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294,997 Steps Across Brittany, Normandy, Rouen & Paris – May 2011

294,997 Steps Across Brittany, Normandy, Rouen & Paris – May 2011

Aug 2nd, 2011, 11:49 AM
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294,997 Steps Across Brittany, Normandy, Rouen & Paris – May 2011

First a thank you to those of you who have written reports and also to those who helped me out with my questions. Our main concern in planning was how much ground we would be able to cover and still enjoy the towns we visited. We had a draft plan that we pretty much followed – made some changes due to G-8 Summit, husband getting a flu bug and just tired of driving. We had 3 nights in Vannes, 4 nights in St. Malo, 4 nights in Honfleur, 1 night in Rouen and 3 nights in Paris.

Our trip started out with Continental flights from Orlando to Newark to Paris. We arrived at CDG around 7:45 on a Saturday morning. We were able to go through Immigration, pick up our luggage and catch the easy CDGVAL to arrive at the CDG SNCF station by 8:30. We caught the 10:30 train to Rennes – had about 45 minutes there which gave us time to walk out of the station and see a little bit of Rennes which seemed nice enough in that area. The next connection took us to Vannes and we arrived there 15:15. We had planned to take a taxi to the hotel but saw a sign that indicated it was 2 km away so we opted to walk and stretch our legs.

We were staying at the Best Western Vannes Centre. It was not in the city center proper but about a 5 minute walk away. We paid in advance and the rate was 81 Euros per night for a superior room. I was happy with the hotel-it was contemporary and pretty modern which suits me fine for a first hotel stay after not sleeping for over 24 hours. They offered breakfast for 13 Euros which we skipped as there were plenty boulangeries nearby.

After a short nap we headed into the city center. Very pretty town with lots of cobblestoned alleys surrounded by timber framed buildings. Most of the shops were closed at this time (around 19:00) so we just strolled until we found a place for a Leffe (about 3 Euros each). There really was not much activity and we were getting a little leery about having picked too small of a base but then found our way down to the port where there were many more people hanging out by the marina. We saw a few restaurants but nothing really stood out so we ate at an outdoor café – while not great it was fine. I believe it was about 50 Euros for 2 glasses of wine, a seafood salad and mussels and frites. After dinner we headed back to the hotel but found what we called restaurant row on rue des Halles.

The next morning we had planned on taking a 10:00 boat tour of the Gulfe du Morbihan – however we woke up around 9:00 am. So instead we did some more walking around the ramparts and through the lovely gardens which are kept nicely. We then headed down to the marina and found a pain festival. Local bakers were showing how they make their goods. We picked up some pain au chocolat and had a good breakfast.

We then headed towards the Gare marina (a nice tree lined, pedestrian and bile path) to see if we could get a shorter tour of the Gulfe. There were lines of people waiting for the shorter 1 hour cruise so we decided to keep walking along the water. We ended up on a walking path through a nature preserve and in to a cute little town called Conleau. I am guessing it was about a 3 mile walk there. We could see the boats heading out to the Gulfe so sat down for a coffee and a nice view. We headed back to Vannes and had our first of many gallettes although this little place near the marina was our favorite creperie. We did some more walking through the town, up to the gardens on a hill and back through the ramparts.

After a nap we went back down to the marina and found a much livelier scene on a Sunday evening. The weather was fairly cool for most of our trip so we were happy to find a sunny spot for beverages. We went to Brasserie des Halles for dinner and enjoyed it. It was around 22:00 after dinner so we headed back to the hotel and used their free computer for a little bit. My husband had an important mission – to check on his fantasy baseball team! 29,000 steps for the day.

Monday was the day to pick up our car (let the squabbling begin!). We rented a compact car from Europcar (via Autoeurope) for about $40 per day. It was easy find on Victor Hugo. Our first destination was Quimper, another lovely town. We had questioned about staying in Quimper or Vannes – as someone had said, you can’t go wrong with either one. I would think children would like Quimper more as I felt like it had a more storybook feel to it. Beautiful cathedral (closed at lunch time) and canals throughout the city. We heard our first English spoken here – prior to that it was all French.

We were doing good on time so stopped in Concarneau on our way home – a great find. Enter the fortress and there is a small village with shops, restaurants, a park on the water etc. A nice walk along the walls leads to a fishing village (reminded me of New England area). I really enjoyed this stop.

Even though we spent more time in Concarneau than we thought we would it was still early enough in the day to venture into Pont-Aven. What a pretty village – water mills along the river, gardens and some nice galleries to wander through. I’m guessing it gets very crowded in full tourist season but we were early May so it was manageable.

Back to Vannes for our last evening there. We chose another restaurant on “restaurant row” and were both disappointed in our meals. Probably should have done more research on restaurants in Vannes. The wine was good though. Steps for the day: 21,000.
Dania is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2011, 11:53 AM
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Sorry for the typos - I'll post more later and add a link for pictures too.
Dania is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2011, 11:58 AM
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You missed the Carnac "alignments"?

http://www.flickr.com/photos/mksfca/...ith/4899358586
Michael is online now  
Aug 2nd, 2011, 12:41 PM
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ttt - we're off to Brittany [the north] next week!

looking forward to seeing where you go next.
annhig is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2011, 01:00 PM
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Yes, Michael - I know and it is shameful. But we will go back some day when it is warmer for us Floridians...

Tuesday morning we checked out of our hotel and headed to Rochefort en Terre another cobbled street village very well preserved. Beautiful flowers all around – in fact I read that the town is no longer allowed to enter into the flowered village contest in France. We got there around 9:30 and we were about the only visitors in the town. It made it nice for wandering and getting photos. Shops started opening around 10:30 which is when we were leaving.

From Rochefort en Terre we went to Josselin. This stop was added on after looking at another poster’s travel album and I am glad we did this day trip. The chateau grounds were full of flowers and there was a great view over the river. I liked the town itself and found it charming. There were some very touristy shops but I found a neat little shop that had bracelets and necklaces with flowers from Brittany. I got one for my mother in law and sister in law and of course one for me too!

We left Josselin early afternoon and made it to St. Malo without much ado. Navigating was going well – we had printed out Michelin maps and for the most part they were pretty accurate. I have to say that I grabbed a France map from home that apparently was outdated as some of the roads were now D roads or N roads but we were able to figure it out.

We had debated between staying in St. Malo or Dinan – again two towns that you probably could not go wrong with but we were very happy with St. Malo. We drove into the city walls just to get our luggage to our hotel (Hotel Nautilus) and then found a nearby parking area. Parking after 7:00 pm was free so we just put a few coins in the meter there. One thing we should have done better would be to keep more coins specifically for parking. Hotel Nautilus was adequate at 69 Euros per night (king room w/ shower).. Breakfast was about 8 Euros per person but we just opted for coffee (1.80 Euros each).

We walked through the town and out onto the pier. It seems like within the walls are a maze but it was very easy to find your way around. The sun was out so we were happy to just wander. There are plenty of shops and small parks to sit down and people watch at. We should have kept a better eye on restaurants because we ended up eating at one of those on the “strip” that I am sure caters to tourists. We had a fun waiter who we ran into a couple of other times on our visit there. Either we stood out as goofy Americans or maybe we over tipped – but he made a point to waive and say hello. 16,000 steps today.
Dania is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2011, 01:04 PM
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Wednesday morning we headed out to Mont St. Michel. I was laughing when I saw a couple in a convertible pull up, take a picture, then turn around and leave. Later on I thought that probably was not a bad idea. It was beautiful, but once inside quite the crowds. Do people really go into those museums they are promoting inside? Or did we just miss the fun of them?

We took the drive along the Cote d’Emeraude and stopped in at Cancale. It was interesting to see the oyster beds. If you are stopping for lunch here I would go at the normal lunch time. We stopped around 2:00 and the tractors were getting back to work so continuously ran back and forth along the road by the water (where the restaurants are). A little noisy but a pleasant enough stop. Also in Brittany the gas stations seemed to close up at lunch time too.

From Cancale we drove to La Pointe du Grouin which is a nature reserve along the coast. We took a nice walk along that path.

Once back in St. Malo we took a break before going out for dinner around 20:00. We had made reservations at Le Bistro de Jean the previous night and had a delicious meal there. The restaurant holds about 30 – 35 people and they seem to hold tables for locals. The service was also very good. Afterwards we headed to L’Univers (?) as we had discovered that they put on heat lamps around 10:30. Step # 15,140 (but uphill on Mont St. Michel should count for more).

Next stop : Dinan.
Dania is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2011, 01:11 PM
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Yes, too bad you missed Carnac but I guess you can't do everything in one trip. A nice itinerary nonetheless. If I'm not mistaken I believe I may have had some input on the first portion of your trip.
FrenchMystiqueTours is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2011, 01:16 PM
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FrenchMystiqueTours - Yes! You were a big help with your input and with photos. I used Micheal's too along with others. Thanks again.
Dania is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2011, 02:50 PM
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Interesting report. I am eagerly awaiting more as Brittany is on my shortlist for the next trip. Also looking forward to seeing your pictures!
irishface is offline  
Aug 2nd, 2011, 09:07 PM
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Excellent report. I never worry about covering too much territory too fast on a first trip to an area -- my mind files away the places that I want to return to for a more thorough visit in the future.
kerouac is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2011, 01:45 AM
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Dania - thanks for the tip about Cancale and arriving at lunch-time. DH and I love oysters so getting there at the right time to eat some will be no hardship.

we are going to be staying on the coast south of Paimpol just across the water from St. Malo for the first part of our trip. would you recommend St. Malo for a day out?
annhig is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2011, 11:57 AM
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annhig - I hope you have a great trip. Cancale is small but many restaurants along with water. I would go to St. Malo for a day trip - the best views are from the outside of the walls and the ramparts but it is nice to wander within. Dinan is also a good day trip. irishface - we really loved Brittany (slightly more than Normandy).

Kerouac- thank you for the comments, I do appreciate them very much! I always enjoy your reports.

There was some road construction on the main road in and out of St. Malo but detours were easy to follow. There was also road construction on the main highway and some of that was not as clearly marked but we managed to find our destinations.

Initially we thought we would take the Rance River cruise from St. Malo to Dinan but the 2+ hour trip each way would take up too much of our day. I saw the boat dock and it seemed to be an older crowd of people using that method of transportation. We made it to Dinan in time to catch the Thursday morning market. There seemed to be more clothing items than food booths but it was still interesting. This is another wonderful town full of cobble stone squares and half timbered buildings. There is an old clock tower that we used as our landmark in navigating the old town center.

We headed down to the old port on Rue du Jerzual (about a 10 minute walk down- one book said it could be hard on a person’s knees but we managed pretty easily. You can get some nice views of the port from the upper town if there are any knee/walking issues).

The port area has a residential area and several restaurants along the Rance River. There is a foot/bike path that begins on the other side of the Old Bridge that takes you into the small town of character – Lehon. That walk took about 20 minutes and was well worth it to us as we had another quaint village with flowers abound. There is a 19th century abbey there (inside was closed) and there were a couple of artists painting in the cloisters. I only saw one restaurant there and the menu was too heavy for us for lunch. I wish we had picked up some picnic supplies back in Dinan as it would have been nice to picnic by the river. We ended up eating lunch back at the port – and just in time. The next couple that came up after us were told that lunch was done (that was around 14:30).

We did a little more wandering in Dinan at the city center and then headed back to St. Malo (we had easily parked in the city center in what appeared to be a parking garage however the garage itself was full but there was plenty of parking above ground). I will guess things change quite a bit in the summer months regarding crowds and parking as this town is lovely.

Once back in St. Malo we found an internet café located in a bar. Not the most pleasant place to sit while my husband checked on his baseball standings but I had a good cup of coffee and then wandered into the adjacent park where kids were playing in the stones. Then we took the short walk from outside the ramparts planning to go to Fort du Petit Be however the tide was coming in so we were only able to get to Ile du Grand Be (where Chateaubriand is buried). You have to be careful about going out there as you could get stuck. We saw people coming back and having to wade through over a foot of water.

We headed back to the town and checked out a couple of restaurant menus then back to our hotel for a nap (we were really getting used to having about 1 – 2 hours napping daily). We went our L’Univers for a beer (also getting used to that)and then headed to a cute restaurant we had saw on a side street near the restaurant strip. It was fairly inexpensive and we ran into our waiter from the first night in St. Malo so figured if the locals ate there we could too. Total steps: 31,250.
Dania is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2011, 12:00 PM
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Friday was my husband’s birthday and we decided to celebrate by not having him drive. He was getting tired of it so we took a 10 minute boat ride to Dinard (the boat leaves from just outside the walls of St. Malo). The person selling us the tickets told us that we would be landing in one place but departing from another due to the high tide. We understood why once we got there – and apparently someone had not as there was a car submerged up to it’s windows. They had a diver from the tow company in the water.

I liked Dinard but would not want to spend a night there as it was not too active (that is just us – we prefer larger crowds and restaurant options). The town is pretty and I loved the walking paths around the water. It reminded me of El Murro in San Juan PR – I kept looking into the rocks for cats. There are several mansions in the upper part of the town and many of those were for sale.

We spent about 3 hours in Dinard and then went back for lunch at St. Malo. Afterwards we found a nicer internet spot in a coffee shop and spent a little bit time there. We then finished walking the ramparts we had not done previously and then walked over to Alet (small town about 15 minutes away). There was a nice walking path there and good views of Dinard and St. Malo. We walked a little into St. Servan on our way back but not energetic enough to go too deep into that town.

Our last night dinner was our favorite there – Restaurant l’ Atelier on rue de la Herse. Everything was delicious and the service could not have been better. My husband’s birthday cake was what we called chocolate soup. What a great idea and a great way to celebrate our last night in Brittany. 31,802 steps for the day so we deserved the desserts!

Here is a link to our pictures in Brittany: http://share.shutterfly.com/action/w...0IaMXDlszbsnSw

Now onto Normandy.
Dania is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2011, 02:30 PM
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Dania - we spent a night just outside Dinan last year and considered staying there again this time but thought we'd prefer to be by a beach. also it was VERY crowded and parking was a nightmare. not been to Dinard yet - perhaps we'll get there this time.

like the pix!
annhig is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2011, 02:30 PM
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What an enjoyable trip report you're writing. I'm looking forward to the rest of it.

We enjoyed the lunch crowd at the Bistrot de Jean. The place was packed. The largest table was all guys who looked like they worked in nearby offices. Lots of lively conversations, wine being passed around, serious eating, and afterwards they all got up and left at the same time, each one shaking hands with the proprietor, saying à demain (and not paying).

Wasn't Lehon a pretty little surprise? That's just the kind of scenic village I'm always looking for.
Coquelicot is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2011, 03:49 PM
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Looking forward to more!
ParisAmsterdam is offline  
Aug 3rd, 2011, 04:07 PM
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Enjoying your report very much. I, too, am looking forward to more.

Love how you used the photos of postcards to tell us where we were going next!!!
joannyc is offline  
Aug 4th, 2011, 08:57 AM
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Great pictures! Thanks for sharing. Wish I knew where I could get curtains like the ones with the cats on them.
irishface is offline  
Aug 4th, 2011, 08:57 AM
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Great pictures! Thanks for sharing. Wish I knew where I could get curtains like the ones with the cats on them.
irishface is offline  
Aug 4th, 2011, 12:39 PM
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Coquelicot-That is funny about Bistrot de Jean because we saw a group similar to that! And yes, Lehon was one of those places where you are so glad that you wondered where this trail went to...

Thanks ParisAmstrdam and joannyc (my husband gets credit for the postcard pictures). Irishface - you have a good eye regarding the curtains.
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