Travel

Pauline Lemaire: My controversial advice? Ditch the South of France for Brittany

With the scorching heat and overcrowded beaches, the South of France has been overhyped. The tsunami of tourists that devours that part of France during the summer months makes it impossible to lay down your beach towel without impinging on your neighbour’s, and the sweltering sun thwarts any activity you were thinking of doing unless you do it at the crack of dawn or at night. As you can’t tell, I’m not the biggest fan of the South in the summer, and I find refuge elsewhere: Brittany.

‘Bad weather’ is a ploy

Brittany is known for having dreadful weather, but I disagree. I personally think it’s a ploy to keep tourists away and the region out of sight.

Sure, it does not get to 40 degrees, but as I am writing this article it is 32 degrees and the sun is shining like there’s no tomorrow. There are a few sayings about the weather, such as: “En Bretagne, il ne pleut que sur les cons” (in Brittany it only rains on assholes), or “en Bretagne il fait beau plusieurs fois par jour” (in Brittany, the weather is nice several times a day).

Sure, it’s not always that hot, but I thoroughly enjoy the fact that the weather is colder than in the South. Why, might you ask? Because it means that I can be more active during my holidays, and go to sleep knowing I’ve done something during my day rather than basking in the sun all day long.

There are a plethora of activities to do in Brittany, be it water sports, walking, diving, visiting cultural places, fishing.

The best part? You can do it all without having to deal with a crowd of holiday makers.

Where to go

Okay. Now that I’ve convinced you to ditch the South for Brittany (hi, my second name is “Bold”), let’s talk about where to go.

Visiting Brittany means choosing to visit one of its four departments. The landscapes are not only breathtaking but also incredibly varied. From the pink-coloured rocks of the Côtes d’Armor to the wild coast of Morbihan, or the translucent waters at the foot of the steep cliffs of Finistère to the creeks of the Emerald Coast, you will be absolutely spoilt for choice.

I personally go to the Côtes d’Armor; that’s where I’ve been every single summer since I was born.

I’d recommend going to St-Briac, St-Lunaire; these are adorable towns by the sea. Once you’re there, you can spend the day at the pink granite coast, where you’ll see pink sand, sail to Les Ébihens (an island with translucent water) and have a picnic there, walk along the coastal path and stop at any beach that tickles your pickle.

In the Finistère, I’d highly recommend Crozon peninsula, and more specifically Morgat. It is a former sardine village of Douarnenez that has become a seaside resort. With its sea caves and 19th century villas along the beaches, this little part of Brittany’s coastline will not disappoint you. The beach was even  rated as the 14th most beautiful in the world by The Guardian, I’m not shitting you.

For nature lovers, there are many hiking trails to choose from. Just take the famous GR 34, also called “sentier des douaniers” which runs along more than 1800 kilometers, across the entire coast of Brittany, from Mont-Saint-Michel to Saint-Nazaire.

The views you get from this hike are simply stunning, and the path is adapted for people who aren’t used to go on treks. You can easily join and leave the path, and there are stunning beaches along it, most of them will only have a couple of people sunbathing there.

Brittany is also a place of many myths and legends. In popular culture, it is said that Merlin, the king’s advisor, uses his magic to bring about the birth of Arthur, the future king of Great and Little Brittany.

After extracting the sword Excalibur from its stone scabbard, Arthur founded the Round Table and launched his knights on the quest for the Grail. This legend takes place in the Forêt de Brocéliande, in Brittany! There, you can even try to take the sword out of the rock – you might come back from Brittany as a King or a Queen! Can the South offer you this opportunity? I think not ….

The cherry on top is that local specialties are scrumptious. Brittany is an authentic gastronomic land. It is the leading milk producing region in France, it is known for its kouign amann, buckwheat crêpes, salted caramel, Guéméné andouille – a sort of sausage – apple cider and much more … not to mention the seafood.

Further, it’s decently priced, unlike food in the South of France.

If this article hasn’t convinced you to ditch the South, I don’t know what will. Your soul is lost, pal, there’s no coming back from the dark (or way too bright) side.

Kenavo!

See more here about France in the Dispatches archive.

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Pauline Lemaire is a Digital Anthropology Masters student at University College London (UCL) and is thus currently based in London. She grew up in Singapore and Morocco, but her family has now relocated to Paris.

She holds a bachelor’s degree in French Literature and Philosophy from the University of Oxford.

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