Day 1 – Arrive Saint-Malo
Our French itinerary is divided in two parts: one week exploration of Normandy and one week discovery of Brittany. These itineraries can be followed individually or can be combined. After completing the exploration of Normandy, we continue our discovery of Brittany’s unique culture, indescribable scenery and excellent cuisine. We depart Deauville and drive two and a half hours to Saint-Malo. An early evening arrival offers time to walk along the coastal promenade to the walled city of Saint-Malo for dinner. Note: When arriving in Paris, the drive to Saint-Malo takes four and a half hours.
Day 2 – Saint-Malo
The exploration begins just in front of our hotel with views of expansive English Channel, long stretch of white sand beach and walled city of Saint-Malo. We walk along the beach towards the Fort National to take a guided tour and follow its historic journey. Clear views of Saint-Malo’s ramparts and distant neighboring Dinard appear. The short walk along the promenade leads to the 12th century ramparts of Saint-Malo. We follow the pathways atop the city walls and admire the panoramic views of the English Channel, majestic Fort Imperial and the Plage de Bon Secours. Inside the walled city, the grey stone architecture, majestic Saint-Malo Cathedral, garden squares, narrow streets, café terraces and restaurants create a charming atmosphere. In the evening, a lively old-town energy accompanies our culinary experience of regional seafood specialties, including our favorites: Fruit de Mer (seafood platter), mussels and grilled fish.
Day 3 – Dinard and Cancale
A 10 minute sea bus transfer from Saint-Malo to the seaside resort of Dinard offers panoramic views of Saint-Malo’s ramparts and Dinard’s white sand beaches. The boat arrives in the marina facing the historic Grand Hotel Barriere de Dinard. We explore the two beautiful beaches: Plage de l'Ecluse and Plage de St Enogat. The promenade pathway along the coast and the Plage de l’Ecluse reveals the classic white and blue striped beach tents, colonial and Breton style architecture, and rocky coast. We enjoy a lunch and dessert at an outdoor patio at the Grand Hotel Barriere de Dinard before departing to Saint-Malo. An afternoon excursion leads us to the fishing village of Cancale (20 minutes route from Saint-Malo). The stroll along Cancale’s promenade reveals pretty stone houses, the lighthouse and oyster fields visible at low tide. At the outdoor Marche aux Huîtres (Oyster Market), the farmers sell local oysters. A dinner at Le Cancalais Restaurant offers a delicious feast of Fruit de Mer (Seafood Platter), including the freshest oysters from Cancale.
Day 4 – Côte de Granit Rose, Paimpol
Brittany’s northern coast is defined by pink granite rock formations stretching along the 30 kilometers of the Côte de Granit Rose. In the morning, we drive two hours from Saint-Malo to the Côte de Granit Rose. We continue following the coastal route between Perros-Guirec and the village of Ploumanac’h, and stop and relax at the beautiful beaches along the way. At Pointe de Squewel we spend time admiring the magnificent pink granite rocks structures along a peaceful bay and near lighthouse of Ploumanac’h that serves as an entryway to the small port of Ploumanac’h. We continue to drive along the coast and arrive at the resort town of Perros-Guirec. We stroll along the boardwalk, explore artisan shops and enjoy a seafood lunch. The continued 45-minute route guides us to the town of Paimpol. We walk along the picturesque marina and explore La Place du Martray square and the surrounding grey stone houses. We settle at the restaurant’s outdoor terrace and enjoy a relaxing dinner before driving back to Saint-Malo.
Day 5 – Cap Fréhel, Fort La Latte, Arrive Vannes
Today’s adventures include a morning departure from Saint-Malo, the exploration of Brittany’s coast and our arrival to historic city of Vannes. We follow a 50-minute route to Cap Fréhel, a habitat of heathland and European gorse bushes. The panoramic views reveal stunning pink limestone cliffs extending into the sea and two lighthouses. The next stop brings us to the 13th century Fort La Latte, a fortress built on the cliff and surrounded by wild vegetation and the sea. Inside the courtyard, there are classic French style gardens while atop the tower one can admire the views of the Côte d’Emeraude. In the afternoon, we depart the coast for a two and a half hour drive to Vannes.
Day 6 – Vannes
A visit to Vannes reveals the medieval history, timber framed houses, narrow streets and charming harbor. We walk to the Place Gambetta situated by the harbor and the Promenade de la Rabine. Vannes’ Gallo-Roman city walls partially encircle the city. We walk toward Le Château de l’Hermine, an 18th century location of residence that belonged to the duke of Brittany. We walk along the walls, picturesque gardens, Marle stream and continue to the 19th century Wash Houses. Inside the Old Town, we explore Place Henry IV with its oldest timber-framed houses and the 17th century architecture at the Place de Lices. The visit to the Cathedral Saint Pierre reveals Gothic Style architecture. Along the narrow streets, there are wonderful restaurants with outdoor terraces serving delicious regional cuisine.
Day 7 – Le Golfe du Morbihan
Hundreds of islands with peaceful lagoons and rocky coasts represent Le Golfe du Morbihan. We purchase tickets for a Navix cruise to the Île-aux-Moines (the largest island) and Île d'Arz at Vannes’ Office du Tourisme. In the summer, free Navettes Bus (Bus Shuttle) links Vannes’ center to Gare Maritime (Parc du Golfe) from where the cruises depart. Arriving at the Île d’Arz pier, we rent bikes and follow the scenic pathways along the coast, town’s center, oyster farm fields and beautiful beaches. We enjoy a relaxing lunch in the local restaurant. We continue our cruise to the Île-aux-Moines. A lovely promenade along the bay guides us to Le Bourg (town center). The white houses with straw rooftops and blue doors, and the white chapel surrounded by 17th and 18th century houses reveal the island’s charm. In the evening, we take the boat back to Vannes and dine in the Old Town.
Day 8 – Locronan, Douarnenez, Pointe du Raz
A morning one and a half hour drive to the village of Locronan reveals Brittany’s quintessential village with medieval grey stone houses and cobblestone streets. We visit the artisan boutiques, St. Ronan Church, the serene square and have a relaxing lunch. Next, a 10 kilometer route leads us to the seaside resort town of Douarnenez where its scenic setting offers a relaxing atmosphere, sailing adventures and panoramic views. We continue our tour with a 45 minute drive to France’s national heritage of Le Pointe du Raz. The spectacular scenery reveals green pastures, dramatic cliffs and the Ar Men Lighthouse in the distance. The 20-minute walk from the parking area guides us to La Pointe du Raz and the treacherous waters of the Raz du Sein. The strong waves hit the rocky shores of the Île de Sein. In the early evening, we return to Vannes (two-hour route).
Day 9 – Paris
In the morning, we depart Vannes to Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport (approximately 500 kilometers route that takes 5 hours). Our international flight schedule requires an overnight stay and we choose a hotel near the airport: the Novotel Convention & Wellness Roissy CDG Hotel.
Saint-Malo – Majestic walls and fortifications encircle the city of Saint-Malo. Atop the 12th century city ramparts, the walking pathways offer panoramic views of the English Channel, majestic Fort Imperial, Plage de Bon Secours and distant views of the neighboring town of Dinard. Along the sea, the expansive white sand beach displays a constantly changing landscape. In the morning, the low tide reveals a beautiful white sand beach filled with joggers, dog walkers, sun worshippers, swimmers and colorful sailboats in the sea. A boardwalk runs along the lavish mansions, classic architecture and the sea. At low tide, the walking pathway on the beach takes us to the Fort National, a historic fort constructed to protect the city of Saint-Malo. The entrance fee includes a guided group tour and takes us through a historic journey with amusing stories and lovely views of Saint-Malo. Inside the walled city, the grey stone architecture, majestic Saint-Malo Cathedral, garden squares, crêperie restaurants and narrow streets create a charming ambiance. The culinary regional traditions of savory and sweet crepes are faithfully preserved in Saint-Malo. The vibrant tourism industry in the region provides support to many of its restaurants, cafes, dessert parlors, boutiques and live music venues. In the evening, the walled city’s animated energy complements our culinary experience: Fruit de Mer (cold seafood platters), mussels and grilled fish.
Dinard – The Rance Estuary provides a picturesque setting for the seaside resort town of Dinard. The Compagnie Corsaire provides a 10-minute boat transfer between Saint-Malo and Dinard. The boat passage offers wonderful views of Saint-Malo’s ramparts, Dinard’s white sand beaches and picturesque marina facing the historic Grand Hotel Barriere de Dinard situated atop the cliff. Dinard’s charm is showcased in its peaceful bay and marina, making Dinard a top destination for solitude seekers. The two pristine white sand beaches: Plage de l'Ecluse and Plage de St Enogat provide natural setting for relaxing beach activities. During our visit, local newspapers reported that France’s prior President Jacques Chirac was vacationing in the Grand Hotel and often strolled along the beach. The promenade pathway follows the coast to the Plage de l’Ecluse where traditional white and blue striped beach tents color the landscape. The narrow pathway continues along the steep cliffs and shows a colorful contrast of rocky shores, panoramic sea views and the Breton style architecture of Dinard. A walk back to Dinard’s center warrants a pause at the Grand Hotel Barriere de Dinard for lunch and dessert. A return boat transfer to Saint-Malo rewards us with blue skies and lovely views of both towns.
Cancale – The picturesque fishing village of Cancale is situated along a fertile sea. The coast of Cancale is renowned for its oyster farms that supply oysters to seafood markets and restaurants throughout France and the world. A warm rain, grey skies and strong wind accompany our afternoon arrival in Cancale. The low tide reveals a muddy shallow harbor with fishing boats resting on the sand. The promenade along the coast displays nearby stone houses and takes us to the lighthouse. The lighthouse pier provides a perfect observation point of Cancale’s landscape and of the oyster fields uncovered at low tide. An outdoor Marche aux Huitres (Oyster Market) displays few stalls of freshly harvested oysters sold by local oyster farmers. In the evening, Le Cancalais Restaurant offers a charming ambiance, excellent service and outstanding cuisine. Our dinner feast consists of Fruit de Mer (cold seafood platter) presented on a bed of ice. The succulent Cancale oysters have a distinct sea flavors and freshness. As the sun begins to disappear in the horizon, a surreal view of Cancale’s peaceful bay and picturesque coast appears.
Côte de Granit Rose – The northern coast of Brittany reveals the beautiful coastal rock formations at the Côte de Granit Rose. The pink colored granite formations stretch along a 30-kilometer coast, called Côte de Granit Rose. The area between Perros-Guirec and village of Ploumanac’h displays an incredible scenery of natural rock formations and shapes resembling beautiful art sculptures. La Pointe de Squewel is a long stretch of coastline pathway that mesmerizes with stunning views of the granite rock formations, white sand beaches and sailboats coloring the sea. Signs along the coastal pathway guide to the picturesque bays displaying the distinct pink granite rocks along the sea. The lighthouse of Ploumanac’h represents the entryway of the small port of Ploumanac’h. The route along the coast passes through quaint villages and guides us to the resort town of Perros-Guirec. The preserved Breton culture and traditions in Perros-Guirec can be sensed: lovely beaches, scenic boardwalk, seaside restaurants and artisan boutique playing Breton music in the background.
Paimpol – The daylight begins to fade as we arrive to the charming harbor and town of Paimpol. Colorful sailboats are docked in the marina and picturesque houses along the harbor beautify this quaint town. La Place du Martray represents the quintessential central square with grey stone houses and quaint alleyways. We pause in one of the lively restaurants along the harbor to enjoy a dinner of fish soup and oysters. We settle into small chairs at the outdoor restaurant terrace filled with animated local patrons.
Cap Fréhel and Fort La Latte – The heathland with heather and European gorse bush habitat provide a unique landscape for Cap Fréhel. The yellow and violet heathland terrain inspires artists and visitors from all over the world. The spectacular panorama of pink limestone cliffs, steep sharp rocks extending into the coastline and distant islands defines the beauty of Cap Fréhel located in the peninsula of the Côtes d'Armor. At the tip of Cap Fréhel there is a lighthouse with distinct 17th century architecture and another lighthouse in the 1950s style. We continue driving along the coastal route and arrive at the 13th century fortress of Fort La Latte, a privately owned historic monument. Situated atop the cliff, the grey stone castle is surrounded by wild vegetation and the sea. The walk through the inside courtyard reveals French style gardens and a ramparts tower in the middle. Atop the tower, we admire the views of the Côte d’Emeraude and the sea.
Vannes – The medieval history of Vannes is reflected in its timber framed house structures, narrow streets and charming harbour. Place Gambetta hosts restaurants and cafes around Vannes’ harbor, and the Promenade de la Rabine is a charming walking pathway along the picturesque marina. Vannes’ Gallo-Roman city walls encircled once the whole city but presently only the two thirds of walls remain preserved. The entrance of Porte St Vincent leads from the harbor to the south of Vannes while the entrance of Port Prison serves as the northern gateway to Vannes. The Chateau de l’Hermine is an 18th century location of residence that belonged to the duke of Brittany. The pathway along the city walls and the Marle stream continues towards the Wash Houses dating back to 19th century. Inside the Old Town, architectural treasures are displayed at the Place Henry IV with the 15th and 16 century Vannes’ oldest timber-framed houses. Place de Lices displays timber houses dating back to 17th century. Out Vannes’ historic tour finishes at the Cathedral Saint Pierre, an impressive Gothic style structure. Vannes is a truly unique city that teaches visitors about its history, culture and regional cuisine.
Le Golfe du Morbihan (Gulf of Morbihan) – Hundreds of islands with lagoon to the east and rocky coast to the west represent Le Golfe du Morbihan. The two largest islands of Île-aux-Moines (the largest island) and Île d'Arz can be explored by a scenic cruise. Vannes’ Office du Tourisme sells cruise tickets and free Navettes Bus (during the summer season) provides an easy transfer from Vannes’ center to the Gare Maritime (Parc du Golfe) from where the cruises depart. The boat’s upper deck offers panoramic views of the islands and its coastal architecture. At Île d'Arz, we rent bikes and follow scenic pathways along the coast, the town’s center, oyster farm fields and beautiful beaches. After lunch, we continue our cruise to the Île-aux Moines. A lovely promenade along the bay guides us to Le Bourg (town center). The white houses with straw rooftops and blue doors, and the white chapel surrounded by 17th and 18th century houses reveal the island’s charm. At the end of the day, we take the boat back to Vannes.
Le Pointe du Raz – France’s protected national heritage of La Pointe du Raz boasts a unique coastal landscape. The drive to La Pointe du Raz reveals expansive green pastures and the Ar Men Lighthouse in the distance. There is a 20-minute scenic walk starting from the parking area to La Pointe du Raz, offering panoramic views of the steep cliffs and Île de Sein. The navigation is dangerous between La Pointe du Raz and Île de Sein for the vessels passing between Atlantic Ocean and the English Channel. The secluded location and the treacherous sea passage, called Raz du Sein, contribute to the mystery and beauty of this special place. En route to La Pointe du Raz, we divert our route to explore Locronan, quintessential village of Brittany. We also visit the seaside resort town of Douarnenez, a perfect place to relax and appreciate beautiful scenery.
Locronan – The village of Locronan is one of the most beautiful villages in France. Situated an hour and a half from Vannes, Locronan is an authentic village with grey stone houses, a beautiful St. Ronan Church situated in the center square and an indescribable charm. The cobblestone streets, artisan boutiques and cozy restaurants create an inviting atmosphere. The Conserverie Courtin shop offers quality canned seafood products from the oldest canning company in the Concarneau region. The grey stone houses covered with grape vines, the cobblestone square, the flower baskets along the window panes, the blue colored wooden doors and the café terraces create together a magnificent village. A blue sky and sunshine accompany our stroll through the village as we discover this magical old world. Locronan is a rare gem that sparkles with a little bit of sun.
Breton Lobster with Herb Butter – Brittany, a gourmet paradise, offers wonderful culinary creations and traditions. The simply boiled Breton Lobster is traditionally served cold and accompanied with aioli. During our visit to Brittany, we sample the Breton lobster at a seaside restaurant called La Brasserie du Sillon in Saint-Malo. The Breton lobster is roasted with herb butter, which consists of parsley, garlic and butter. The subtle flavors of herb butter, traditionally used with escargot, surprisingly complement the lobster’s natural sweetness. The chef’s perfect execution of the dish leaves us deliciously satisfied and ready to recreate this lovely recipe at home.
Cancale’s Oysters – Brittany and Normandy are well known for their oyster cultivation traditions. As we traverse the regions, we enjoy tasting the subtle differences in flavors, textures and scents of the sea. Our visit to the fishing village of Cancale, center of cultivation of high quality oysters, reveals abundant oyster fields along the coast. An outdoor oyster market displays a variety of fresh local oysters. Along the bay, the restaurant Le Cancalais serves wonderful seafood cuisine, including the flavorful local oysters. As we enjoy our seafood platter and oysters, we are convinced that Cancale’s oysters are the best of Brittany.
Hotel Le Nouveau Monde – Our recommended Hotel Le Nouveau Monde has a perfect setting along the sea, expansive beach and walking promenade leading to Saint-Malo. The spacious lobby displays a modern design and architecture. Our premium room on the higher floor offers stunning sea views, comfortable king size bed and a small sitting area. The hotel’s small indoor swimming pool and solarium offer a welcome place to relax. A buffet breakfast offered for an additional fee, is served in the hotel’s restaurant overlooking the sea. The underground parking available for an extra fee, provides a convenient and secure parking space. Hotel Le Nouveau Monde is conveniently located within walking distance to the historic Saint-Malo and offers sweeping views of the white sand beach and the sea.
Car Rental – In France, we recommend to reserve in advance your car rental to ensure the availability of a car with an automatic transmission. Hertz Car Rental in France provides quality cars that are well maintained. A navigation system is an absolute must in France. It provides wonderful guidance, especially through the numerous driving circles on the roads of the beautiful France.