Exploring Brittany in a week

It was a week by a car exploring Brittany – a French region that astonished us with wild nature and beautiful landscapes, awesome food (1000 or more variations of crepes, oysters, moules, cider and super tasty buttery various cakes) and the feeling all around that, first of all, they are Bretons and then they are French.

I, personally, didn’t know that Brittany stands out so much from the rest of France, but that uniqueness was charming.

Brittany and its people are one of the six Celtic nations. Ethnically, along with the Cornish and Welsh, the Bretons are Celtic Britons. Even though only 5% of Brittany’s population can speak Breton, all the road signs are in 2 languages – French and Breton (Breizh). On this trip we were using French most of the time, well, Pedro was speaking and dealing with all the stuff, I hardly know more than 2 words in French.

Planning a trip

Before going, we bought 2 Michelin guides published in 2022 – “Bretagne Sud” and “Bretagne Nord”. Michelin not only rates restaurants, it also publishes guides (in the past we used them in English and Portuguese, this time they were in French) and rates the places to visit in a country or region.

Michelin guide

Of course, it’s impossible to visit all well rated places in Brittany in a week but it gave us an idea of how to do our route. As our flight was to Brest, that was the starting and end point of our journey. Our route, alongside some photos, can be explored on TravelMap.

Crozon Peninsula

Even though our flight was to Brest we didn’t spend even an hour there. We took a rented car from the airport and headed directly to Crozon. We stayed in Morgat for the night. In the morning we started our intensive day.

Pointe des Espagnols – a fortification formed by a cliff that is more than 60m high. Afterwards we stopped in the very charming town of Camaret-sur-Mer for lunch. I wouldn’t mind spending more time there. Afterwards 3 star places were waiting for us 🙂 – Pointe de Penhir and Pointe du Raz.

Pointe de Penhir is a promontory of the Crozon Peninsula, the cliffs there are as tall as 70 metres. The landscape is beautiful.

Pointe du Raz is another cliffy point in the peninsula, a dramatic place of crashing waves and strong winds.

Belle-Île ‑ peaceful beaches and spectacular cliffs

While I was doing some reading, I knew that I definitely wanted to spend some time in Belle-Île or Belle-Île-en-Mer, or Belle Isle in English.

It’s the largest of Brittany’s island, located south of Brittany, 14 km from Quiberon’s peninsula. You could get to the island with a ferry but to get there with a car it gets very expensive – 80 euros for the car one way, plus 9 euros per person each way. We knew that we would need a car on the island to get around. And maybe it’s worth getting the car on the ferry if you plan to stay longer on the island but we planned to stay only 2 nights there. 

So we did as a lot of people do – left the rented car in a paid parking lot (paid 30 euros for 2 nights) and rented another car in the Belle-Île town of Les Palais – where the ferry comes. We rented a car from a French company, “Super U” that came much cheaper than renting in other companies on the island – 84 euros for 2 days. 

The travel cost to the island for us: ferry trip – 37 euros, car parking – 30 euros, car rent – 84 euros, everything – 151 euros. It would have cost 197 euros if we had decided to take a car by ferry.

In any case, it’s not very cheap just to go to Belle-Île for a short time. But the island is definitely a place to stay for all holidays – to go to sandy, beautiful, not overcrowded at all (at least in June) beaches, to visit gorgeous natural sites such as Pointe des Poulains. This wild cape was made famous by the actress Sarah Bernhardt, who settled there at the end of the 19th. century.

Saint-Malo – the pearl of northern Brittany

From the Belle-Île we headed to the north of Brittany, stopping along the way. In one day we reached Saint-Malo city and stayed there 3 nights. Saint-Malo is a very charming city where you can feel more than in any place how low tides and high tides “work”.

Besides that, you can walk around the old city within the city walls, or, if you like beaches, you can go to one of the amazing beaches there. And it’s amazing to see how the water comes to the walls of the old city during high tides and how you can see the amazing beaches in the same place during low tides. In general, all our trip was “marked” by understanding very clearly how low and high tides work.

One day we “grabbed” a bit of Normandy and went to see Mont-Saint-Michel. Probably, one of the most visited places in France, included in the UNESCO Heritage Sites.
Mont-Saint-Michel is a tidal island and a famous sanctuary. I, personally, associate it with the famous book of Axel Munthe “The Story of San Michele”. We came quite late to Mont-Saint-Michel, after 6pm.

The Abbey (one of the main spots there) was about to close but at the Information Centre we were told that if we hurry up we could go to the evening prayers – Vêpres. So we hurried up and had a wonderful experience participating in the evening prayer that reminded me a bit of the masses of the Taizé Community in France.

Enjoying the views of the Emerald Coast

Emerald Coast

From Saint-Malo we headed north west, closer to the airport in Brest. We were driving along the so-called Emerald Coast and stopped in some spots, such as Cap Fréhel that is said to offer one of the most beautiful views of Brittany. We can, definitely, agree with this. We also visited Fort La Latte or the Castle of the Rock Goyon – a castle situated on the edge of the cliff. You can visit the inside of the castle, it’s really worth it.

We planned to stop at the Ploumanac’h lighthouse where GR34 or Customs Officers’ path passes and the spot was marked as a 3 stars location. But we were really out of time and arrived at our overnight spot “Slow Village” in Brignogan–Plage quite late.

It’s a wonderful camping site with offers that range from a plot for campers to bungalows right on the beach. We stayed the last 2 nights in the bungalow there. It’s definitely worth spending more time there, a perfect place for families with children who like outdoor activities.

A word of praise for Breton’s food

Food is one of the things I really enjoyed in Brittany, it was “my” kind of food. From one thousand varieties of tasty crepes on every corner, to oysters and mussels. And the sweets…Those buttery sweets are hard to resist! We especially liked kouign-amann – a cake (in the streets we would buy mini cakes) made from a bread mixture with added sugar and salted farm butter, repeatedly folded in much the same way as puff pastry. It melts in your mouth, believe me.
The delicacy of Brittany – oysters, have a reputation for their exceptional quality. Oysters from Cancale town are even on the UNESCO List of Intangible Cultural Heritage. In Brittany for the first time in my life I tried 2 types of oysters – the flat oysters (in French known as the huître plate) and the rounded oyster (in French, huître creuse). Even the flat oysters are more valued and more expensive, I prefer round oysters – I can feel the taste of the sea more 🙂

Final thoughts

Brittany definitely exceeded our expectations. We saw a lot but more is left to be seen. It’s a place to come back one day. Maybe to rent a camper and do slower vacations.

For trekking lovers, Brittany is a paradise. The GR34 footpath goes along Brittany’s coastline for more than 2000 km. It was recently voted as France’s favourite long-distance footpath.

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