As of September, 2020, Americans are still not allowed to travel to Europe, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. And while travel restrictions might be lifted at any time, it is a good idea to play safe and avoid traveling to crowded places, even after things go back to normal.
That’s why I’m thinking of Brittany, one of my favorite places in Europe and one that I visit often. Called Bretagne, in French, it is the northwestern province of France, a beautiful off-the-radar seafaring destination with unique cuisine (think crêpes, galettes, seafood and cider), larger-than-life personality and a rich culture and history. Brittany is not crowded, and with its stunning open spaces by the sea, it is a smart choice for a care-free post-COVID vacation.
These are my 10 favorite places in Brittany:
1. Mont Saint-Michel
This stunning medieval monastery is a popular tourist destination and one of France’s most alluring places. For centuries a major pilgrimage center in Europe, Mont Saint-Michel is an architectural jewel and a UNESCO World Heritage site. A must-see.
A medieval walled town with 15th-century ramparts, St-Malo is a place full of history and a popular tourist destination in France. It is also a busy port, with ferries departing regularly to England. St-Malo offers a glimpse into Brittany’s seafaring past and its strong association with pirates and corsairs.
One of the most attractive and best-preserved medieval towns in Brittany, Dinan has 15th-century ramparts, half-timbered houses, an attractive port and cobbled streets filled with art galleries and craft shops. Crêpes are a Breton invention, and authentic crêperies are everywhere.
4. The Coast of the Pink Granite
An unusually dramatic coast famous for its pink-colored rocks, this sculpted shoreline is a paradise for birds and for walkers, and it remains relatively unknown outside Europe.
Charming Roscoff sits on a peninsula surrounded by the English Channel. A small seaside resort with an attractive port and richly decorated houses, Roscoff is also an important thalassotherapy center (cure by sea water). The town’s seafood restaurants are famed., and pretty Isle of Batz is offshore.
An important historic town with a strong Celtic identity, medieval architecture and a thriving contemporary cultural center, Quimper has a distinctive religious architecture and arts scene, and is a very attractive destination.
Beautiful town on the coast with four harbors, a scenic bay and a bustling quayside, its narrow streets are full of charming small shops and craft workshops. Douarnenez is dotted with quaint fishermen’s cottages and near popular beaches.
8. Auray – Port of Saint-Goustan
A very pretty little port at the bottom of an estuary, Saint-Goustan in Auray takes us back in time with its narrow streets, a stone bridge and half-timbered houses. The bustling quay is lined with bars and bistros. The historic town of Auray is home to one of Brittany’s major pilgrimage sites.
The walled town of Vannes is one of Brittany’s most significant historic places and the cradle of the Breton culture. The town has beautiful sights, Middle Age architecture and well-preserved castles. Boat depart from Vannes to explore the scenic Gulf of Morbihan and its many islands.
This town above the River Arz has been voted one of France’s most beautiful villages. With centuries-old streets and many art ateliers and workshops, this postcard-perfect village is a flower fest year round, and one of Brittany’s most visited places.
When to visit Brittany:
From December to February, it can be quite cold; the temperatures are usually above freezing (0 °C/32 °F), but wind and humidity increase the feeling of cold. Below-freezing temperatures are common, but snowfalls or frosts are generally not abundant. The coldest records are around -10 °C/14 °F. When the wind from the ocean prevails, on milder days, the temperature can reach 14 °C/57° F, although the winds can be strong.
From March to May, it’s cool, if not cold, especially in the first part of the month. In March, it can still snow; in April, and sometimes in the first half of May, there can still be cold days. The rains are frequent, but less frequent than in winter. In addition, the days are longer, and you can often see the sun between one shower and another, with clouds running across the sky.
The coast of Brittany is an ideal place to escape the hot summers in France. From June to August, it’s generally cool or mild; some days can be pleasantly warm, but cooled by lively afternoon breezes. The coolest part is the west coast: in Brest, highs in July and August are around 20 °C/68 °F; on the north and south coasts, in cities like Saint-Malo and Lorient, they stay around 22 °C/72 °F, while in inland Rennes, situated at a certain distance from the sea, they reach 24 °C/75 °F. However, the temperature varies according to the weather: it can be cool and cloudy, with some chance of rain, or fine and sunny, even hot, with temperatures reaching 30 °C/86 °F on the coast, and 35 °C/95 °F in Rennes.
From September to November, it’s still mild and pleasant, but in the later period it gradually becomes more cold, dull and rainy, as well as windy.*
*Source: World Climate Guide
Bottom line is, although seasons in Brittany can be moody, no matter when you visit you will be amazed at how much it has to offer.
For a comprehensive, custom-made itinerary of Brittany, please contact thewriterontheroad.com