Local Towns - From Josselin to Vannes......
Near to the gites, nestling in the Brittany countryside lies the small village of Reminiac which is ten minutes from the large town of Malestroit and twenty minutes from Josselin. Reminiac has fifty or so houses, a church, restaurant and a bar. You can buy fresh baguettes daily at The Old Ivy restaurant, order a coffee or glass of wine, sit down outside and watch the world slide by. The Old Ivy is a traditional French Auberge and does really great food -see the restaurant page for more info
In the summer check out the wood-carving exhibition on the village green where sculptures are created from huge logs using implements ranging from chainsaws to chisels. All the sculptures are kept on display and now there's a nice walk round the back of the village with dozens of sculptures from years gone by
Click on the triangular arrow in the centre of the picture below to see a short film of Reminiac, don't forget to turn your speakers on ......
Monteneuf, a mile or so from most of the gites, is famous in Brittany and also across France- for its 'standing stones'. There are dozens of the mysterious huge megaliths in a small area just outside the village. The stones, which range in size from a hundred kilos to over thirty tons, are made from schist -see below movie. In addition, an authentic Bronze Age village has been created around them to give the place a really genuine feel. An extensive network of marked paths specially designed for walkers and cyclists leads off from the stones into the surrounding forest and you can walk for miles along the tracks
Monteneuf has a lake where you can fish and you can pick up a daily licence from the bakers. However, like us, you may just prefer to use the lake area for picnicking on hot summer days. Go early in the morning and the mist can be quite spectacular. There's a nice walk around all around the lakeside as well
Also at Monteneuf is the Auberge des Voyajouers -below middle- which is a great place for a rainy day. It's a traditional games centre full of wooden games -no computers here. Inside are hundreds of things to do from mazes, to board games, to skittles and all sorts of traditional Breton pastimes. It's twenty Euros for a family and you can stay all day. There's a cafe and bar as well. Our children love it and it's great for adults as well
Monteneuf also boasts The Megaliths restaurant which is a lovely little auberge right next to the church. This converted barn serves fantastic meals with a choice of set menus and a la carte. The chef specialises in local dishes and it's is a great way to try some real French cuisine in a welcoming atmosphere
About twelve kilometres away from the gites lies the beautiful mediaeval town of Malestroit. Historically important due to its role in the hundred year war the town was built in the Middle Ages on the banks of the River Oust which flows through its centre. Malestroit also boasts a scenic canal which goes to Nantes and the town has been designated a 'Cite Fleurie,' which means it is decorated from top to bottom with stunning floral displays all summer
Everything you'll need is available here including; large and small shops -four supermarkets- three open Sunday morning; an excellent cave (off-licence) stocking a huge range of wines and beer; a garden centre; banks, post office, petrol station and all the usual amenities one would expect in a small town. Malestroit also houses the museum of Brittany resistance which is a great visit if you are into history
If you're interested in house hunting there are two English speaking estate agents in Malestroit. We can tell you where to find them. You can also hire bikes from the Tourist Information office for about fifteen Euros per day or sixty Euros a week. On Thursday mornings a large market fills the church square offering huge quantities of local seafood and regional produce. Hot cooked food such as spit roasted pork and chicken can be bought, together with paella, hot crepes and fancy tartlets
A variety of sales and antique fairs and fetes are held in the square throughout the summer months including the spectacular mediaeval jousting weekend. Try and visit on a Friday evening when every week during the summer the town holds it's Friday night music events down by the canal- it's all free of charge !
The River Oust and the Nantes-Brest Canal merge at Malestroit and then continiue towards Josselin. Hire a motor boat, canoe or pedallo for the hour or day. There's a 'limitless' towpath to walk along or cycle down. Why not visit the old mill that straddles the river and see how flour was milled in the old days ?
Try some of the restaurants and cafe's. There's the Moulin au Poivre -a great traditional auberge down a side street opposite the square. You can sit outside if you like and nip inside to choose from the large buffet board for starters, just help yourself and keep going back for more if you're hungry. If you fancy a pizza or pasta then go to La Pizzeria, just opposite the church which is great value .Try Lazarro's Pizza which has just opened near the war memorial is our new favourite
Don't miss Le Grain de Sel -an auberge next to the church. Very nice surroundings and great food. Sample the snails stuffed into filou pastry and the steak topped with gorgonzola. Around the corner is La Canotier -a bit of a more upmarket place. Then, by the canal is the Pont Neuf -a steaky type spot with great reviews
Also, check out La Riveraine creperie where you can have galettes (savory pancakes) filled with anything from scallops, to ham. For pudding try the crepes (sweet pancakes) filled with chocolate, brandy, apple, ice cream...... the choice is huge and you can easily eat too much
Just up the road from Malestroit is St Marcel where the Brittany Resistance Museum is located. There's a great auberge there on the corner of the square. At lunch time you pay twelveish Euros then help yourself to as much as you can eat from the huge buffet (seafood, beef, fish, you name it and it's probably there) and that's just the starter ! Next comes a set main course, cheese and then a pudding. There's a litre of wine included...all for the twelve Euros. There's a short movie showing Malestroit below....
Guer just ten minutes away from the gites is a pretty market town with a good selection of shops. There's a market in the square on Wednesdays with plenty of brasseries, bars and restaurants to try. Check out the Merven which has something for all tastes. Also just outside Guer is a small sixth century chapel which contains some rare 15th century murals and artifacts. You can go there and get a tour in English on Sunday afternoons by the very enthusiastic curator for just three Euros
A fifteen minutes drive takes you to one of Brittanys most popular towns- La Gacilly 'The home of the artisan'. La Gacilly is a Ville - Fleurie (Flowering Town) . It's absolutely jam packed with floral displays and must be seen. However, what really sets it apart is its population of sculptors and artists. Most workshops and galleries are open to the public throughout the summer. The small local shops are all stuffed full of objets d'art and interesting curios, all of which are for sale. There's all sorts of things to discover
The town also boasts a botanical gardens and a textile museum housed in an old millhouse on the river (you can take a boat trip for an hour or so on the river). Visit the annual nature photo exhibition which is free. Alternatively, take a look inside the metal workers atelier or treat yourself to a new set of hand made wine glasses from the glass blowers ?
Don't forget to visit to the Yves Rocher perfume factory where you can see the perfume being made. Afterwards, take a walk around their extensive gardens where the exotic plants for the perfume are grown. On the way out, stop off at the factory outlet shop and snap up some bargains. Market day is Saturday morning and you can buy anything from live chickens to fresh veg and local cheeses
St Jacut Les Pins
St Jacut Les Pins is a pretty town known for its windmill and traditional flour milling. The windmill which was built in the 19th century was the main source of flour for this area of Brittany until it was superseded by a water mill in 1923. There are a couple of good restaurants to check out close by as well. Take a trip to the Tropical Park. It's full of exotic plant life and well worth a trip- it also used to boast a chicken riding a bike...... We're not sure if it's still there though !
Le Roc-St Andre is a nearby town built on a large stone outcrop on the bank of the River Oust with an unusual neo-gothic church and bridge, plus on a slightly different front, its brewery. You can visit the brewery (Lancelot) and discover the secrets of traditional brewing. Try some of the beer when you are there
There is also a cider maker in the village and you can take a guided tour. Additionally, in Roc St Andre is the Forest Adventure Park where you can go climbing up in the trees, along ropes and treetop paths. It's a really fun afternoon for all the family- so long as you don't mind heights.............just don't look down
A fifteen mile drive north from the gites takes you to Plöermel. This bustling Brittany market town has a good selection of shops both large and small. There's a big choice of cafe's and restaurants as well. If you like seafood then go to the 'Retour de Peche' (a great seafood restaurant, about 200 metres down the hill from the main square). It's an odd place- part grill and part buffet but well worth a try (see the restaurant page for more info and photos) If you like italian then try Le Malleville, they serve huge pizza's....
The Boutique Acteul is well worth stopping off at. It's stuffed full of interesting objets d'art for the house and home and don't forget the Lake of the Duke -Lac au Duc- A huge lake with sandy beaches, water slides, boat, canoe, water ski and windsurf hire. Prices start at 8 euros an hour.
The town centre is really pretty and has lots of specialist small shops plus there's an impressive church in the centre which is worth a look. Check out the ' working time' museum where clocks are the thing. For those military buffs there is a workshop making lead toy soldiers which you can visit
Twenty minutes drive south is the large town of Redon -described as the 'Brittanys City of Art'. The town, which was founded in AD832, is situated at the confluence of two major rivers. It recently won the national prize for flower displays so expect to see a hanging basket or two. The town has a lot of ancient historic sites to see. Visit the seventeenth century salt warehouses or stop by the Benedictine abbey and listen to one of the unforgettable classical concerts that they have there
There's also a huge hypermarket, so if you're after a huge choice of stuff to buy, this may be the place to visit. Don't forget to go down to the quayside for a coffee, or perhaps check out the tapas bar by the canal. There are also a couple of brocantes and second hand shops as well
At Porcaro is the local depot vente (Brocante, 'second hand place'). Here you will find everything you can imagine that would be in a French house- all up for sale. It's basically a house clearance centre and this one is like an Aladdin's cave- only ten minutes from the gites
The pretty fishing port of Vannes -35 mins drive- is on the edge of Brittanys Golfe Du Morbihan, which features in the book 'The World's Most Stunning Bays'. The bay at Vannes is over fifteen miles square and littered with islands, hidden coves and white sandy beaches
You could take a boat trip with Navix Tours and visit a couple of islands and tour the bay. The area is a huge bird haven. You can visit the exhibition centre and even watch the birds from the hides. There are lots and lots of good beaches nearby as well. To see Vannes the easy way then why not take the thirty minute tour on the little train that leaves from the port every hour
Alternatively, just take the weight off your feet and sit outside one of the waterfront cafes and watch it all pass you by. They all serve lunch as well if you fancy it
Rochefort en Terre
The well known town of Rochefort-en-Terre is a popular destination due to its attractive cobbled streets, numerous quality restaurants and varied shops. It is described as a 'Petite Cite de Character' due to its fascinating 16th-18th century architecture and the fact that it won the prize for the best kept town in Brittany in 2016. There's a large fortified chateau, a traditional French museum and various art exhibitions
Don't forget to visit the huge dinosaurs at the prehistoric park near the town: Le Parc Prehistoire
About thirty minutes drive away, A trip to Josselin is a great day out. This ancient Brittany town (founded in the 11th century) is built along the banks of a river and is dominated by its huge turreted castle. You can take a tour around it
Take a stroll around the towns narrow medieval streets and admire the half timbered old houses dating back to 1538. We definitely recommend lunch at one of the many restaurants on the river bank. Sitting outside on a hot summers day with a cold drink is a must. Hire a canoe or pedallo on the river in front of the fairytale castle. In August the town is closed off for a three day mediaeval festival---- jugglers, jousting, knights, spit roasts and even an open air cinema
Lizio is a pretty town close-by with several places of interest to see. There's the 'metal working poet' with loads of fun sculptures where the children can press buttons and then watch the displays do all sorts of odd things. There's the insectarium full of creepy crawlies, a pottery, a museum devoted to 'workers of the past'; and even 'The House of the Clowns' with regular shows and workshops for both adults and children
Should you be a beer drinker why not nip into the Lancelot brewery on the outskirts of the town for a tour and a sample of the product ?
La Roche Bernard
This really nice town is perched on a large outcropping overlooking the river Villaine. The town was founded a thousand years ago by the Viking chief Bern Hart. Having sailed up the Villaine and spotted this huge rock he then settled there due to its defensive position. Having carried out his fair share of pillage he then converted to christianity and built a large priory. The town became an important trading centre and boomed throughout the middle ages. There's some fantastic views to be had
The ancient bustling city of Rennes located at the joining of the rivers Ille and Villaine is less than forty minutes drive from the gites. The city, which was first settled in the 2nd century AD, is steeped in history and is the capital of Brittany boasting the regions parliament buildings. The city is quite large (but you can walk around it in half a day) and has all the attractions one would expect, including parks, a zoo and various museums
The heart of the town is hundreds of years old and pedestrianised. The network of old winding lanes opens into expansive cobbled squares filled with statues and fountains. Frequently, fetes, markets and bazaars occupy the squares and for nine days in July a major festival takes over the whole city filling the streets with dozens of performing artists. The shopping quarter is split into two areas, one where the small specialist shops are gathered and another where the big department stores can be found -e.g Gallery Lafayette
Rennes has a lot of museums and galleries and some are well worth a visit. The Musee des Beaux Arts has a really interesting ancient Egypt section with all sorts of things on display from decaying mummies to ancient pottery. The Museum of Contemporary Art is another good place and is free to get into
A great spot for all the family is the 'Champs Libres' This is a modern building in the heart of Rennes that includes a Planetarium, a History of Brittany museum and a hands on exhibition on how The Earth and Brittany formed and evolved since the birth of the universe .You can touch rocks from the dawn of time and see the very first life forms that appeared on earth. Try the earthquake simulator if you dare
Should you fancy a bit of something different in the evening Rennes also boasts Le Liberte which is a large concert/ theatre venue and has an ongoing succession of widely differing acts from Status Quo, Deep Purple, Mamma Mia and opera, to Killer Queen and The Aussie Pink Floyd
Loads of restaurants are located around a few central squares -and the odd side street- where you can sit outside to eat or drink and soak up the ambiance There's a huge choice of food available depending on taste and budget- Rennes has it all ...see the video below
Designated a Brittany 'Centre d'Art and Histoire' Auray is a busy market town and tourist centre with lots of art and antique galleries. There's a large selection of shops to check out -all small, and interesting. Go down to Port Goustan to the picturesque harbour that looks like it's straight out of a film set. Flower decked, timbered houses and inns surround the quay side, its a great place to sit and enjoy the scenery. Have lunch overlooking the port in one of the many bistros that line the riverbank
Pontivy, Lorient and Port Louis
Pontivy is an attractive bustling riverside town with a good selection of traditional shops and restaurants, a chateau, two large supermarkets, a hospital, and indoor and outdoor swimming pools. Market day is Monday
Lorient, further along the coast, is a large city set on the banks of the rivers Scorff and Blavet. Lorient was a major port both in the past and present and home to the French navy's submarine base. You can visit the second world war submarine pens. In August the Inter-Celtic Music Festival is held, which is the biggest in Brittany with musicians from all the celtic countries
Just to the west is Guidel-plage another lovely sandy beach with restaurants close-by Larmor Plage - as its name suggests is concentrated along its fine sandy beach, with a busy water-sports centre, a favourite for windsurfing and sailing. There are pleasant beach-side cafes for less strenuous activity
Port-Louis is an ancient fort town at the entrance to the Lorient seafront. The fort itself was built in the heyday of the French East India Company- see photo- and well worth seeing. The Lohic promenade on the 17th century ramparts offers views of the little village of Gavres and the boats and dinghies that are beached at low tide. The Grands-Sables beach is a favourite with locals for bathing and water-sports
L'ile de Groix and Dinan
The Isle de Groix lies three miles off the coast off the Brittany coast near Lorient. The island is known as the place of the Greks, the local name for the large coffee pots favoured by the islanders, Groix is a land of contrasts. In the early 20th century it was the biggest tuna port in France, but it now relies on its wildlife and scientific heritage. Tourism accounts for much of its income. The giant rocks of Groix, its fields, valleys and scattered hamlets have all remained untouched and unspoiled
Dinan is about an hour's drive from the gites and is said to be Europe's best preserved mediaeval city. The town really needs a whole days visit and even then you will only just scratch the surface. Go down the hill and wander around the harbour on the River Rance at the bottom
Quiberon is a world apart, which is hardly surprising since it was once an island and is linked to the mainland only by a string of dunes called tombolos. Lovers of solitude and sightseers alike can lose themselves walking along Brittanys Cote Sauvage (wild coast), while the other side of the island offers an intimate, yet ever-growing, seaside resort, providing all the usual attractions and every type of water-sport you can imagine
Carnac, Quimper and Guerande
With its beautifully sheltered beaches, particularly mild climate, stylish villas and seaside pines Carnac has that Mediterranean feel to it. This summer resort, which is divided between the town and the beach and is one of the most elegant in Brittany, is known for its world-famous 'menhirs' -standing stones. In addition to its flourishing tourist industry, Carnac is also farming country, so it gains income from both sources and ensures that the landscape is well looked after. It's very pretty and the town is right on the beach
The lines of standing stones rise up from the moorland and scrub and cover about three square miles.. There are three main henges and even the smallest consists of over 240 standing menhirs. There is an observation post at the Kermario, from which all 982 standing stones can be admired. Like Stonehenge, all three are oriented towards the sunrise of the summer solstice
Quimper lies a few miles inland from the sea at the confluence of the rivers Steir, Jed and Odet and is a nice town to visit. The medieval centre is in Rue Kereon -Shoemakers Street- which leads off from the main square beside St. Corentins cathedral. On this same street you'll discover an excellent tea shop- La Macaronerie- with its wonderful macaroons, plus chocolates, cakes and of course, tea ! Quimper art gallery is worth a visit with work covering the 16th to 20th century. Also there's an organic market every Friday afternoon from 3pm to 7.30 in the Kerfeunten car park
Guerande is a magnificently preserved medieval town. The thick ramparts of the town overlook the famous square salt swamps which provide an income for the town. This natural sea salt is carefully gathered by the townsfolk using traditional methods, and goes on to grace the finest tables in France. Also known as 'Gwen Ran' or the white town, Guerande owes its livelihood to the salt, which in the past was so precious it was used as currency for commercial transactions. The salt flats are home to a magnificent array of flowers and birds, with egrets and blue heron amongst others
St Nazaire is a port town and famous for its part in the second world war as the Germans based their atlantic submarine fleet in the town. They built massive submarine pens which are still standing in their original (and now decaying) condition (see below left) and you can wander around freely and be impressed by the huge scale of the buildings
Whilst you are there go onto the Escal Atlantic which is a recreation of a traditional ocean liner and really interesting. Ocean liner building is St Nazaire's other claim to fame and they built liners including the world famous Normandie during a ship building history spanning several hundred years
Just a few yards from the Escal Atlantic is the submarine Espladon -in a dry dock- where you can buy a ticket and explore. Also at St Nazaire you can visit the Airbus factory and the naval dockyards
There are, of course, numerous other towns and places to visit close by. I could add a lot more to this page.......but come and see for yourself !