Brittany (5 Days)

Day 1

SAINT MALO and DINAN and LA LATTE FORTRESS  

St-Malo, named the Corsair City, the base and hometown of the most famous ship owners and “legal pirates” is an amazing fortified city on the emerald coast in the northern part of Brittany. You will take a walk on the city walls to understand that it is a former island. Your private guide will take you through the maze of the narrow streets that have their own funny stories such as the “Dancing Cat Street”, “Pelicot Street” one of the tiniest where some houses date from the 16th century  and by a miracle were not destroyed during World War 2, and many more. You will also appreciate the conception of the“belt” of the fort islands such as la Conchée, le Fort National, Harbour, le Grand Bé, le Petit Bé… that were mainly designed by the engineer Garengeau disciple of one of the greatest french engineers Marshall Vauban who especially designed la Conchée Fort, At low tide you can walk to  some of these islands.

St Malo inhabitants have always been sea oriented, like most of the people in Brittany, because its wealth until nowadays depended on that connection with the ocean.

St-Malo was named after Maclow a monk who came from Wales in the 6th century. Your private guide will take you to the  original settlement of the monk :  Alet area, a beautiful site with an impressive 180° overview of the bay and the Rance river mouth. A very stategic location too with the most recent examples of  contruction, the 18th century military fort built under the king Louis the 15th and as a part of the the atlantic wall a German heavy battery artillery dating from World War 2.

You will definitely enjoy strolling in the old town and getting the overview outside the walls.

Then you will head to Dinan one of the most impressive medieval cities in Brittany. It has one of the most preserved central down town with several kinds of timber frame buildings from the 15th to the 17th century. Dinan is located on a 75 meters (220 feet) cliff. From the British Garden near the Saint-Sauveur Basilica you will enjoy the most impressive view of the river Rance and have a very good idea about the trade and the wealth that entered the city from the river port.

Dinan is still surrounded by impressive city walls dating from the 13th century, when it was the Dukes of Brittany territory and you can still notice, in the design of the city, the conception of the society  itself that was called feudal society with the three social classes known as the Clergy, the Nobility and the “Third World” (everyone that was not part of  the Clergy and the Nobility).

After an enjoyable lunch break (lunch not included) in a nice tipical place you will head to Fort La Latte whose construction started in the 14th century is an incredible medieval fortress located in the west part of the Emerald Coast. During this visit your private guide will show you all the aspects of the medieval defensive architecture although in the 17th century it was turned into a military fort. You will definitely enjoy to see draw bridges, barbacane, water tank, donjon, canon ball kiln… and of course the view from the cliff and the donjon over the sea.

This visit requires walking in steep path.

(Entrance fee included, meals and accommodations not included.Night in Saint-Malo )

Day 2

MONT SAINT MICHEL and DINARD and MONTMARIN 

To reach this unique place in the world, also known as the Marvel of the Western World, the sea has to draw aside to let anyone go through.  The Mont Saint Michel is at the same time a village, an island and an abbey erected on the top of the rock at almost 100 meters high (300 feet).

Since the dream of the bishop Aubert in 708 to the current abbey generations of workers, pilgrims, monks, sellers, soldiers, kings… were irreparably attracted by this site whose construction was constant from the 10th century to the 17th century. The Mont Saint Michel is located in a bay which is, like the village and the abbey, in the World Heritage List of the UNESCO and where the tides are the largest in Europe, they can be 15 meters high (45 feet).

During your visit you will understand how people could start a building site 1000 years ago on the top of a rocky island, surrounded by water with impressive tides. Your private guide will explain you why the worship of Saint Michael was started here and how a part of the story was made up and by who.It is a unique journey in a very special place. You will of course have time to enjoy a stroll in the village.

Leaving this unique place your  private guide will drive you through the world’s capital of the oysters : Cancale.

After an enjoyable lunch break (lunch not included) in a nice tipical place you will head to Dinard to stroll in this former fishermen village turned into an effervescent and entairtaining resort in the 19th century.

Then you will be ready for another enchanting visit.

The Malouinière of le Montmarin is located on the left bank of the Rance river in a beautiful, peaceful and hidden spot. A Malouinière was a very large secondary home built outside the city walls of St Malo by the most prosperous ship owners and where they could have more space and privacy. The Montmarin Malouinière dates from 1760 but is not opened to the visitors unlike the beautiful park and gardens (around 15 accres) by the river. The gardens listed as Historical Monuments are also labeled “Jardins Remarquables”

The Montmarin atmosphere is magic and enchanting,

During the visit you will see a very interesting model of the grounds and the shipyard in the 18th century.

By the way, do you guess why they needed such hidden spot ?

(Entrance fee included,  meals and accommodations not included. Night in Saint-Malo)

 

Day 3

THE PINK GRANIT COAST

A unique place where the pink stones carved  a ragged coast and where future Christian Saints

coming from England arrived as they did all over Brittany. Ploumanach which is an area of the little charming town Perros-Guirec  is one of the best example of this mix of splendid nature and history.

During this day you will visit the Abbaye de Beauport.

It is a quiet and spiritual shelter between land and sea overlooking Paimpol bay. You are now in Beauport Abbey  founded in 1202. Commissioned by the Count Alain de Goëlo who wanted to ensure his parents to be hosted in heaven and to provide a religious structure to the locals the whole site spreads out up to 300 acres and shelters now an effervescent wildlife.

Before being, on purpose, this evocative ruin, it’s been turned into residential accommodations, stables, city hall, school and  a cider press since the 18th century. Cider is still being produced nowadays thanks the orchard in the site. Then the Château de la Roche Jagu will be another stop. In that site there was a fortress since the 11th century but the Castle your private tour-guide will take you to dates from the early 15th century, between 1405 and 1418.

The castle is one of the best examples of the civil medieval architecture in Brittany and a great key to understand these times in France called feudal times that cover most of the middle ages.

The location selected on purpose on a hill over a loop of the Trieux  River, the altitude, the wealth…are the main aspects of the power of the local lord whose any other person in the community was a vassal.

In 1532 Brittany was attached to the French crown, it became part of France, so such fortresses were not useful anymore although garrisons could be stationed in.

It was both a fortress and a lord residence, as you will notice through the main wings of the building.

The fact that the owners didn’t live often in the castle in the 17th and 18th centuries you have a great example of a wealthy medieval castle, including the architecture , the way of living…in those times.

Until recently, the 19th century, it was a prosperous farm located in a beautiful park on a hill with a gorgeous and impressive view of the valley.

(Entrance fee included, meals and accommodations not included. Night in Perros Guirec area)

 

Day 4

CORNWALL and WESTERN BRITTANY

You will start your day with the visit of one of the most impressive museum about World War 2. Near Brest «Festung», the German fortress, this Bunker whose outside part is only 10% of the whole buried structure is the former Graf Spee naval artillery battery commanding post.

Brest as a strategical port sheltered the German warships and submarines and to achieve that had to be heavily protected, that is why the  construction of the Graf Spee naval artillery battery was started in 1940 and it remained the biggest one in western Brittany with its 280 mm canons.

The US troops reached Brest on august 1944 and after gathering several forces such as the GI’S, The US Ranger Batalions who captured the Pointe du Hoc in Normandy, the French Resistance  this spot was taken in september 1944.

All the documents and items exhibited will help you to understand the daily life in this bunker and the occupation in that part of France.

After that very interesting visit you will head to Quimper located in a little valley on the banks of the  river Odet where tides are as large as in the ocean 20 km further south.

The legend says that Gradlon the pagan king of Cornwall after the destruction of the island city Ys built for his daughter, founded a new capital city at the confluence of the rivers.

You will have a walking tour of the old medieval center.

Then you will visit the Cathedral Saint Corentin, the first bishop of Quimper according to the legend of the King Gradlon.

The choir of the cathedral was started in 1239 century in a gothic style that the Bishop Raynaud was familiar with since he was canon in Chartres Cathedral. It was built in several steps until the construction of the steeple in 1856 by the architect Joseph Bigot.

You will see a unique detail : the choir and the nave are not in the same axis. Just like JC head on the cross ? Or is it because of the underground foundation  near the river and its tides ?

To end such great day you will visit the amazing Boutiguéry garden above a loop of the Odet river. 50 accres where 40000 «Rhodies» Rhododendrons and Azaleas are grown. It is not only a walk in a beautiful spot it is a journey through a perfect vegetation and landscape manucured by a botanist painter.

(Entrance fee included, meals and accommodations not ncluded)

Night in Quimper area

Day 5

PONT AVEN and VANNES GULF and RENNES

Pont-Aven, the village of the painters where “l’Ecole de Pont-Aven” was founded by painters named by the locals “The Americans” although they were British, Scandinavian, French…“The Americans” was actually the name of this artists melting pot.

In Paris when the art schools and workshops closed for summer the artists started to leave the city, this how Robert Wylie went to Pont-Aven and settled around 1865. The American painter Henry Bacon had visited Pont-Aven in 1864 and recommended it to Wylie.  

The “Ecole de Pont-Aven” style was definitely established from 1886 to 1896 by an international community of artist whose leader Paul Gauguin defined their works by saying : “they took the right to dare to do everything”.

The painters made the fame of Pont-Aven thanks to the hospitality and the help of locals such as Julia Guillou named “the kind hostess”who ran the Hotel des Voyageurs where many “Americans” stayed whose restaurant could receive 250 persons and had 4 workrooms. This is today the city hall.

The actual bookshop was Marie Jeanne Gloanec modest bed and breakfast that hosted in 1860 the “Impressionist Painters”called also the “Revolutionaries”, then in 1891 she opened a hotel where Gauguin lived in 1892 which today the Ajoncs d’Or hotel.

With the reopening of the Fine Arts Museum since 2016 you will enjoy the paintings of artists who were inspired by Brittany and Pont-Aven from 1860 to 1970 such as Paul Gauguin, Maurice denis, Emile Bernard, Paul Sérusier…

Then you will head to Vannes, built as an amphitheater in the very end of the Gulf of Le Morbihan, which is located in one of the oldest settlement in southern Brittany.

The city founded by the Romans in the 1st century BC called St- Patern is now one area of Vannes and is outside the city walls.

Strolling in this very pleasant city that was once the capital city of Brittany will be a journey through time that goes from the roman left overs to the fancy and massive architecture of the 19th century such as the city hall, smaller copy of the one in Paris and discovering the medieval aspects like the timber frame houses, the market square “Places des Lices”, that used to be the jousting place.

You will visit the cathedral St Pierre built from the late 13th to the 19th century where several architectures are mixed. You will see la Cohue which means the crowd and that is the market actually.

Your tour guide will take you to the other unique heritage around Vannes which is the Gulf itself. The Gulf of Le Morbihan is one of the most beautiful bay in the world that will leave you breathless.

Morbihan which means in Breton language “Little sea” is the Caribbean of Brittany where you will see an amazing amount of islands such as the Gavrinis where people carved the dolmen walls 3800 years ago, you will be overwhelmed by the constant changing colors and perspectives.

Then your private guide will drive you to Rennes (1h30), the actual capital city of Brittany where your trip ends.

(Entrance fee included, meals and accommodations not included)