I remember it all so well. The excitement as an envelope with my name printed across it dropping through the letterbox at my home in Hertfordshire, England. It had the familiar Holidaybreak logo across the top, and I eagerly tore through it to discover my fate. Would I be sent to deep in the Loire Valley, or to a site in the valley below the majestic Pyrenees? Perhaps the Dordogne or the beautiful West coast, where the Dune d’Pyla is located.
I looked down.
Brittany? I scorned. How terribly dull. I was from Britain. I did not want to spend my Spring and Summer somewhere with British culture, but rather wrapped up in the romantic throes of France, traipsing through meadows, sipping on the finest Bordeaux, chomping on fluffy baguettes and finishing off every meal with a dainty apple crepe. That is the France we all dream of, correct?
What started there with scornful comment, turned into a chaotic but fun two months, working in one of the most astoundingly exquisite spots I have ever visited.
A bit of history
According to Brittanica.com , “A strong Celtic background distinguishes Brittany from other parts of France. The Celts were the first historically identifiable inhabitants of Brittany, but they probably intermingled with the earlier peoples who built the great stone monuments, the menhirs and dolmens, that still stand. Conquered by Julius Caesar in 56 bce, the region became part of the Roman Empire as Armorica, a Romanization of the Celtic words for “seaside.” The Celts of Armorica never were more than superficially Romanized. After the Romans withdrew, Celts from Britain moved into the area to seek refuge from the Anglo-Saxon invaders of the 5th and 6th centuries. It is from this event that Brittany derives its name. Over the next 300 years the Celts were converted to Christianity by missionaries from the British Isles.”
How to get to Brittany
Nantes, Brest and Rennes will probably be the easiest to fly into from overseas, although Ferries go directly from the British Isles to St Malo.
From Paris you can get the train to Rennes in 2 hours and from Rennes to Lannion in another 1 hour 45 mins.
Our favourite, Airbnb boasts of several properties to stay, in Perros-Guirec and the quaint and lovely Ploumanac’h (where the famous lighthouse is located).
Not a fan of Airbnb? Booking.com and Expedia offer a selection of B&Bs and hotels in the region. Check the sidebars for a direct link their sites.
Where to go within Brittany
Quimper Cornouaille – A vast, wild expanse of land, waiting to be explored. The local towns will immerse you in the local culture.
Ille-et-Vilaine – Although there is less of a coastline and more inland scenery to be taken in, Ille-et-Vilaine encompasses Renne and the medieval town of Vitre. Becherel is known as the “village of books”.
Cotes d’Armor – This portion includes the beautiful Perros-Guirec, where I spent a couple of happy months. This region is known for it’s pink coastline, and a trip will not be complete without side excursions to Tregastel and Treguier (which boasts a boasts a ethereal cathedral).
The Emerald Coast – From Saint Malo (where you can disembark from your overnight ferry ride from England) to the awe-inspiring Mont Saint Michel, you will not be disappointed in this region. Take blissful walks along the shoreline, enjoy the plentiful oysters and other local fare. I came here as a child and still recount my memories fondly.
Finistere – A more isolated part of Brittany, but worth a visit nonetheless. The villages of Le Faou and Le Conquet are well-known for their rustic beauty, and the Chateau de Taureau in Plouezoch is another excellent place to visit.
Carnac – Known for it’s prehistoric rock formations, Stonehenge has nothing on this place! Located on the Morbihan coast of Southern Brittany, again I have very fond memories of playing hide-and-seek with my brothers in this spot as a kiddy.
Brittany is known for it’s abundance of seafood, as well as the beloved crepe and gallette (savoury crepe). No trip to this region is complete without sampling all of the above. Kouign-Aman is a caramelized yeast pastry, best purchased fresh from the local patisserie. Indulge! Gallettes Au Beurre are delightful butter cookies, tasting best with a good cup of café au lait at one’s elbow.
Of course you must visit a charcuterie to try the local cuts of meat and do sample the lesser-known but delicious cheese Cure Nantais.
Wine! The city of Nantes is actually within the Cote d’Amour. Try Muscadet – light and crisp – perfect as a choice of beverage to go with your plate of local seafood at dinnertime!
So, with all the above in mind, next time you’re perusing flights to Paris, stop and re-consider Brittany as a contender for your affections instead.