We are now in the regions of our beloved sea and oceans… in May we are travelling from Normandy to Bretagne to Pays de la Loire where you can live with the wind in your hair and your feet in the sand. Brittany rocks it with its endless sandy beaches, a stunning rocky coastline dotted with picturesque villages. Normandy is famous the D-Day Beaches, the tidal island of Mont St Michel and the Bayeux Tapestry, but it is also home to chic seaside resorts, charming fishing villages, Rouen with its cathedral and association with Joan of Arc. The Pays de la Loire is a place of châteaux, vineyards, and long sandy beaches fringing the Atlantic coast with a warmer climate and a laid-back culture with both inland and coastal towns and villages with vast sandy beaches all the way down to Vendee.
A place of history, culture and traditions, Normandy offers many delights to visitors in search of authenticity and natural beauty. Peaceful and unspoilt, its wonderful lands offer an incredibly diverse landscape, ranging from the forests, hedged farmland and rustic meadows of its green countryside to the majestic white cliffs of the Alabaster Coast, through the famous Bay of Mont Saint-Michel, the meanders of the Seine Valley, Swiss Normandy and the Cotentin and Bessin marshes. As well as being a top destination for leisure and relaxation and a true haven of peace, Normandy has managed to preserve an important cultural, architectural and gastronomic heritage. Seafood, salt marsh lamb, cider, Pommeau and perry, teurgoule, dairy products from Isigny and cheeses from Pays d’Auge are among the treats in store for visitors’ taste buds!
The fiefdom of William the Conqueror and the site of the D-Day landings in 1944, Normandy nowadays has an impressive number of major sites that attract visitors all year round, starting with the very famous Mont Saint-Michel and its prestigious Benedictine abbey, the iconic Château-Gaillard, the Gothic cathedral of Coutances, the medieval city of Bayeux, the Cities of Art and History of Caen and Rouen, the chic resorts of Deauville and Bagnoles-de-l’Orne, the magnificent gardens of Monet, the charming village of Saint-Céneri-le-Gérei or the elegant Carrouges Castle.
However, Normandy also offers a journey through the history of the Second World War, through the D-Day beaches, Le Hoc headland, the Caen Memorial and the many museums devoted to this period.
Finally, charming places like Étretat, Fécamp or Honfleur, which won over the Impressionists in the 19th century, are still just as appealing as ever.
Pays de Loire
Opening onto the Atlantic Ocean, with Europe’s last wild river running through it, the Pays de la Loire region offers a fascinatingly varied heritage. Vast and expansive, its scenery is very diverse and its attractions appeal to holidaymakers as well as lovers of fauna and flora. With 450 kilometres of coastline, made up of a series of superb sandy beaches, wild, rocky coasts and renowned seaside resorts such as La Baule, Les Sables-d’Olonne, Pornic and Saint-Jean-de-Monts, this highly prized destination in western France enchants fans of relaxation and sports and lovers of unspoilt landscapes in equal measure. Indeed, it’s hard to resist the charms of the wild coast or the Coast of Light, where you can enjoy the benefits of the beach or try your hand at water sports like windsurfing and kitesurfing. Off the coast, the magnificent islands of Yeu and Noirmoutier also offer some wonderful places for strolling and recharging your batteries.
In the countryside, the Pays de la Loire region is also loved by walkers and architecture enthusiasts, with the banks of the famous royal river adorned by sumptuous castles, the Poitevin Marsh offering romantic boat rides, megalithic remains, the Cities of Art and History of Angers, Laval, Nantes and Le Mans, as well as the regional nature parks of Brière, Loire-Anjou-Touraine and Normandy-Maine, all three containing countless hiking trails.
Steeped in history and boasting an impressive built heritage, this vast area encompasses some of the famous Loire castles, like those of Angers and its famous tapestry of the Apocalypse, Brissac, Le Lude, Montreuil-Bellay, Montsoreau, Saumur or Serrant.
A lively place all year round, the Pays de la Loire region also hosts major events like the Hellfest in Clisson, a big metal music festival, the 24 Heures du Mans, a legendary sports car endurance race, and the Vendée Globe, a famous round-the-world solo sailing race that takes place every four years.
Brittany is a land rich in contrasts, made up of the four departments of Finistère, Côtes-d’Armor, Ille-Et-Villaine and Morbihan. It is steeped in history and tradition and is proud of its strong maritime culture. A favoured holiday destination for the French and Brits, it’s 600 km of fine, sandy coastline curves around the north western tip of France, enclosing 27,500 sq. km of fertile countryside and quaint market towns. The Breton people are hardy, down to earth and friendly. They remain close to the land, the sea and their culture. Breton is still spoken in a few areas and local traditions are upheld at the many lively festivals and fest noz of the summer months.
Known by the Celts as Armorica, “land of the sea”, Brittany has a long and lively past. Prehistoric megaliths (standing stones) rise up from the ground around Carnac and it is said that young King Arthur received the sword of Excalibur from the fairy Vivian in the Paimpont Forest, 40 km south of Rennes. Half-timbered buildings characterize the bustling, medieval towns of Vannes, Dinan and Rennes, while the castles and fortresses of St. Malo, Fougères and Vitré bear witness to Brittany’s strategic location. The region’s beauty has attracted many artists and the lovely town of Pont-Aven is lined with galleries showing works of painters past and present.
From cornfield to oyster bed, woodland walk to long sandy beach, modern shipping port to charming, historical town, there is something for everyone in this varied and dynamic region. Rennes, situated in Ille-et-Villaine, has been Brittany’s capital since the 16th century. Home to the Breton houses of parliament, it is a hive of cultural activity, nurtured by the large student population. The Côtes-d’Armor on the northern shore is lined with seaside resorts, pink granite coves and traditional fishing ports. Morbihan, on the southern coast is backed by wooded river valleys and has a gentler feel and a milder climate. Exposed to the rough Atlantic winds, Finistère in the west has drama. The name aptly means “the end of the earth”.
The region is known for its excellent seafood (Concarneau is particularly famous for its oysters and mussels which are brought straight up from the shoreline beds), sweet crepes and savoury buckwheat pancakes, cider, “galettes” biscuits and buttery Kouign Amman cake. It offers a wide variety of sports including sailing, windsurfing, fishing, golf, hiking, mountain biking and horse riding.
Brittany is a land of spirit and character where history, art, culture and nature live side by side with all today’s modern services. Shopping is always close by and plentiful. Traveling is fast and easy – Paris is only 2 hours by train from Rennes, ferries run from two ports to the UK and there is a very good network of free dual carriageways.
Discover the delights of this beautiful region, so diverse and rich in contrasts