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Trip Report: 3 Weeks in Northern France - Days 5 & 6

Day 5 – Carnac, Vannes, Dinan: We started with boulangerie pastries for breakfast, then drove to Maison des Megalithes, the visitor center for the Alignements de Carnac. It was the Sunday of Journees du Patrimoine which meant free admission and tours, and thus crowds.

I get giddy over ancient sites and was determined to go on a tour, even though they are only in French at this time of year, because I thought it was the only way to walk among the stones and not behind a rope. We arrived early and were among the first inside. As it turns out there are some roped off places in a couple areas with the largest stones, but everywhere else you can wander freely. The young man at the tour desk thought I was nuts for wanting to go on a French tour. Probably.

We strolled on our own through the Menac and Kermario Alignements. There are over 2000 standing stones lined up in rows that cover acres of ground in four different areas. They date from around 3000 BC and their exact significance is not known, most likely astronomical or ceremonial. My husband farms alfalfa and he said the stones were in the way and farmers just lined them up in rows so they could grow crops in between. He likes to torment me.

I managed to drag myself from the megalithic marvels and we drove to the city of Vannes. We walked around the historic center and the Jardin de Ramparts, which is in the former moat outside the city walls. We had galettes for lunch at Petites Bretonnes.

Next stop was Dinan. We wandered around town taking pictures of the interesting half-timber architecture and the clock tower. Dinner was pizza and salad at Pizzeria Cecco. Since it was Sunday evening the town was virtually shuttered, but we felt we had seen enough, and wouldn’t spend additional time the next morning as originally planned. We stayed at Chambre d’hote Priory View, a well located B & B with onsite parking and a view of a cute little chapel.

Day 6 – Fort La Latte, Saint Malo, Mont Saint Michel: We diverted from our itinerary and decided to visit Fort La Latte in the morning and see if there was still time for the planned scenic drive along the coast between Saint Malo and Cancale. Touring the fort was interesting and we walked up the hill above for some nice photos of it and the coast.

In Saint Malo we ate my favorite sandwich of the entire trip, roast beef, tomato and cream cheese, while sitting on a bench right inside the gates. We had our first macarons as well. The walls are very impressive and we walked most of the way around them to get a view of the forts in the bay. Then we came down and walked along some of the streets. It’s picturesque, but was the most crowded place we had been so far.

There wasn’t time for the scenic coastal drive because we wanted to arrive at Mont Saint Michel by 17:00. We made a wifi stop at a McDonald’s because we needed to get in touch with home and weren’t sure we could from the Mont. We use (free) Google Voice for calls and Hangouts for texting at night using hotel wifi and don’t bother with a call plan or data. BTW the French pronunciation “wee fee” really makes me smile.

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On to my number one must see, must stay in France, Mont Saint Michel, which has captivated me for years. We put what we needed for the night in a (heavy) duffel bag because I had read it was difficult taking suitcases up the cobbled street. It would have been a bit bumpy, but if I had to do it over I would take a small suitcase rather than lugging the duffel. OK, it wasn’t me lugging it.

We stayed at Hotel du Guesclin with the half board option which included dinner and breakfast. We checked in and walked along the walls and main street a little, then had dinner in the lovely bay view dining room at a table by the windows. We both enjoyed our meals. Huge Normandy salads to start, and for the main Kevin had the pre-sale lamb and I had pork medallions. For dessert he had crème brulee and I had chocolate cake.

The tide started coming in as we were finishing so we dashed out to watch from the walls, then went outside the gates to take night photos when everything was lit up. It was the second highest tide of the year and it came up inside the gates several feet deep. We ran back in before we were cut off but some people got stranded outside for a long time. We watched until the tide peaked and wandered around the dark, quiet, nearly deserted lanes a bit before going to bed. A wish list item fulfilled.

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Carolyn, thanks for taking the time for a trip report. Your descriptions bring to my memory a lovely trip I had with my husband a few years ago.

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Your husband might be right about the reason for the alignments, and I think they also probably made the work into recreation. They didn't have baseball, so they went out on Sunday afternoons, drank beer, and raised another stone. Maybe they had teams that competed for raising the largest or most stones.
(Kidding! Sort of!)
Edited to add...of course the alignments probably are religious or at least serious in joke is only to point out how little we really can know. My joke is not meant to dismiss the awesomeness of the place, or the probable serious intentions of the builders.

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That's part of the appeal for me. The mystery. The unknown is fascinating. And the possibility of the mundane is real. But I hope not. ;D

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We were in Carnac the same time as you, Carolyn, and spent three nights at Hotel les Alignements. For the first time in France we took that little train and it had a good English commentary. I learned that many of those stones needed to be righted because they had fallen down over the millennia. It made me a little suspicious about how they were originally aligned.
We loved our ten days in Brittany and were glad we finally visited that part of France. We especially enjoyed the hiking and the hydrangeas,the moules and the kouign amann. And we were amused by the hay bale art.

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Thanks again for posting. It sounds like you ate simple meals on the run for most of the days. Love reading about Normandy. We had a great trip there in Aug.