Ille-et-Vilaine

A view of the coast outside of Cancale.

is one of four departments of Brittany. It is the eastern most, which makes it the closest to our house. We can drive here in the amount of time it takes us to get to Paris. Everyone seems to have their favorite parts of Brittany. Many clients we have go every year to southern Brittany, Morbihan, making that department one of the most touristic regions of Brittany. It certainly is lovely, with such places as Pont-Aven, Concarneau and The Golfe de Morbihan, all stunning. The north, the Côtes d’Armour is more rugged and wild and suits many people for its sense of remoteness. The far west, Finistère, literally “the end of the earth”, has its charms and fans as well. We have visited each corner, but for me, Ille-et-Vilaine is my preferred location, probably because of its convenience for us, but also for its towns and beaches which I find very attractive.

Emily on the cliff

La Pointe du Grouin, outside Cancale, is a gorgeous spot where you can take a walk along cliffs and view the water from all directions. The day we went with the family, the sky was blue and the water was turquoise. Emily and Co. had never been to this location, so it was exciting for us to share it with them. We had discovered it on one of our travels some years ago and I have never gotten over how beautiful it is. I was pleased to revisit it.

Little stone islands and a lighthouse in the distance.

Cancale is a town we first visited many years ago with some friends from California. It is the town of Olivier Roellinger, a renowned French chef, who has a shop there where he sells his famous spice mixes. We stayed in town that evening and were able to eat dinner at one of his restaurants, Le Coquillage. It stands out in my memory as the best meal I’ve ever had.

While we were walking along the cliffs we were able to watch a school of dolphins playing near shore. We also saw a fishermen set his traps as the dolphins came towards his little boat to investigate. There were speed boats and sail boats to observe from afar as well.

As we drove along the coast from Cancale towards St. Malo, where we intended to sit on the beach together, we passed another beach called Plage du Guesclin which was practically deserted. It looked so inviting, that we parked here and walked down to the sandy beach and spent a couple of hours swimming and sun bathing, avoiding the inevitable crowds at St. Malo.

The kids had a kite, which didn’t work so well and a boogie board which was also only of limited success, but of course there are always sand castles to be constructed.

We carried on to St. Malo for dinner. The city of St. Malo is actually quite large, but we only really know the historic (and touristic) walled city section, which is quite small and untouched by modern architecture of any kind.

St. Malo, as I have written about before on this blog, is one of our favorite destinations. The walled town, surrounded on all sides by water, with a narrow spit of land leading to it, is full of shops and restaurants. We had a fabulous dinner at a place that serves Japanese-themed Breton crepes. A strange, but, as it turns out, excellent combination.

At this time of year it stays light until about 11PM. so after dinner we were able to walk all along the walls which surround the town and enjoy the views, the breeze and the end of a very special day.

The sun was setting on the Rance as we drove back to our gite in St. Suliac.

On another day we drove south to the very end of the river, where the Rance is narrow, to the town of Dinan, a lovely historic town with an old port. From here you can take a ride all the way to St. Malo.

Port of Dinan

There is a street leading from the port, at the bottom of town, to the center, which is on the hill above. It is quite long and steep but worth the climb just to see all the lovely old buildings. There are several artists’ ateliers located here. Dinan has some of the most beautiful and old buildings in Brittany.

On our last day on the coast, we briefly visited Dinard which is across the water from St. Malo. It is a very up-scale resort town with fabulous 19th century mansions lining the cliffs. It is known as “The Cannes of the North,” and has been a playground of the rich and famous for a couple of centuries.

For me the best part of Dinard is the view back to St. Malo.

6 thoughts on “Ille-et-Vilaine

  1. I think the word is Côtes d’Armor, not d’Armour. You may have made a mix with « Amour » which says how much you love the area and who can blame you!!!! I think they should rename the place!

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    1. You’re absolutely correct..I thought for a long time it was the “Côtes d’Amour” and I was so very disappointed to discover that is was really “Côtes d’Armor”. That didn’t seem right to me at all..I’m sure my brain conflated the two when I wrote “Armour”, but that’s not unusual for me when I try to speak French, my brain becomes completely scrambled!

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  2. Amour all that water and blue sky!!!

    But my favorite is the view down the street in Dinard…
    I am imagining…

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