herald

Wednesday 16 January 2019

Hit me one more time with the joys of Brittany

THURSDAY Our home for the week is the Domaine de Cice-Blossac, a pleasant golf and spa resort, about 15km from Rennes.

The secret weapon is the restaurant on the course, with a set €16 menu which would leave many more expensive restaurants stranded in the rough.

FRIDAY If Brittany was an independent state, as it was up to the 1530s, it would very likely be one of Ireland's favourite holiday destinations.

It is the right size for us, one and a half times the area and one and a half times the population of Munster -- three million people resolute and adamant they were never properly conquered by the French and wearing their Celtic credentials on their sleeves.

Each day of the week is a revelation -- the beaches, the countryside, the markets, the cider (and calvados), but especially the walled towns.

SATURDAY Our guide in St Malo tells the story of the cat who died for France. It happened in the 17th century when the British decided to drive a sailing ship loaded with explosives at the walls of the city, but it went off prematurely and wiped out the invading army instead. The only Breton casualty was a cat, which has a street named after him for his heroism.

SUNDAY Fougeres is a ruggedly beautiful fortified frontier town just off the road from the ferry -- not exactly undiscovered, but a hideaway compared with Mont St Michel. It has an amazing frontier chateau that seems to ramble along the headland, making up its defensive strategy as it goes along.

MONDAY Our guide in Rennes is Severine Even, lively and knowledgeable as she brings us into hidden courtyards and reveals a town we tend to pass through.

The tour includes a ramble in the massive gardens and a jaunt on the subway, because Rennes is the smallest city to have its own Metro, smaller than Cork, with 210,000 people and a student population of 60,000.

Since I first came in the 1980s, it has changed beyond recognition, its city centre pedestrianised and its old wooden-fronted pubs and shops revealed to the world once more.

TUESDAY An amazing dinner in the St George Creperie in the Rue du Chapitre, an intimate setting in a rambling old home. My St Jacques scallops are as juicy as any pilgrim would want.

WEDNESDAY The last stop before the journey from Roscoff to stock up on wine, garlic, olive oil and onions. Some day we will leave the children behind to get more wine into the car.

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