We had a great trip to Brittany (Bretagne) and Normandy (Normandie) for a long weekend. To start with I’ll write about Brittany and touch on where we visited (Dinan, St. Malo, and Mont St. Michel). More detailed posts follow on each of these cities and Normandy as well.
How to get there: You will definitely need a car once you get to Brittany. So we decided to drive from Paris. I found it a long and boring drive. The scenery from Paris to almost the coast is mostly flat with slightly rolling hills. Nearer the coast it gets a little more interesting.
Because it was long with not much to see, next time, depending on the price, I would take a train and then rent a car in one of the large towns – perhaps Rennes.
I would imagine taking the train and then renting might be more expensive than what we did, but on the other hand there are tolls to factor in and the cost of gas. All told there and back (aller-retour), the cost for tolls and gas was probably about 150 euros. Another plus for picking taking a train and picking the car up in Brittany is that it avoids the traffic jams getting back into Paris. The traffic getting into Paris after a long weekend or period of vacances can be horrible.
Therefore, next time I’ll check the price on both options and if possible take the train.
Where to stay: Since we booked at the last minute (sadly this is what we usually do) there wasn’t much available in either Dinan or St Malo. There was plenty of availability in Rennes, and the hotels seemed cute, but since we didn’t have much time we wanted to spend the evening in a city we actually wanted to see (like Dinan or St. Malo.) Since there were no reasonable hotel or Airbnb options left, I tried a site with gites and chambre d’hôte options in Bretagne. It turns out that Airbnb, Booking.com etc. are NOT the only options.
Gites and Chambre d’Hôtes: Gites are stand alone apartments or cottages usually equipped with kitchens and usually for stays of one week or longer. Chambre d’hôtes are bed and breakfasts. I found a site for both called My Gites Breizh. Breizh means Brittany in the local language (Breton). The site is a bit cumbersome and to navigate it you need to know that the northern part of Brittany is called the Côtes d’Armor. Only then you can search within that area on a different site for the Côtes d’Armor.
Using the site we found a perfectly good chambre d’hôte. just outside Dinan. The process was quite charming, in that the site, My Gites Breizh, involved talking to a live person, who then called the Chambre d’hôte. to see if there was availability. I think that added 5-10 euros to the cost rather than having contacted them directly but it was worth it.
Overall, staying in a french bed and breakfast (chambre d’hôte) was a nice change from a hotel or even an airbnb. The room was fine and there was a great breakfast included. We had orange juice, coffee, french pastries, and baguettes with home made jams. Since all the other rooms were occupied by french tourists breakfast was a fun french affair.
On the site, there were some other Chambre d’Hôtes in what looked like mini-castles that weren’t available for our dates. So if you book in advance you may find something pretty cool. Keep in mind, equivalent sites exist for all parts of France so this a great option in addition to hotels and airbnbs. You may need to speak french though if you need to talk to someone in person. Here is a screenshot of one of my fav Chambre d’hôte.
The Gites usually rent for a week and I find them shockingly inexpensive. We haven’t tried one yet, but I’m going to keep them in mind for when we want to go away for a week. I picked a random week in July to check availability and here are a couple of examples. I find the prices quite reasonable and they even have last minute specials. For example,
Where to go: We only had two days and one night in Brittany. We were going to spend the rest of the long weekend in Normandy with friends. After some discussion, we decided on visiting Dinan, St. Malo, and Mont St. Michel. There were some other options farther away (farther to the west), but since we were also driving to Normandy the next day (which is to the east) I didn’t want to go too far, nor spend too long in the car.
Why did we choose these?
- Dinan is a super cute very walkable historic village.
- St. Malo is a historic french port with a lovely old town center,
- Mont St. Michel is the most visited tourist spot outside of Paris. (Note: Mont St. Michel is technically in Normandy but its on the border with Brittany.)
- Driving between these three locations was very doable in a day and a night.
- We were able to spend the evening in Dinan, the morning and lunch in St. Malo and the late afternoon in Mont St. Michel and made it to Normandy in time for a late dinner.
I am going to post about each of these separately. I don’t want to be overwhelming by putting too much in one post since I have a lot to say! Stay tuned!