The path less travelled in France produced stunning rural vistas, friendly locals, and a vibrant food and wine culture, far beyond our expectations.
Heidi and I hired an electric car at CDG airport in early spring 2022 and drove a six thousand kilometre ‘figure of eight’ around France. Despite moderate fitness levels we hiked and cycled many remote picturesque places. We also found rural and remote areas of France have much to offer serious foodies.
Off the Beaten Path: Nothing ‘ordinary’ to be found
Determined to take the path less travelled we discover stunning rural vistas, super friendly locals, and a vibrant food and wine culture in France, way beyond our expectations.
This is part 9 of a 12-part mini-series which follows our recent 12-week trip.
I invite you to join us and make some delightful discoveries.
You will find each part of this mini-series here.
Part 9: Brittany
Léhon, Dinan, Brittany
Brittany is a large region in the northwest of France. It is a large and diverse peninsula with an often rugged and spectacular coastline, an interior full of vibrant towns and villages and large numbers of prehistoric menhirs. Situated in the northeast of Brittany, Léhon is a delightful small and ancient village located a couple of bucolic kilometres walk along the Rance River from the much larger tourist hotspot of Dinan. It’s home to an abbey, monastery, castle ruins and several small bars and restaurants.
As is our want, it provided us with a peaceful retreat, yet was just a few minutes away from lively Dinan and just an hour by car from many of the most serious attractions of northern Brittany like St Malo et Mont Saint-Michel.
A hidden gem
Léhon Abbey hosts a great little bar/restaurant in a leafy courtyard which serves excellent home-cooked meals most days for lunch. The daily baked pastries and cakes and coffee for morning tea were a delight too. As it was located just 100 metres from our front door, it saw plenty of action from us for morning coffees or afternoon aperos.
The adjacent monastery often hosts quality art exhibitions and during our stay, there was a thoughtful, vibrant and extensive display of works inspired by some of the most important and unusual geological formations from around the world.
Cycling the Rance
One sunny and mild late spring morning we booked a couple of bicycles online with Kaouann just along the river in Dinan. One can cycle all the way to the coast, mostly off-road along the Rance, eventually finding the large port town of Dinard or spectacular St Malo on the other side of the estuary. The super friendly English-speaking staff at Kaouann, however, suggested that we cycle along the river and canal in the opposite direction.
Whilst there were no big-name destinations along the canal tow-path, it turned out to be an exceedingly pleasant day of cycling. We passed through quite a few small riverside villages proudly decorated with stunning gardens and flower displays, and most offered a cafe or village restaurant. The path itself was mostly shady, tree-lined and quite beautiful.
Much more popular, the Cape Frehel – Fort la Latte walk on a peninsula half an hour by car to the west of Dinan, was equally beautiful and suited to most anyone with reasonable fitness and mobility. However, beware of the tour bus hordes! As much of the walk is along a single-file track.
I’ve said before that we love to be in French towns on market day. We enjoy cooking and self-catering and the theatre of these markets is addictive. Obviously, we needed to be in Dinan for the Thursday morning weekly market, and it certainly didn’t disappoint. It’s held in a huge square at the top of the town, deep inside the oldest part and is really a special setting. But the produce was the star of the show and we stocked up on fresh seafood, super pungent local cheeses, some artisan cider and of course a baguette for lunch.
It was probably one of the best markets of our trip of which there were quite a few.
After the market, we took the opportunity to take a good look around town and managed to get a recommendation for a restaurant (La Fleur del Sel) frequented mostly by local families. It’s not fancy but the typical local food was fresh and well prepared and the service was excellent. And for a wine snob like me, it had a small but broad selection of good but not too expensive French wines.
La pièce de résistance était les profiteroles de Dinan, je recommande!
There is a very famous local pastry called Kouign-Aman (pronounced ‘queen aman’) which is unbelievably good, I would say otherworldly. It is reputedly the most calorific pastry on the planet. If you ever visit Brittany you must try one,
Have you ever spent time in this part of Brittany? Please leave your comments below.
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