Experience Le Croisic: Breton charm in Loire-Atlantique

Ever tried taking a vacation from your vacation?

Just when you think a trip to France can’t get any better, you find a way to make it even more extraordinary.  What would you say if I told you one of my not-so-secret travel strategies is to pivot in the middle of my travel adventures to take a vacation away from my vacation?

Sounds zany, doesn’t it… Here’s how it works. When you start to feel a bit too wound up from the whirlwind of an admittedly overplanned itinerary – guilty as charged – it’s time to cherry-pick an out-of-the-way village that’s a quick train ride away from the city you’re staying in.  A day of just hanging out.  No expectations, zero stress. Yes, that’s the ticket.

It works like a charm. At the end of the day, your achievement is exactly what the travel doctor ordered – a clean bill of physical and mental health.

Le Croisic: only an hour from the magic of Nantes

Experience Le Croisic - MYFrenchLife.org

Little Le Croisic is a town so steeped in Breton charm you’d expect it to be in the heart of Brittany. 
Except, amazingly, it’s not. Just a bit more than an hour’s train ride from the unforgettable city of Nantes, Le Croisic is a harbor town situated just south of Brittany, in the seaside sector of the Loire-Atlantique

Experience Le Croisic - MyFrenchLife.org

Located on the Guerande Peninsula, where hundreds of salt pans gleam under the bright sun, Le Croisic is a humble little resort town much loved for its local seafood specialties. Tiny pink shrimp, branded as le bouquet du Croisic, is just one of the many fresh-from-the-sea delicacies to look for. The area is charmingly called the Route des Coquillages [1], known and appreciated for their highly specialized cockle farming.

If you don’t mind crowds, Le Croisic hosts a Fete du Mer [2] every August when hundreds of seafood-loving pleasure-seekers descend on the small town to celebrate the blessing of the fisherman. The festival erupts with a blowout of food, traditional music, fireworks, and dancing.  Amazingly, the Fete du Mer has been around since 1893, initiated in order to honor all those who have perished at sea.

This little piece of heaven is ideal for a slow stroll.  Drop into the bakery AND the chocolate shop… calories be-damned.  Gape at the gorgeously tinned sardines and grab a bag or two of the local salt. Adorable little gift shops will light up your memory years from now.

Coastal walks and pretty parks surround the town but if you’ve got little more than rest and relaxation in mind, stop at a local creperie and dig in. Begin with a savory galette [3] — perhaps filled with ham and cheese or, for those with a more adventurous palate, one with seared scallops and caramelized mushrooms. Order a hard cider alongside and follow with a salted butter caramel dessert crepe if your overloaded tummy allows.

See, it’s already a triumphant day and you’ve never broken a sweat.

Granite houses, colorful creperies, and uncommon specialty stores line the harbor.  Since the 16th century, salt has been exported from the nearby marshes. Delicate fleur-de-sel — the ‘white gold’ of France — offers the indescribable salty tang of the beach. Along with fresh sea air, this harbor town is a living postcard, the ultimate ‘port in a storm’ — where you’ll find instant comfort and perfect calm.

The actual port of Le Croisic doesn’t offer the broad ocean views and crashing waves you might expect. Nothing but a narrow channel of water allows boats into the historic harbor.  If you desire wider ocean views, venture a bit further
and the wild Atlantic will greet you.

Experience Le Croisic: annual literary event, Océarium, war history

It’s hardly surprising that Le Croisic plays host to a literary event each fall. A book fair is a natural in a town where many writers & poets flocked, gathering inspiration for their work. The great Honoré de Balzac once gushed over its natural beauty, comparing Le Croisic to Venice in an open sea. High praise indeed.

If you prefer a ‘deeper’ view, head — close to an hour away — to the Océarium, a major tourist attraction that features sharks, penguins, and every category of sea life you can imagine.

During WWI, the United States launched a Naval Air Station in Le Croisic to fly combat patrols.  Seaplanes flew in and out as hordes of American troops landed to protect the coast and the cause of the French/American alliance.

As told by Jesse George Schmidt, Chief Quartermaster, U.S. Navy, Vanderburg County, Indiana:

I was attached to the Le Croisic Naval air station which patrolled and convoyed all vessels in and out of St. Nazaire, France on the Loire River. It was claimed that over a third of all the American troops landed there and more left for USA from there after the war, and not a vessel was lost after the Americans took over the air station at Le Croisic, which was due to their alert convoy and patrol duty, as stated in a letter to the commanding officer
of the station, by the French Admiral, in commendation of sector.


During WWII, the tables were turned

This time, the Nazi forces gained control of Le Croisic.

Their singular goal was to build a radar station.

The spiteful mission was clear: Protect nearby Saint-Nazaire where the lethal fleet of German submarines was stationed. Remarkably, in 1942, their mission was subverted by the brave efforts of the British Royal Navy and British Commandos in a historic raid that helped stem the tide of the war. Operation Chariot was a stunning success for the Allies’ war effort.

Uncomplicated, unpretentious, little Le Croisic

Uncomplicated, unpretentious, little Le Croisic is a lesson in the joys found in taking a vacation from your vacation. Don’t we live for that ONE GLORIOUS MOMENT where we feel the wind in our hair and the sun on our face? Time Out for YOU.

Enjoy the little things for one day you may look back and realize they were the big things.

Robert Brault, author.

Vacation blues or vacation bliss? You decide

For my money, I prefer to sneak in a mini vacation-from-my-vacation. A town like Le Croisic is a perfectly lovely way to spend a few precious hours doing as much nothing as humanly possible.

Remember, you can always be energetic tomorrow.

The moment you start to get too serious on your furlough-from-real-life, take into account these wise words:

Life goes by fast. Enjoy it. Calm down. It’s all funny.

Joan Rivers, American Comic Legend

Have you ever had the opportunity to Experience Le Croisic? It looks wonderful, doesn’t it? Please share your experiences with us in the comments below.

Image credits:
All images copyright Michelle Moggio

1. the shellfish trail
2. sea festival
3. a crepe made with buckwheat flour

Further Reading:
1. Tourisme Loire Atlantique – via tourisme-loireatlantique.com [in French]
2. The best riding trails near Le Croisic – via alltrails.com
3. What’s on and what to do – via France-Voyage

A wonderful series exploring the magic of this region.
1. Experience Nantes: the many faces of Nantes
2. Experience Le Croisic: Breton charm in Loire-Atlantique (this one)
Many more to come— watch out for them
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About the Contributor

Michelle Moggio

I've been experiencing the joys of Paris since the ripe old age of eleven. As a fan of duck fat, raw oysters and bad French movies, I'm forever busy planning my next blog and/or my next trip. My novel is called "The Paris Effect" and I write a monthly blog by the same name. KEEP IT FRENCH!

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