Travel Diaries: Brittany, France / by Didier Young

CD810174-208B-4427-937D-73B44AA3F6B3.JPG

Hello everyone! Sorry for the absence on the blog. For the past two weeks I have been travelling in France and I have been trying to take in as much of my surroundings (and bread. And croissants. And salted butter) as I could so I was a bit less active on social media and on the blog. It’s been a few days since my return to Toronto and I am finally starting to settle back into my regular routine here so everything is back up and running! The reason why I went to France was for a fun little blogger competition. France tourism reached out to me a few months ago about their Know-How Challenge which would take three different pairs of bloggers to a mystery region in France where we would compete to showcase a specific category. Needless to say that I was super thrilled by the idea of this challenge and a few months later, I started my journey with a plane ride to Montreal.

When I arrived at Montreal-Pierre Elliot Trudeau airport, I was quickly joined by the team for France tourism and my fellow team mates on this journey: Manon, Jaime, Olivier, Jeanne and Cindy. It was there that we were finally told where we would be heading off to in France: the region of Brittany. It was with excitement that we boarded our flight and 7.5 hours later, we landed on French soil. After a day of mild jet lag in Paris, we woke up bright and early and took Rail Europe at Montparnasse Station to head to our various destinations. We said our goodbyes before Cindy and I, as part of the Arts & Culture team, stopped  in Rennes the capital of Brittany.

The next few days were a marvellous kaleidoscope of experiences and encounters starting in Dinard, a quaint little town close to St. Malo which used to be a haven for affluent people. The town still retains its olden charm with its mismatched architecture and beautiful sunsets overlooking the sea. We stayed at the gorgeous Hotel Barrière which would have been sure to please Wes Anderson himself. Out of all our stops in Brittany, Dinard was the closest to feeling like a beach town and would be the most suitable as a summer destination. 

brehat
8B9267E9-7402-41F3-8D99-A6A1D33F8E4F.JPG
brehat
3F0C9930-2B65-4C0B-B3CE-0E2AAF1932E3.JPG

Our second stop on the trip was the island of Bréhat. Although we didn’t stay on the island itself, it is easily accessible via a short ferry that runs throughout the day. However, you should be careful not to miss the 7pm boat or you’ll have to try your luck at the island’s hotel to see if they have a spare room for the night. On the island, we were met by Jean- Michel, our wonderful guide and we walked through the beaten paths and took in the sights of L’ile aux Fleurs (The island of Flowers) while he told us tales of Bréhat’s rich history. The island’s name comes from its abundant flora, thanks to Brittany’s benevolent climate. The weather is so mild that we encountered quite a few tropical plants but it was peculiar to see a passionfruit plant next to a blackberry bush. I am not typically an outdoors person but Bréhat somehow managed to steal a piece of my heart with its gorgeous landscape and calm nature.

oysters

On the next day, we went to Paimpol where we were treated to a fairly traditional Briton meal: the galette de Sarrasin. Those super thin buckwheat crepes may be topped with whatever topping you wish for (Paimpol is a fishing village known for the Saint Jacques shell which is similar to scallops so I topped my galette with the local delicacy) and it is traditionally paired with a cider. The pairing might not seem obvious but once you’ve had it together, you would not want it any other way trust me. While we were in the town, we also visited Dalmard Marine where we learned more about the making of a peacoat and the iconic Briton Marinière (a nautical striped shirt) and we also visited a local glass maker where Cindy and I got to blow glass and create an item of our choosing. I won’t lie, I was quite scared of doing it at first but it turned out to be a lovely experience. 

4207B9AA-87AD-4951-87DD-AEC84408CA52.JPG

We drove to La Gacilly that afternoon and checked in at La Grée des Landes which was my absolute favourite hotel on this trip. Yves Rocher started his company in La Gacilly and his love for his village made him remain there when it was time to expand his empire. The brand still manufactures its products in the village and is a huge source of employment both directly and indirectly. La Grée des Landes was started by Yves Rocher and it is a gorgeous example of a hotel which is in symbiosis with the nature that surrounds it. It was such a beautiful experience and I hope to stay there again one day. That day was concluded with a boat ride (driven by yours truly), a visit to a store where everything is made of otherwise non-recyclable boat sails and a car ride back to Rennes where we were to spent the last day of our trip. Rennes is fairly reminiscent of a calmer Paris with far less crazy driving and cleaner.  There we did some indoor wall climbing in an old hospital (I will let your mind wrap around that) and we did some graffiti-ing. Of course we couldn’t leave Brittany without have the galette de Sarrasin one last time before we took the train back to the capital of France.

rennes

This trip to Brittany was a whirlwind experience but it gave me a glimpse at a country that is passionate about what it does and people who truly love and respect the environment they live in. From the shores of the Emerald Coast to the streets of Rennes, our trip was filled with so much know-how and Joie de Vivre that it’s hard not to join in as well and be in awe of the beauties of Brittany. I shall be dreaming of beurre demi-sel, Salidou caramels and galettes til my next time in this stunning destination.

-Didier