Imagine rose-hued rocky cliffs, sandy beaches, rolling green hills peppered with dolmens - ancient burial stones - and a sky speared with medieval church spires. The unique landscape of Brittany was to inspire many an artist, including Marc Chagall and Paul Gauguin.
A promontory which reaches into the Atlantic ocean, Brittany as a region is very much focused on the sea and all things marine. As well as delicious seafood, this includes sailing, fishing and surfing, and you may be surprised to learn that it was the Bretons who invented windsurfing, land-surfing and kite-surfing: the ideal place to try this out is on the wild beaches of the Côte Sauvage. For a more family-friendly visit explore the sheltered and tranquil shores of the Gulf of Morbihan, near Vannes. In the charming town of Vannes itself you’ll find boats bobbing in the old port, right in the medieval town centre.
Nantes, on the Loire river, is known as the Venice of the West. It boasts a plethora of museums, and its white stone gothic cathedral, which took 457 years to build, is a must-see.
The port city of Brest is a bustling commercial centre near the western tip of the peninsula. Explore the Chateau de Brest, the oldest castle still in use today: parts of the château date back to Roman times and it was renovated in the 11th century. Check out the Pont de Recouvrance, at 88m long it is one of the largest drawbridges in Europe.
If you’re visiting Quimper, don’t miss the Breton-style timber-framed houses. Rennes, too has fine examples of these traditional houses. Besides its many museums, such as the Museum of Fine Arts, there is lots going on in Rennes, including the annual Transmusicales festival.
Traditional Breton culture is still alive and well, and is expressed in music and dancing, and of course in its food. Don’t miss tasting a “galette”, these are thin buckwheat crêpes with savoury fillings, traditionally served with a ceramic cup filled with Breton cider. Delicious!
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