Thursday, June 9, 2011

A brief stop in Brittany: Cancale, Emerald Coast, Saint-Malo, Dinan, and Fougères

Day 6 (Wednesday, September 2, 2009)

I headed out of Mont. St. Michel early this morning in order to get a head start on my day. I was hoping to possibly see blue skies, but, unfortunately, that was not the case so my mostly cloudy and gray photos of the Mont from the day prior would have to suffice.

My first stop of the day was in the seaside town of Cancale. This small town of about 6,000 residents is famous for its many oyster beds, but I came to simply stroll the quiet backstreets and to enjoy the gorgeous water views. I also stopped in at a bakery to purchase my daily ration of croissants.
The town of Cancale from a distance. 
Cute house in Cancale. 
Street scene in Cancale.
Oysters for sale in Cancale.
Waterless harbor in Cancale.

From Cancale, I drove over to a gorgeous lookout called Pointe du Grouin. From this point, one is rewarded with incredible views of the beautiful Emerald coast and its many perfectly placed outcrops of rocks. There were a few short hiking trails, but I chose to simply walk along the edge of the lookout, in order to fully appreciate the magnificent views.
Pointe du Grouin. 
Pointe du Grouin.
View from Pointe du Grouin.
Pointe du Grouin.

Next, I drove to a beach called Ile Besnard and Dunes de Chevets. This off the beaten path area was a lovely place to visit. There was a beautiful sandy beach which arched alongside a crescent bay, and a multitude of tidal pools to explore. While exploring some of those tidal pools, I found a large fish, but I couldn’t tell if it was alive or not. Just as I began to try and poke him with a rock, two very cute little French girls came running up to me and looked to see what I was staring at. They then became extremely excited when they saw the fish, and scooped him out of the water using a small net they had brought with them. Seeing that the fish was dead, the girls threw him in their bucket, along with all of their other seaside discoveries. After walking through the tide pools for quite some time, I decided to walk along the beach. I had a great time watching a German Shepard dog attempting to jump the large waves as they came crashing against the beach. At one point, one of the waves was so large that it went entirely over the dog; such a funny thing to see!
Beautiful beach.
The French girls grabbing the prized fish from the tide pool. 
Tide pools. 
Detail from tide pool.

The gorgeous beach at Ile Besnard and Dunes de Chevets.

From the beach, I headed to the resort town of Saint-Malo. Aside from being a very popular place to visit during the summer months, the town is most famous for its stone walled fortification, which surrounds its entire historic core. I learned that during 1944, nearly 80% of the city was bombed out. However, instead of demolishing the ruins and building everything from new (as so many other cities in Normandy and Brittany did) city officials decided to painfully, stone-by-stone, reconstruct most of the buildings. Today, most people (including myself) are unable to differentiate between the original and reconstructed buildings.

Much to my great sadness, the sun had slowly begun to disappear right before my arrival in St. Malo, so most of my visit occurred under gray skies. I initially walked onto the gorgeous beach, which just like all the others I had visited in the area; spanned forever and was covered in beautiful soft, white sand. I then headed into the old town, which was packed full of tourists. I walked along the ramparts for awhile, before finally exploring some of the quiet backstreets. During my short visit to the city I decided that one should devote at least a full day and night to Saint-Malo, as it is rather large with lots of nooks and crannies to explore.
The very wide and expansive beach at Saint-Malo.
The beach at Saint-Malo.
Looking back at the town of Saint-Malo from the beach.
English translation: The street of the cat who dances. Thought this was so cute!
Beautiful Saint-Malo.

From Saint-Malo, I drove to my chosen bed and breakfast near Dinan, called Vue de la Rance Chambres d’Hotes, which was located in the tiny town of La Hisse. This gorgeous small country home was chosen based on it’s great reviews on Trip Advisor, and the fact that it came with free breakfast, wifi, and parking. My room was huge, and had two beds, plus a sitting area and desk! The bathroom itself was also rather large; in fact, I commented to myself that the bathroom was probably larger than some of the hotel rooms I had stayed in throughout Europe! I immediately regretted not spending at least two nights in this great little place, especially with the gorgeous views of the River Rance, Lyvet Port, and the surrounding countryside from the window.
The exterior of the B & B in Dinan.
Interior of my room at Vue de la Rance Chambres. 
The breakfast room.
The beautiful back yard of Vue de la Rance Chambres.
View from the back patio of Vue de la Rance Chambres.

After surveying the room, I decided to drive into Dinan, which took just about five minutes. Immediately upon my arrival, I understood why Rick Steves was so found of the town; it was filled with cobblestone streets, half-timbered buildings, gorgeous stoned-wall buildings, and dozens and dozens of small creperies. It oozed charm and quaintness from every street corner. It was obvious that the citizens of Dinan were proud to call it home as the town was impeccably clean and well-taken care of; it was just the kind of town I could imagine myself settling into for a few nights.
Courtyard in Dinan.
Charming building in Dinan.
Side street in Dinan.
View of the lower section of town.

However, as excited as I was to be in the cute little town, I was at the same time also highly annoyed with the weather as there was dark gray clouds above me which appeared as though they were going to begin dumping rain at any moment. Since the town itself was so pleasant, I decided to enjoy it’s many narrow streets and alleyways in lieu of visiting any of it’s sights. I was truly blown away with the beauty of the town and was sad that the beautiful and unique architecture was not being photographed against a bright blue sky. Eventually, those dark gray clouds turned into rain, and soon enough, I was getting dumped on; certainly not my idea of a pleasant visit. I decided to have an early dinner around 17:00 as I was so miserable walking around in the rain.

After consulting my guidebooks and discovering that most of the restaurants were for some reason closed on Wednesdays (strange, but true) I settled on a creperie called Creperie Le Beffroi, which I had seen along my walk through. The menu was displayed only in French, so I was hopeful that the food would be good. In addition to crepes, the restaurant served many different choices of galettes (savory buckwheat crepes), which are very traditional in Brittany. I decided upon the Galette Super Complete (filled with mushrooms, ham, egg, crème fraiche and cheese). My guess that the food would be of good quality and delicious (due to a lack of an English menu) was right on as the food was unbelievably good. My crepe was so delicious that I told myself that it was the best thing I had eaten so far on my trip to France. I decided to also splurge for dessert, and ordered the Crepe Fraisier, which was filled with strawberries, white and milk chocolate, whipped cream, and meringue. The crepe was also very delicious, and by the end of the meal, I was extremely full. Although it appeared to have been a very light meal, it was actually surprisingly filling.
Dinner crepe.
Dessert crepe.

Afterward, I wanted to continue to explore the town. However, the rain became even worse than before, and when combined with the fierce winds, made it impossible to enjoy doing anything, so I headed out. Dinan is truly a special little town which I highly recommend that all visitors spend at least a night or two at in order to fully enjoy it’s beautiful and very quaint setting; I regretted not having more time to explore what is now one of my favorite towns in France.

Day 7 (Thursday, September 3, 2009)

As soon as I woke up in Dinan, I saw beautiful sunlight streaming through the window, which instantly put a smile on my face. It was quite surprising considering that the weather forecasters had predicted rainy weather that morning. Since it had been absolutely nasty out the day before, I was hoping I could make a quick stop in town to take some pictures before heading out.

After getting ready, I left my room and walked across the hallway for breakfast. When I walked into the breakfast room, there was a very delicious aroma spreading through the air that I hoped was the smell of crepes cooking. Unfortunately, I was slightly disappointed as there were no crepes, but there was fresh bread and very good flaky croissants with homemade jam.

After breakfast, I hurried my way out of the bed and breakfast in order to take some photographs of the harbor area since it was sunny out. Luckily, because it was still so early in the morning, there were very few people out so I was able to take lots of pictures without many obstructions. The early morning light beautifully lit-up the dark stone and most of my photos turned out lovely; a much different story compared to the dark photos from the day before.
Small harbor in Dinan.
Beautiful building in Dinan.
Reflections in Dinan. 
Reflections in Dinan.

After finishing the quick photo-op Dinan, I drove for about an hour until I reached the town of Fougères. Rick Steves had recommended stopping off in this city as a good place to break-up the long journey for those traveling the long distance between Brittany and the Loire Valley. Fougères, although a smaller Breton town, is well-known for it’s medieval castle, which is one of the largest in Europe. Upon arrival, I decided to stroll through town for a bit, before heading down to the public gardens, where I walked until I reached the castle. Although I chose not to go into the castle, I did admire it from it’s exterior. The area around the castle was home to lots of cute cafes and small restaurants.
Fougeres' Castle
Fougeres' Castle 

Day 7 to be continued in the next blog entry...

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