French writer Julien Marsault recently enjoyed an off-season adventure on the Brittany coast in northwestern France. Here he shows you what you can see and do on a gentle road trip filled with wildlife spotting, excellent seafood and rejuvenating coastal walks.
Being a freelancer isn't always a walk in the park. Back in late September, I needed a break. My partner couldn't take a full week off for a trip abroad, so we decided to travel for just three days and two nights nearby, exploring a bit more of the region we've been living in for almost two years now. Our goal: a touch of nature, delicious cuisine, and the tranquility of the Breton coast.
Where did you stay? What was the vibe?
We stayed one night in the small harbor city of Paimpol after spending an entire afternoon exploring one of the most beautiful places in the region, Bréhat, known as the 'Island of Flowers.' Despite spring being a distant memory, the location gracefully combined serenity and beauty. It reminded us somewhat of Scotland, with its unpredictable weather, tranquil harbors, and sandy shores giving way to striking red cliffs. Visiting during the off-season allowed us the advantage of walking without many people around and enjoying a comforting cup of coffee in one of the nearly deserted village squares.
The next day we drove for an hour to reach Perros-Guirrec where we would stay for the night. We enjoyed a lovely morning with a leisurely stroll along the stunning pink rocks of Ploumanac'h beach before having lunch in a Breton restaurant: the Crêperie des Flots.
Favorite activity from the trip?
Our trip’s climax was a boat tour of the Sept Îles archipelago (€50 for two). Despite the cloudy sky, we embarked on a nearly three-hour cruise on the water to explore the realm of Northern Gannets, known as "Les fous de bassan" – a bird species renowned for its fishing techniques. This nature reserve is indeed a sight to behold, and if you're as lucky as we are, you might even have the chance to greet a seal basking nonchalantly on its rock.
Best thing you ate?
After visiting the Sept Îles archipelago we made a stop at Le Bleu Marin, a cozy seafood restaurant in Perros-Guirrec. It’s tricky for me not to take advantage of the abundance and quality of Breton fishing during such an excursion. After finding the perfect spot by scrolling through Google Maps (after a few years of practice, I learned how to deal with it), booking a table for two was very quick, and the service was impeccable (once again, the joys of traveling off-season). We relished a splendid selection of shrimp, crabs, oysters, and, most importantly, a fine and crispy bottle of white wine to cap off the day in grand style (€60-70 for two).
What is the one thing that you did not expect?
It may sound trivial, but as a dedicated cyclist, I was pleasantly surprised by how cheap and smooth it was to travel around by car.
A dear friend lent us her personal vehicle and here, you don't need a powerful SUV; the roads are typically in good condition, the speed limit is 110 km/h, and there are no tolls in Brittany (it's the only region in the whole country without motorways). This trip also made me discover an online map, managed by the government, which lists the fuel prices based on your location, a handy way to save some cash.
It was also pretty easy to find parking in Perros-Guirrec. Sometimes, it can be a bit challenging in these small coastal towns. This allowed us to be completely free in our movements, without having to watch the clock to avoid having to pay an expensive fine.
What was the most under-the-radar activity you enjoyed?
We concluded our journey with a leisurely hike in the Monts d'Arrée, located just under 100 kilometers from Perros-Guirec, before embarking on a two-hour drive back to Rennes. It’s way less touristy than the Breton coast but, off-season, this mountain range offers a great opportunity to experience absolute tranquility, as you relax in the picturesque landscape of moors and rocks. Regrettably, the area suffered a devastating fire back in 2022, but it still retains its cherished landscapes and magnificent forests. Whether you are in Brittany or elsewhere, if nature nurtures you, return the favor by taking care of it.
What was the handiest thing you packed?
My pair of German army trainers of course. It’s lightweight, particularly comfortable, sturdy, has been a cornerstone of my wardrobe for almost 8 years and cost me less than €30 (it’s a bit more expensive nowadays). Originally used by the German army, developped by Adidas, this vintage model became very popular when Belgian fashion designer Martin Margiela drew inspiration from it to create similar shoes in the early 2000s, named Replica.
They accompany me on many journeys, both in France and abroad. Bretagne is no exception and the unpredictable nature of its weather calls for a versatile pair, especially when it comes to walking for long hours. Bonus: they pair very well with a more dressed-up outfit like during our dinner at Le Bleu Marin.