I have just recently arrived back home from another trip to France. We were able to spend a couple weeks exploring Paris and the Normandy region. We explored mostly by rental car while outside of Paris. When we go back to France next Sept we would like to explore by car the western coast. I have done a ton of research online and with guide books about our future trip, but any first hand knowledge would be very well received. Thank you.
What specifically do you mean by this? Might be helpful if you would give a few of the larger cities in the area about which you are interested.
La Rochelle is a great base with a fantastic market and a world class aquarium. Take a boat trip round the harbour or to Ile de Re. Spend a day in the picturesque Venise Verte where you can take a boat ride on the canals from Coulon.
Spend a few nights on Ile de Re for a typical French holiday feeling. I prefer Oleron just to the south, but the two islands are very different in character and each merit a few days. We always take our bicycles with us, but you can hire them and the tracks are excellent.
Rochefort - visit Hermione if she is in port and the fort.
Visit the citadel town of Brouage and explore its ancient walls. Fouras is a pretty place.
The area between Saintes and Cognac has many pretty villages along the river with good walks.
Bordeaux is just a big town and there are more interesting places to visit. Avoid Saint-Emilion for the genuine wine experience, which is hideously touristy and we heard more American voices than French there! There are many caves in the area if you want a less touristy experience.
So we had a couchsurfer from W France stay with us (I believe he lived in/near Nantes) and he was telling us about Puy de Fou, which has a theme park with historical reenactments. I'd never heard tell of it, but he says in the summer it's pretty busy - they do concerts and fireworks and dancing fountains and I guess you may need to get tix in advance. (Almost looks like Disney, but for adults and with history...lol)
It is def on our list when we ever get to W France. It looks over the top and amazing.
How much time will you have? There are interesting places in western France ranging all the way from Brittany to the Basque County. Have you narrowed down your geographic focus? I spent 6 or 7 weeks there this year and had to rush.
First off, thank you for all the great replies.
We have not decided on a plan as to what towns we are visiting for sure. We are going to spend about 12 days in country. In the past we have always enjoyed the smaller towns as opposed to the larger cities. We usually have a rough plan, for instance "we need to be at such and such place in 3 days." So exploring is the general idea. My wife and I enjoy visiting the churches, fortifications and castles. Of course we are excited about the French food and in particular the seafood. Some of our best times have been on country drives just taking random roads and seeing where they lead. It has paid off more often than not, but we have ran into issues from time to time finding lodging on short notice, but things have gotten easier with mobile apps like Air B and B.
One place we will visit for sure is Carnac to view the stones.
I spent 11 nights exploring the west coast of France by car from St Malo to La Rochelle. I spent 5 nights at a B&B near Dol de Bretagne, which was great for day trips to St Malo, Cancale (oysters), Dinan, Dinard, Fougeres, and Cap Frehel. Then I drove along the pink granite coast for a 3 night stay in Plougonven near Morlaix with visits to Ile de Brehat (ferry from Paimpol), Josselin for the castle, several of the villages with enclos paroissial (parish closes) and Quimper. From there I drove along the SW coast for 3 nights in La Tremblade with visits to Carnac, Pt Matthieu, Pont Aven, Rochefort, La Rochelle, and Saintes.
I love that area of France.
What do you enjoy and when are you going?
I've been to the coast in Normandy then did a loop around Brittany. On a different trip, I camped south of Arcachon on the coast.
I've put a note in your previous post asking how the ferry trip went to close that circle. Can you let us know how that went please?
Further west from Normandy, you could spend quite a long time exploring the diversity of Brittany (until its very western tip, especially if you enjoy wild landscapes), and then further south along the Atlantic coast which has more long and flat sandy beaches.
Thank you for the replies. As far as a solid plan goes, we don't have one, so all the advice is really helping with forming a plan. Brittany is for sure where we will spend some time. Again thank you.
Be sure to do your research on the Carnac Alignment. At some times of the year the access to the stones is limited to certain times of day with a guided tour. I visited in May 2017 with a Road Scholar tour and the gate was locked unless you had an official guide. At that time the English tours provided by the Visitor Center were once a day later in the afternoon. Our Road Scholar guide said he'd had one experience where a lady tried to attach herself to his group and then pitched a fit and cried because she couldn't walk around the stones due to the closure. With the gate locked you can see the stones from the fence line. Here is a google street view of people walking alongside the fence line.
I also enjoyed the neolithic structures at Locqumariaquer which is near the Carnac Alignments. They have a good introductory film and if I remember correctly they give you headphones to listen to it in English. You can go in one of the passage tombs here.
This tour also spent nights in Quimper, Vannes (for the neolithic stones day) and Saint-Malo. I loved Saint-Malo! I found it very interesting - both the privateer background as well as watching the tides change so drastically so that the 3 small islets are accessible or not. If you visit here be sure to give yourselves enough time to visit all 3 islets which will require a low tide. If you have an interest in WWII there is also a German battery just outside the city walls which I did not have time to visit even though we spent 3 nights here. I also enjoyed the nights in Quimper and Vannes and all of Brittany I visited.