Visiting Brittany

Old Oct 25th, 2018, 02:44 AM
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Visiting Brittany

My wife and I are returning travelers to France, planning to spend ~ 10 nights in Brittany in May 2019 on our next holiday. We haven’t explored this region before, having only gone as far as Normandy previously (MSM, Bayeux/some D-day beaches). I’ve read most of the prior Brittany-related posts on this forum, and also reviewed FrenchMystique’s trip reports/TA posts and Stu Dudley’s itinerary. My high level travel plan is to
- fly into Paris, take the train to Rennes, overnight there, rent a car when exiting
- spend few nights each in Dinan, Perros Guirec (or Ploumanac'h?) and Vannes ; possibly throw in overnighters in Camaret Sur Mer and Pont Aven, as we move from North to South Brittany
- return to Rennes, drop off the car and train to Paris

With this background, I’d be very grateful for any feedback/suggestions/personal experience in general and specific to my below queries:

1. Train to Rennes : My in-laws, who are in their 70s, are likely to be joining us for this trip. Our flight lands around 8am, so I wonder whether it would be better to hang around in CDG and take a CDG - Rennes direct train connection (there’s a limited schedule, wont make the 8.48am, next one at 12.48pm) avoiding the hassle of trying to connect to Gare Montparnasse for a (possibly) earlier train ? I will need to pre-book tickets to avail a "TGV-Prems" fare.
2. Car Rental (Rennes) : Is it easy to pickup and drop a car near the train station ? Driving in big cities makes me nervous! I will pre-book an automatic transmission, as I have previously done with Europcar/Sixt in France.
3. Inland Brittany : With limited time, I realize we're skipping Central Brittany/inland areas, is there anything I should try to incorporate? I could, for example, visit Rochefort en Terre and Josselin (on the way from Vannes to Rennes) or detour through Fougeres and Vitre (as we drive from Rennes to Dinan) ….
4. Islands : We have thought about a day trip to the Belle Ile from Vannes (without taking our car over). Any other island trip we should consider ?
5. Standing Stones, Carnac : Am still trying to research how best to do this (Petit train, guided tour, ourselves ?) and whether access is restricted in May (seems everything is fenced?), so pardon my ignorance. Any website links or suggestions helpful for us to get smarter about this.
6. Food : As vegetarians (dairy is OK), we’ve always eaten well in France (including our last visit to the Dordogne)–is Brittany likely to be any different? I notice restaurant menus are seafood heavy (we don't eat any meat or fish).

Thank you very much – your inputs have been invaluable to our prior trips.
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Old Oct 25th, 2018, 08:15 AM
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Seems well thought out - PREM tickets are of course train-specific and non-changeable non-refundable so be sure you have lots of leeway for plane to be late, slow moving thru Immigration, etc. www.seat61.com has loads of great info on those - general train info www.ricksteves.com and BETS-European Rail Experts - first class ticket are PREM discounts too so check those - more room for luggage as fewer folks traveling in same-size train car as 2nd class - seats bigger with both window and aisle seats in seats with one to a row - good for oldsters especially.

Rennes is a big city but if you arrive at other than rush-hours not such a problem. Suggest you stay the night in Rennes before driving after all-night flight.
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Old Oct 25th, 2018, 09:11 AM
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We like 3 hrs between arrival at CDG & catching a train. You have 4 3/4 hrs - which is fine. I would not even think of going into Paris to catch the train from Montparnasse (horrible station, IMO).



We picked up a car in Rennes this past June. There was a lot of construction going on at the train station, and there were some walking "deviations" to get to the car rental office (Europcar). There are several one-way streets around the station, and we did several wrong turns before we got on our way. But really no problem.



Inland Brittany is not nearly as interesting as coastal Brittany. We were in Vannes for 2 weeks this year (plus 2 weeks near Concarmeau), and Rochefort and even Josselin are easy day trips from where we stayed in Vannes. We did not visit Belle Ile - we didn't feel that the added trouble & time to get there would be worth it.


We have zero interest in old rocks that have been moved/stood upright - so we did not visit any of them.


Are mussels, scallops, & lobsters called "fish"?



Stu Dudley
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Old Oct 25th, 2018, 11:27 AM
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These pictures might give you some more ideas: https://flic.kr/s/aHsjrz9U32
Most of them are geotagged so that they can be collated with a road map.
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Old Oct 25th, 2018, 12:18 PM
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Hope you found my reports helpful. As far as what is doable in terms of visits (Rochefort, Fougères etc.) all I can say is check viamichelin.com for drive times (which are non-stop) and then work out for yourself what might be doable as you're traveling and deciding on visits.

For Carnac there is loads of info on-line, specifically the official website: Alignements de Carnac

I haven't checked the exact months but generally the only time you can walk among the stones is between October and March (more or less). Likely you will have to view them from the street in May unless you sign up for one of the guided tours offered by the museum, which is located next to the alignments (info on the above website). You don't need the Petit Train, just use your car. They are all right next to the road and easily visible. My Brittany Golfe de Morbihan trip report has lots of photos of the alignments so you can check out the views yourself. The report also covers Rochefort-en-Terre and Josselin (and Malestroit among other places not in the gulf): https://tinyurl.com/yc3z3wh6 Never been to Belle-Île but I enjoyed my boat trip from Lamor Baden to the island of Gavrinis to see the amazing Cairn de Gavrinis, which is like the Sistene Chapel of neo-lithic art: https://www.morbihan.fr/gavrinis/

There is also the Île-aux-Moines: Site officiel de la mairie de l'Ile aux Moines - Accueil

In the north of Brittany I took a ferry from Roscoff to Île-de-Batz and enjoyed it: https://www.iledebatz.com/

You can also take a ferry from Paimpol to Île de Brehat: Office de tourisme de l'Île de Bréhat - locations de vacances, hôtels, gîtes - actualités - sentiers de randonnée

Plenty of other info about Brittany islands and anything else tourist related on the Brittany tourist office website: Visiter destination Les Îles de Bretagne - Tourismebretagne.com

There are tourist office websites for each département in Brittany and for every city/town/village and they are the best and least utilized travel resource when planning a vacation in Brittany, or anywhere in France for that matter. I always recommend that the first thing to do when visiting any city/town/village is to go to the tourist office and get a free map of town (which will outline the tourist trail) and then browse through the usually abundant amount of free literature in the form of pamphlets, maps, booklets etc. and you'll literally find all the literature you'll need to plan a vacation in whatever area you are visiting.

If megaliths interest you then perhaps the most spectacular and completely unknown megalithic monument is right near Roscoff called the Grand Cairn de Barnenez: Grand cairn de Barnenez
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Old Oct 25th, 2018, 01:56 PM
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Here is one person who found Carnac and its ancient stones mesmerizing - OK they have been put back upright?
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Old Oct 25th, 2018, 04:05 PM
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Brittany is delightful!

I loved the Hotel des Rochers in Ploumanac’h.

I wasn’t enamored of Rochefort en Terre, but don’t regret having given it a few hours.

I visited Carnac’s standing stones on my own, but then, I prefer to visit things without a guide when I feel that I know enough to go without them. I was there at a time when I could only see them from the street, and I thought I could see them surprisingly well.

I didn’t file a trip report, and I wouldn’t recommend my particular itinerary to anyone (it was very fast-paced and tailored to my very specific interests), but I got a lot of great feedback as I planned my trip, so you might want to take a peek:
Seeking Diverse Experiences in Western France – Please Critique Itinerary!

Hope that helps!
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Old Oct 25th, 2018, 05:50 PM
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BTW, give some thought to visiting one or more of the Calvary closes.

And definitely get a copy of the Michelin Green Guide for Brittany.
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Old Oct 25th, 2018, 08:16 PM
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Thank you to everyone for taking the time to respond to my post. Will continue to refine my plan – lots to think about !

Pal – yes we will be spending the night in Rennes, before driving out next morning.

Stu – ha ha, we don’t eat any seafood – I’m guessing we’re going to be consuming a lot of crepes!

Michael – beautiful pictures, thanks for sharing.

FrenchMystique – appreciate the additional information, your detailed trip reports/posts have been very useful reading.

Kja - I seem to have missed this trip report, thanks.
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Old Oct 25th, 2018, 11:32 PM
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3. Definitely it is worth seeing one or two towns inland among Rochefort, Josselin, Fougères, Vitré...
4. For a day trip from Vannes, Belle-Ile is a bit far, it would be a long day. Belle-Ile is worth spending at least one night in my opinion. Over one day, you could consider to reach an island in the Gulf of Morbihan, île d'Arz or île aux Moines.
5. Carnac and megaliths around : the most famous sites are fenced off in May. But the fence does not prevent from seeing them well (there are local tours with the tourism office allowing the access, but in French only during this season). And around Carnac, in the countryside, there are plenty of smaller and authentic megalithic sites, various types (not only alignments of menhirs). You could also consider Locmariaquer. You might get a few additional ideas about spots to visit in Brittany on Itineraries in Brittany
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Old Oct 26th, 2018, 09:40 AM
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Is La Rochelle on your list - skimming did not see but really exceptional seaside fortified town - take bridge over to Ile de Re for wondrous coastal hikes.
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Old Oct 26th, 2018, 11:13 AM
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Originally Posted by PalenQ View Post
Is La Rochelle on your list - skimming did not see but really exceptional seaside fortified town - take bridge over to Ile de Re for wondrous coastal hikes.
Has Brittany expanded its boundaries?
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Old Oct 26th, 2018, 01:37 PM
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Oops I thought it were closer to Brittany - mind is going.
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Old Oct 27th, 2018, 03:05 PM
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Inland Brittany has megaliths, parish closes, and beautiful forests. Not everything happens around the coast.
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Old Oct 28th, 2018, 03:05 AM
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If you can, time your visit to Pont Aven for a Tuesday market day, especially if you spend a night and can have your car parked at your hotel since parking can be impossible there on market day. However if you enjoy markets at all, that is one of the most beautiful and most worthy. In fact, check out one of the websites showing market days throughout Brittany and work out your stops to include as many as you can. They make already cute towns even cuter and more colorful.

Also print out the lists of beautiful villages (Les Plus beau Villages) and of beautiful flower bedecked towns (Villes et Villages Fleuri) throughout France and take them with you. Brittany has many and they are all quite worth a stop IME. That's one of the reasons I encourage you to stick with your plan to stop at some interior destinations. Rochefort en Terre is one of the most flower-bedecked places I've ever been. Absolutely charming. Nearby Gacilly is also on the list and an art village into the bargain. I'm pretty sure Josselin is on the lists too. You could either visit all three as a day trip from Vannes or enroute from Rennes to Vannes. While you're at that stop, try, if you can, to pop around to La Trinite sur Mer, big time sailing port of the area. And if you decide to stay a night in Pont Aven, I encourage you to take in Quimper and Concarneau enroute to it and possibly make a side trip to the coastal area near Benodet and Combit nearby. Lots of tiny, seaside small town charm. Should be a lovely trip. Enjoy.
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Old Oct 28th, 2018, 03:53 AM
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Why not Saint Malo (going there myself this week);
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Old Oct 28th, 2018, 04:25 AM
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Thank you everyone for your recent responses, and additional input.

shamouel - It does seem like Belle-Ile may be a bit much, am researching the other options provided by you and others.

underhill - agreed, and will be looking at some of these inland stops en route.

Julie - we will certainly spend a night in Pont Aven, and appreciate your other suggestions as well.

Thibaut - we will drive around and visit St Malo, Cancale, St Suliac etc. while based out of Dinan.
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Old Oct 28th, 2018, 05:51 AM
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If you can do so, then while based in Dinan try to work Jugon-les-Lacs into the mix and pass through the lovely little village of Saint-Méloir-des-Bois on your way there. You might also make a little detour nearby to see the Ch teau de la Hunaudaye.
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Old Oct 28th, 2018, 07:39 PM
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Originally Posted by FrenchMystiqueTours View Post
If you can do so, then while based in Dinan try to work Jugon-les-Lacs into the mix and pass through the lovely little village of Saint-Méloir-des-Bois on your way there. You might also make a little detour nearby to see the Ch teau de la Hunaudaye.
Thank you - will look these up, all new to me - we always enjoy exploring little places off the tourist radar....
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Old Oct 30th, 2018, 06:46 AM
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These places and a lot more are covered in my trip report about Dinan and environs. Dinan and its environs in Brittany | Forum
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