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Jamikins and Bikerscott go Francing - A Brittany Trip Report

Jamikins and Bikerscott go Francing - A Brittany Trip Report

Old May 29th, 2008, 04:55 AM
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Jamikins and Bikerscott go Francing - A Brittany Trip Report

Hello dear Fodorites.

My hubby (Bikerscott on this forum) and I are living in London, UK and just got back from a lovely 10 day vacation in Brittany France. We are in our early 30's and love food, wine and everything French.

On our previous 3 week trip in 2006 we visited Paris (been about 4 times), Burgundy, Provence and Dordogne. We loved them all. So this time we decided to visit a new region and chose Brittany. While nor our favorite region, we had a fantastic time. We loved the seafood, but missed the wine making and the cheese as they dont make as many cheeses in this area. None the less, we wanted to share our information with all of you.

Scott actually wrote the trip report, he writes in a journal on our trips, so I will type them up and add links etc for the information. The report is from his perspective...I am not talking about myself in 3rd person hahahahaha!

So here we go:

Saturday, 17 May 2008

Our first day back in France, I cant believe its been almost two years since we were here. Our flight left late from Stansted, 3:45pm, I’m not sure that I liked the late departure as it seems like a bit of a waste of a vacation day. On the other hand it was nice not having to get up at 3am! It also allowed us to do some last minute chores before heading out. We made it to the airport in good time and got on the flight without incident. As usual, I fell asleep within about 10 mins and stayed asleep pretty much until we landed. We flew Ryanair and it was fine. Jamie hates flying Ryanair because they don’t assign seats and being the competitive one that she is she feels driven to try to get the best seat on the plane. Very stressful.

We arrived in Dinard about 6pm (France is an hour ahead of the UK). The Dinard airport is even smaller than the Cranbrook airport, but still had a Europcar where we picked up Isabelle - a 2008 Volkswagon Golf. Very nice little car. We have this thing where we name all our rental cars, usually after the first female who serves us that day. On our previous trip in 2006 we had a Fiat Stylo named Floriane.

We managed to drive the 10kms to our hotel (Grand Barriere Hotel http://www.lucienbarriere.com/localized/fr/hotel.htm ) without getting lost AND I didn’t hit any buses! (My first attempt to drive in the UK started out by sideswiping a double decker bus in London last summer…oops). The girl (Isabelle) at the airport offered us GPS, but we decided to wing it ourselves. Jamie actually likes being navigator and the signage in France is fine. Even getting lost can be a bit fun…for a while. The hotel was incredible. 5 star all the way. Jamie had booked it through Ryanair and got it for a very reasonable £100 a night. I felt a little odd leaving Isabelle with the valet after only having her for 10 mins but that’s how they roll here.

After dropping off our bags in our room, we started out for a walk around the edge of the ocean. I think Dinard may have been one of the most beautiful towns I’ve ever been in (at least before I say Dinan…more on that later). It’s simply amazing with the lights of St Malo across the narrow bay.

We got some cash out of a bank machine and found a decent looking restaurant for dinner. Jamie was all excited when she saw all the platters of seafood on other peoples table and so we decided to have one. They looked like a decent side so we ordered appies and ‘The Admiral Platter’ for 2. Turns out the platters on other tables was the appy size platter. The Admiral Platter proved that I am at best only a captain. Our platter was HUGE!!! Two layers of platters stacked high with 2 types of crabs, languistines, prawns, whelks, winkles, oysters and shrimp. We laughed and took a picture it was so big. But we dug in and finished most of it. As it turns out we don’t have a liking of whelks and winkles (snails), even though we do like escargot.

After dinner we wandered up through town and back to the shore where we found a little place for dessert and beverages – an amazing apple tart and muscadet for Jamie and three mini glasses of Calvados for me. An excellent end to our first day back in France!

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Old May 29th, 2008, 04:56 AM
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Oh and I will add links to our pics as we sort them etc...
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Old May 29th, 2008, 06:44 AM
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jamikins, I hadn't connected you and Bikerscott. Neat. (My wife is an occasional poster here, too.)

You're off to a great start.

Looking forward to more and remembering fondly my last glass of calvados ...

Anselm
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Old May 29th, 2008, 07:14 AM
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Great start on what sounds like a great trip. And great deal on that hotel. Wow.
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Old May 29th, 2008, 07:37 AM
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Sounds like you were in Brittany when we were. I also found Dinard beautiful.

We name our rental cars but it's usually based on color or some acronym from their license plate.

Will be interested in what you say about Dinan as we missed it. My DH had a seafood reaction the afternoon we were to go there.
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Old May 29th, 2008, 07:44 AM
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Thanks for your comments so far...always nice to know someone is reading

We really had a great time.

Julie: that hotel spoiled us for hte rest of our travels I think!! It was soo nice...they had our bags whipped out of the trunk and carried off to our room before we even got out of the car! For £100!

Hopingtotravel: sorry to hear about your DH...hope he was alright. We loved Dinan...it was soo cute...but maybe thats just an excuse for you guys to go back

Will post more later, hopefully with some pictures!

Jamie
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Old May 29th, 2008, 07:53 PM
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Great--can't wait for the next chapter and photos.
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Old May 29th, 2008, 08:59 PM
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Yes,, can't wait for next installment, I love trip reports and yours so far has been very good!
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Old May 30th, 2008, 04:29 AM
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Thanks for the encouragement! Pictures should be ready to post on Sunday.

Day 2 - The Day of Tourists

Sunday, 18 May 2008

We began the day with a relatively early morning walk down by the marina in Dinard. Desperately, but futilely, in search of coffee. Being somewhat opposed to paying over the odds for average breakfasts at hotels, we’d decided to skip the €36 option at the hotel. We did finally grab a pain au chocolat and a croissant in a boulangerie on the way out of town.

We gathered our things, collected Isabelle and headed towards St Malo, just across the bay. St Malo was once a famous privateer stronghold where Jacques Cartier was from. Now it is a walled tourist town, full of naff shops selling swords and monogrammed soaps. Well, maybe that is a little harsh, but we prefer the realness of Dinard. Fortunately St Malo redeemed itself by having good espresso and fantastic views from the ramparts.

The city was destroyed during WW2 and has been completely redone, which they have done very well. We wouldn’t have even noticed this if someone hadn’t told us. We walked the ramparts and along the edge is a group of Quebecois flags, so of course, as Canadians, we stopped to take a picture of Jacques Cartier (he ‘discovered’ and claimed Canada for France in 1534). Turns out that it wasn’t Jacques…it was a famous privateer called Surcouf. Why he was standing amongst Quebecois flags is mystery we still haven’t solved! We did find Jacques later but he was off by himself in a park. Hmmm…perhaps a mix up when putting up the statues?

After wandering around the ramparts for a while, we loaded back into Isabelle and drove the Emerald Coast towards our next stop – Le Mont St Michel. After stopping at a lookout point along the way we headed towards Cancale for some famous oysters for lunch. We found a bit of Cancale inappropriately labelled (they have signs when you enter a town and then have a sign with an X through the town name when you leave) as it wasn’t the REAL Cancale, it was Basse Concale…but it had lots of restaurants overlooking the Bay of St Michel. You could even see Le Mont in the distance. We managed to have a very tasty lunch in the sunshine. Later we drove past the real Cancale and it looked very nice. Darn French, first the mustard, now this!! (See previous Francing trip report for mustard story http://www.fodors.com/forums/pgMessa...ext=bikerscott )

We drove along the Bay to the Mont. All along we caught spectacular views of the famous abbey on its little hill in the middle of the Bay. We arrived at the official parking and found a spot for Isabelle, then ascended into Hell.

Le Mont St Michel (actually in Normandy) is a beautiful village which has been completely overrun with massive hordes of tourists and the horrible sword-selling shops that they attract. Of course, we don’t consider ourselves to be tourists ha ha ha. We arrived around 3pm and checked into our hotel, Auberge St Pierre http://www.auberge-saint-pierre.fr/ and wandered around for a bit until we found a nice vantage point to watch the ‘galloping horses’ of the tide come surging across the bay. After 2 cold hours we realized that the horse would probably have to be dead to be out-galloped by the tide! We now have what will most likely be the most boring time lapse photography ever. I blame Jamie for this, as it turns out we were a couple hours early for the tide and she got the time wrong!!!

After 2 hours freezing in the cold we found a suitable bar and I had a grog and Jamie tried a Kir Normande (crème de cassis/cidar/calvados), followed by a bottle of cidar. Yes, a whole bottle. We then headed out for dinner. By this time the day trippers had left and the town was serene and beautiful…exactly why we chose to stay there overnight!

There is really only 1 road on the Mont leading up to the abbey, and what everyone says is true…there is no good food. We settled on Les Terraces de Poulard where we had the worst service ever. Our waiter opened the wine, put it down on the table, and immediately walked away, all without saying a word! Jamie enjoyed her mussels in cream and lobster, and I an omelette with ‘wild’ mushrooms from a tin and the leg of lamb. The wine was delicious anyway, a yummy Chateauneuf du Pape.

We are avid photographers, so after finishing out average meal we dragged out the tripod and got some lovely shots of the abbey all lit up. Absolutely worth putting up with the tourists!
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Old May 30th, 2008, 09:33 AM
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Excellent! Thanks - looking forward to the rest of the report.
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Old May 31st, 2008, 10:56 PM
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Finally getting some pictures ready:

Day 1: http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/jamie....r/BrittanyDay1

Day 2: http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/jamie....r/BrittanyDay2
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Old May 31st, 2008, 10:58 PM
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Day 3

Monday, 19 May 2008

We woke up at 8:30 again this morning, hoping to avoid the hordes of tourists that would be descending on the Mont. After quickly getting ready in our plastic enclosures of bathrooms that reminded us of a motor home (with the leakiest shower in all of Europe) we walked up to the abbey at the top of the hill. It was a good thing we got there early as we could already see the lines of buses pulling into the parking lot.

The abbey itself was beautiful and almost completely empty at that hour. We had some of the rooms all to our selves. Hard to believe such a beautiful place even exists!!! We would have loved to see it in full use with monks all around.

We collected our bags and made the short walk down to the reception, grabbing a quick croquet monsieur on the way. I’m glad we hit the abbey when we did – the road was almost solid with ‘pilgrims’ heading up towards the abbey as we left. Even pulling a suitcase through the crowd was difficult…we were like salmon swimming upstream.

We loaded up Isabelle, stopping only briefly to take a few more photos as we went. Our mission for the day was to get to Dinan the long way round. We managed to find it, only making one wrong turn – who needs GPS? Jamie managed to pick right instead of left at the intersection heading into town so I got to drive right through the narrow and cobble stoned old centre of Dinan.

We checked into our rather plain, dorm like room at Hotel Arvor http://members.virtualtourist.com/m/658ac/1eca7/3/ then jumped on the Train Touristique around the city. Jamie has a strange obsession with these tourist trains. Next we walked down the STEEP and rather windy road to the old port and had an excellent 3 course meal on a patio overlooking the River Rance at Auberge Terre Neuve. We had planned on taking the tourist boat cruise from the port; however right across the road from the restaurant was a little place that rented boats.

Being the adventurous nautical types that we are we immediately signed up for a 3 hour tour (fortunately our ship wasn’t called the Minnow). We motored up river for an hour or so, passing through one lock and back again, and then back down river for another hour or so until we got to a little marina. Definitely more fun than the tour boat could have been. All that boating worked up a mean thirst, so after a bit of slightly aimless wandering we found a little pub in front of the basilica St Saveur where Jamie discovered that Hoeggarden is her favourite beer. Being so close we took a quick peak in the basilica before going to Chez la Mere Pourcel (http://www.chezlamerepourcel.com/anglais/index_gb.php) for a fantastic meal in a beautiful half timbered building in the heart of Dinan. We wandered around for another hour or so taking photographs of the town as the light slowly faded.

Dinan is a beautiful town – lots of medieval buildings, half-timbered houses and narrow cobbled streets, excellent food and friendly people make it one of our favourites in Brittany.

Day 3: http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/jamie....r/BrittanyDay3
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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 05:58 AM
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Day 4

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

Another busy day of driving. We got up at 8:30 and found a café up the street in Dinan (being slightly afraid of the potential breakfast at the hotel) for a coffee and croissant. Next was a short photographical tour of the remains of the ramparts of the old town before packing up Isabelle and hitting the road.

The plan was to head back up to the Emerald Coast near Dinard and explore more of the Breton coast – Cap Frehel and such. The coast was beautiful with rocky points and sandy beaches. We also stopped at Fort la Latte, which is this great fort, perched on a hill overlooking the English Channel.

After walking out to the Point at Cap Frehel, we turned inland and made our way to the centre of Brittany, stopping briefly for lunch in St Alban at a roadside creperie. This was Jamie’s first Breton crepe and it was fantastic - filled with cheese, mushrooms and ham. I enjoyed a lovely salad – is it still considered a salad if it’s covered in bacon and duck?

By taking a somewhat round about route through very rural Brittany (on purpose of course), we made it to our B&B in St Caradec by 3pm. http://www.beautifulbrittany.com/en/index.html We checked in and had a short chat with Christiana. She recommended that we drive the short distance to walk along the canal that Napoleon had built between Nantes and Brest – so we did. It was stunning – miles of seemingly unused locks and canals with a relatively well-kept footpath alongside. We walked for nearly an hour before deciding that it was time for a beverage.

We planned to have dinner in Loudeac, so we drove straight there, with an idea that we’d find a little café on a nice street to have a drink while we waited for dinner. Turns out Loudeac is not that scenic at all. We found an odd little bar called Le Nelson and I had my first pastis of the year while Jamie had a glass of wine. We stretched that out as long as we could before having an éclair down the street while we waited for the restaurant to open (it was excellent by the way). Even that didn’t kill enough time so we decided to go for a drive.

We made it as far as a really manky pub down the road, frequented it seems, by all the local shady men. After an hour and a bit of waiting at the pub we drove back to the restaurant to discover that it was still closed. Closer inspection of the sign outside revealed that it is only open on Wednesday and Saturday nights! As it was Tuesday we contemplated simply going back to St Caradec for a crepe but decided to have a pizza in Loudeac instead.

After a very tasty pizza we only got slightly lost as we tried to make our way back to the B&B. Fortunately, we had the foresight to buy a bottle of wine which we drank on our room. I don’t drive when I drink so had moved to diet coke earlier in the afternoon.

Pictures from Day 4:

http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/jamie....r/BrittanyDay4
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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 06:24 AM
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Great job, jamikins. Am enjoying the report. We did a lot of the same in April. Love Dinan!
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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 06:57 AM
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Loving your report. And the pictures make it come to life. We are headed to this region this summer for a self-driving barging trip.
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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 06:58 AM
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Thanks guys..we just love photography!

Travelgirl, if you love seafood you will love it!!
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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 07:36 AM
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Great job! Your report is interesting and I really enjoy your pictures.
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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 10:09 AM
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I'm enjoying your pictures as you went to some different areas than we did. Brittany is huge! I would already like to go back and see more around Dinard. I don't have a way of putting my pictures on here, but my report is the one that starts with "Paris When it Sizzles...
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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 12:38 PM
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Wednesday, 21 May 2008

After a slightly odd breakfast at the B&B (just bread and coffee – normal for France, but for a B&B?) we packed into Isabelle and started towards Rennes, the capital of Brittany, for the day. We made it as far as Loudeac before getting completely lost as there was a diversion. Problem was that they diverted traffic but never told traffic how to get back onto the highway!

We eventually made it after a beautiful drive of just less than two hours and found parking on the outskirts of the city. Rennes has a great metro system, so we parked and rode the metro into the centre. Getting off we saw our first beautiful view of Rennes. We were in Place Ste Anne, a square lined with cafes and restaurants. We wandered around for a bit before deciding that it was time for lunch. Putting our trust in the Green Guide, we walked across the historic centre of town to a place called Leon le Couchon (Leon the Pig, can you imagine and English restaurant called that!) http://www.leonlecochon.com/leon_le_...-le-cochon.htm .

Being the adventurous epicurean that I am, I ordered the andouillette with potatoes, while Jamie went for the safer but infinitely more boring steak. I made it a fair way through the compressed intestine sausage before the thought of what I was eating and the hideous smell of it become too much for me. Jamie thought the whole thing was rather amusing.

After lunch we wandered around, following the walking tour in the Green Guide. Rennes is a beautiful town, filled with narrow streets and half-timbered houses. The walk (more of a relaxed saunter really, with a stop for a crepe and a coffee to get rid of the andouille taste), took a good couple of hours by which time we decided that we were ready for a drink (hmmmm…starting to see a pattern here). We found a little café on Place Ste Anne where we’d started the day and relaxed with a bottle of wine/coffee for a few hours.

We decided that we didn’t want to wait around until 7:30 for the restaurants to open so we took the metro back to the car and headed home. There is a little creperie in our village so we went there (after getting lost again in Loudeac). The crepes were very tasty and the cidar just as good. Still couldn’t get rid of the taste of andouille though!

Pictures of Day 5

http://picasaweb.google.co.uk/jamie....r/BrittanyDay5
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Old Jun 1st, 2008, 03:23 PM
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Jamikins and Bikerscott, great photos!

Really wish I could get to France this summer. You two are very fortunate being so close now.
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