Another serendipitous find in Vannes. Two actually: a special running race and a photographic book exhibition.
At the time we were there in June, Vannes was hosting a very special Trail Running event: the L’ultra marin, billed as a race around one of the most beautiful bays in the world.
Vannes sits at the head of the Gulf of Morbihan and so is perfectly situated to be the center of the activities linked with this race. Runners run all the way, or part of the way, around the bay/gulf—definitely an endurance race if they go the whole way round. It’s a distance of 177 km (110 miles), along mostly coastal trails from one cove to the next, passing small villages, fields, salt flats, ancient menhirs. Only 20% is on roads. The trail is open and monitored day and night and participants can turn it into a major sporting challenge.
The L’ultra marin activities and information are focused on one side of the Vannes marina, near the Vannes Visitors and Information Center, and there was a definite buzz, a feeling of anticipation and excitement. We strolled all around the marina one morning, looking at stalls with runners’ needs (clothes, special energy foods and drinks etc), and marveling at the energy. That was the first time that we saw a bright red La Tinitaine biscuit truck, not realizing that those biscuits are very popular in Brittany. The following week, near Auray, the town where we stayed next, we actually found the La Trinitaine factory and outlet shop and went in to visit and sample (see upcoming post).
Earlier in our Vannes visit, on the other side of the marina we’d found the homage to Charlie Hebdo’s Georges Wolinski, which touched us deeply (see an earlier post). Now, at Le Kiosk, next to the Vannes Visitors and Information Center, a compelling poster stopped us in our tracks. It was of an African man, head wrapped up in a scarf and eyes blocked by sunglasses, with “Afrique(s)” [Africa(s)] written below him. We are originally from Africa, so this was like a magnet for us: we had to see what it was.
Well, it was an exhibition of about 40 of the photographs by French photographer Pascal Maitre from his book “Incroyable Africa” (Unbelievable Africa, or Amazing Africa). It’s a wonderful collection of stunning photos, telling a fascinating story (multiple stories really). A story of 13 countries in Africa, told by Maitre, who visited the continent many times. They were often places that were difficult to access, but places he could get to because he knew the terrain and the people. He must really have got the trust of those people to be able to take some of those photos we saw—some very intimate, others very graphic, or very poignant. Some are about nature, some about economic and working life, others about beliefs, many about conflicts and their consequences (and those African countries have had their fair share of war and civil conflicts), some about night life. All telling about life as he saw it in Africa.
Pascal Maitre was born in 1955 in Buzançais, France, and studied psychology before beginning a career in photojournalism in 1979. He’s worked for many magazines and the international press and has received many honors and awards. Although he’s worked around the world, most of his work was in Africa, a continent for which he had/has a special affection. He’s now based in Paris but still travels to Africa frequently.
The exhibition in the Kiosk was free (No photos of the photographs), and there were copies of the book to look at too. It ran from June 8-September 4, 2016, so we are very happy that we found it—a bonus to find something of Africa in Brittany.