I don’t know if you can recall what a map of France looks like, but the country is shaped a bit like a drunk five-pointed star. Brittany is perched on the tip of its most western point waving at its friends across the English Channel.
The British have always had a soft spot for Brittany, or Bretagne, as it’s known in French. And, I don’t think it’s only because it’s just the other side of the water and said to be named after Britain. It has miles of golden sandy beaches over looked by smart seaside resorts and interspersed with quaint fishing villages and beautiful chateaux. And, although it doesn’t get as hot and steamy as the south of the country, it’s generally warmer than its namesake.
It’s also easy to get to. The Channel Tunnel and the cross Channel ferries are probably the most popular and convenient routes from the UK and you can fly into Nantes airport from across Europe and by connecting via a major hub airport, such as Paris, from across the world.
We travelled over in style. We stayed overnight at the glamorous Marriott Renaissance London St Pancras and practically stepped out of the breakfast room onto the Eurostar to Lille and from here we caught the French fast train, the TGV to Nantes, from where you can easily access the rest of the region by train, bus or car.
The exclusive seaside resort of La Baule is an ideal base from which to explore the region, with its upmarket shopping streets, luxury hotels, chi chi restaurants and kids clubs on the beach it has something for everyone. The Lucien Barriere group has several lovely hotels in the town, the Hermitage overlooking the beach with its indoor and outdoor pools, is especially family friendly and sister hotel Castel Marie Louise is one for foodie families.
Whilst if you visit outside of the ‘season’ in July and August you’ll find the French letting out their summer holiday homes here for a fairly reasonable price.
Brittany is a lovely place to wonder around going where the fancy takes you. You might want to dip your toes into the warm sand at La Baule; buy food the leisurely French way at the market; move further up the coast to hunt for crabs in the rock pools leading up to Le Croisic; cycle across one of the many cycle paths that will inevitably take you across a nature park; or, sink your teeth into a traditional Breton crepe.
You don’t just come to the beach to top up your tan here either. A host of sailing schools offer various water sports, you’re never too far from a riding school offering beach riding and, as I’ve already mentioned, there are a number of children’s beach clubs that welcome kids of all ages and nationalities.
There is a reason, however, that guidebooks on this region are so jam-packed. There are dozens of cultural, historical and beautiful places worth making a journey to here.
I’ll rattle off just a few to visit: learn how salt is harvested at the salt marshes at Guérande; hop on a boat to explore the archipelago of little islands dotted off the coast or the larger inhabited island of St Malo, with its ancient walled city; go bird spotting on the largest plains lake in France, Grand-Lieu; handle a starfish at Le Croisic Aquarium; putt your way through La Baule’s mini golf situated in the middle of a pine forest; and you simply must spend half an hour in one of the many wonderful bonbon shops watching the sweets being made in front of your eyes.
We are still chomping our way through the bags of marshmallows, fudge and candy that came home with us!
Photos by Anna Tobin
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