CONTEMPLATING TEN CENTURIES OF HISTORY!
Dinan´s Clock Tower is one of the two Bell Towers of Brittany.
After climbing its 158 steps, we will arrive at a small balcony providing one of the best postcards of the town. From its 46 m. altitude, we can observe a unique perspective of the slate roofs topping the city´s timber framing, granite houses, and main bell.
Also, we can observe its German mechanism on the lower floor, although built in France, being one of the oldest clocks in Europe. Also, they offer the possibility of knowing Dinan at the end of the XVIII century with a projection and visiting the different power rooms.
It was built in the XVth century as a seat of power. The town was administered by a council of notables whose heads represented the bourgeoisie. The committee decided on constructing the tower as a meeting point, preserving the archives and preventing fires. It is curious to see how its square base changes into an octagonal one from the fourth floor.
The Duchesse Anne of Brittany authorized the installation of a clock and its first bell, giving the status of Civil Bell Tower (Beffroi in french). After the French Revolution, the tower stopped functioning as the administrative seat, being open to the public for its visit in 1,932.
Five bells form its carillon:
-Duchess Anne, the biggest of all with two and a half tons and one and a half meters in diameter, replicates once every hour.
-Noghette, the smallest of all of them, with 55 kg. And 45 cm. in diameter. It replicated to gather the council. It stopped functioning in 1,907. Nowadays, it doesn´t sound as if it is fixed.
-Françoise, with 121 kg. and 59 cm. in diameter, replicates every fifteen minutes.
-Jacqueline, 154 kg. and 64 cm. in diameter, replicates with Françoise.
-the last one installed weighs 170 kg.
All of them sound between 7h and 22h through a radio-synchronized control panel
23, rue de l´Horloge
open Tuesday to Sunday from February 9th to May 31 st from 14 to 18,30
It closes on Mondays
entrance: 4€/ 2.5€ reduced/ free under 8 years.
For a snack, I propose a dish known worldwide, having its origin precisely here, in this region of France. It is no other than the very famous and delicious crepe.
We can have it alone, sweet with sugar, jam, chocolate or cream, or salty with cheese and ham, or filled or baked, or folded in four, in a triangle, in half a moon shape or pancake, flamed or covered with an ice cream ball, the thing is that nobody can resist a crepe, always appetizing at any time.
Crepe is Brittany´s culinary speciality divided into two classes depending on the flour used: white flour, mixed with egg, milk and sugar to be eaten sweet, and brown wheat flour or buckwheat, which is mixed with water and salt to be eaten salty.
Traditionally egg together with ham and cheese are its main ingredients.
The mix is placed on a hot round plate, spreading with a wooden rake. When it is being done on one side, it is turned. When it is finally done, the traditional elements are added, or whatever the consumer desires as fruits if they are sweet, or sausages, mushrooms, chicken in the case of the salty ones.
The French name crêpe, from old French "Cresp", meaning curly, comes from Latin crispus. A crepe is characterized by undulations formed when the thin paste is spread.
Although crepes are being made from ancient times with the cake shape mixing different cereals with water, it was in the XIIIth century when in the North West of France, the black wheat was discovered in the region of Brittany. Tradition tells that peasant in the February month when they started sowing to ensure a good harvest ate crepes made with the previous year´s wheat.
Breton sayings are referring to crepes:
the first crepe (usually failed) for the dog, the cat or the innocent of the house
The one who eats the last crepe is the loser if they are no more, or the winner if there are still more.
We can find them in the multiple crepe places of the town.
NO MATTER HOW MUCH YOU DRINK, YOU WILL NOT GET DRUNK
In Brittany, we find one of its most renowned and typical drinks, produced by apple fermentation with little alcohol. The drink perfectly accompanies crepes, finding it in crepe shops and any supermarket.
Brittany´s cider is, together with the one of Normandy, the only one benefiting from the Protected Geographical Indication seal from the year 2,000, producing 40% of the cider consumed in France, so to say 436,000 hectolitres by year, being the second producer region in the country with 37 producers.
Its colour range is from pale yellow to mahogany chestnut going through golden orange, with fruity and flavoury flavours.
Three kinds of apples are used depending on the taste of their juice for the cider production: sweet, rich in sugar, giving a higher alcohol content, acid, giving a fresh flavour and slightly sour, and finally bitter rich in polyphenol, giving body to the cider and a little bit of bitter taste.
For the traditional cider production, apples rich in tannins are chosen, opting for bitter and sweet bitter.
We find four families of cider:
Sweet, with an intense flavour of apple and very sweet, it has less than three degrees of alcohol, Brut, between three and five degrees of alcohol, the most consumed. Traditional, eight sugary, with more than five degrees of alcohol, from fermentation without yeast and Pink, a new commercial creation using "Royal Délice" apple.
The cider Cornouaille stands out first Breton cider with Appellation of Origin.
Its consumption, essentially for domestic use, became popular between the first half of the XIXth century and the end of World War II among the farms and cities without drinking water.
Commercially wine was always more popular than cider. It will not be till the beginning of the 80´ when the Regulatory Council is created, and Agricole exportation improves coinciding with the touristic boom when it starts to be commercialized and its qualities to be valued. Despite the marketing, it continues to be a regional drink. For this reason, you cannot refuse to take at least a bottle with you as a souvenir or as an excellent present.
The river port of Dinan is one of the most requested stamps of the town. It is crossed by the River Rance, which despite its short route and little flow, has profiled a river valley raising over a plateau the medieval town, leaving exposed its wall and elevated viaduct joining both shores, creating an image of grandiosity, not to forget its cute medieval bridge from where we can contemplate the perfectly aligned symmetric line of historic houses bordering the pier, creating a perfect perspective.
Nowadays, a tranquil marina, intense commercial activity was developed in the past. The flowering trade of its port activity constituted the main richness of Dinan. Its merchandise was exported to places as remote as Flanders and England during the Middle Ages and from the XVIIIth century to the American colonies.
The primary local industries were the manufacture of clothes for boat sails, the production of leather, its white wine harvested in its river slopes, the textile in every variation, tapestry. All these activities gave work to the artisans of the burg and its suburbs.
Its port was also a deposit of imported products such as salt, resin and tar, linen grains, spices and nutritional products from the colonies. Also, wood was exported for construction, strings, cereals, flour, cider. It could receive deep-draft ships, some of them having one hundred tons, and it was the main point to access the walled town across the steep street Jerzual. From the end of the XIXth century, its port activity´s decline arrived, becoming a touristic destination. Commercial transit was substituted by motor boat rides and steamboats, recovering the nostalgia of yesteryear.
The River Rance flows into the Atlantic Ocean just twenty km away, forming an estuary of 63 square km, providing the area with several natural spaces of great ecological interest because of its incredible biodiversity. It stands out in a surprising way to find animals so rare as porpoises and sea cows in its environment.
Every population from antiquity built a wall serving mainly to protect and delimit their population. The division of Di nan from medieval times takes advantage of its strategic position over a steep valley, covering more than two kilometres and a half, and preserved in a perfect state constituting the most extraordinary walls of Brittany and one of the more exceptional fortified sets of France nowadays. We will enjoy a walk taking about at least one and a half hours, transferring us to the past, aside from the unbeatable views it offers from its high position.
Our tour will alternate defensive Towers and monumental Gates giving access to the walls, starting by the Gate du Guichet, 48° 27´ 00´´ N, 2°02´40´´ O, the main entrance from the West, to be able to border outside the walls.
In the first stretch between the castle and the following Constable Towers and Beaufort are the Gardens of the small devils where we can enjoy its rose garden, the poultry pen and a park with fallow deers and other farm animals.
In the next stretch, we see modern buildings embedded in the wall till it disappears because it was demolished in the XIXth century. We continue by Rue de la Croix, where our wall appears again till we arrive at the Tower of Saint- Julien serving as a corner. The three following Towers of Lesquen, de la Rue Neuve and Beaumanoir continue parallel to a beautiful Poplar Grove, creating two perfectly symmetric lines.
Next, the tour is done over the walls passing over three monumental gates, Saint-Malo, Governor´s Tower and Jerzual gate, offering superb views at both sides.
We continue till Saint Catherine Tower, where we change direction and walk by Promenade de la Duchesse Anne arriving at Cardinal Tower to enjoy the views of the port and its river valley.
The next stretch of the wall is placed over the step hillside profiled by River Rance, offering a more rustic image.
WHAT A SLOPE!
Jerzual street is one of the most picturesque and beautiful streets in Brittany and France. It is the oldest street in Dinan, where tanners, weavers, glaziers, and other traders and artisans were installed. They had their workshops in the lower part and the living place in the upper one. Their mercantile footprint came to convert Dinan into a vigorous commercial center.
Nowadays, ancient shops alternate with more modern ones such as antiquities, art galleries, souvenirs or decoration.
From the XVth century, the wealthiest businessmen and merchants built their houses with wooden frameworks, a testimony of prosperity. About one hundred were countability in the Historical Center. To differentiate the homes concerning their epoch, those of the XVth century usually have cantilevers, those of the XVIth arcades, the ones from the XVIIth and XVIIIth picture windows.
Those we can appreciate on this street differ from the others of the centre because their facades are usually finished with a sculpture as well as very colorful walls.
The street Jezual communicates the higher part of Dinan with its port. All a surprise, as being a small town of the interior, we can´t imagine it could have a port. It is like an oasis in the middle of the desert.
Going down the street, we will cross the stone Gate of Jerzual, from the XIVth century, which gave access to the town, making part of its walls. The next stretch is the street "du Petit Fort" leading to the port, nowadays for recreation, where the raw materials entered, departing as manufactured products.
Walking this street supposes an extra exercise, as it is very steep, with some stones of its new cobblestone floor, replaced because the old ones were worn out by being stepped on. The unevenness of the street goes between 10 and 18% in its 507 length, so to say, an unevenness of 75 m.! Once we finally can go down, we have to go up.
Did you know that the slope holds every year the challenge of Jerzual? the most popular race of the region, attracting thousands of followers and runners, starting from the port and trying to reach the goal placed in the high part of the town.
Rue du Jerzual
One of the most interesting historic buildings in Dinan is the Church of Saint Saviour. It stands out by its architectonic richness mixing different styles along the centuries, something interesting is playing to differentiate them; by its entrance gate made out of solid oak; because of its tower going up dominating over all the town: by its 17 chapels financed by the different guilds in this way making their masses, where each parishioner had his seat engraved with his name and a space to leave his hat, showing the power and influence of the bourgeoisie or guild again.
At the head, the sculpted images will surprise you: gargoyles in the buttress giving it a tentacular appearance, masks in different moods embedded in the walls, characters representing the guilds of the town topping the pinnacles and mythical animals, together with all this, the Church also hosts part of the rests of one of the leading figures of the One Hundred Years War, Constable Bertrand Du Guesclin.
The legend tells that when Saracens invaded France during the VIIIth century, they installed a camp on the shores of Brittany. When Emperor Charlemagne arrived riding a horse with his troops to recover the territory, all the invaders ran away to escape, frightened, leaving in the stampede a baby, very dark in his face and very ugly. And this small spawn came to be the ancestor of our great warrior, who also inherited the baby´s features. Historians describe him as a short leg child with long arms, big head and little graceful, black as a bear, the ugliest child of all Brittany, but endowed with a lot of strength, aptitudes to fight and primarily great cunning. His emblem was " courage gives you what beautifulness denies"
His feats on the battlefield earned him the recognition of the King of France, granting him a quadruple grave: body, heart, bones and viscera.
To accomplish his last will in his testament to rest in Brittany, his heart rests in a cenotaph placed at the interior of the Church, in the right-side transept
QUEEN OF THE VILLAGE!
The castle of Dinan is a set formed by three very different elements, the Ducal Tower, the Porte du Gichet, the traditional entrance from the South, both from the XIVth century and the Porte Coëtquen, outstanding artillery tower built in the XVth century during the modernization works of the urban enclosure. A parallel is made the parade protected by a structure with the shape of a spur. And in a very significant way, the clamps are oriented to the city instead of the exterior.
More than a fortress, this construction is a princely residence, an actual palatial Tower where the distribution of the spaces and its rich interior decoration respond to a strict organization of the XVth century. Divided into five levels, we find the kitchen, banquet hall, hall, chapel, and chamber. However, it arrived to have a sixth till the XVIIIth century with a slate conical capital type roof.
It functioned as a residence for the Dukes of Brittany till the XVIIIth century to be converted into a prison afterwards. From 1,908, it is the Municipal Museum of History and Handicrafts headquarters, the most visited monument in town.
One of the great characters of the history of France and favourite among the citizens of the town, the Duchesse Anne, choose Dinan and specifically its castle as a residential place.
Anne, Duchess of Brittany, was always the defender of the duchy in front of the craving for annexation. France and elevated in the national memory as a symbol of peace and concord.
Heiress of the Duchy of Brittany, being the only daughter and despite the law that prevented it, her father would modify it to avoid the duchy passing to the Royal domination. Anne is a political instrument over anything else. The Duque promises to marry his daughter to different princes, searching for military allies against the interest of annexation from France and making secret alliance pacts. In this way, Anne became the currency of the political intrigues of her father.
Possibly she is the only woman in history, two times Queen of France, Consort Empress of the Romans, Queen of Naples and Duchess of Milan and Bruttany, and Countess of Etampes.
Rue du Château.
SKIRMISHES OF WORLD WAR II
The English Garden is one of these places inspiring a lot of peace, ideal for replenishing energy, meditating for a while or taking a good breath of pure air.
They were designed at the end of the XIXth century over the ancient parochial cemetery of the Church of St. Saviour, from where we can distinguish its gothic style head. Due to the cholera epidemic that ravaged the town and for hygienic reasons, the cemetery was transferred to the outskirts of the walls. At the other side of the garden, we can appreciate the elegant Chapel of Saint Catherine that functioned as a barracks, town hall and hospital.
From its Belvedere, we have spectacular views over the port of Dinan, framed in the valley of River Rance. From this same place, Nazis defended from the shoots of the Americans during the summer of 1,944. These were at the other side of the river, from where they replicated the German projections from this same place, perfect from their high position and trimmed by the walls. With Normandy´s landing, the withdrawal of the Nazi occupation started. The German withdrawal arrived at Dinan, occupying the town where they had taken refuge from the Americans´ prosecution. A great part of the town suffered the damages of the contest.
In front of the insistence of the American bombardments, Germans escaped. Americans kept shooting as they didn´t know this, causing more smashes. At this point, a brave or maybe reckless young inhabitant of the town of Dinan appeared from this position of the Belvedere shouting to the Americans to stop shooting as the Germans had withdrawn the city. The young man´s notice didn´t affect him, so he decided to bring the news to the Americans placed at the other side of the river, risking his life. Under the slope, he crosses the river swimming as the Germans had dynamited the bridge, the only access at that time from the South to Dinan.
Good luck, a miracle. The case is that our hero could reach the other shore without suffering any wounds and could finally warn the Americans.
9 Rue Néel de la Vigne.
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