easier to say “we are going to explore such-and-such a place”. Our kids are not wise to this yet! On our Brittany holiday, hubby and I wanted to stretch our legs on the famously pretty Breton streets of Quimper. We picked a more cloudy day when the beach would be a bit too cool for swimming, programmed the Sat Nav, and off we went.
The Breton Spirit of Quimper
Quimper (pronounced “Kemper”) is the historic capital of Cournouaille (almost pronounced “Cornwall”). It’s strange to think that Cornwall and Brittany were once the same nation because only a few things give a hint of this now, such as these names. The food is different, the architecture is different, the shop opening hours are particularly different! The most obvious similarities are in nature: the rolling landscape, flowers, plants and coastline were all very reminiscent of Cornwall. Brittany is almost ten times larger, however.
Why Walk through Quimper?
Quimper does have the air of a capital, with an impressive waterfront, cathedral and formal town square. There are also ancient town walls and public gardens. It’s quite easy to spend time walking around Quimper’s cobbled streets because there are so many of them; nearly all are picture-postcard pretty. Most streets in the centre are pedestrianised and so you may stop and stare at the half-timbered houses in safety. It was very crowded but down by the river there were less people. Here there are impressive stone-built French buildings from a later period. Several pedestrian bridges criss-cross the river, lined with boxes of flowers.
We also walked through the woods high on the opposite bank which had great views across the old city. Back down in the old town a labyrinth of charming old streets gave us endless possibilities of pretty views and quaint shops. We were quite glad to have a route plan to see more of it and avoid getting lost. The small streets meant that there was a new view every twenty yards, and the children never got bored. We were really pleased with our walking route which we had adapted from a French guide book we found in our gite.
Our recommended family walking route of Quimper
We parked at Parking Marechal de Lattre de Tassigny on the Rue des Douves, which seemed a good choice. We walked down the hill to the roundabout then took the Rue Toul al Laer (right), soon turning right again to arrive at the cathedral square. Walking diagonally across the square we took the Rue du Roi Gradlon to the waterside. We turned left along the Boulevard Amiral de Kerguelen.
At the junction with the post office we crossed the river and took Rue Theodore le Hars. We walked to the end. Opposite the t-junction is a flight of stairs between the buildings. We went up here and followed the steep slope until it bent right to take us among the trees. This path through the woodland is Promenade du Mont Frugy and there are good views over the rooftops of the old town. The path then comes down again to the Tourist Information Office on the Rue de la Deesse. There were fairground market stalls opposite when we visited, and we paused for ice-creams and churros.
We then crossed back over the river on a pedestrian bridge. At this point we took a wrong turn and went up a parallel street. The one we meant to go up is the Quai du Steir which is another pretty waterfront. At the end it’s a left turn onto Rue Astor and ahead is the Place Tere au Duc. Turn right to leave the square and turn right again at the next junction to join the Rue Kereon. Instead we could have turned left out of Place Tere au Duc and explored more, but we were getting a bit tired. Whatever you do, don’t miss coming back to Rue Kereon, as it’s the most photogenic part of Quimper. This road heads back towards the cathedral. The walk could end here, having done 2.2km.
Back at the cathedral we had a brief look at the Cathedral gardens then left the square this time by the tiny little Rue du Gueodet. We turned right onto Rue des Boucheries then left onto Rue des Gentilshommes. This is all so pretty. Near the end of this street we turned right to go uphill on Rue Saint Nicholas. At the top is tree-lined Place Mesgloaguen and we continued straight ahead until we reached a big road junction near Place de la Tourbie. Here we turned right and followed the old city walls. Where the wall meets Rue Elie Freron there is a superb turret, straight out of a fairytale.
We walked a little way down Rue Elie Freron and entered the gardens “Jardin de la Retraite” and “de la Paix”. This is a wonderfully restful spot with many nooks and corners, much like the town itself. Our walk ended here as were just over the road from our carpark. This additional part of the walk is 1km.
Google maps claims the whole 3.3km walk takes 42 minutes but we managed to stretch it out to several hours.
Tips for a family walk in Quimper
Tip: Before setting off, download a google map of the area onto your phone. Then you’ll be able to follow the route without using up your data roaming. Alternatively there is a car park right next to the tourist office so why not pop in there and pick up a town map. With a pushchair I would miss out the section up the hill and through the woods. Turn right before Rue Theodore le Hars and walk down the riverside to the Tourist Information office to miss this part out.
Even better tip: Print out my summary of the walk before you visit Quimper. Free printable of the route, click here.
Please forgive the lack of accents in the French names as I have not been able to persuade my WordPress website to display them in the text. Read another blog post from this trip: Breton Galettes and Crepes: A Cooking Demonstration
Linking up with #FarawayFiles no. 58