DINAN, BRITTANY, FRANCE — Sometimes you visit a place to spark nostalgia. Sometimes you visit a place to find something new. When you find that place that stirs up a thousand memories and a thousand more possibilities–only then have you found a place that’s a part of you.
When Molly’s mom came to visit us and asked where our favorite place in Europe to visit was, it didn’t really require an answer. We just booked flights, found a rental and licked our lips. Back to Bretagne it was.
This time, though, we knew more. We knew the must-see locations and the special spots that we’ve missed the first time. We decided to book a cottage in the tiny Medieval town of Dinan, in the heart of northern Brittany, as a headquarters to explore the peninsula and abroad. So there we were, on a sunny September day, touching down in Nantes, grabbing the car and heading northwest: towards the towering grey ocean clouds, towards the smell of salt and sea, towards our Bretagne.
The north coast has a few amazing gems. St. Malo is the obvious draw–as close to a cosmopolitan city as you’ll find. We came to walk the ramparts, kick our feet in the sandy low tide strand and sip vin blanc in the old greystone squares.
Cancale is St. Malo’s rugged little sister. But she brings so many amazing treats. We pulled into the port just as the last oyster shacks were about to shutter for the evening. Perfect timing for a few dozen different varieties, a cold bottle of cidre (practice here: see-druh) and the perfect view over the north Atlantic.
I honestly can’t think of many things as pure, as perfect and as beautiful of the tastes and sights on that little spit of land. It was a homecoming of every kind.
We managed to find a fishmonger on the way out of town–helping ourselves to a veritable bounty from the ocean: a three-pound lobster, massive stone crab, collection of tiny clams and langostines–and another few dozens oysters for good measure.
That night we feasted in our comfy little cottage, just outside the ramparts of the down of Dinan, a few minutes walk up hill from the city’s little port on the river Rance.
The last time we had visited this town straight out of a storybook, we didn’t even notice that it had a port; instead spending a fleeting day exploring its ramparts, squares and winding cobblestone streets.
But since we had a bit more time to settle in, we decided to make the most of the town’s water highway. Although Dinan is set some 40km inland from the coast, the river Rance slices a neon green line through the calm pastures, connecting Dinan to the sea.
We rented a small motorboat and headed upstream instead. Under the city’s 100-meter tall, 300-year old viaduct and through several manual locks, past farmland and an ancient seminary.
The cool autumn air in the bright sunshine was perfect. A few kilometers upstream we had to stop for some more oysters and cidre and soak in the day.
The taste of the oysters, the warmth of the sun brought back so many fond memories of our travels here. It was no wonder that this beautiful but haunting place was every day starting to feel more and more like a kind of home.
That night, sitting by the docks with the full moon overhead, we thought about what it might be like to call this our real home some day. Some day when we’re old and grey as the cobblestones in the ramparts, we could while away our time in the cafes or floating down the Rance. Some day.
But tomorrow was about thinking back, not forward, and discover something completely new: north to Normandy.