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I remember my first contact with Brittany during my student days. Thanks to a French teacher who often spoke about Rochefort-en-Terre—a tiny and dreamy village where his mother was born—I harbored, for years, the desire to travel there, and when I finally had the chance to do so, I found it to be an exceptional site.
This village is located in the department of Morbihan in northwestern France, 32 km (20 miles) from Vannes and 370 kilometers (230 miles) from Paris. High on a rocky hill overlooking the fertile Guezon Valley, Rochefort-en-Terre is a tiny town, with a population that does not reach one thousand inhabitants.
The history of this enclave dates from the 12th century when the feudal lords of the Rochefort family built a magnificent castle and a town developed around it.
Today, the old city of Rochefort-en-Terre is one of the most beautiful in France, earning awards in the annual contest of Villes et Villages Fleuris (Villas and floral villages). One of this bucolic enclave’s peculiarities are the house balconies— built of wood and stone—which showcase the best of 16th and 17th-century Breton architecture decorated with colorful flowers.
The most surprising feature as you arrive at Rochefort-en-Terre is its location on a rocky promontory, and the way its streets climb tortuously towards the hilltop while—at every step—you find countless tiny shops and delightful craft workshops.
This miniature city looks like a jewel set in the heart of Morbihan. Especially noteworthy are the medieval houses at the charming Puits Square and the Rue Saint-Michel, as well as its small bars and restaurants. The convent of Notre-Dame-de-la-Tronchaye, a clear example of a religious building in medieval France, is beautiful and full of pastoral charm.
And of course, there is the castle, which was completely renovated in the 20th century by the American painter Alfred Klots, who transformed it into a comfortable palace. Soon after, that the town became a meeting point for famous artists and intellectuals.
If you have the opportunity to visit Rochefort-en-Terre, I suggest you do it in their afternoon, when there are fewer visitors, and you can escape the incessant crowds of tourists that flock to the pond of Moulin Neuf, the starting point for a walk through town and to enjoy its beautiful views.
Moreover, a few kilometers from town is the Prehistoric Park with over 25 hectares dedicated to archeology and anthropology, showing more than 30 representations of life in those times, rebuilt between lakes, forests, and ravines.
Rochefort-en-Terre is a magical place that preserves the past. The village looks like a movie set. In fact, several movie adaptations of Alexandre Dumas’ adventure novel The Three Musketeers have been filmed around the castle. ■
Photos by: Maxence Gross, Yannick Le Gal, D. Guillaudeau, Rochefort.en.Terre Tourisme.