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TR: Southern Brittany and Loire/Atlantique (aka oysters and more oysters)

TR: Southern Brittany and Loire/Atlantique (aka oysters and more oysters)

Jul 22nd, 2019, 04:29 AM
  #1  
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TR: Southern Brittany and Loire/Atlantique (aka oysters and more oysters)

Hi all,

Many thanks to you for the great advice in planning our trip to France this past July. One of our weeks was spent in Nantes and Vannes on the Golfe de Morbihan. We are a family of four from Canada with two teenage daughters. This was our third trip to France but our first to this area. We especially loved southern Brittany. We live inland and were very excited to be able to eat many oysters on this trip!

Nantes

We began our trip in Nantes as we have family there. I don't know that Nantes is a "must-see" but we found it a very pleasant town to begin our trip. The Nantes airport was very easy to fly into (easyJet from Gatwick) and get our rental car. The afternoon was spent wandering around the pretty old town (don't miss the passage Pomeraye). The next morning we had pre-booked tickets to ride the Elephant at the Machines de l'Ile. I'm glad we had already purchased our tickets to ride the elephant and visit the workshop as the lines were long. The afternoon was spent at the Chateau des Ducs de Bretagne. The exterior is very impressive and the girls enjoyed walking around the ramparts. The interior is now a museum focusing on the history of the region- I found it more interesting than DH or the kids. We had a very nice dinner on the "other" side of the Loire in Trentemoult, a quaint former fishing village, at a lovely terrace overlooking the river. Personally, I don't find the Loire countryside to be particularly scenic but it was a convenient base to begin our trip to France.

From Nantes we did two interesting day trips - one to Guerande to visit the old walled medieval city (very busy though) and enjoyed a terrific lunch of galettes (and a "bolee de cidre") at Le Logis within the ramparts. Another morning was spent visiting the Airbus factory in St Nazaire where the fuselages are built. It was fascinating! Note that there is only an English tour offered once a week. I wish we had more time as there was also another tour of the shipyards that looked very interesting. We saw two mega cruise-ships being built in the port!

Vannes

We had booked 5 nights in Vannes at a charming apartment right on the ramparts. We all loved Vannes! DH cannot get enough fortified cities. I also loved the garden there. Vannes was a convenient base for various day trips. We spent one morning in Carnac touring the megalith sites (standing stones). We had booked a tuk tuk tour as we thought it would be a fun way to get around. Our guide was very knowledgeable and we learned all about the differences between a tumulus, menhir, cairn and dolmen! We drove 5 minutes from Carnac to have a delicious lunch of oysters from the Po (with bread and muscadet) and then decided to hit the grand plage de Carnac to cool off given the heat wave!

Another day trip was to Ile aux Moines - there is a boat that leaves from Vannes (20 minutes). We rented bikes on the island and naturally had to have more oysters (and galettes) for lunch. Ile aux Moines was beautiful with many flowers and the scent of pine trees. It was also market day so we had to sample different types of kouign amman and far breton!

The next morning we drove to Pont Aven to see the Finistere department. Pont Aven is very quaint but we made the mistake of arriving at noon when the shops were closed up tight! We bought baguette sandwiches from a boulangerie and had a picnic on the rocks behind the lavoirs right on the Aven. After lunch we walked around the town and bought delicious cookies from the Traou Mad store. It was so hot that we had to hit the beach again - this time in La Trinite sur Mer at the lovely plage de Kervillen.
Our last full day was spent in Vannes itself - luckily it was market day - it was an excellent market. We also had one of the best lunches of our trip at l'Empreinte right in one of the old squares. I had tried to book lunch at Roscanvec but unfortunately they were closed for vacation! Our last dinner was at Homard Frites so we could try Breton lobster (and what better go-with than frites!).

I thought the golfe de Morbihan area was really beautiful - and the seafood was wonderful (it was a tough job sampling all those oysters but my favourite might have been from the Quiberon). Highly recommend this area.

Merci a tous!
jacolis is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2019, 06:06 AM
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Lovely report, jacolis.
It appears that our paths may have crossed on that terrific market day in Vannes. We too had a wonderful lunch at l'Empreinte on the square with the fountain that day. Warm welcome from the chef and his wife (I assumed). And we tried to book at Roscanvec as well but closed!

We loved Vannes, the beautiful manicured gardens, the ramparts and the largest collection of sailboats I've ever seen in one place!
We also enjoyed Pont-Aven (took in the new special exhibit on Post-Impressionists at the museum) and La Trinité-sur-Mer, where we had our anniversary lunch at JulieV's recommended restaurant. We also took the boat ride from Vannes around the Golfe, but I regretted that we didn't take the departure that included a lengthy stop at Ile aux Moines. It looked so inviting.

I'm planning next summer's stay in Nantes, and your suggestions are so helpful. Glad you and your family had a wonderful time!
Maribel is online now  
Jul 22nd, 2019, 01:20 PM
  #3  
 
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Thanks for an interesting report on a part of France of which I know nothing. More places to add to my list.
margo_oz is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2019, 02:48 PM
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Thanks to you both.

Maribel: sounds like we also may have crossed paths in SDJL at the Fete du Thon (I think we both posted on the CH site!).

One last "adresse" to recommend - there is a lovely chain in Nantes, Guerande and a few other places on the Loire Atlantique coast called La Fraiseraie that sells the most incredible strawberry products - including sorbets. It was truly like eating a frozen strawberry. I really liked the strawberry basil sorbet too.

I'm sorry I missed the museum in Pont Aven. We also missed trying the oyster shacks in nearby Riec-sur-belon (although Chez Jacky was probably out of our price range...). It was just too darn hot that day!
jacolis is offline  
Jul 22nd, 2019, 03:11 PM
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Hi jacolis,
Yes, our paths must have crossed twice, once in Vannes and again in St-Jean-de-Luz! In do remember our conversation on Chowhound.

We actually returned to Pont Aven on June 30 to attend the special exhibit, "L'Impressionnisme d'après Pont-Aven" that opened the day before.
We initially hadn't planned to visit the museum but were intrigued. I highly recommend it to anyone Pont-Aven bound. It runs until Jan. 5.

We also ventured to Chez Jacky, remembering the Bourdain episode filmed there, but we actually enjoyed the "Black Pearl" oysters from Jacques Cadoet more at the Bistrot de l'Ecailler in tiny Kendruc (Nevez), just south of Pont-Aven, which our Quimper hostess recommended. I believe it's related to Bistrot Paul Bert in Paris. They had a lobster feast on the menu but we opted for more oysters. Just couldn't get our fill, they are so heavenly. But sorry we missed the Breton lobster!

Next summer I'll certainly seek out a La Fraiseraie, thanks!
Maribel is online now  
Jul 22nd, 2019, 03:28 PM
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Jacolis: Thank you for this trip report. We are planning to visit Vannes next year so this info is a great resource. We were debating about whether to stop at Nantes mainly for the Elephant ride. Did you enjoy the elephant ride and is it a worthwhile visit?
TravelerKaren is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2019, 03:34 AM
  #7  
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Hi Karen,

I don't know that I would make a special trip to Nantes to go to the machines de l'ile (or even to stop at Nantes at all). We were in Nantes anyways to see family and it was a kid-friendly activity but I wouldn't say it was a must-see for us.

The ride itself was fine - it is more impressive to see from the ground (and to get sprayed from its trunk). My kids probably enjoyed riding on the carousel more - it had levers you could control to move the sea creatures up and down - very Jules Vernes/fantastical. But I think i would head straight to Vannes if I wasn't staying in Nantes. Hope this helps.
jacolis is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2019, 09:14 AM
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thanks, Jacolis, for bringing back memories of the trip that my DH and I made to this area a few years ago. We too stayed in Vannes in the summer and it certainly was hot - so hot in fact that we had to put the roof up on my DH's sports car! For those thinking of visiting at that time, during July there is a festival about the history of Vannes which is fascinating but how hot must the participants be in those costumes! The 2020 one is from 13-14th July. https://www.brittanytourism.com/matc...ical-festival/

There are also concerts in the cathedral - the one we went to was very good.

As for oysters, a little further west along the coast [not sure where] we went for a walk and half way along found a huiterie literally on the beach where you could sit and eat oysters washed down with cider or muscadet. is 11 am too early for oysters?
annhig is offline  
Jul 23rd, 2019, 04:03 PM
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Thanks annhig! Too funny about the oysters. When we were biking on Ile aux Moines we came across an oyster producer so of course I had to stop for a degustation (it was about 11 a.m.). Naturally the platter came with a glass of muscadet - DH just looked at me but I shrugged - when in Brittany! The girls teased me about my mid-morning snack choice of oysters but they also ended up partaking!

It really was a lovely region of France! And given that oysters are $3 each where we live we won't be indulging in the near future.
jacolis is offline  
Jul 24th, 2019, 07:30 AM
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jacolis: Thank you for your honest input. I think we'll skip Nantes and go directly to Vannes.
TravelerKaren is offline  
Jul 24th, 2019, 08:11 AM
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Naturally the platter came with a glass of muscadet - DH just looked at me but I shrugged - when in Brittany! The girls teased me about my mid-morning snack choice of oysters but they also ended up partaking!>>

A woman after my own heart.
annhig is offline  
Jul 24th, 2019, 01:45 PM
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Originally Posted by TravelerKaren View Post
jacolis: Thank you for your honest input. I think we'll skip Nantes and go directly to Vannes.
TravelerKaren, if you are interested, here is the VRBO that I am renting in Vannes:

https://www.vrbo.com/1442980a?utm_ca...&adultsCount=1
joannyc is online now  
Jul 24th, 2019, 02:12 PM
  #13  
 
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joannyc,
Thank you so much for your rental recommendation in La Rochelle on Julie's thread! I've contacted the owner and she has confirmed my dates!
I hope you're able to dine one day during your Vannes stay at Empreinte on the Place Valencia. We were totally delighted with our lunch and were actually happy that Roscanvec was on holiday, otherwise we wouldn't have discovered this charming place. We also enjoyed the selection of natural wines from the chef's wife, Marine, who acts as hostess and sommelier. The menu changes weekly and in the evening Chef Baptiste Fournier offers a 4-course surprise ("discovery") menu for 40 euros. He trained with Bras and Jean-François Piège at Le Crillon.
https://empreinte-restaurant.fr/restaurant/

jacolis,
I too would never have passed up that glass of muscadet!
Maribel is online now  
Jul 24th, 2019, 02:26 PM
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Originally Posted by Maribel View Post
joannyc,
Thank you so much for your rental recommendation in La Rochelle on Julie's thread! I've contacted the owner and she has confirmed my dates!
I hope you're able to dine one day during your Vannes stay at Empreinte on the Place Valencia. We were totally delighted with our lunch and were actually happy that Roscanvec was on holiday, otherwise we wouldn't have discovered this charming place. We also enjoyed the selection of natural wines from the chef's wife, Marine, who acts as hostess and sommelier. The menu changes weekly and in the evening Chef Baptiste Fournier offers a 4-course surprise ("discovery") menu for 40 euros. He trained with Bras and Jean-François Piège at Le Crillon.
https://empreinte-restaurant.fr/restaurant/

jacolis,
I too would never have passed up that glass of muscadet!
Maribel, I'm very happy that the La Rochelle apartment worked out for you!* I am looking forward to staying there.* And, thanks very much for the restaurant recommendations.* Both are already on my list!**
joannyc is online now  
Jul 25th, 2019, 07:08 AM
  #15  
 
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Originally Posted by joannyc View Post
TravelerKaren, if you are interested, here is the VRBO that I am renting in Vannes:

https://www.vrbo.com/1442980a?utm_ca...&adultsCount=1

joannyc: Thank you so much for this link. This place looks fantastic. We will definitely look at booking this for our trip next year. Please post your review after you return this year.

maribel: Thanks for your recommendations too. Definitely bookmarking all of this.
TravelerKaren is offline  
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