I have toured France several times over the last few years, so I thought I would summarize my visit to Brittany in June / July 2015.
Taking the early morning Dover to Calais ferry and driving until I need to rest, is my normal approach. On this occasion, I found a car park to sleep for a few hours, occupied by a French registered motorhome, in Étaples. Perfect! Noting what the French do is a clear indicator that something is permissible, well, at least to the French.
Dol de Bretagne
I reached “Dol” later that same day; which I first came across in March 2015 whilst trying to find somewhere to stay for the night; which is a challenge at that time of year.
The Aire is very close to the town centre, it is free to stay here, but services are available at a cost. It can get busy in the summer months, so plan to arrive before mid-afternoon to increase your chance of getting a space.
I find this the perfect for a stop-over for exploring Brittany and because of its proximity to St Malo, Dinan and Mont St Michel it is also perfect to use as a base. Although on this part of the trip, I stayed just the one night.
Pointe du Grouin
I wanted to take in as much of Brittany as my two weeks would allow, travelling a little each day and staying in one location as long as the inclination took me. It is about 15 miles (25km) to Pointe du Grouin from ‘Dol’. Arriving at a municipal campsite in France during the summer months, you can expect it to be busy, I wasn’t disappointed. It is a lovely well kept site with access to the coastal path and to a reasonably secluded cove that would not have been out of place in the Mediterranean.
You can take the coastal path to Cancale, but take your walking shoes, it is about 3 miles (5km) and the going can be taxing at times. From the coastal path, Mont St Michel is view-able on the horizon (top right picture above the rocky outcrop). Cancale is renowned for its oysters, although it is to my shame that I did not to try them.
I could have stayed in Pointe de Grouin much longer than I did, but sometimes it is better to leave wanting more. Besides, my second visit to St Malo was calling me.
No trip to Brittany can be considered complete without a visit to St Malo. The municipal campsite on La Cité, is quite functional, with only a short walk to the city. There are plenty of Aires in St Malo, but I sometimes prefer a campsite to what are essentially car parks.
The walled city is surrounded by small beaches in which to spend hot summer days relaxing in the sun. Inside the city walls, the cobbled streets are brimming with restaurants, bars and shops. St Malo is a tourist hot spot, so be prepared for it to be busy.
A hop, skip and jump from St Malo is Dinan. I stayed on a campsite in nearby Taden, which is just along the river Rance to Dinan’s port. The quay is lined with old stone houses and waterside restaurants and is ideal for viewing the high city walls over a spot of lunch, and before taking the steep cobbled Rue du Petit-Fort into the town.
I must confess, I preferred Dinan to St Malo. There is no rational reason behind my preference, I think some places just speak to you and Dinan did to me. The architecture speaks of times long passed and the ‘sloping’ buildings add nothing but charm to the narrow alleyways. The town is surprisingly larger than it appears from a distance, almost ‘TARDIS’ like.
For the keen cyclist, there is a cycle track from Dinan (Tadan) to Dinard, I did try to take the scenic, non-cycle route to Dinard. It’s not an experience I would repeat, cycling through mad flats is as difficult as it sounds, back on the roads, French drivers do not give much room when over taking. The return on the cycle route was much better and the 13 miles (20km) was easily covered.
Dinard is separated from St Malo by the river Rance, but they are both very different. Dinard feels like traditional British holiday destination, which can be explained by its popularity in the late 19th century by wealthy British holiday makers. Despite this, it still has a decidedly french appeal. A picnic on the promenade is recommended, but it can get blustery so be prepared for sand in your sandwiches.
I thoroughly enjoyed my time exploring St Malo, Dinan and Dinard, three towns that are geographically very close, but each with their own distinct feel.
My journey continued, but that story is for another day…