Brittany: Town and water in north-west France


Paul Morris heeded the old call: “Go west, young man!” And headed to Brittany…

The first thing to do in Rennes is take a tour of the historical centre – the route twists and winds around, leading you into the flamboyant Gothic architecture of Saint-Yves Chapel, and then out into streets lined with remarkably well-maintained timber houses, emblazoned with age and colours that you can’t define.

Go up to the square that houses the Parlement of Brittany, whose façade boasts so many beautiful windows – a building flanked by elegant private mansions. Head downhill to the Portes Mordelaises, a mediaeval castle entrance gate with two towers – and you will have passed countless restaurants offering crepes and galettes, the local delicacies across Britanny.

I tried a creperie with a difference. The black flour galettes served in Creperie Saint Georges have been named after famous people called George, including George Patton, George Clemenceau and Georgio Armani. I plumped for the Georges Remi (Hergé, no less), packed with egg, mushrooms and tomatoes in a parsley sauce.

Where to stay
Hôtel des Lices is located in Rennes’ Old Town, close to the opera house.

Not far by train from Rennes lies the lovely seaside resort of Saint-Malo, on the English Channel. Its beach meanders around the base of those old thick walls, and you can get lost in it quite easily. I escaped the bustle (in summer it can get very busy) and kicked back in the suburb of Saint-Servan, where you can visit The Solidor Tower, a 14th-century building that holds a collection tracing the history of voyages around Cape Horn.

Talk of water is never far away, so, especially if you have kids onboard, visit the Great Aquarium Saint-Malo, one of the largest aquaria in France.
Saint Malo photo: D. Torchut

Where to stay
A refurbished 17th century manor house facing the sea, The Hotel Le Cunningham is located in Saint-Servan. A short walk down the hill is the excellent Le Spinnaker traditional seafood restaurant, right on the seafront.