France

In Saint-Brieuc, “freedom” at the Valais huts – They hold on to their corner of Breton paradise




To reach Joëlle Conin’s little haven of peace, you have to take the coastal path, at the Valais beach, the only one in Saint-Brieuc, in the Cesson district. At the top, a belvedere, with a nice view of the bay and part of the huts on the site, its particularity. On stilts on the rocky coast or in the greenery of the heights, overlooking the sea. Today, around a hundred, they were built at the end of the 19th century, and after the war.

(The Telegram / Valentin Boudet)

Joëlle’s is further on. You have to turn your back to the bay and go down an alley. Portals emerge between the hedges. After a few meters, she stops. On the right, behind a well-trimmed hedge, his shed. Number 23. Right in the heart of the Cité Baby, one of the four parts of the site, so named because “at the time, it was teeming with children”. Kids she was a part of: her parents built the little house there in the 1950s.

“Each one planted his stakes and took a piece of earth. It was regulated like that ”.

The bay through the window

“Each one planted his stakes and took a piece of earth. It was regulated like that ”, tells the septuagenarian, aware of a regulatory status subject to debate. “There was still no coastal law, nor any prohibition,” she explains. “The owner had given his consent and the shed had to be able to be dismantled at any time. We were tenants of the land and owners of the cabin ”. For Joëlle, this is still the case. Other occupants of the site have acquired their plot.

cabanon du valais; valais beach; Saint Brieuc ; joelle conin
(The Telegram / Valentin Boudet)

The little pied-à-terre, built by a carpenter and fitted out by the father, was invested in fine weather. At Cité Baby, there were many families of firefighters and railway workers. Mainly Briochins, like Joëlle, her parents and her three brothers. They sometimes came on Sundays, going there from the city center, where they lived, on foot. “And in the summer, we came to spend two and a half months here. We were incredibly lucky, ”she says, sitting in the main room. There, a table, a few chairs, a piece of furniture with trinkets and a switched on radio, and another with flowers and photos of his parents enthroned. Facing the window, with a view of the bay.

cabanon du valais; valais beach; Saint Brieuc ;
(The Telegram / Valentin Boudet)

“A fantastic playground”

The memories then come to the surface. Joëlle, inexhaustible, remembers “a simple vacation”, made of walks, games and “fishing trips” which everyone tasted the same evening. She remembers the couple who “went to sell their vegetables grown on the spot”, the local butchers who came to take orders, the baker who honked and “everyone came to buy their bread”, “tchou-tchou” of the train which made the children rush to see it, of the moments when everyone watched for the tide to go swimming … “My first memory linked to the place? Freedom. On a fantastic playground, in a healthy spirit where everyone knew each other ”.

“It is the place where I resource myself”.

cabanon du valais; valais beach; Saint Brieuc ; joelle conin
(The Telegram / Valentin Boudet)

After her father died in 1972, her mother continued to come. “She hasn’t missed a summer. Cesson was his vacation ”. When he died in 2004, his children decided not to modernize the shed, as if to preserve a bubble of nostalgia. “We want to keep the memories intact. When we come back here, we go back to childhood. To some, that might sound ridiculous. For us, it made sense ”. Joëlle comes back to Cité Baby every summer, but not only. “This is the place where I resource myself. Life is not easy. When I feel that I am saturated, that it is bubbling, I come here. As soon as I arrive, my brain goes blank. I won’t find it anywhere else. This is where I feel good ”.

cabanon du valais; valais beach; Saint Brieuc ; joelle conin
(The Telegram / Valentin Boudet)

“The beach, without its cabanas, will no longer have visitors. If we shave everything, what would they come for? “

Commitment and reappropriation

This strong attachment explains her commitment to this “picturesque site” which is, for her, part of the Briochin heritage, despite its genesis and its status beyond the nails on the urban plan. “The beach, without its cabanas, will no longer have visitors. If we shave everything, what would they come for? “.

To protect them, in 2011 she participated in the creation of the Association of Friends and Users of the Valais Beach. Under his leadership will follow a petition of several thousand signatures, a commitment from the then mayor, Bruno Joncour, not to destroy, and the organization of festive days reviving the site. A pride for Joëlle. “The place was denigrated and forgotten by the Briochins. They have reclaimed it ”. Today president of the association, she wishes to “go further” in the legal recognition of structures and has just written to the new mayor on this subject. Always ready to defend the cabins, their history and memories.

cabanon du valais; valais beach; Saint Brieuc ; joelle conin
(The Telegram / Valentin Boudet)

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