La Baule is a completely charming and popular area that satisfies anyone's notion of a French getaway: top restaurants, an expansive beach, wonderful oceanside properties, and a boardwalk that is tailor-made for strolling.
The Castel Marie-Louis, nighttime
The Castel during the day
Sculpture in the garden of the Hotel Royal, home of Foquet's restaurant
We stayed at the Chateau de Locguernole in the Moriban--a truly fascinating region. The Chateau itself is beautiful and situated on an extensive property with several hiking trails and a view of a beautiful bay.
View from the Chateau
Only a short drive from the Chateau are the mysterious megaliths of Carnac. Several other areas in the region have similar monuments.
The French version of Stonehenge
Also worth a visit is Quiberon, a popular tourist area near the Cote Sauvage (wild coast). A ruggedly beautiful area.
When we departed the Kervignac area, we headed south for a brief visit to the walled city of Concarneau. Still an important fishing port, the walled city was erected in the 14th century. Inside its mammoth walls, the streets are lined with shops, restaurants, and tourist attractions.
Along the way, we enjoyed a spectacular lunch at the isolated La Taupiniere restaurant:
We visited the charming Ile de Saint-Cado, in the Etel River, and linked to the mainland by a narrow stone bridge.
Interior of the 14th Century Chapel on St. Cado. The stained glass is from the 1960's.
Near the chapel on Saint-Cado, this Calvary was erected in 1822 and is the site of a special ceremony each year on the day of forgiveness.
The House of the Oyster was once surrounded by oyster beds and belonged to the keeper of the parks.
Perched on Brittany's north coast, Roscoff is a popular tourist destination and fishing port. Many of the structures date from the 1500's, and the city center is perfect for a bit of strolling, shopping, and dining.
Boats in the harbor at low tide
The Gothic Eglise Notre-Dame-de-Croaz-Batz was completed in 1545. Note the striking lantern turrets in the belfry:
Market Day: popular with visitors and locals:
Aged lobster tanks have been replaced by new ones slightly to the east:
This beautiful little chapel is on a hilltop near the outskirts of town and provided some great panoramic views of Roscoff:
Near Cancale, we stayed at the wonderful Chateau Richeux, owned by legendary chef Olivier Roellinger and his wife, Jill. The tidal changes here are the second greatest in the world, after only the Bay of Fundy.
View from our room
Mont St-Michel is visible in the distance
We visited nearby St. Malo, eighty percent of which was destroyed by Allied forces during WWII. The assault involved the first use of napalm in combat. Due to faulty intelligence, the Allies were operating under the mistaken belief that a substantial German force was present in the walled city. St. Malo has been beautifully restored, its massive walls intact, and is a popular stop for tourists.
St. Malo Cathedral
The village of Cancale was a delightful visit. Cancale sources one-third of the oysters served in France, and we enjoyed a spectacular lunch at one of the many restaurants which line the quay. There may be fresher, finer oysters, but I don't know where!
One oyster already missing--couldn't resist!
One church wall commemorates all of the fishermen who have been lost at sea
For a great escape from the pace of Amsterdam, spend a day touring the countryside. We began our tour with a visit to the popular Zaanse Schans windmills. As is well known, much of the Netherlands is below sea level. To drain the land of water, windmills were erected throughout the countryside. As they were gradually replaced by modern engines and pumps, some windmills were repurposed to grind various items. Most typically, this would be grain varietals, but one of the windmills at Zaanse Schans grinds pigment for paints.
The setting of the windmills is beautiful, and several other attractions, such as a wooden shoe making demonstration, are interesting. We enjoyed mustard soup for lunch, prepared from mustard seeds ground in one of the windmills.
We also visited Edam and other small villages in the region. Cheese rules!!
An old scale for weighing cheese
Different colors denote different types of aging cheese
Water links so much of the Netherlands and every small town has a canal. Small locks equalize water levels and it seems that everyone has a boat of some kind.
A very interesting and worthwhile day--a fun peek at life outside the hustle and bustle of the capitol!