Along Saint-Malo’s fortified walls (March 2016).

While spending the long, extended Easter weekend in Rennes during my first year in France, I also did a day trip to two other small cities in the Brittany region. Considering that I’d never explored Brittany, I wanted to at least see a few places outside of Rennes, its capital. Thanks to my Couchsurfing host, who had a car, we spent a day in Saint-Malo and Dinan sightseeing and taking in that Brittany atmosphere in late spring.

Following my first night in Rennes, my host and I took his car early in the morning to Saint-Malo. Despite his car being small and rather old, it got us to the historic, fortified town along the stormy English Channel. Despite it being late spring, weather was still overcast, even drizzling throughout our time in town.

My Couchsurfing host, who was a local, said that Brittany is known for consistently overcast and dreary weather all-year round– however, that was the beauty of it, and I had to agree with him. I found the grey skies to be a lovely contrast to the milky-blue waters as we walked along the fortified walls, with views of the sea looking out towards England, some several hundred kilometers away. An unexpected beauty, but a beauty nevertheless.

On the fortified walls.
Looking out to the sea.

We had our time with the fortified walls, and we soon descended into the historic center, where it was bustling with people. As it was the weekend (and especially that of Easter), there were quite a bit of people in town, both locals and visitors alike. Many shops and restaurants were full of people, as well as stalls selling galette brétonnes and la mère Poulard biscuits, the latter being famous in the region. In fact, we popped into one of the shops where I, after some deliberation, chose some apple-flavored la Mère Poulard biscuits to bring back home for my family (since I was leaving in about a month after my assistant-ship ended).

My host and I continued to wander the Old Town, and we eventually got ice cream at one of the stands. Feeling bold, I opted for the réglisse flavor– actually, I didn’t know what it was (namely, the English translation) so it was a not-so-lovely surprise when I later found out that it was licorice! I’m not a fan of licorice, so I can say that I didn’t especially enjoy my ice cream– alas, a lesson learned!

Réglisse-flavored ice cream.


It was perhaps slightly past noon when we left Saint-Malo, taking my Couchsurfing host’s car over to Dinan, another fortified city in Brittany. We didn’t spend as much time there, since the weather, which had been drizzling, started to pour on-and-off. As I wrote, there is beauty to the rainy skies in Brittany, but too much of it was off-putting, especially for sightseeing!

We wandered Old Town, which was actually quite empty, since many people had scattered once it’d started raining. My host and I grabbed some food to-go in town and settled near the town’s aqueduct, with views of the Rance river below. We ended our time by visiting the château de Dinan, also known as the Keep of the Duchess Anne. I paid about 2,50€ to enter, and it was pretty cool scaling up-and-down the three-or-so floors. Granted, it was cramped inside, but all the more adventurous it was.

Dinan Old Town.
Château de Dinan.

By 15:00, my Couchsurfing host and I left Dinan to head back to Rennes. Although it usually takes only about 40 minutes to return, my host actually got slightly lost along the way, and the drive ended up being closer to 75 minutes. I was much too tired to care, as I found myself dozing off a little on the ride back. We soon returned in the late afternoon to rest a bit before we headed out to a house party later that night.

My visit to Saint-Malo and Dinan was short, but rewarding. As it goes with any small cities or towns, they don’t require a long time to sight-see, let alone stay the night in. Considering that I wasn’t even sure if I could’ve squeezed Dinan into the itinerary during my time in Brittany, I was glad that I was able to. I’d have to thank my Couchsurfing host for allowing me the mobility (i.e. his car) to see two places in one day– it was a pleasure!

I’ll be recapping the last of my travels from my Easter weekend during my first year as an assistante in due course. Until then!


— Rebecca

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