Travel report: Cycling vacation in North Brittany
From our guest Regine
Inspiration, vaccination, idea: The short-term vacation planning with recommendation
For a long time I didn't even think about traveling this year. After a long lockdown and ever-changing risk areas, vacations are not as plannable as they were during my last cycling trip two years ago. Where, what, when, how? But then it suddenly goes surprisingly fast: Inspired by vacation reports and recommendations in the circle of friends, in addition - in contrast to other regions of France - low case numbers in the Bretagne, I consider: Not going on vacation at all is also stupid, didn´t I have that in the back of my mind when i was vacciinated? As a still passionate recreational cyclist and good experience with bike path trips, I take a look at the website, what there would be. As it should turn out, my decision was as good as short-term.
Day 1: Arrival in Saint Malo
Where is the beach? I have to laugh at myself today and blame it on my tiredness after the journey. Google Maps shows a lot of beach in the immediate vicinity of the hotel. But there is only water. A ramp to let boats into the water and further out a ladder into the sea. In the sea two offshore islands. Nowhere even the slightest chance to get into the water. Thick high wooden stakes between the sea and the city wall. I didn't think about it further, but during the extra days the mystery was solved. More on this - as generally to Saint Malo - at the end. The journeyl to Brittany from the Stuttgart area is perfect for me with the TGV. Only 1 change in Paris, total travel time 8 hours. It can´t be done by car and I don´t need it on site. From the train station it is about 1.3 kilometers to the old city center, where the hotel is also located. I push my suitvase by the dead straight street, while me loudly and framed by blue light the manif (demo) against the Corona policy of the French government comes against.Show more Show less
Day 2: Saint Malo - Dinan
Leaving the historic city center via the Dinan gate, you head towards the mouth of the Rance River. If you don't find the right way right now: Stay calm! It does not get more difficult! And there is enough time, the first stage is not so long. The bike path was certainly not invented here. Bravely I fight my way through and have the impression that the car drivers are very considerate. I made it! And it becomes first easier, then quiet and finally really idyllic. The small villages of Jouan and Saint Suliac, the latter so charming that I spend some time there.
Later it goes briskly downhill to the port of La Pommerais and the last stage on the towpath along the river Rance to the port of Dinan. Satisfied, I take note of the congratulations in the directions for reaching the day's destination. To the hotel it goes however again strongly uphill. At the top, several rewards await: A medieval town, a beautiful hotel with a long, interesting history and a magnificent view.
Day 3: Dinan - Combourg
To start, I go back down towards the port, where I arrived yesterday. Under the viaduct a small path branches off, which - as I took from the description the night before and also see immediately - requires some caution when wet. It is raining now, of course. Despite the muddy path, some jog, others walk the dog and you greet each other friendly. I particularly like the small village of Léhon with the monastery, which I soon reach. The dark sky and rain this morning gives it something mystical. After that, a magical bike path leads directly along the river Rance and now i can put my rain jacket in my pocket, because the sun comes out.Show more Show less
Already in the early afternoon I reach today's destination Combourg. The hotel is very beautifully situated, directly in front of the lake of the castle. At the lake I relax first on a bench in the sun. There comes the French couple, with which I am friends, in the camping car along the road. They will be the next days also here in the area on the road and I am very happy that we can meet here. So I greet them with my fancy helmet-rain-wind hairstyle and in an outfit that makes it easy to see the state of the road from this morning. Later, freshly showered, there is much to tell. We stroll through the small town and for the evening we arrange to have dinner together at the hotel. Tip: The cuisine is very good, the ambience very nice and yet the prices are moderate.
Day 4: Combourg - Fougères
Today's stage is the most demanding. 8:00 breakfast, 9:30 departure, this is now established and proven. The start, past the lake in the morning sun is beautiful. It continues in this morning mood through picture book villages such as Dingé, where a romantic castle from the 15th century can be seen. Well-kept estates decorated with flowers, lots of hydrangeas. Brittany as one imagines it. No matter who you meet in this quiet countryside, even the professional racing bike team that meets me, you greet each other. For the picnic I find again a nice place. There is never a shortage of them. Either an official picnic area in the countryside, or in a village where there are always nice benches next to the bakery and butcher, near the Mairie (mayor's office), at the well-kept flower-decorated village square.
Fougères is quickly reached in the afternoon and now it is clear that Brittany is hilly and not flat. A tip for sightseeing: start in the beautiful public garden, by the church, at the top of the village, where the hotel is. Terraced very nicely, you have a great view and can walk down to the castle and the town.
Arriving at the castle below, we enjoy tonight galettes (the ones from the dark flour) and cider. It is served here in a bulbous bottle and with a cork, and once you've tasted it, you won't like the cider in Germany from the supermarket. For dessert a pêche-melba with lots of crème chantilly - mmmhhh...
Day 5: Fougères - Pontorson
Looking at today's elevation profile: moderate up and down, but a steeper climb near the end, then flat, then a steeper descent. I am curious. It goes again through typical Breton villages and past outside very noble generous country houses with their beautiful manicured gardens. After the village Artrain I drive uphill, on the bike lane parallel to the road. A bit uncomfortable and long.Show more Show less
At the top, the sign for the picnic area is right up my alley. Especially since noon is already over. Studying the map, I realize that this was just already this interesting rise, which I noticed on the map. I get company, a car turns in. A Frenchman and his mother are unpacking their cooler bag. They are on their way to Saint Malo. How do I know? They watch me curiously as I saddle my bike to continue and then want to know if I'm from the north or south of France. I clarify and we chat a bit.
The charming Hotel Montgomery in Pontorson is a special feature in the historic walls. You don't just stay at the hotel, you also visit it. A real highlight. I can order breakfast for tomorrow from the extremely obliging gentleman at the reception.
Day 6: Pontorson - Cancale
Breakfast in the garden of the manor house - pure romance. Corona-fairly everything is served to me portioned and covered, what I ordered the evening before. From the type of jam to some cold milk for the muesli. What a nice start to the day. Still a little muscles soreness from the physical highlight the day before yesterday, today is the cultural highlight of the tour on the program - the Mont Saint Michel. From Pontorson it goes 7 kilometers straight along the river to Mont Saint Michel. Soon it is visible from a distance. Arrived at the bicycle parking lot I take the free Navette (shuttle). Breathtaking and heavily visited, I already visited it in winter and was only there briefly. The onward journey to Cancale goes first over fields and past old salt pans and later directly along the coast. Very nicely developed bike paths, brightly colored groups of surfers and a lot of sea. Surprisingly, it goes again away from the coast uphill and then with a beautiful view down to Cancale. Here it is obligatory to try oysters. During the after-dinner walk you can guess how the day begins tomorrow: steeply up to the Mairie of Cancale, from where it continues to Saint Malo and where you can stock up with water and Vesper for the last stage. But first I enjoy the view over the sea with the windows wide open and fall asleep with its soothing sound.
Day 7: Cancale - Saint Malo
The fact that there are several swimming opportunities today motivates me even more to set off quickly. The climb is soon done, but very exhausting in the morning. Then comes the first break. The Pointe du Grouin is reached. This small, pointed headland with an offshore bird island is so idyllic and beautiful that you simply have to park your bike and explore it on foot. For a swim, I choose the last bay indicated in the route description, just 5 kilometers from the finish. It is sunny. The water is turquoise, moving and fresh, but not cold. The beach well attended, but no crowds. Perfect swimming afternoon at the sea. After I have passed the quite nice Pointe de la Varde, who would have thought it, once again full attention is required. The entrance to Saint Malo begins. Soon I'm driving towards Intra Muros. To my right - aha - the beach. Unmissable, long and beautiful, very well visited. It is low tide. The islands that I saw last Sunday far out in the sea are just populated by beachgoers.
Saint Malo - a few more days of relaxation at the end of the bike trip.
It is a pity to see Saint Malo only on the day of arrival and departure. The city is very beautiful. The beach too, provided it's low tide. Swimmers, jumpers, joggers and mudflat walkers - there is something for everyone in the right time window. There are also shallow areas for children and group lessons in various water sports are offered. A walk on the city wall, taking in the view of the harbor, the sea and the old town around the entire old city center, is not to be missed.
The offshore islands are highly recommended. Grand Bé is so beautifully renaturalized, you have a super view of Saint Malo. The French writer Chateaubriand is buried there and you also learn why he chose this place as his last resting place. Who forgets the time here and finds the way back already washed over - swimming is life-threatening and forbidden because of the current - would then have to stay on the island until the next low tide. Whereby, honestly, there are certainly worse. I also visited the aquarium in Saint Malo and can highly recommend it. You can buy tickets in advance (e.g. at the hotel), which has the advantage of being admitted quickly.
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A very nice, varied cycling tour with pleasant stage length, which leaves free time on the road and / or at the daily destination. Places to stay and hotels all have a certain something and are strikingly beautifully selected.
To whom can I recommend this trip?
Unlike the well-known routes frequented by tourists (e.g. the Loire or Lake Constance cycle paths), here you are often alone and on your own. So don't expect the best signposted cycle path and whole armies of cyclists. I cycled the tour alone and found it well doable.
- also otherwise times similar routes drives, not only even, straight
- besides cultural highlights also enjoys quiet Breton towns and landscapes
- likes the sea with the change between low and high tide, also likes to bathe sometimes
- thinks like me and has earned a reward after the sporty day's performance (e.g. in the form of a French/Breton culinary speciality, a sympathetic hotel with flair and friendly staff)
...he or she is/are absolutely right here.