A weekend break is the preferred form of travelling if you have a full time job. This time I am offering you a short travel to France with highlights as Fougères, Le Mont Saint-Michel and Giverny. My personal favourite in this trip was Fougères, a town that you won’t find as a hot spot in any travel guide, but yet so charming and unexpectedly beautiful.
On this trip we were travelling by car, but you can reach Fougères also by train (less than 3 hours from Paris) or by plane, nearest airport being the one in Rennes with direct connections to many European cities. When searching for a place to stay, opt out for the old town. If you happen to be there at the weekend, do not miss the thriving atmosphere at the local market on the Saturday morning.
Use the first day to immerse in the Upper Town, walk the streets, admire the castle from a distance. There’s still time to visit it later on during this trip.
For dinner choose one of the small restaurants offering Brittany’s most famous dish – the galette, a pancake-like savory dish made of buckwheat which can be served with anything from ham, cheese and eggs to black pudding.
Then end the day watching the night falling down above the medieval castle with a glass of your favourite drink, choose also for local – pommeau or cider, or just get a beer or a glass of wine. Enjoy the moment as the time has stopped at this place centuries ago.
A new day, time for new adventures. Head to Mont Saint-Michel – a magnet for millions of tourists each year, more than 3 million to be precise. Be prepared with comfortable shoes when you go to Mont Saint-Michel, as since 2015 the parking is on the mainland and you will need to walk about 2.5 km to the island. There are shuttle buses, of course, but then you have to line up and for the same time you can reach the island by walking.
In my humble opinion Mont Saint-Michel is to be enjoyed from a distance. With each step on the 2.5 km long way to the island you can enjoy the small pile of stone houses with a church spire on top growing bigger and bigger. Once there, you have to share this place with an average of 10 000 other tourists. It can be very crowded! It’s better if you go late in the afternoon, the chances that it will be swarming are less. Otherwise, you’ll find yourself in the middle of a big anthill.
The Grand Aquarium of Saint-Malo
Having had enough of the hassle and bustle of Mont Saint-Michel go somewhere different in the afternoon. My suggestion is the Grand Aquarium of Saint-Malo. You can admire the diversity of the oceans and the seas represented here by more than 6000 species – from sharks to giant turtles, various kinds of corals and coral reef fishes. Do not miss a dive with the Nautibus – a miniature submarine, a totally unique experience.
Saint-Malo is at about 50 km drive from Mont Saint-Michel. After the aquarium you can opt either to stay for the evening in Saint-Malo, another beautiful place in France, or go back to Fougères (Saint-Malo – Fougères is about 85 km).
If you can add one more day to your trip – spend a whole day at Saint-Malo. Parking there can be hell, so my suggestion is go to Dinard, leave your car there and take the boat to Saint-Malo.
The Public Garden
We are back at Fougères. Start your day with a walk along rue Nationale. Just at the end of it and behind the Saint-Léonard Church you’ll find the Public Garden of Fougères. From there you can enjoy a magnificent view down on the Castle.
The Medieval Quarter
From the Public Garden descend to the Medieval Quarter – the district of the craftsmen. Some of the houses date back to the 15c and the half-timbered houses are from the 17 c.
Val Nançon is a green patch of 2 ha situated at the foot of the Northern ramparts of the city and along the river of Nançon. It consists of family gardens, botanical garden, jardin de curé, a plant cage and a bamboo garden. It is a peaceful place where you can go for a stroll or just sit and enjoy the seasonal beauty. In the middle of the Gardens you can find the Oeuvre à la vie, a contemporary art work of Louis-Marie Catta, a symbol of a world of cultures.
The Castle of Fougères
Now it’s time to visit the castle and enjoy it from inside. I am sure you will hear the clippity-clop of the horses carrying knights in heavy armour… The place is almost surreal and absolutely stunning, it works like a time machine. It is one of the biggest preserved in good condition fortresses in Europe. The first wooden structure was demolished in 1166 and its place Roul II, Lord of Fougères, erected the new stone fortification.
The second highlight of this weekend break is Giverny, but staying anywhere in this small place can be very challenging with high rates and all accommodations being fully booked months in advance.
On this trip we chose for Pacy-sur-Eure – a small town on the river Eure, at only 20 minutes drive from Giverny. From Fougères to Pacy-sur-Eure it’s about 3 hours drive.
This small town can’t offer much itself – a nice hotel with a decent restaurant, some nice views on the river Eure and that’s all about it.
On the way to Giverny stop at this small town on the river Seine. It’s not a very famous touristic destination but you can still discover a few charming sights:
- the Collegiate Church of Our Lady;
- the half-timbered houses;
- the Old Mill, and
- the Tourelles Castle.
Why should you visit this small village? Well, if you are an Impressionism lover and you admire in particular Monet you can’t miss his house and a garden in Giverny. The artist had lived there for 43 years and you can see some of his paintings coming to life in front of your eyes when you walk around the pond or over the bridge, or in the fields around his house. This place is quite touristic, so be prepared to share its beauty with hordes of tourists with cameras, but you can still steal a few unique moments to enjoy its serenity.
If you are a Monet fan, I would recommend you to combine in one trip Giverny and Paris with the Musée d’Orsay and the Orangery, or if not possible, visit them shortly one after the other, starting with Giverny.