There’s something about the French way of life that I really like. I can’t really put my finger on it as it really has that “je ne sais quoi”.
I found it recently while enjoying leisurely lunch at the Pizzeria ” Prat en Bras” in Erdeven, and again while enjoying dinner at the Armoric restaurant in the historic Port de St Goustan. I also found it while wandering around the weekly markets in Carnac and Etel.
I also think it is something uniquely Breton. It’s not something I’ve found elsewhere in the country, where life seems to live at a somewhat faster pace.
On a recent visit to the region, we decided to immerse ourselves in Breton life as much as we could and decided to hire a traditional cottage in a little hamlet surrounded by cornfields. Le Petit Diamant translates as “the little diamond” and that is exactly what we found it to be.
Just a couple of miles from the nearby town of St Barthelmy, it was a treat to be able to go to the local boulangerie and buy fresh croissants and baguettes every morning and visit the local shops. Of course, self catering has its downsides. I enjoy beef carpaccio every now and again, mainly when someone else is paying for it! It is basically raw beef marinated in lemon and oil. I found some in a supermarket and decided on a nice lunchtime salad to enjoy in the garden. Unfortunately I didn’t read the instructions properly and ended up with a big lump of raw meat on the plate rather than the thin marinated slivers that I had envisioned. Disappointment about the lunch, or lack of it, soon faded as we took ourselves off for an afternoon exploring the area.
We found a stunning village nearby, basically by accident.. St Nicholas des Eaux sits beside the picturesque River Blavet and we were blown away by the beauty of the place. My partner even persuaded me to join her on a bicycle ride along the riverbank. Electric bikes are available to hire from the tourist office in the village and, once you get used to the extra speed, are actually really good fun.
We also ‘gatecrashed’ the 5th birthday celebrations of one of the local bars! Le P’tit Zef is an eclectic riverside pub and suited the “pig on a spit” which was cooking on a huge bbq at the front of the building. How could we say no!
The cities in Brittany are very historic and the walls of Hennebont and Vannes are surrounded by beautiful gardens and water features. Vannes, in particular, is full of old buildings and quaint streets. Churches play a major role in the townscapes too, and in places like Baud and Carnac, they add a stunning centrepiece to the town centres.
The historic Port de St Goustan in Auray has been a favourite of mine for many years. It’s the sort of place where you can take in the scenery for hours without realising. The ramparts opposite offer some great photo opportunities too.
When travelling to the area it’s worth noting that working hours are slightly different to what we may be used to. Bakeries are open from 6am to lunchtime, other shops and businesses open from around 9am to 12 and then again from 2pm to 6pm. Dinner is not usually eaten until around 8pm. You should also be aware of religious holidays too. We found ourselves wandering around the old town of Pontivy, wondering why there was no one around and everything was closed, until we came across a jam-packed church!
Getting to Brittany is also fairly simple. We flew with Aer Lingus on their regular service from Dublin to Rennes and hired a car in advance with Hertz Ireland. It is a little disconcerting getting into a car where the steering wheel is on the wrong side and you also have to drive on the wrong side of the road. However the Nissan Juke we had was amazing.
The reversing camera was a great bonus for getting into car parking spaces! I should make mention of the ‘third person’ in our relationship that week. ‘Sophie’, as we called the sat-nav, got us from Hypermarché to market and all places in between brilliantly. I did my best to outsmart her on a few occasions and go my own way, but to no avail. I think my partner got a bit jealous as Sophie appeared to be the only woman who could make me do as I was told