La Vallée des Saints, Carnoët
This is a hill in central Brittany, topped with a tree-crowned motte, and all around are three- and four-metre granite statues of Breton saints. There are currently 63, individually carved on site by a team of sculptors. Come September there will be 80. The founders plan, eventually, to erect 1,000. It’s magical, like witnessing the beginnings of Easter Island.
Ile de Bréhat
The Ile de Bréhat lies just a mile off Brittany’s north coast, reached by ferry from Paimpol. This car-free island has sub-tropical plants growing in profusion and miles of rugged coast to explore. You may meet a circus of puffins as you hike to the lighthouse with views of the Breton mainland. For an overnight stay, there’s a fine municipal campsite and some charming chambres d’hotes, and the reward is magical: the setting sun turns the pink granite rocks an even deeper shade of rose.
Yannick Berthe B&B, Cancale
Unexpected discoveries often prove the most rewarding, and so it was when we stayed at this charming B&B in the fishing port of Cancale, 10 miles east of Saint-Malo. The house takes its name from its friendly and attentive owner, who serves a delicious breakfast in your room while you look across the bay towards the medieval towers of Mont Saint-Michel.
13 rue Ernest Lamort, +33 2 99 89 64 72
Fresh oysters from Cancale
Walk past Cancale’s seafront restaurants selling expensive fruits de mer and buy oysters at the small market on the quay for around 50 cents each. Sit on the sea wall with a plateful and half a lemon, and afterwards throw your shells on to the beach to join the thousands already there – perfect!
Wandering Brittany’s waterways
The towpaths on Brittany’s 600km of canals are part of the Voies Vertes (Green Ways) network, and cycling or walking them is a delight. Lock houses and bridges are festooned with flowers; kingfishers and otters abound. Our favourite is the Canal d’Ille et Rance. Medieval Dinan and Léhon are close by and there is the lively Jazz aux Ecluses festival every September at the Hédé Bazouges flight of 11 locks. A a houseboat is a good alternative to a gîte or tent.
Sunsets, cycling and galettes on Belle-Ile
My son and I spent a week on this beautiful and unspoilt island last year and saw it all on hired bicycles. We stayed at the hotel La Désirade, where the food was exquisite, but too extravagant for every evening, so we also enjoyed a few galettes and beers at the nearby crêpérie. No wonder artists such as Claude Monet and Sarah Bernhardt flocked here and some decided to stay. The light, space and natural beauty are irresistible.
Erik Satie Museum, Honfleur
A wonderful example of how museums can bring their subjects to life. This is an enjoyable interactive tribute to the composer. One room is bisected by a trail of “wine”, spilt from a chalice. Step on one side and church music plays, illustrating his religious bent; step to the other, and you are surrounded by the sounds of a boisterous cafe. The whole museum is full of secret drawers and strange machines, and is a compelling way of spending a couple of hours.
Le Logis du Roc, Granville
Driving round the 15th-century ramparts of Granville, the satnav tells you to go over the narrow eastern drawbridge. “Surely we can’t fit through there?” But we do, and find ourselves in a maze of tiny 18th-century houses, with Le Logis du Roc B&B in the middle. It’s a narrow, sloping house, full of objects collected by owners Eric and Natalie on their travels to West Africa, Australia, Indonesia and India. Eric is a professional skipper and entertainingly talks of his adventures, while we shared whisky in his living room and watched their TV. We were also welcomed into the tiny bar next door – honorary Welsh guests for the Wales/Portugal, Euro quarter-final.
doubles from €57, lelogisduroc.com
Coastal walking, Etretat
The cliff top path from Etretat to Fécamp via Yport (where you can stop for a bowl of mussels and a glass of cider) is an amazingly beautiful walk. In June there were wild flowers to enjoy, fields of flax just coming into bloom, gardens full of roses, bird song, and views. French footpaths are very well-maintained and signposted, so you can’t get lost and there are buses for your return journey. The whole walk is 17km, but can be shortened.
The walk is on the GR21 from Le Havre: gr-infos.com
The 3 Cs – Clécy, Calvados and Caen
In 1974 I went to study at Caen University and my memories of that time are of brown and white timbered farmhouses, orchards filled with apple blossom and the taste of fresh baguettes eaten with pont l’évêque cheese and washed down with calvados. I discovered the coast and the D-Day landing beaches, and joined in with the 30th anniversary celebrations on 6 June 1974, dancing the night away. William the Conqueror’s birthplace at Falaise is worth a visit, as is his final resting place in L’Abbaye aux Hommes in Caen, but for a corner of tranquillity head south of Caen to Clécy in La Suisse Normande, to walk, kayak and climb the high rocks in the beautiful Orne valley.