With only two days left in Bretagne (Brittany), I had heard enough about Dinan to be curious. So I looked on the map, made a hurried hotel reservation, and drove 110 miles inland from Roscoff to the Côte d’Armor region, where Dinan is located.
When I arrived in Dinan it was market day, and I joined the crowd of shoppers right away. The French ‘marchés’ are colorful open-air events where dozens of stalls sell local food and products, and I love being able to touch, taste and try on the articles for sale. It’s an interactive experience that I far prefer to shopping on Amazon, and something I miss when home in the U.S.
Lunch was in a crêperie recommended by Catherine, a friendly and talkative hotel concierge who introduced herself as “a true Breton,” when I checked in. Crêpes are a Breton specialty, and there were so many on the menu that I asked the waiter for help. I chose a “galette” (a buckwheat crêpe filled with ham ) for the main course, and for dessert a “crêpe far aux pruneaux,” a prune and batter pudding with fresh Plougastel strawberries. Simply divine.
My hotel wouldn’t win prizes for elegance, but Catherine told me more about Bretagne than travel guides could. She said that Bretons are very Catholic, unlike the rest of France “only Catholic in name,” and that they are very proud of their language, culture and traditions “more like the English.” She also gave me a list of what to see. I was not disappointed.
Dinan is a quaint and beautiful walled town with the best-preserved medieval center in Bretagne. It miraculously escaped the Allied bombings that destroyed other towns during World War II (the province was occupied by the Nazis), and it’s home to fifteen thousand people.
Cobbled streets with arcaded, half-timbered houses lead to the lower town, a port on the Rance River already well-known one thousand years ago. The river banks, lined with bistros and cafés, is tourists’ heaven. But despite being popular, Dinan felt like a real town, not a touristy destination. It was quite different from the coastline of Bretagne, but its charm, history and gastronomy made my two-day visit very interesting. I learned a lot about Bretagne in Dinan.