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Megaliths on Brittany's coast.

A millennium before Stonehenge was completed, an early culture in western France had already erected thousands of stone monuments and burial chambers across southern Brittany. More than 3,000 of these megaliths and tombs still stand near the town of Carnac, and you can see most of them on a self-guided, half-day tour.

From the beach resort of La Baule near the western end of the Loire Valley, Carnac is a 2-hour drive northwest. From Paris, it's about 6 hours southwest.

Visit a museum, tour the megaliths

Brittany's first settlers buried their leaders under earthen mounds and in stone tombs that are some of the oldest manmade structures in western Europe. Later, as they developed agriculturally, they mounted huge stones as monuments to fertility, as boundary markers, and to indicate the locations of springs. They erected long parallel lines of stones (alignements) to track the sun and seasons. Large stone rings marked their ritual sites and meeting places.

Start your tour at the James Miln-Zacharie Le Rouzic Museum of Prehistory in downtown Carnac, with exhibits of pottery, stones, and casts of carvings from the era of the megaliths. Hours are 10 to noon and 2 to 7 daily; admission is nominal. English-language guides and maps are available here at the museum and in Carnac bookstores.

Drive northwest out of town, following signs to the Route des Alignements along Highway D196. A map at the first megalith field helps orient you to the other stone monuments in the region.

Some 33 hotels, 2,000 flats, and 21 campgrounds are in and around Carnac, but it's a popular summer resort, so make plans as soon as possible.
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Title Annotation:Carnac, France
Date:Jul 1, 1985
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