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Trip Report Brittany France 2014 - Trip Report

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In June, I went to the Brittany region in France for 2 weeks. I met a friend who flew in from London and joined me for a week. I was so impressed with the information I received from this board while I was planning (it really shaped my trip), that I wanted to share details of my travels in case you have any desire to visit the area and may glean a tip from my experience.

If you prefer just the photo tour, here is a link to some of my pictures from the trip.
https://www.flickr.com/photos/123908611@N03/sets/72157647549602833/

Below is a summary (a bit lengthy) of our travels:

First, I will tell you a little about myself and what led me to this area of France. I am a Canadian who loves to stroll through quaint, charming European towns. France is a favourite country of mine to explore, but I had never visited Brittany previously. I can speak a little French, but you certainly can get by without speaking it fluently. I wanted an area where I could bike or walk along trails with beautiful views. I also love….FOOD!! French food is amazing and, add wine to that? A true delight!

I flew into Nantes, picked up my rental car and drove to Lehon, just outside of Dinan. I was delighted that the Nantes airport was easy to negotiate and the rental agency was very simple to find. It was a little daunting arriving by myself and driving initially on my own. I had driven in the south of France several years ago on another trip and found that the signs on highways are very good and intuitive. I also studied up on what route I would take. I knew that the only way to really see the Brittany region was to drive so a car was a must. (The map the agency supplied was really terrible. I think they want you to pay the extra and rent a GPS).

Dinan / Lehon – The first 6 nights I stayed in a house I rented through the www.homeaway.co.uk website. My friend joined me several days into the trip, flying a quick trip from London to Dinard. The house we stayed at was reasonably priced, across from the Rance River, close to the Abbey. It was spacious, with a huge patio area, bikes available to use and beautiful views. Lehon is basically attached to Dinan, like a suburb. I had a few days to myself that I used to get over jet lag, pick up some groceries and explore. There is a beautiful pathway that I was able to access by bike right across the street from where I was staying. It starts out by following the Rance River, through Dinan, then meandering a few different directions. It was a beautiful day and I biked almost to Dinard. I brought along a light picnic lunch that I ate beside the river while people watching and meeting some of the locals. It was easy biking (no real hills) and I was amazed how many French families I saw out for a walk.

(A tip on Wi-Fi access: the house we were staying at did not offer Wi-Fi and it was difficult to find in the main centre of Dinan. The best place was about a 10 minute drive out of the main town, at a McDonalds. We purchased hot chocolates, sat down and were able to use Wi-Fi at our leisure).

After my friend joined me, we spent the next few days exploring Dinan. The rue du Petit Fort and Rue du Jeruzal are steep cobblestone streets with 17th century half-timbered houses lining each side. I can’t tell you how many pictures I took while walking along these streets straight out of the middle ages. St Saviour’s Basilica, the grounds around it and the castle walls surrounding the area were beautiful. Behind the church, up on top of the walls, are stunning views of the Rance river and the magnificent tall arched bridge crossing the river.

Restaurants in Dinan were easy to find and run from cute creperies to the full dining experience. The Brittany region is famous for its crepes or galettes, which is the savory type of crepe. Most restaurants have outdoor areas to sit at and enjoy beautiful views. Patisseries are also easy to find. …perhaps too easy to find. My favourite pastry is a pain au chocolat covered in sliced almonds and icing sugar. In the evening, back at the house, we would warm them up slightly, letting it melt in your mouth while drinking a deep red wine bought at the local market, relaxing on the patio, watching boats float by.

The next day it was a road trip to Mont St. Michel. Technically this monastery is in Normandy, but years ago when the river passed the monastery on the other side, it was actually in Brittany. It is remarkable to see, but it was very busy and very pricey. The charge for parking is high; toilets also have a small fee (but no fee for the much nicer toilets at the tourist information centre outside of Mont St. Michel) and another fee for admission into the monastery at the top of Mont St. Michel. We brought food with us to eat which was a wise decision since the restaurants had steep prices as well.

On our way back from Mont St. Michel, we followed the ocean, a very scenic drive, and drove through the quaint fishing town called Cancale. It has a pretty marina and if we had more time, we would have gone for a walk in the town. We continued driving to St. Malo.
We arrived in St. Malo in the evening. It is a port city with a walled in historic town area. Jacque Cartier, an explorer who discovered Canada, was born and buried here. Apparently since his discovery point was Quebec, that is their reason to fly the Quebec flag and not the Canadian flag …go figure.

We liked St. Malo so much, that we went back the next day (only about 30 minutes from Lehon) and explored more. The historic centre has beautiful ancient architecture, twisty, narrow cobblestone streets, reminiscent of Venice. We walked around the walls, collected shells on the beach and enjoyed the shops and restaurants. It was a nice day for walking, but cool for swimming in the ocean, however, the beaches are protected from winds due to the walls and many people were out laying on the sand.

Our next destination is the coastal community called, Saint Quay Portrieux. We were only the second renters to stay in this newly renovated condo. It was meticulously set up and super clean with two small terraces (great for drinking a glass of wine in the evening and eating a French pastry or two). The condo was central to both the marina and the beach. The community is close to a sea walk along the ocean that extends far beyond the community itself. We spent a day hiking along this pathway, taking pictures and watching the scenery change. The main beach is beautiful with a tide that changes throughout the day. There are many restaurants, with typical fabulous French food. We were there during summer solstice and there was an all day festival, highlighted by Boney M singing in the evening. We also managed to catch a FIFA game at a local bar. It was very exciting, particularly when the French team won. The atmosphere was electric! It was so fun to hang out with the locals.

After dropping my friend off at the Dinard airport for her trip back to London, I had 4 more nights on my own. I headed to the Golfe du Morbihan area of Brittany where I had booked a B&B in a converted farmhouse in Erdeven. Erdeven is a very small town, known for its megaliths (large pre-historic stone monuments) and close to a beautiful beach. The B&B had bikes available for guests and the host provided maps and bike trails. The next morning after arriving, I biked to the beach. It is a gorgeous, quiet beach that extends for about 7 kilometres. On my way back, I biked along a few other trails (marked by coloured posts that correspond to the map) and found some of the large pre-historic stones. It feels like they are placed quite randomly, but they are impressive in size and likely were brought in from a distance to form some sort of monument.

The next day I took the car to Quiberon. Quiberon is a beautiful resort town at the very end of a peninsula in the Golfe du Morbihan region. I spent the day walking through the centre of town and around the beach, checking out the many trendy little shops, and then found a cute creperie for an easy, scrumptious dinner.

The next day from Erdeven, I drove about 30 minutes to another seaside town called La Trinite sur Mer. The town has a beautiful marina and a walking path around the main centre with sporadic beaches along the way. With my camera in hand, I found many pretty, picturesque views.

My last day in Erdeven, I left relatively early and spent the morning in the historic area of Auray called, St. Goustan. I spent my time strolling along the winding steep cobblestone streets, finding a variety of beautiful views. I explored the lovely little shops and galleries, and found a charming café to stop and grab a bite to eat along a small medieval alleyway filled with half-timbered houses.

From Auray, I found it very straightforward to drive back to Nantes. On my own for this part of the trip, I did not want to get lost as Nantes is a large city. The airport, where I booked my last hotel due to a very early morning flight the next day, is outside of the main city so I watched for signs and was able to locate my turnoff easily. I checked in at the hotel and dropped off the rental car, conveniently located within a 5-10 minute walk.

Thank you for taking the time to read this trip report. It was a bit long, but I hope it was interesting and/or helpful! Bon Voyage!

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