Brittany is full of wonderful places. Do you want chateaux, modern history, coarse fishing, water activities, walking and cycling? Or do you want to chill out and eat well? Brittany has it all
There are so many charming places in Brittany, it's easy to become overwhelmed. My aim is to write a group of articles for Simonseeks that can be joined together to become one super holiday, or a series of visits. Make your base at Josselin, La Roche Bernard, or across the border in Guerande, and the other pieces of the package are there to explore.
Josselin - what to do
Josselin is a great little town, with its imposing Chateau de Rohan visible from the access road. Watch out for photographers, or stop and take some yourself. There are plenty of small shops to browse in and, of course, tours of the chateau. The chateau also boasts a period doll museum, the Duchess's doll museum, one of the largest in France. Expect to pay roughly 6 euros per adult.
Visit the English Book Shop (that's its name, even in France) at 36 Rue Trentes (email@example.com). Feel free to wander around and perhaps pick up a recipe book to take back home. Further along is the central square, Place du Notre Dame, overlooked by the Basilica de Notre Dame du Roncier, and edged with cafés and restaurants. It's a great place to sit and savour the atmosphere.
Josselin - where to eat
The restaurants in Josselin have avoided the march of fast food, even the galette, delicious though it is. Here, the Grill du Chateau, in the square, suggests a selection of duck mousse, French onion soup, stuffed artichoke hearts, poele St. Jacques, (fried scallops) and desserts to happily fatten for, all at a very reasonable 18 - 24 euros for three courses. For a similar price, Le Guethenoc (11 Place du Notre Dame; 0033 2 97 70 69 57) with a reputation for friendliness, offers, among others, country pate, tuna tomato and olive tart, game fricassee, and tartiflette Normande, (a bit like Spanish omelette). The very presentable Bar du Centre had a menu du jour at 12 euros. You're spoilt for choice in Josselin!
Josselin - where to stay
For somewhere to stay I would recommend the Hotel Restaurant du Chateau with great views of the castle, and just across the water of the River Oust. This two-star establishment seems worthy of at least one more star. The inside cheers you with a wide wooden staircase, and a large dining room overlooking the castle, and, of course, views of the boating events on the water. The bedrooms are spacious and comfortable, if a little old-fashioned, but then, you will spend your time adventuring! Prices start at a room rate 69 euros, and half-board and full-board rates are available, offering authentic local cuisine. Private parking is free.
Malestroit - what to do
Fifteen minute's drive will take you to Malestroit, another interesting town on the Nantes-Brest canal that had quite a history of resistance during the last world war. It has its own Museum of the Resistance, nearby (0033 2 97 75 16 90, www.resistance-bretonne.com) and plaques in the town commemorate that sad history. There is nothing sombre about Malestroit today, however; it's a really attractive place with half-timbered buildings and narrow lanes leading down to the canal and weir. As with most towns in the area, Malestroit makes the most of its looks with an abundance of flower displays, making it a joy to stroll the streets and then relax at a quiet cafe for refreshment.
Malestroit - where to stay
For camping in the area, the Moulin Neuf Campsite, has all the usual good facilities, plus a swimming pool, and is a ten minute walk from Rochefort en Terre, featured in my Exploring southern Brittany guide. It is also a short step away from the Moulin Neuf lake, from which the campsite takes its name, and here fishing enthusiasts can indulge in 50 acres of coarse fishing. Will you ever get them away? You could leave them, and head off to nearby, Le Voie Vert, 'The Green Road,' a former railroad, now 53 km of cycle path and walking country, lined with trees, and with views that include a local castle. In July and August a site with electricity is around 24 euros a night.
An excellent outing for the whole family is to be found at Branfere animal park (0033 2 97 42 94 66; firstname.lastname@example.org), close to the nearby village of Le Guerno. There are acres of countryside where animals roam free in a natural habitat. Watch out for zebra, buffalo, giraffes, llamas, wallabies and pygmy goats. The playful gibbons are confined to an island from where they provide endless entertainment, but you must move on to see the aerial ballet provided by an amazing assortment of birds. I've not seen anything to beat it - this is a breathtaking presentation! The narration is in French, but no words are necessary as you watch falcons, vultures, owls, pelicans and multicoloured parakeets fly in formation for their trainer. It's all so casual and low-key, but you are left lost for words. Admission is around 13 euros for adults, with reductions for children.
Lizio - drop in on the way home
Drop in at Lizio on the way home. It’s a small village that takes itself very seriously. Its stone and granite architecture is immaculate. On the second Sunday in August, craftsmen come from across Brittany to display their skills to a large audience. It also has painful links with the Resistance.
Lizio is also very fond of its local Saint Lubin. The village has had a new statue made to stand outside the church. Although Lubin died in 557 they celebrate him every year on September 15. Lizio also has the most immaculate public conveniences I have ever encountered. Now that’s useful!
There are beaches not far away, and sailing opportunities on the Gulf of Morbihan. Watch out for an article, coming soon, with all the details! Bon Vacances!
How to get there
Your adventure could start on Brittany Ferries, Portsmouth to either St. Malo or Cherbourg. Or LD Lines, Portsmouth to Le Havre, whichever is doing the best deals. Norfolkline, Dover to Dunkirk is brilliant for cheap fares and flexibility, There is, however, a different price to pay - motoring a much longer distance to your destination. Not a problem if you want to explore! The price of fuel, however, motorway charges, and a night-stop and meal in magical little Honfleur, has all to be added up. It depends on how much time you have. So, if you've read my other pieces on Brittany, here are a few more equally wonderful places to add to your itinerary.