Just back from a two week break in Brittany with the grandkids where to my surprise very little has changed once you get off the motorways. Rural France has empty roads, open spaces and places to visit without meeting the crowds at the height of the tourist season. Indeed two places we visited which commanded just a sentence in the Michelin Green Guide we had to ourselves.
Our destination was a busy campsite just outside the medieval town of Dol-de-Bretagne – a place which is more likely to attract French tourists than the English – and most of the people do not speak English. It also stages a medieval tournament in August celebrating the rivalries in France once the English had been defeated!
Once away from the huge international tourist Des Ormes campsite with its five swimming pools, horse riding,golf and zip wire, you can find places that have hardly changed in centuries.
Most popular with us was Mont Dol -a 208 foot high granite mound. approached by a narrow road with a midway hairpin bend. Despite its diminutive size- it offers stupendous views stretching for miles across the Brittany-Normandy border, a tower, an old windmill, picnic area, children’s playground and a creperie.
In front of the mound lies a bit of France that resembles coastal Norfolk and Suffolk – a large expanse of salt marshes and drained farmland with dykes. Here only a few miles from the overcrowded mega tourist attraction of Mont St Michael are deserted bays, huge open skies, roads and tracks only frequented by cyclists and people searching for cockles and mussels.
Inland were the towns of Combourg – which has its own cheese – and Hede. The former has a lake and a chateau , the latter is on a hill with a ruined castle where we had the place to ourselves and the grandkids discovered a secret passage. The only public warning was not to nick the stones.
We also discovered a more popular zoo at a Bourbansais Chateau. – again set in gardens with everything from lions to lemurs. It also had its own pack of hunting dogs who put on a daily display – without killing anything!
But probably the quietest spot was a a half ruined former Benedictine abbey at Le Tronchet – a small village- which turned out to have a garden attached to it with picnic tables. Again apart from two French cyclists we had the place to ourselves.
It’s still great to know that you can find places in August where you can get away from the crowds if you want peace and quiet- even with four grandchildren.