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Occitan to Brittany March-April 2021

A little late with this one but here goes. We headed out in late March for our first post Covid travel. Our first leg was from Reno to Toulouse by way of LAX and CDG. At LAX we had a shuttle bus to get to the international terminal. We were standing for the short(3 min) ride when an airport host told two younger people to "get up so these seniors can have a seat" we protested but to no avail The result of which was a "Ride of Shame" to the terminal. Our Air France non-stop to CDG was uneventful but I was apprehensive about the 1:50 hr connection to Toulouse which we made without any problem. The departure terminal was jam packed, distancing nothing but a faint memory. On arrival at a rainy Toulouse we grabbed a cab to our hotel, located right off Place du Capitol, which turned out to be a great location as we had showery, cold and breezy conditions for all three days. It was good to be really centrally located be able to get out of the weather when necessary. We found Toulouse to be a great city with good pedestrianized walking and interesting sights. Place du Capitol had markets, political rallies, and other activities. There is good high end window shopping. Lots of really appealing cafes and shops. We really enjoyed the area by the river and university. plenty of great little cafes. Unfortunately not an option with the cool conditions. There is a lot of unexpected Modernista architecture which I enjoyed, along with the usual compliment of old churches. The Convent des Jacobins, Eglise Notre-Dame la tour and Basilique Notre Dame la Daurade among others. All in all a great city with good walking, shopping and eating and good day trip options.
We took the train to Albi a wonderful medieval city about 1 hour away with a stunning cathedral(Sainte Cecile). I am always amazed at these seemingly isolated towns come up with these marvelous religious monuments. Albi was a very good destination
with good sights and walking and we found a very nice cafe for lunch.

My battery is getting low

Posted by
22581 posts

Thanks, Brad. I liked both Toulouse and Albi, too. Very nice places not awash with a lot of English-speaking tourists.

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297 posts

After 3 nites in Toulouse we picked up a car and headed to South to Tarascon where we found a nice little hotel. We had a nice room with a terrase overlooking the river. They and a good breakfast and dinner in the restaurant. Plenty of opportunity to practice my emergency French. Tarascon served as a base for day trips through the Ariege countryside. We visited Mirepoix a cuter than cute bastide town on market day. While markets are always entertaining I would have rather had a quiet day to savor the ambience.
This is in the heart of Cathar country and in Vals we stumbled on a small church cut into the rock to hide it from marauding Christians from the other tribe. Very atmospheric. There was a delightful little cafe, perfect for a mid-day cafe and pastis. Foix is a somewhat bigger town with a hilltop castle that is still intact, rare in Cathar country an most of the Cather fortifications were laid waste by Catholic forces. The town of Foix is a charming place with local artisans. There are dozens of captivating little towns all through the region. Saint Girons has a fascinating little museum, Le Chemin de la Liberte, dedicated to the local resistance fighters who helped American flyers and Jews escape over the Pyrenees to Spain. Just up the road is St Lizier with a great old church with frescoes of pilgrims on the way to Santiago and views of the snow capped Pyrenees fantastic. Our next stop was Luz Saint Sauveur for a couple of nites to hike around the Cirque de Gavarine. It was spectacular but snowy roads curtailed our plans for more Pyrenees hiking. With a couple of unexpected days we headed to Basque country landing in St Jean Pied de Port for 2 nites. Loved our little sample of Basque country, gotta go back with lots more time. We did get to Espelette and Ainhoa beautiful, beautiful countryside.

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It was time to head north to Brittany. We stopped in Saintes for 2 nites to break up the drive. What a great town Saintes is. It has a Roman arch, an amphitheater, an old church with a cool crypt, a convent with nice cloister, good walking along the river and through town(no traffic). good shopping and people watching all in all a great stop that is way off the main tourist trail.

We drove on to Brittany, first stop Auray/Port de Saint Goustan...as pretty as can be. we day tripped to St. Anne de Auray, Vannes Carnac and Quiberon. Couldn't make it to Belle Ile en Mere due to holiday crowds. After 4 nites we headed toward Dinan with a 1 nite stop in Paimpol, a charming little harbor town. On the way to Dinan we cruised the stunning coast with beautiful beaches, lighthouses and Fort la Latte. Three nights in Dinan happy to just wander, had wonderful meals mostly crepes. Took trips to Lehon, Saint Suiac, Dol de Bretagne, Mt . Dol for a view MSM in the hazy distance. After 3 nites we drove to Rennes, dropped the car and trained to Paris for our last 2 nites we hoped. We found a pharmacy near Le Sorbonne took our covid tests and came back 30 minutes later to the best sight of the trip: Thumbs Up from the pharmacist!

Posted by
9001 posts

And thumbs up to you for your report, your off-the- tourist-trail itinerary you've shared, and your appreciation for places you visited. Thank you.

Posted by
8921 posts

Resurrecting our planned trip to Brittany that was canceled due to COVID and your report is very helpful. Thanks!