France 2011 - Facts and Information

Planning and Travel

Background information

Arrival in Brittany
Maison Cornec & Pleyben
Around Pont-Croix
Cast & Ch'neuf du Faou
Spézet & Trévarez
To Crozon
Camaret & Crozon
Concarneau/St Maurice
Manoir de Kerazan
Plogonnec & Le Juch
Poul Fetan
Village de l'An Mil

Malestroit & Lizio
Around Carnac
Erdeven & St Cado
Vraie-Croix & Guégon
Around Castennec
Quelven & Guémené
Château de Suscinio
Rhuys Peninsula
Locmariaquer 1
Locmariaquer 2

Forges des Salles
Beyond Brest
St Thégonnec
To Guerlesquin
N of Morlaix
Côte des Bruyéres
Around Tréguier
Around Berrien
S of St Thégonnec
Moulins de Kerouat
To La Martyre
S of Landivisiau
La Roche Maurice
Château de Kerjean
First thoughts
Ideas about Brittany first emerged during a trip to Newfoundland in 2010 when we became aware of the role played by Basque, Channel Island and Breton people in the early stages of its European settlement. That led to the idea that it might be interesting to go to Brittany (and maybe the Basque Country at a later date). This would be a trip of maybe two weeks, taking our car on the ferry and stopping in two different self-catering locations.

After a quick inspection of Brittany Ferries website it became clear that the best option was the Plymouth to Roscoff route. Although Plymouth was a six hour drive from home Roscoff was in the part of Brittany we were interested in. Overnight crossings would mean we could effectively get a couple of extra days over there and disembark fresh after a good night's sleep. Brittany Ferries also had a wide range of self-catering properties throughout Brittany and it seemed to make sense to book the whole trip through them. Booking early would secure a good discount.

After a little initial research we soon realised we would need three weeks at least to do the area justice. We wanted to avoid the tourist traps (which ruled out just about everywhere on the coast) and towns and look for places in quiet country areas. After a lot of head scratching Eleanor came up with three places: Guengat (between Quimper and Douarnenez), Plumelec (between Vannes and Josselin) and St Thégonnec (between Morlaix and Landivisiau). We would stop at them in that order as that would keep the longer change-over drives for the middle of the trip and see our last cottage just down the road from the ferry home.

In general terms the better known guide books were poor. Those found most helpful was the Dorling-Kindersley Eyewitness guide (good pictures and maps) and the Michelin Green Guide (confusing layout but excellent information if you dug a bit). The Michelin 1:200,000 map was a good choice as it gave plenty of detail but it is huge, so we got a Michelin Road Atlas of France for in-car use.

Transport and getting around
It wasn't possible to book the trip online as it involved three locations but the telephone booking was fast and professional. As it would be dark for all the voyage we saved a few bob by booking an inside cabin. The cabin was a fairly typical offering (which might have been a bit tight for more than two) and was fine and clean.

Roads were generally very quiet especially as we were aiming to do countryside ambling, although the N Roads could get a bit hectic in the rush hours. The map showed a scary number of single-track roads but in fact we found very few really narrow lanes even when looking for some of Eleanor's hard-to-find spots.

To keep on the right side of the law we had a GB plate on the car (we refuse to have EU registration plates), beam deflectors, high visibility vests inside the car, warning triangle and spare bulb set.

In all cases the cottages were comfortable, clean, well equipped and very peaceful with friendly owners living next door or near at hand. At Guengat we were just off a quiet main road not far from the village. At Plumelec and St Thégonnec we were well in the country a short drive from the village. (Exact locations of properties can be seen by zooming in on the
interactive map.)

Shopping and things
Guengat had a small bakery and a pharmacy but no other shops, although there was an interesting food market late on Thursday afternoons. Plumelec was well served with a number of small shops. St Thégonnec boasted two baker shops (owned by the same person) and a small Utile supermarket. Apart from bread (and cakes) we did most of our food shopping at supermarkets which were often found at convenient points in the more rural areas. In general we preferred Super U to Intermarché in terms of ambience, but apart from in larger towns (which we tried to avoid) there was not always a choice. In a few places we encountered Carrefour. We hoped to sample local cider and found that most supermarkets had a reasonable range of cider from local producers at around €2.80 a bottle.

We soon discovered that the French take their lunch very seriously and virtually all retail premises are shut for a couple of hours at midday. This can also apply to petrol stations at supermarkets, although usually there are some pumps that give 24 hour service on cards. It is worth reporting that on one occasion the pumps refused all our credit and debit cards and this at a chain we had used elsewhere. Fortunately we didn't need fuel urgently and, as we were in the suburbs of Brest, there was another site nearby where we had no problems.

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