This time we return to France to visit Mont Saint Michel, which we couldn’t visit on our 2015 trip because we didn’t have time.
The night before we went to bed with the uncertainty caused by a strike by air traffic controllers at French airports. But in principle, both on the Easyjet website and on the Aena website, it seems that it is on time. And without imagining that it would be the last plane trip we would take in a long time due to the Covid-19 pandemic that would be declared just a week later.
First of all, do not forget your travel insurance, for what may happen. We recommend IATI, specialists in travel insurance. Also, for being our reader, you will get a 5% discount on your insurance:
We arrived at the airport and, indeed, boarded on time. But being already seated, they warn that we will be delayed an hour.
We took off about 50 minutes late. Nantes welcomes us with rain and 2ºc. We’re going to be cold.
We go straight for the car, a citroen cactus, uglier than a pain inside and out. The car cost us a total of €64.94 ($78) for three days.
We left the airport and soon… traffic jam. Works on a bridge on the Nantes ring road. But hey, it’s relatively light.
We passed the traffic jam and about 20 km further on, PAM!, another traffic jam. This fatter and slower. More road works.
We passed the drink and about halfway between Nantes and Rennes we stopped to eat something.
I didn’t remember from the previous time, but the coffee in France is really bad. So few more coffees we were going to drink.
We continue on our way. About an hour and a half later we arrived at the medieval town of Dinan.
Dinan is founded in the 11th century. Around the year 1283 the wall was built and in 1364 the castle. The city prospered in the 16th century thanks to crafts and the port on the Rance River. In the 18th century, commercial activity was stimulated by the installation of numerous looms that supplied sails and fabrics to the ships of Saint Malo.
There are many car parks in the town, but since we are in low season, those in the center of town have free spaces.
We parked in the one in the market square and they charged us €2.40 ($2.90) per hour and a half. From here we begin to walk through the medieval quarter. The first stop is the Église Saint-Malo de Dinan.
Built during the 15th century, Duke Francis II, fearing the capture of Dinan, ordered the destruction of the first church of Saint-Malo shortly after. Between the end of the 15th century and the 16th century it was rebuilt and gradually enlarged.
We continue walking and a little further down we reach the Les Cordeliers convent. Built in 1251 under the patronage of Notre Dame des Vertus for the Franciscan monks, today converted into a secondary education institute. The downside is that visitors are not allowed.
We continue down walking through the beautiful old town of Dinan until we reach the Tour de l’Horloge, a bell tower built in the fifteenth century. You can go up to the bell tower by paying €4 ($4.80).
Nearby is the Basilique Saint-Sauveur de Dinan. It is one of two Catholic parish churches in Dinan along with the Église Saint-Malo. The oldest parts of the building were built in the 12th century and are Romanesque and Gothic in style.
We continue walking and arrive at the Château de Dinan. Built in 1384, it was declared a historical monument in 1886. It belongs to the commune and houses a municipal museum. With this visit we finish with Dinan.
Around 5:30 p.m. we set off for Saint Malo. About half an hour later we arrived in the city and left the car in one of the intramural parking lots.
Sain Malo is a historic French port in Ille-et-Vilaine, Brittany, on the English Channel coast. It was founded by the roosters in the 1st century BC. such as the Roman Reginca or Aletum.
At the end of the fourth century AD. C., the district of Saint-Servan was the site of an important promontory of the Saxon coast that protected the estuary of the Rance from maritime invaders from beyond the borders.
During the decline of the Western Roman Empire, Armorica (modern Britain) rebelled against Roman rule under the Bagaudae and in the 5th and 6th centuries received many Celtic Britons fleeing instability across the Channel.
Modern Saint-Malo traces its origins to a monastic settlement founded by Saint Aaron and Saint Brendan in the early 6th century.
On March 11, 1590, Saint-Malo proclaimed its independence from the Kingdom of France and became the Republic of Saint-Malo, taking the motto “not French, not Breton, but Malouine”. The republic comes to an end on December 5, 1594 with the conversion to Catholicism of King Henry IV.
After the definitive annexation of the Duchy of Brittany to France, and with the discovery of America and the development of overseas trade, Saint-Malo became an economic emporium. This economic development slowed down due to the French Revolution. The most traumatic episode was the shooting of 60 «counter-revolutionaries» in the dunes of the Vendean Armada in December 1793. The youngest was 16 years old, the oldest 19 .
We went up the wall to walk around it and enjoy the views. It was a wind that literally took you away from the rain at times. There was even a moment when sleet fell on us.
The truth is that it was worth it. The views of both the coast and the city are incredible. The pity is that at high tide it was not possible to reach the Petit and Grand Bé islands.
We walked along the wall and went down to the height of the town hall. The wind and the rain had been with us.
We went through the door of San Vicente and next to it we sat down in a creperie called La duchesse Anne to have a drink and, of course, to eat a crepe while it was pouring with rain.
After replenishing our strength, we went for a night walk to the cathedral.
The town at night was completely deserted and with little lighting so we decided to return to the car that we were 45 km from the hotel. Parking cost us only €0.60 ($0.70) for almost two hours. I guess in high season it will be more expensive.
It took us almost an hour to get to the hotel. It was raining buckets and nothing could be seen, apart from the fact that we got lost along the way.
The chosen hotel was the Ibis Portonson Baie du Mont Saint Michel. A newly built hotel, so much so that on google maps the location appears in the middle of a fence. The hotel was very good, the classic cut of all ibis. Also very cheap, €57 ($68.44) per night with breakfast included.
Find the best hotel at the best price in France near Mont Saint Michel with Agoda:
For dinner, as it was getting late, we decided to have it at the hotel restaurant, which specialized in grilled meat. The menu was only in French so after a while we played it safe and ordered some hamburgers that were really good. The only downside was the slow slow service.
After dinner, to bed, you had to get up very early.
We get up very early. Today it was time to visit the site that was the reason for the trip: Mont Saint Michel.
Mont Saint Michel.
Mont Saint Michel is located on a rocky tidal island (an island connected to land through a sand bar), although during prehistory it was on dry land.
Mont Saint-Michel was used in the 6th and 7th centuries as a bastion of Armorica until it was sacked by the Franks. Between the 5th and 8th centuries, Mont Saint Michel belonged to the territory of Neustria and, at the beginning of the 9th century, it was an important place in the Neustrian marches.
Until the 8th century the island was called Mont Tombe (Latin for tomb). According to a legend, the archangel Michael appeared in the year 708 to Aubert de Avranches, bishop of Avranches, and instructed him to build a church on the islet.
Through the Treaty of Compiègne in the year 867, the king of the Franks grants the Cotentin peninsula and the Avranchin, including Mont Saint Michel, to the Bretons.
In the year 933 William I Longsword annexed the Cotentin Peninsula of the weakened Duchy of Brittany to Normandy.
In 1067, the Mont Saint-Michel monastery supported William the Conqueror in his claim to the throne of England.
During the Hundred Years’ War, the Kingdom of England made repeated assaults on the island, but were unable to take it due to the improvement of the abbey’s fortifications.
We had breakfast quietly, throwing away half a coffee that looked like it was dog, undrinkable.
We set off and by 9 in the morning we were out of the car. We left it in one of the 13 car parks. In summer it has to be tremendous what people gather. There is a free bus that takes you from the car parks to the gate of the enclosure but we decided to do it on foot enjoying the views.
Supposedly it takes about 35 minutes but, between photos and selfies, it takes about 45.
As we crossed the bridge, a regular bus arrived from the nearby town of Portonson. The truth is that while I was preparing the trip I didn’t see him anywhere.
The town is very pretty, we climbed past a multitude of restaurants, hotels and gift shops on both sides until we reached, after about a million steps, the abbey.
The entrance fee is €11 ($13.21) and, apart from that, we rented an audio guide for an additional €3 ($3.60), which was very good because since we didn’t have headphones we could share it.
The abbey is truly spectacular, with a very, very rich history. It is a totally essential visit.
During the entire visit we were accompanied by a South Korean television crew who looked like they were recording a documentary.
At the end of the visit, the next step was to visit Fougères. We thought to eat there but we were separated by 50 minutes by car in the end we decided to look for something on the outskirts of the mountain. To return we took the free bus to the first stop it made.
You can hire a fabulous guided tour to discover the history and secrets of Mont Saint Michel with Civitatis:
There were many restaurants but some were closed. We assume that they will be seasonal and only open in summer.
In the end we decided on one that had very good reviews on the internet: Restaurant La Ferme Saint Michel, with typical French food.
We ate exaggeratedly well although somewhat expensive, but it is the tonic in France. We ate 2 menus, one for €24 ($28.80) and another for €29 ($34.80). Both consisted of a starter, main course and dessert, all to choose from several options. The truth is that it is highly recommended.
With a full belly, we returned to the parking lot and paid the €9.10 ($11) that it cost in low season and headed for the medieval village of Fougères.
Fougères is a French commune and sub-prefecture of Ille-et-Vilaine, in the Brittany region. The presence of numerous megalithic monuments, particularly in the Fougères forest, suggests that the region was already inhabited in Neolithic times.
The creation of Fougères dates back to the Middle Ages. We find the first mention of the Château de Fougères towards the end of the 10th century, when it was then a simple wooden fortification situated on a rocky promontory, whose position advantageously dominated the Nançon valley and the surrounding marshes.
From the twelfth century the population moved away from the banks of the Nançon and the city grew upwards, divided into two parishes: Saint-Sulpice for the lower city and Saint-Léonard for the upper city. The economy then is based on the tanneries, weavers and drapers.
In the 16th century the city lost its defensive role. The craft continues to develop, particularly pewter work. During the Wars of Religion, the city remained Catholic while Vitré was affected by clashes with the Huguenots.
At the beginning of the 20th century, industry gradually replaced craftsmanship and the manufacture of footwear grew little by little.
During the Oil Crisis of 1973, shoe factories gradually closed. From here the industry diversified: agri-food, furniture, mechanics, glass, electronics, computing and robotics. Fougères also organizes an important cattle market. Beginning in the 2000s, the city became more open to tourism, thanks to the development of its medieval castle and historic quarters.
A little less than an hour after leaving we were parking in one of the car parks in the town that was free, at least at this time.
As soon as we leave the car park, we find ourselves in front of the Château de Fougères.
The Château de Fougères, was built in the 10th century and destroyed in 1166, what we can now see is a reconstruction that spans from the 12th to the 15th century. It can be visited by paying €8.50 ($10.25).
Next to the Château de Fougères is the Église Saint-Sulpice de Fougères. Built between the moats of the castle and the old course of the river Nançon, in the medieval quarter of the tanners between the 12th and 16th centuries, it constitutes the heart of the bourg-vieil (ville-basse).
Nearby there was a path that was supposed to lead to a viewpoint called Butte à Bigot. Do not go. You don’t see a shit.
We get off the trickster and we walk through the medieval quarter until we reach the public garden.
We climb the hills of the public garden until we reach the Eglise Saint-Léonard. From there we can admire magnificent views.
The Eglise Saint-Léonard was built in the 12th century by the monks of Pontlevoy on the plateau overlooking the castle of Ferns.
Since it was too late, we decided to cancel the visit to Vitré and go directly to Rennes, where we have the hotel for the night.
About 40 minutes after leaving, we arrived at the hotel. We chose the Novotel Rennes Alma. Well located for us since it was next to the exit of the ring road that headed straight for Nantes so as not to lose time the next day. The bad thing is that, to get to the center of Rennes, you have to use public transport.
Find the best hotel at the best price in Rennes with Agoda:
The hotel surprised us but not for the better. There was no elevator. It only has two floors but climbing the stairs loaded with suitcases is a chore. Also, he looked quite old. The room was very spacious and we had free teas and instant coffees in the room.
Rennes is the capital of the Bretagne region and capital of the Ille-et-Vilaine department. It was founded between the 2nd and 1st centuries b.C. as the capital of the Gallic tribe of the redons, then called Condate. During the Roman Empire it became an important urban nucleus.
The city became one of the most important towns in the border region of the Duchy of Bretagne during the Middle Ages with the arrival of the Breton peoples.
Following the annexation of the Duchy of Bretagne to the Kingdom of France, it becomes a provincial capital and hosts the Parliament of Bretagne.
We left the hotel and went to the subway, which was about 15 minutes from the hotel. We took line A for €1.50 ($1.80) each ticket, which is valid for one hour, and went to République station.
We exit the metro and find ourselves next to the Palais du Commerce. Built in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it is an old stock exchange. The building housed the library, the Regional School of Fine Arts or the National Conservatory of Music. A post office and the Café de la Paix have been present in the building since the first inauguration.
We go for a walk to the center of the city. Very close we reach the Place de la Mairie. In it we can find the Hôtel de Ville and the Opéra de Rennes.
The Hôtel de Ville was built between 1734 and 1743 by Ange-Jacques Gabriel after the great fire of Rennes in 1720, while Toussaint-François Rallier du Baty was mayor. It housed in its north wing the faculties of law and science from 1840. The chemistry cabinet, occupied in particular by professor Faustino Malaguti until 1855, was in the current mayor’s office.
The Opéra de Rennes is an Italian-style hall designed by Charles Millardet and built by Pierre Louise in the 19th century. Today, the building mainly houses lyrical art and hosts some local events, such as the open-air opera.
Nearby is the Palace of the Parliament of Bretagne. It is a building of classical architecture built in the 17th century and was the seat of the Parliament of Bretagne from its construction until its dissolution by the French Revolution in February 1790. The building became the Rennes Court of Appeal in 1804. This monument it was completely restored after the fire of February 5, 1994, as a result of an incident related to the violent demonstrations of fishermen.
We continue walking through the beautiful medieval center of Rennes until we reach the Basilique Saint-Aubin in Notre-Dame de Bonne-Nouvelle. It is a minor Catholic basilica located on the Place Sainte-Anne. Its construction began in 1884 and to this day it remains unfinished. Apart from that, they are fixing the surroundings so the compound is closed and full of construction materials.
To one side is the Le Couvent des Jacobins – Center des Congrès de Rennes Métropole. It is an old religious building and a former barracks built in 1369. It includes an abbey, a cloister and convent buildings. In 2018, the building became the Rennes Métropole convention center.
For dinner, while walking, we booked a hamburger place with a very good aspect. It’s called Back to the 60’s and as it indicates, it’s set in the United States of the 60’s. Since it closed late and it was full, we continued walking.
After a while we came back and it was still full but we still went in. We waited 20 minutes and got a table. It must be said that, indeed, they were a scandal and it was not too expensive. All the burgers were around €15 ($18.15) and came with a bunch of fries and a little bit of salad.
After dinner we returned to the subway to go to the hotel to rest. Taking out the ticket, a girl who had just gotten off arrived and gave us her ticket, which was still valid. She explained to us that it is standard practice to leave them on top of the machine for people to use. There we realized that there were quite a few bills in all of them. In fact, there were signs saying that it was prohibited. When we got to our stop, we did the same thing. Wherever you go, do what you see…
We get up early with a bit of rain and we set off for Nantes. At first we were going to separate an hour and a half but the surroundings of the hotel were all cut off by a popular race for Women’s Day.
Nantes is the capital of the Loire-Atlantique Department and is located on the banks of the homonymous river.
It is believed that during Roman times its name was Condevicnum and it was the capital of a town called “Namnetes” and was part of the Lugdunense province (whose capital was Lugdunum, present-day Lyon).
Imperial rule over Nantes ended at the beginning of the 5th century, and the city was successively part of the Kingdom of Clovis, the Frankish Kingdom of Neustria, and the Carolingian Empire.
In the year 843, the Vikings invaded Nantes for the first time. They settled on an island in the area and over almost 100 years they made several attempts to conquer it. They were definitively expelled in 937 by the Breton duke Alain Barbetorte, who made the city his capital. But, after his death, the dukedom passed to the counts of Rennes.
In the middle of the 11th century, Count Hoel de Cornouaille inherited the County of Nantes and married the heir to the Duchy of Brittany. During the Hundred Years’ War, Nantes was besieged by the English in 1343, attacked by the Earl of Buckingham, and subsequently liberated by Olivier de Clisson in 1380.
It was besieged again in 1491 by the King of France, Charles VIII, to whom it was delivered for treason, marrying Duchess Anne of Brittany to legitimize the rights he had just acquired over Anne’s inheritance.
As a result of these marriages, Brittany, as well as the city of Nantes, was officially incorporated into France in 1532. Nantes ceased to be the capital of Brittany, becoming Rennes.
Between the 15th and 19th centuries it was the most important Atlantic slave trading port in all of France.
After a thousand turns and on the verge of desperation, we managed to reach the back of the hotel where the parking entrance was.
The hotel we chose was the Ibis Nantes center Gare Sud. Right in the center of Nantes but easy to get to by car in normal conditions, in fact, leaving the city was not difficult at all. Parking cost us €13 ($15.73) extra.
Find the best hotel at the best price in Nantes and France with Agoda:
We left things in storage because it was early and we are going to see Nantes.
Right next to the hotel is La Tour Lu. The tower belongs to the old LU (biscuit) factory opened in 1895. Two corner towers were built in 1909 but were damaged by bombing during World War II. Today only one of them remains, which was restored to its original state by the architect Jean-Marie Lépinay at the end of the 1990s.
From here we cross a bridge to the outside of the Château des ducs de Bretagne, the castle of the Dukes of Bretagne. It served as the center of the historic province of Brittany until its separation in 1956.
It is located on the right bank of the Loire river, which previously fed its ditches. It was the residence of the dukes of Bretagne between the 13th and 16th centuries, later becoming the Breton residence of the French monarchy. Today the castle houses the Nantes History Museum.
Next to the castle is the tourist office. We go in for a bit of information. The girl who attended us had a terrible time the poor thing because she spoke little english.
We entered the castle since walking along the top of the wall is free. Despite the rain and the cold, walking the walls is very good, you enjoy good views of the surroundings.
On one of the sides, there was a very long slide that went to the pit but it only opens in summer if the weather allows it. Now, it’s really ugly.
From here we went for a walk in the rain to the Cathédrale Saint-Pierre-et-Saint-Paul, the cathedral of the Diocese of Nantes and seat of the Bishop of Nantes. Its construction spanned 457 years, from 1434 to 1891, but these delays in no way affect the quality or consistency of its Gothic style. It has been classified as a historical monument since 1862.
Inside you can admire the tomb and effigies of Duke Francis II of Bretagne and his wife Margaret of Foix (parents of Anne of Bretagne). This marble tomb, which Michel Colombe took five years to complete (1502-1507), is decorated with the twelve apostles and four women who represent strength, prudence, temperance and justice. It was installed in the cathedral in 1817.
The building also houses the cenotaph of General de Lamoricière, a monument erected in 1878 in papal tribute to the services rendered by this son of Nantes.
Leaving the cathedral, we noticed that there was a green line on the ground. It turns out that they have marked the tourist tours of the city. In addition, at certain points there is an eye drawn, a perfect point to contemplate the monument.
We were already a little hungry but it was early. Next to the cathedral there was a pastry bakery where there was a long queue that stretched down the street. This has to be very tasty, so we got in line.
The site is called La Boulangerie d’Antan. It had a million kinds of bread, cakes and sandwiches. We bought some typical sweets from Nantes called bottereaux, which are like a kind of small square donuts, and also a brioche I don’t know which was very good.
Very close we passed in front of a starbucks. Although we don’t like it very much, we decided to go in to see if, being a franchise, the coffee was less bad. I ordered a warm matchalatte and Sara ordered a coffee that was less bad but not good.
With our bodies warm, we approach the nearby Place Royale. It was designed in 1786 by the architect Mathurin Crucy and built in 1790 after the destruction of the medieval walls. The fountain was built in 1865.
Next to the fountain there was a group of people making a claim for Women’s Day.
Behind the Place Royale is the Basilique Saint-Nicolas. It is a neo-gothic style basilica. The current building was built between 1844 and 1869, although as early as 1186 there are signs of a religious building.
Nearby is also the Passage Pommeraye, a market gallery built from the end of 1840. Its construction led to the ruin of its promoter, Louis Pommeraye.
The passage, considered an architectural success, was still a flourishing place of commerce. It has benefited from a renovation completed in 2015. The site is certainly gorgeous.
A little further on we come to Place Graslin. This is one of the main squares in the city center of which the most significant monument is the Graslin Theater, which is Nantes’ opera house built at the end of the 17th century.
While we are on our way to Les Machines de l’Île, we are looking for somewhere to eat, but nothing is open. On a Sunday at noon all restaurants closed? live to see.
Arriving at the esplanade where the Les Machines de l’Île site is located, we see that there is a small cafeteria called Café de la Branche, so we go in to look. They had sandwiches and sandwiches so we ate au gratin sandwiches that came on a plate with salad that was very good and cost €7.50 ($9.07).
After eating, the first tour of the Grand Éléphant began, the star of the Les Machines de l’Île exhibition.
Les Machines de l’île is an exhibition and entertainment space created by François Delarozière and Pierre Orefice that is located on the Ile de Nantes, in the Parc des Chantiers, on the site of former shipyards now in disuse. The island’s machines are at the crossroads of Jules Verne’s “invented worlds”, the mechanical universe of Leonardo da Vinci and the industrial history of Nantes.
We made a long queue to be able to buy the ticket. The price of admission to the exhibition is €8.50 ($10.30). With this same ticket you get a discount of €1.60 ($1.94) if you want to get on the Carrousel des Mondes Marins. But if instead of riding the carousel you just want to see it, they charge you €6.30 ($7.60). Good business. The ride on the Grand Éléphant costs another €8.50 ($10.30).
The exhibition is pretty cool. It consists of various machines in the shape of animals imitating their movements where they tell you various stories about them. The explanations are in French but in many places you have QR codes with which you download an application where they are also given in various languages. You also have access to the workshops in which they show an explanatory video of how everything has been assembled. It is in french but subtitled in english.
On leaving, we approached the Carrousel des Mondes Marins but since they put many images in the explanatory video, we didn’t pay the 6€ since we weren’t going to get on.
From here we went for a walk along the banks of the Loire River to the hotel to check-in and rest a bit.
The walk along the riverbank had been recommended to us by the girl at the information office, but the truth is that there is nothing remarkable about it.
The hotel follows the same line as the Ibis. The room was a bit small, but having stayed twice in tiny Japanese hotel rooms, we don’t mind too much. The best thing is that it has great views of the Château des Ducs de Bretagne and the cathedral.
After the break we go out again for a walk. We walked through Les cours Saint-Pierre et Saint-André, which are two boulevards that run behind the cathedral and are separated by a square where there is a column that pays homage to Louis XVI.
We reached the nearby Eglise Saint Clément and retraced our steps. We pass by the Erdre river canal, where they show a video of a girl’s face in the water. Silly but curious. It’s called Nymphea.
From here we went to the old town to find somewhere to have dinner. We walked around the castle and followed one of the green tourist lines. The line took us to the Place du Buffau, where there is a curious sculpture of a guy with one foot outside the pedestal with which we were fooling around for a while.
We followed the green line back to the center and reached the Église Sainte-Croix de Nantes where it entered a closed shopping gallery.
We continued walking and when we arrived at the Hôtel de Ville it started to rain. We decided to go somewhere for dinner. With the pints we had we got into a very fine and modern place called Le cochon qui fume. We ate very well despite the sablazo and we went to rest at the hotel.
Last hours in France. We got up early and went to the bakery the day before to buy some sandwiches to eat on the plane and some sweets. Back to the hotel we did it walking. We returned to the castle to enjoy it for a little while without rain.
It was very sad to leave because today it was sunny and the sky was completely clear. We went back to the hotel, took the car and went to the airport. At 11.50 the flight to Granada left on time, where we arrived about 20 minutes early after a quiet flight.
Find the best activities and tours in Nantes and France with Civitatis:
A very intense and well-used three-day trip. Once again, France surprises us with its landscapes, its towns and its people. The truth is that it was well worth it and it will surely not be the last time we visit it.