We will be traveling to Paris next October and want to spend a few days visiting and exploring Brittany, but do not want to rent ( or drive ) a car. We would like to be able to experience smaller villages. Any suggestions on best places to visit, hotels, and best way to get around?
Hi - we're considering a visit to Brittany next summer, having only been there for a couple of days during the Tour de France 7 years ago. We stayed in St. Malo, which experiences an enormous change between low and high tide. At low tide, the edge of the water is way off from the coast, but at high tide, waves crash and splash over the walls at the edge of town. Our hotel closed off their patio in the back during high tide, and we could watch volumes of sea water splash against the picture widows! There's also a wonderful walled old town, "Intra Muros" (inside the walls). We stayed outside of the old town, at Hotel Beaufort, on Chaussée du Sillon.
We also visited Cancale, on the coast, the "oyster capital" of France, and Corlay, a charming village along the Tour route that year.
We've only done initial planning so far, but we'll probably use a rental car, and may rent bikes for a few days. That may not be an option for you, but Brittany is a particularly cycling-mad part of a very bicycling-oriented country, and you'd be in good company.
For the next trip, we're considering basing ourselves (or at least staying for a few days) in Quimper, but Brest is another possibility. Then there's Jersey and Guensey, islands in the English Channel to the north.
Brittany can be a bit difficult without a car but definitely doable. You could train from Paris to Rennes (about 2-1/2hrs) and base yourself there. From Rennes you could go by train (or maybe bus) to Fougeres, Dinan, St Malo, Dol de Bretagne as day trips. Or, depending on how much time you have, you could stay in Rennes for a couple of days and then move to St Malo for a couple of days, it's easy to get to and from Paris from either of these. If you want to experience a more rugged coast then Brest or Quimper for a couple of days but not so easy without a car.
I stayed in Intra Muros in September at a B & B,the Aroche Courer and the owner Nichole was terrific,gave us excellent restaurant recommendations and a parking pass to park outside the walls which was a seven minute walk.
Visiting some of the larger towns such as St Malo, Cancale and of course Rennes can easily be done by bus. And it's a rather pretty boat ride from St Malo to Dinard!
It's much more difficult and time-consuming to use busses to see the smaller villages like the ones with a "parish close". It's actually quite easy to rent a car and drive around Brittany. You don't even pay a toll on the highways in this region!
As Beatrix suggests, the parish closes are pretty much unique to Brittany and wonderful to see, as are the small villages that have them. So, if those are on your wish list for Brittany, I would suggest maybe staying a couple of nights in St Malo and then move west for a couple of nights, possibly to Morlaix which is a larger town in the heart of the parish close area. From there you can get to some of the best (Guimiliau, Saint-Thegonnec, etc) by a combination of trains/buses/taxis. There are also day tours from Morlaix which visit several of the best parish closes. The western part of Brittany is where you'll see more of the Celtic influences also. I still don't know how much time you plan to spend there so it's a bit difficult to recommend specific towns/villages/cities/sites to visit.