Quimper, France Hotels, Resorts & Hotel Accommodations

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QUIMPER
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Quimper is a commune of Brittany in northwestern France. Population (1999): 67,127. Its inhabitants are called Quimpérois. read full wikipedia reference about Quimper, France

QUIMPER , capital of the ancient diocese, kingdom and later duchy of Cornouaille, is the oldest Breton city. According to legend, the first bishop of Quimper, St Corentin, came with the first Bretons across the Channel some time between the fourth and seventh centuries to the place they named Little Britain. He lived by eating a regenerating and immortal fish all his life, and was made bishop by one King Gradlon, whose life he later saved when the sea-bed city of Ys was destroyed. According to one version, Gradlon built Ys in the Baie de Douarnenez, protected from the water by gates and locks to which only he and his daughter had keys. But St Corentin suspected her of evil doings, and was proven right: the princess's keys unlocked the gates, the city flooded and Gradlon escaped only by obeying Corentin and throwing his daughter into the sea. Back on dry land and in need of a new capital, Gradlon founded Quimper.

Modern Quimper is very relaxed, active enough to have the bars - and the atmosphere - to make it worth going out café-crawling. Still "the charming little place" known to Flaubert, it takes at most half an hour to cross it on foot. The word "kemper" denotes the junction of the two rivers, the Steir and the Odet, around which are the cobbled streets (now mainly pedestrianized) of the medieval quarter, dominated by the cathedral towering nearby. As the Odet curves from east to southwest, it is crossed by numerous low, flat bridges, bedecked with geraniums, and chrysanthemums in the autumn. You can stroll along the boulevards on both banks of the river, where several ultramodern edifices blend in a surprisingly harmonious way with their ancient - and attractive - surroundings. Overlooking all are the wooded slopes of Mont Frugy . There is no great pressure in Quimper to rush around monuments or museums, and the most enjoyable option may be to take a boat and drift down "the prettiest river in France" to the open sea at Bénodet.

The enormous Cathédrale St-Corentin , the focal point of Quimper, is said to be the most complete Gothic cathedral in Brittany, though its neo-Gothic spires date from 1856. When the nave was being added to the old chancel in the fifteenth century, the extension would either have hit existing buildings or the swampy edge of the then-unchannelled river. The masons eventually found a solution and placed the nave at a slight angle - a peculiarity which, once noticed, makes it hard to concentrate on the other Gothic splendours within. The exterior, however, gives no hint of the deviation, with King Gradlon now mounted in perfect symmetry between the spires.

On the opposite side of rue de Frout from the cathedral, the Musée des Beaux-Arts , 4 place St-Corentin (July & Aug daily 10am-7pm; Sept & April-May daily except Tues 10am-noon & 2-6pm; Oct-March Mon & Wed-Sat 10am-noon & 2-6pm, Sun 2-6pm), houses amazing collections of drawings by Cocteau, Gustave Doré and Max Jacob (who was born in Quimper), paintings of the Pont-Aven school and Breton scenes by the likes of Eugène Boudin. Only the old Dutch oils upstairs let the collection down.

The heart of old Quimper lies west of place St-Corentin, in front of the cathedral. This is where you'll find the liveliest shops and cafés, housed in the old half-timbered buildings, such as the Breton Keltia-Musique record shop in place au Beurre and the Celtic shop, Ar Bed Keltiek, at 2 rue Grallon. The old market hall burnt down in 1976, but the light and spacious new Halles St-Francis in rue Astor, built to replace it, are quite a delight, not just for the food but for the view past the upturned boat rafters through the roof to the cathedral's twin spires.

South of the covered market, on the opposite bank of the Odet at 14 rue Jean-Baptiste-Bosquet, is the excellent Musée de la Faïence Jules Verlinque (mid-April to Oct Mon-Sat 10am-6pm). The museum tells the story of Quimper's long association with faïence - tin-glazed earthenware - which has been made in and around the town since 1690, and demonstrates that little has changed in the Breton pottery business since some unknown artisan hit on the idea of painting ceramic ware with naive "folk" designs. That was in around 1875, as the coming of the railways brought the first influx of tourists, and a consequent demand for souvenirs. Highlights of the collection include pieces commemorating such events as the Great War, the first automobile accident and the death of Zola, but there are also some fascinating specimens produced by fine artists in the 1920s.

As you walk through the town, it is impossible to ignore faïence - you are invited to look and to buy on every corner. On weekdays, it's also possible to visit the major atelier H.-B. Henriot , in the allées de Locmarion just behind the museum (March to mid-July & Sept Mon-Fri 9am-11.15am & 1.30-4.15pm; mid-July to Aug Mon-Fri 9am-11.15am & 1.30-4.45pm; Oct-Feb tours only Mon-Thurs 11am & 3.45pm; tel 02.98.90.09.36). H.-B. Henriot maintain a bright, modern gift shop alongside; the prices, even for the seconds, are similar to those on offer everywhere else, but the selection is superb.

  

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