La Bretagne (Brittany) is a region in the North-West of France, a peninsula extending into the Atlantic ocean. It is a region rich in Celtic influences not only in its culture, but seemingly in its terrain as well – the rugged coastlines and precipitous cliffs reminded me of Ireland. To be fair, Brittany reminded me most of the Magdalen Islands in Quebec, but its flat, wide beaches made me think of Oregon, and the quaint coast towns were very similar to those in Maine.
Last summer we spent a week exploring this beautiful region and I’d like to share some thoughts and photos with you.
Dinan is a charming medieval town perched up on top of a hill. You can spend a few hours leisurely exploring its port and narrow streets, sampling the caramel au beurre salé in the specialty boutiques and enjoying a traditional crepe.
This part of the Brittany’s coast was a crucial point for the Resistance during the Second World War. It is also a great spot to enjoy the sunset before dinner. Close by is the Abbaye Maritime de Beauport, the ruins of a 12th century abbey, absolutely breathtaking under the last rays of sunshine.
A trail along the coast offers great views of the Atlantic – at times the water appeared turquoise, almost making you question whether you are in Northern France or the Caribbean.
This is truly one of the Brittany’s gems. It’s breathtaking at dusk or dawn, so if you can accommodate a visit in your schedule, I highly recommend it. The path to the coast is lined with delicate purple flowers which adds to the rosy haze that envelops the place.
Kerascoet is a charming, typically Breton village, with thatched stone houses, colorful doors and windowsills and even more colorful hydrangeas. It was raining slightly when we visited so we warmed up at a café (the only one in the village, I think) with a vervena tea. The nearby Pont Aven is a bigger town, with plenty of restaurants, artisan shops and hidden alleyways. When we visited in August the magnolias were still in bloom, and there’s a biscuit shop at every corner – what more could you ask for?
This is Brittany’s equivalent of Land’s End, and an hour-long hike will take you along jagged coast lines and offers breathtaking views of the La Vieille and Ar-Men lighthouses in the distance. Bring hiking boots, sunglasses and a rain coat, the weather is very unpredictable, with one constant: the wind.
Located at the crossing point of two rivers, Quimper is Brittany’s cultural capital. It boasts a beautiful gothic style cathedral dating back to the 12th century, colorful ceramics (la faïence de Quimper) which make for great souvenirs and, if you visit in July you’ll witness the yearly Festival de Cornouaille – a cultural celebration of everything Breton. Don’t forget to try a Kouign Amann, a delicious pastry involving lots of butter and salted caramel. Doesn’t the old town square with its crooked houses take you back to children’s fairytales, like Hansel and Gretel?
At the end of our trip, before driving to Paris, we spent an afternoon in Rennes, mostly the old city center. We had lunch and a short perusing through some cute boutiques and then I spent a good two hours stocking up on some French pharmacy must-haves.
These final photos are shots I’ve take along the way, whenever something caught my eye, you know, like the hundredth Breton-style house, beautiful beaches or some cows in a field.