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The charms of Brittany

My  grandmother always hoped to visit France and especially wanted to see Brouage and Saint-Malo where our ancestors came from. Many Huguenots fled religious persecution in France to live in Canada following the route set by Jacques Cartier, a French explorer from Brittany. Some returned and are buried in Saint-Malo.

Though my grandmother never fulfilled her dream, I had a chance to visit when the company I work for planned a trip to France. Eschewing the ever popular French Riviera, we headed instead to Brittany. Our base, Dinard, was unknown to most of our group though one colleague had read the novel “ All the Light you Cannot See” in which most of the action takes place in Saint- Malo.

We arrived in Paris, and boarded the TGV train from Gare Montparnasse to Saint-Malo. The 200 mile trip travelled through Le Mans and Rennes, a great chance to see the landscape of France albeit at speed. From St Malo we made our way to Dinard, a charming resort with everything you need for a seaside holiday and a great base from which to visit the area.  From the bay side promenade, the Compagnie Corsaire offers a 10 minute boat ride across the bay to the ramparts of Saint- Malo.

What to see in Saint Malo

Historic Saint-Malo is protected by 2km of ramparts which encircle the historic. There are several exits from the ramparts which give access to the beach du Mole including a sea water pool near a path across to the Island Grand Be with easy access at low tide.

Many stop at # 6 Rue Vauborel, the home of Marie- Laure the heroine of “All The Light You Cannot See”. Saint Malo was a popular port for corsairs raiding ships in the Middle Ages. It is also the birthplace of Jacques Cartier who set sail from the harbor in 1534 on his voyage to discover Canada. The city was heavily bombed in WWII as it was mistakenly thought to be a major German fortification.

St Lunaire and Golf de Dinard

House on the edge of a hill overlooking the sea at Dinard, Brittany at sunset under a pink sky

Head 10 minutes west of Dinard and you’ll find St. Lunaire with its broad sandy beach. The yacht club at the grand beach offers sailing classes for children as well as for experienced sailors along the enchanting Emerald coast. The vast beach de Lonchamp offers surfing instruction. Between the two beaches is the Point du Decolle , a rocky walkable peninsula with a great views and eateries to stop and relax and indulge in delicious local dishes.

Just west of Saint Lunaire  is the Golf de Dinard. The course was founded in the 1887. The 18-hole course has one par 5 but some challenging par 3’s. Its fairways along the rocky coast have great views –scenic compensation for errant shots!

Saint Briac-sur-Mer

Due south of Golf de Dinard Saint Briac-sur-Mer has two beautiful beaches along harbors where hundreds of small boats rest on their hulls at low tide and bob at anchor when high tide returns. The hotel du Nessay between the beaches has great views and tempting seaside refreshment from crepes to locally caught seafood.

Dinan

Twenty five minutes  south inland from Dinard is the medieval delight of Dinan considered one of the gems of Brittany with good reason.  It is really almost two towns, with the older center perched on a hilltop and the river second town below alongside the Rance river. The streets are lined with timbered buildings whose second floors are perched over the cobbled streets. At one time taxes were levied on the square footage of the main floor but not on the floors above. Shrewd owners extended the second floor out over the street. A great real estate advantage. The old town is crammed with art galleries and craft shops.

The view from the Prom. De la Duchesse Anne peers down the  narrow channel of the river Rance where many boats are tied to the quay. Shops and restaurants line the quay and several artisans sell their creations from their boats.

This is a great area offering variety of experiences from historic to gastronomic, seaside, countryside and more besides…

By Don LaGrave, Boston, MA

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