return to Cherbourg…

St Malo is by far the most convenient port for us in northern France, however on rare occasions when we can’t get a crossing we use either Caen or Cherbourg.

In the summer months Brittany Ferries operate the Normandie Express, a daily service between Portsmouth and Cherbourg with high speeds of up to 42 knots giving a nippy journey time of just 3 hours.

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This month we were on one of the first crossings of the season and very fresh it was all too.  There is a new Club Lounge with extra-comfy seating which is spacious enough to recline without impacting on your nearest neighbour.  In-seat USB connections are a real bonus and complimentary hot and cold drinks are provided at the beginning and end of each journey. Well worth the extra few pounds…

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Also new for this season is a small range of hot meals from Le Cafe, a very welcome addition.  Cooked breakfast was keenly priced and very tasty it was too; the perfectly scrambled eggs, tomatoes and sausages were accompanied by a rather strange (and unnecessary) mashed potato affair. For later in the day there is a limited but good choice of hot food again well priced at around £5.00 or a choice of delicious soups for £3.50.

Of course there’s a shop, just the one but it sells all the usual papers, magazines and things you never knew you needed plus wines, beers, spirits and tobacco; oh and giant Chupa Chups.

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We disembarked just a few minutes earlier than scheduled and after a very brief queue at Cherbourg French border control we were whisking our way down the peninsular. It is a bit of a gruelling drive home at around 7 hours with a few short stops, but much nicer for pampered pooch who only had to endure being left for 3 hours instead of the usual overnight in the kennels on the ferry.

Time then for feet up and a relaxing glass of something sparkling…

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I’ll be adding more pics and info to the Normandie Express page shortly, but in the meantime check out our oh so favourite Brittany Ferries ship, the MV Bretagne

Quimper Cornouaille, ville capitale

Our closest city, one that we never tire of visiting, Quimper is the cultural and administrative capital of Finistère.  Itderives its name from kemper, the Breton word for confluent as the rivers Steir and Odet meet here and flow gently out to the ocean at nearby Bénodet.

These rivers wend their way through the town criss-crossed by a myriad of bridges each adorned with bold colourful displays of flowers.

Quimper floral bridges

The skyline of the old town is dominated by the flamboyant gothic Quimper Cathedral, properly known as La Cathédral Saint Corentin de Quimper; we’re talking ancient here, construction started in the 13th century.

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The cathedral is also hauntingly beautiful at night…

The city, once the ancient capital of Cornouaille, found wealth in the production of Faïence the art of tin glazed hand-painted pottery in the early 1700’s. Quimper faïence is still made and can be found in the boutiques of the old town, some of the older rarer items being valuable collectors pieces, although the inevitable tourist tat is widely available.

There’s performance to be found on the street corners from traditional Breton entertainment to jazz improv…

While the supermarkets, diy stores and the like encircle the town on outlying retail parks, in the centre there is a plethora of independent shops and some popular high street brands with just one small charming department store from the Eurodif chain.

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Each Saturday there is a market selling fresh produce from the local area and of course the inevitable rotisserie stall, the aroma from which drifts through the marketplace tantalising the tastebuds. Hard to resist.

Another must visit is the rather delightful emporium known as Maison Georges Larnicol, originally from Brittany and now with stores in Paris and beyond, Georges Larnicol is one of the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France.  Here you’ll find exquisite chocolate delicacies along with macarons and his signature kouignettes, miniature, caramelised versions of the classic Kouign amann.

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Their mouthwatering desserts are served at the Restaurant Le Petit Gaveau located just up the street from the store.  Another one of our favourite restaurants is L’Anchoiade, Quimper which we discovered one very busy New Year’s eve, the house speciality being the exceptional Parilladas – for more details of both see the eat here section of my site.

We’ve stayed overnight on several occasions, the Escale Oceania is a popular option for us, it’s just a stones throw from the old town and is one of the more pet-friendly hotels in the area.

Of course no visit to Quimper can be complete without sampling a delicious sweet or savoury Crêpe, a true Breton staple and always a good reason for a return visit!

 

 

 

A seaside stroll in Morbihan

Having decided it was definitely time to walk off the excesses of the seasonal celebrations we headed down to the Morbihan coast of southern Brittany on a chilly winter’s morning.

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Parked the car near Le Fort Bloqué at Guidel and took the scenic route across beautiful deserted sandy beaches, past the (busy) surfing school and over stunning nature reserves to the little resort of Le Courégant where luckily we managed to replenish our used calories with a rather lovely pizza meal (reviewed on trip advisor) before making the 5km return trip.

H is never happier than when skipping along the beach, whilst keeping well away from that nasty wet water!

 

There are a few more photos of our trip to the beach while it was sunny before the weather turned in my gallery

Ploemeur is a beautiful place to visit in winter as well as summer – for more info check out the Ville de Ploemeur website here.

Ploemeur beaches

These deserted beaches at Ploemeur, just a few miles from Lorient in the Morbihan department provide the perfect winter playground for wanderers, walkers and hardy surfer types!

 

Bon-Repos

Each Sunday morning during the summer months there is a small market on the banks of the Nantes-Brest Canal in the shadow of the Abbaye de Bon-Repos that sells local wares and delicious foodstuff.  It’s a perfect location for a lunchtime picnic or bite to eat in one of the busy little cafés.

The walk along the canal is equally enjoyable in the winter months when a sense of tranquility abounds in the tiny commune of Saint-Gelven…

 

The Abbey which is open to the public, showcases a wide range of contemporary art and in August provides the backdrop for a magnificent a sound and light show.

You can check out the website for market opening days, times and special events here

I’ll be posting about the Abbey soon, but in the meantime you can find details from their website and the programme for the 2017 Sound & Light show here.

Etang du Korong

The vast lake at Glomel is an inland paradise for all manner of wildlife and has a lovely sandy beach from where you can hire canoes and sailboats or simply enjoy dipping your toes!

There are extensive fairly level trails around the lake, often peppered with local fishing enthusiasts, which provide the perfect landscape for bracing walks and are thoughtfully dotted with picnic tables at key locations.

 

There is a Municipal Campsite near the beach end of the lake, just a short stroll into the village where there is a small shop, bar and an amazing pizza restaurant, Tan Dezhi.

Lac de Guerlédan

Lac de Guerlédan the largest lake in Brittany, provided the perfect setting for an invigorating  hike last week, the gently rippling icy-blue water attesting to the seasonal wintry chill.

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We’d enjoyed a very different vista last year when the lake had been drained – see my previous article or gallery here

There is some great information on their own website (in French) or the official Brittany Tourism site features articles about the lake and so much more of this beautiful region.

A better way to Brittany…

On our first house hunting foray to the Côtes d’Armor one dreary December day a few years ago, we travelled by ferry from Dover to Calais and drove the 700km across to Brittany in what we then thought was the most appalling weather ever.  Little did we know, but more about the Brittany weather another time!

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Barrelling along the Autoroute in our little Smart car, its windscreen wipers valiantly sweeping aside the torrent unleashed on us by the menacing storm clouds, my first thought was ‘let’s just turn back, give it up and go home’, but having made it so far we decided to complete the journey and keep the rendezvous with Nick ‘meet me in the village square’ Tyrell, property agent extraodinaire.

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Our next trip was far better planned;  we discovered an overnight ferry service from Portsmouth to St Malo operated by Brittany Ferries.  We’d not heard of them before and I had hazy, distant memories of a not so great experience many years ago so my expectations were fairly low…

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From the moment we boarded (our first trip was on the rather lovely Brittany Ferries MV Bretagne), we were favourably surprised at the standard of ship, the compact but well equipped cabins and the excellent choice of restaurants, not to mention the super hospitality of the crew, it made us feel as though we’d started our holidays already.  Since then there’s been no turning back; we now make the journey once a month either to the stunning St Malo or on odd occasions Caen or Cherbourg and love every minute of our time on board.

The Bretagne… (contd)

 

back at la vallée des saints

Last weekend was the official unveiling of 13 new sculptures at La Vallée des Saints and a very grande fête it turned out to be on a lovely sunny afternoon.

Vallee des Saints

There are now over 70 magnificent statues in the fields gazing out over the Breton countryside; each in excess of 3m high and weighing in at several tons (check out my gallery of photos from previous visits).

An artisan market, sculpture demonstrations and talks were in full swing throughout the afternoon all accompanied by some rather charming  entertainment from another era…

It was great to see the place packed with interested locals and tourists, although I must admit to preferring the serenity and solitude of the site during the long winter months.

Lookng forward to seeing the next batch of granite giants soon…

 

Just in time for dinner – at Ouistreham

The charming little port of Ouistreham isn’t actually in Caen, a fact we’d discovered on a previous journey that had entailed a mad-dash across Normandy from deepest Brittany and after enjoying a brief but misguided sense of relief at having arrived with only minutes to spare before check-in for the ferry closed, then to realise that the port is nearly 20km further to the north!

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We were not alone; the D515 was awash with cars bearing GB number plates, their drivers faces etched with a mixture of concentration and panic, forward leaning and hunched over steering wheels in some unfounded hope that this would somehow hasten their arrival. It was all ok in the end though; the good folk at Brittany Ferries seem to be used to it and happily managed to check everyone in despite the tardiness.

Last week our travels were disrupted due to bad weather and once again we found ourselves re-routed via Caen and booked onto the rather swish MV Mont St Michel overnight ferry to Portsmouth. This time though we were prepared; left early and despite the awful driving conditions made good time to Caen and Ouistreham, time enough in fact for a much needed dinner on the promenade ….(contd)

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