Published Tuesday, 17 April 2012
I visited there recently, after a break of more than 14 years, and it was a bit like arriving home. From the weekly market at Etel to the historic harbour of St Goustan, the area, in my mind, had hardly changed.
The majority of people who travel to Brittany stay in one of the many caravan and camping sites. These vary from the municipal sites, which offer little but the bare necessities, to five-star privately-run sites that offer swimming pools, entertainment and sports facilities. During my childhood holidays in Brittany, we stayed at Camping Les Sept Saints in Erdeven, in the south of Brittany, and my most recent visit was no different. The site is still there, although much expanded and vastly improved; it was a delight to see the place once again and I spent many hours reminiscing about the many happy times I had spent there.
Erdeven is situated close to some of the many thousands of megaliths that are synonymous with this part of Brittany. They are thought to be of religious significance and in some cases the rows of tall standing stones stretch for miles through the countryside.
The town central to the stones is Carnac, where the local market acts as a magnet for locals and tourists on the lookout for a bargain. Many visitors to the region gravitate towards Carnac-plage, which is the area fronting onto the beach. It has a number of shops, amusement arcades and restaurants, and is always very busy in the summer months.
A little further along the coast is the harbour town of Etel. It has a number of good bar/restaurants around the main square, where you can often find musicians playing. The town also hosts a weekly market, which is a must-see if you are planning to visit. The town is particularly known for fishing, and many professional and amateur fishermen use the harbour to see what they can catch. However, my abiding memory of Etel is that it is the place where I learned to windsurf...it is not a hobby I have continued though!
Slightly more inland, there are two very picturesque cities. One is Auray, in particular the area of St Goustan, and the other is the medieval city of Vannes. Le Port de Saint Goustan, which was once visited by Benjamin Franklin, is a beautiful port on the river, with the pubs and restaurants dotted along its cobbled streets.
Across the river are ramparts, which provide for many photos of the area and lead you up towards the town of Auray itself. Vannes is renowned for its city walls and the gardens that surround them. The historic capital of this part of Brittany, the city has many narrow winding streets filled with shops, bars and a number of churches.
Brittany has a number of specialties when it comes to food. Fish and shellfish are a big part of the local cuisine, but if you have a sweeter tooth, the local crepes are well known and something to be enjoyed. Everyone has their favourite filling, but usually chocolate is the popular accompaniment.
Many people consider Brittany as somewhere to go for a beach holiday, and it is true that it has some of the best seascapes in France.
However, with the many towns dotted around the coastline wanting to show what they have to offer, there is plenty more for the visitor to do than laze on the beach all day!