France Travel Update: Brittany
France and my relationship just became complicated. After visiting the Riviera and Provence in the south, then playing in Paris, I didn’t expect another region to win my affection with the same fervor—until we traveled to Brittany along the country’s northern coast.
I’ve long wondered if I harbor an inner-French girl, and after our trip to Brittany, a coastal region in the far northwest of France, I’m positive both that I do and that she’s from Bretagne.
Because Brittany is fairly remote, it wasn’t in our original trip agenda. While visiting my host family in Angers, however, I learned that it’s one of their favorite areas of France, and their experience, combined with my total fixation for the region’s signature cuisines—seafood, butter, caramel, and crepes/galettes—was enough to sway us to buy train tickets. I couldn’t be happier that we did.
Galettes (savory and lightly crispy buckwheat crepes) with a view at Le Corps de Garde: Some of the best crepes we’ve had in France and a must-visit in St. Malo. Look past the pirate garb-wearing servers—it might look kitschy, but these galettes are the real-deal!
We spent two days in the seaside village of St. Malo, and it stole my heart. If I suddenly disappear, assume I’ve run away to Brittany, and please come visit. I’ll be the girl on the beach drowning herself in salted caramel and cider.
Pouring a “bowl” of hard cider at the loverly creperie Chez Chantal. Forget the sticky sweet stuff you’ve tried in the U.S. Breton cider is crisp, light, and ultra-refreshing. I loved it so much, I splurged on a cider pitcher and glass set to throw my own little crepe and cider soiree at home.
Salted caramel crepe at Chez Chantal: A pillow from heaven smothered with the golden nectar of angels.
In addition to galettes and cider, we managed to devour 2 kilos of another Breton regional specialty, moules marinières: fresh mussels cooked in white wine, shallots, parsley and butter.
Moules marinaire for two at Amoricaine. This restaurant was recommended by our hotel and is a gem. Fabulous quality seafood for a steal-of-a-deal.
Clearly, one kilo of mussels wasn’t sufficient, so we went in for moules marinaire, part II the next day at Cafe St. Malo. The dish was equally fresh and flavorful, but the price tag was higher for the restaurant’s primo location on the main square.
We also took advantage of our trip by supplementing our meals with classic Breton pastries, which are made with copious amounts of what may be the region’s most important product, butter.
Salted butter from Brittany changed my life. I’m exaggerating (I am totally not exaggerating). Honestly, I did not realize that butter could have so much flavor until I came to Brittany, where it is practically its own food group. The restaurants in Brittany are the only ones in France we’ve visited that serve butter with the bread, and it’s the most important ingredient in classic Breton pastries—kougign amann (thin flakey layers of dough, separated by outlandish quantities of caramelized salted butter), gateaux Breton (a rich, buttery, almost shortbread-like cake), and shortbread cookies. It’s doesn’t taste too shabby loaded into salted butter caramels either.
A box of butter caramels for the road. I found this beauty at the charming shop and opted for the larger size. A bigger tin is far more “useful” than a smaller one, don’t you agree?
In addition to the fantastic eats, I treasured Brittany for its kindness and hospitality. From our hotel’s concierge (we stayed at the Hotel Le Nautilus—perfect service, location, and the most powerful water pressure of any shower I’ve encountered in France), to the woman who patiently waited while I meticulously picked through every one of her cider bowls to make my selection, to the kind gentleman who didn’t let on if he found it odd that I frequented his bakery three times in two hours, everyone we met in St. Malo was warm and welcoming.
If the promise of friendliness, buttery pastries, luscious caramels, and ultra-fresh seafood isn’t enough to lure you to Brittany, perhaps I can interest you in this view?
Dear Brittany, I miss you, and I hope to return one day.
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