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zInsider’s Brittany

10 days

An Alexander+Roberts Original Event

Original Event Discoveries for our World Travelers

+ Discover the rich seafaring history of Saint-Malo with its impressive ramparts and explore the magnificent Benedictine Abbey at Mont Saint-Michel, one of the most important pilgrimage sites for medieval Christians.
+ Marvel at the huge megalith at Locmariaquer… Carved nearly 5,000 years ago, it once stood more than 65 feet tall – the largest in an arrangement of 19 standing stones.
+ Learn how to make traditional crepes in the lovely home of a Breton native as she shares colorful stories about her life and family.
+ Christian Demathieu is famous among locals for his knack at finding the best clams – and his recipe for preparing them… Experience both firsthand as you join him for clam digging and a picnic lunch on his farm.
+ Visit the famed Faïencerie Henriot-Quimper; since 1690, this studio has been renowned for producing some of Europe’s finest glazed pottery.
+ Get to know Brittany’s most picturesque and historic towns including Pont-Aven, beloved by Paul Gauguin, and Saint-Goustan where Benjamin Franklin arrived in 1776 on his trip to Paris to request support for America’s War of Independence.
+ Watch the fishing boats return to port in Le Guilvinec and then thrill to the action as they unload their catch and the daily fish auction gets underway!
+ 2 UNESCO World Heritage Site c 

Show all itinerary details

Day
1

Sep 15, 2015: Welcome to Paris c

Upon our arrival at Charles de Gaulle Airport, we’ll be warmly greeted and escorted to the stylish Hotel Opera Cadet. Our charming, superior first class retreat offers a terrific city-center location near the Grand Boulevards district, a vibrant neighborhood between the Madeleine Church and the Bastille. We’ll have time to refresh before joining our Parisian guide for a city tour. We’ll see all the iconic landmarks of the City of Light before embarking on a river cruise. From the Seine, we’ll have outstanding views of the Louvre, Notre Dame and the many picturesque bridges which connect the Left and Right Banks of Paris and the historic Île de la Cité. This evening’s dinner at a local brasserie features traditional French fare and an opportunity to become better acquainted with your fellow travelers and Lorey Johnson, our Brittany specialist who will be traveling with us throughout this journey.  Meals D

Day
2

Sep 16, 2015: Onward to Brittany + Mont Saint-Michel c

After breakfast, we’ll be escorted to the rail station to board the high-speed TGV Train bound for Rennes. Upon our early afternoon arrival, we’ll set out on a scenic drive through the countryside, heading toward the coast and the world-famous Benedictine abbey of Mont Saint-Michel. Built between the 11th and 16th centuries, this architectural, artistic and spiritual treasure is spectacularly perched on a rocky islet surrounded by a sweeping expanse of sandbanks that are exposed to the powerful North Atlantic tides between Normandy and Brittany. Dedicated to the Archangel Michael, Mont Saint-Michel was one of the most important pilgrimage sites for medieval Christians and the stone-built village that grew up in the shadow of the Abbey’s impressive walls remains one of the most enchanting in all of France. Led by Ms. Johnson, our tour of Mont Saint-Michel will be enlivened by fascinating insight into the life and spirit of medieval France. After an early dinner with wine at Le Pré Salé, an inviting restaurant specializing in the region’s cuisine, we’ll continue to Dol-de-Bretagne where we’ll check in to the charming Manoir de Belle-Noë for a 2-night stay.  Meals B+D

Day
3

Sep 17, 2015: Saint-Malo + Dinan

After breakfast, we’ll set out to explore the historic city of Saint-Malo. Virtually surrounded by water and now connected to the mainland only by a narrow man-made strip of land, the romantic history of this fortified city is tied inextricably to the sea. Jacques Cartier, who claimed Canada for King Francis I in 1534, was a native son of the city and throughout the Middle Ages, Saint-Malo was a base for pirates who brought wealth to the city through their pillaging of ships plying the North Atlantic and English Channel. Today, behind the imposing grey granite ramparts, Saint-Malo is an enchanting town filled with narrow winding streets and granite houses that are home to bustling cafes, shops and restaurants. In the engaging company of Ms. Johnson, our exploration of this vibrant port will be enriched by dramatic tales of its colorful seafaring history.

Sitting down to lunch at a local creperie offers a chance to sample both savory and sweet versions of this regional specialty! Afterwards we’ll travel to nearby Dinan, an enchanting riverfront city with  ancient ramparts, handsome half-timber buildings and winding cobblestone lanes that have all be wondrously preserved. Although highly recommended by several guidebooks as a “must see stop” in Brittany, our expertly guided tour reveals the true spirit of this work-a-day town and its enduring Breton culture. This evening, we’ll dine here in Dinan at Chez La Mère Pourcel. Set in a handsome 15th-century timber frame landmark, this renowned restaurant has been serving regional specialties since 1927. We’ll return to Dol-de-Bretagne for another night’s stay.  Meals B+L+D

Day
4

Sep 18, 2015: Locmariaquer + Gulf of Morbihan to Arradon

This morning’s guided exploration in town reveals handsome medieval houses and the imposing Dol Cathedral with its unfinished tower. Departing Dol-de-Bretagne, we’ll journey onward to the southern coast of the Breton peninsula to visit the Grand Menhir at Locmariaquer, a giant megalith that was carved nearly 5,000 years ago. Although it has fallen and broken into four massive pieces, which still lie where they fell, this ancient megalith was once part of a huge 19-stone arrangement. If intact, this would be the largest-known standing stone in Europe and would weigh an estimated 355 tons and stand more than 65 feet tall. Then we’ll take the ferry to Ile aux Moines, the largest island in the Gulf of Morbihan, to dine at Les Embruns. Renowned for its market-fresh produce, locally harvested seafood and fine Breton pastries, we’ll enjoy a memorable dinner accompanied by fine French wine. We’ll return to the mainland and drive to Arradon for a 2-night stay at Le Parc er Greo, a family-owned boutique hotel nestled in a charming countryside garden on Brittany’s pastoral southern coast.  Meals B+D

Day
5

Sep 19, 2015: Excursion to Belle-Île + Saint-Goustan

After breakfast, we’ll travel to nearby Quiberon to board the ferry for Belle- Île le. Aptly named, this beautiful island off the Quiberon Peninsula has long-been an inspiration for authors and poets including Flaubert, Dumas, Monet and Matisse. Our guided exploration will reveal the island’s magnificent coastal cliffs, charming seaside hamlets, rocky shores and green countryside. The early-film and stage actress Sarah Bernhardt loved Belle-Île and built a home here, which we’ll also visit today. In the late afternoon, we’ll explore the picture-perfect port of Saint-Goustan, which rose to prominence in the 18th century when it became an important center for ship building. It was also during this era when Benjamin Franklin arrived here in December 1776, on his way to Paris to request France’s support in the American War of Independence. We’ll dine this evening on the waterfront at La Licorne, enjoying a fine dinner of regional Breton fare accompanied by French wine. After dinner, we return to our hotel in Arradon.  Meals B+D

Day
6

Sep 20, 2015: Through the Countryside to the coast of Finistere

We’ll check out from our hotel this morning and journey along the picturesque coast to Finistère, the rugged western-most Department of France. Our first visit will be Concarneau. This bustling town is one of France’s busiest fishing ports, with more than 100,000 tons of tuna caught annually, but it’s also a handsome historic town with well-preserved ramparts facing onto the sea. Then we’ll make our way to Pont-Aven. Well known for its association with the Post-Impressionist painter Paul Gauguin, this enchanting riverside town attracted other artists as early as the 1860’s. After a brief guided tour, you’ll have free time to explore its lovely riverside walks at your own pace. Be sure to stop by Biscuiterie Traou Mad to sample the local specialty, Galettes de Pont-Aven - a thin and delicate butter cookie that was created here in 1920!

Later this afternoon, we’ll be joined by Christian Dematheiu, a local Breton with an amazing knack for digging up the finest Atlantic clams! We’ll learn all about the rich traditions of clam digging in Brittany as we join Christian along the lovely beach at Île Chevalier to dig for clams here at one of his favorite sites. Afterwards, Mr. Dematheiu will offer us each a glass of his homemade Breton-style aperitif. This evening’s dinner at Le Café du Port in nearby Sainte Marine showcases more of the region’s famed cuisine – accompanied of course by fine French wine. Our home for the next three nights is the Armoric Hotel in Benodet.  Meals B+D

Day
7

Sep 21, 2015: Breton Life + Culture along the Southern Coast

A fascinating day of cultural discovery begins this morning at the lovely home of a native Breton where we’ll enjoy breakfast crepes with coffee. We’ll join our hostess Victoria in her kitchen and learn how to prepare traditional crepes as she shares colorful stories about her life and family. Later at the bustling market in the coastal town of Bénodet, our Trip Leader Lorey Johnson will provide insight into regional customs and some helpful shopping advice as we select fresh produce and locally made specialties for a picnic lunch. On the nearby farm of Christian Demathieu, we’ll sit down to our picnic lunch, enjoying our morning purchases and the clams we collected yesterday - which Mr. Demathieu has expertly prepared for us using his favorite recipe. After lunch, an expert lace maker will teach us about this disappearing art form, and the origins and history of the traditional lace headdresses once worn by Breton women.

After these fascinating and personal cultural encounters, we’ll drive to the port of Le Guilvinec – arriving in time to watch as the boats come in from their day’s fishing to unload their catch of monkfish, skate, langoustine and other Atlantic delicacies. Right around 4:00pm, the activity along the quayside reaches its peak as the animated fish auction begins. A local resident will be on hand to explain the inner workings of the action and to tell us about the wide variety of seafood destined for restaurants, stores and canneries.  This evening at Le Doris in the quiet coastal town of Port de Kerity, we’ll have a chance to sample some of this fresh seafood - and more French wine! After dinner, we return to our hotel in picturesque Benodet.  Meals B+L+D

Day
8

Sep 22, 2015: Arts of Brittany

This morning, we’ve made special arrangements to visit the studio of Evelyne LeClaire, a Breton artist famous for her captivating landscape paintings. Our morning continues at Pointe du Raz, a wild and windswept promontory that juts into the Atlantic Ocean. Its spectacular clifftop vistas and pounding surf captivated Gustave Flaubert and Victor Hugo, both of whom included the setting in their works - thus generating a little tourist boom in the 19th century! We’ll also stop in Locronan, an amazingly picturesque village that owes its rich architectural legacy to the extraordinary wealth that was generated as early as the Middle Ages when local weavers provided the sails that powered the merchant and naval vessels of France, Spain and England! Sailing ships disappeared with the arrival of the steam engine and the Modern Age, but Locronan has retained its historic roots and still boasts a wealth of grand homes dating back to the 1700’s.

In Quimper, we’ll enjoy a guided visit through town before spending time at Faïencerie Henriot-Quimper. Since 1690, this studio has been famous for producing some of Europe’s finest glazed pottery. After touring the workshops and learning about the history and production process, we’ll enjoy a specially-arranged pottery class where we’ll have a chance to apply our newly learned skills! This evening’s farewell dinner at L’Ambroisie features the chef’s innovative preparation of fresh regional produce and seafood – accompanied of course by fine French wine!  Meals B+D

Day
9

Sep 23, 2015: Back to Paris

After breakfast, we’ll travel to Rennes for a short guided tour of the town’s historic center, graced with handsome public squares laid out in the 18th century and timber-frame homes built a century earlier. We’ll have lunch in town before boarding the TGV Train for Charles de Gaulle Airport where we’ll check in to the conveniently located Hotel Novotel Paris CDG Terminal.  Meals B+L

Day
10

Sep 24, 2015: Depart Paris

After breakfast, the complimentary CDGVAL train will take you to the terminal for your departure flight.  Meals B

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