BRITTANY (BRETAGNE) MAP
Lined with spectacular beaches, wild headlands, and cliffs gnawed by the sea into long crags and inlets, Brittany fiercely maintains its Celtic traditions despite Paris’s age-old effort to assimilate the province. Britons fled Anglo-Saxon invaders between the 5th and 7th centuries for this beautiful, wild peninsula, and in the 800 years that followed, they defended their independence from Frankish, Norman, French, and English invaders. Breton traditions, dating from centuries of freedom, linger in the pristine islands off the Atlantic coast, and lilting Brezhoneg (Breton) is spoken at pubs and ports in the western part of the province.
The throbbing heart of Brittany, Rennes (pop. 210,000) has a well-earned reputation as the party capital of northwestern France, but the city is more than just a rocking good time. Its vieUe ville is as charming as any of France’s small medieval towns, cobblestones, half-timbered houses, and all. Unlike many of its neighbors, Rennes is not sagging under history’s awesome weight; this is, first and foremost, a city dedicated to life in the moment.
Trains leave from pi. de la Gare (02 99 29 11 92) for: Brest (214hr. every hr. â‚¬27); Caen (3hr. 8 per day, â‚¬28); Paris (2hr. every hr. â‚¬47); and St-Malo (lhr. 15 per day, â‚¬11). Buses (02 99 30 87 80) leave the train station for Angers (2’2-3hr. 3-4 per day, â‚¬16) and Mont-St-Michel (212hr. 1-2 per day, â‚¬ 12). Local buses run daily 5am-8pm; lines in areas with hopping nightlife run as late as midnight. A metro line runs through Rennes on the same ticket (â‚¬1).
PRACTICAL INFORMATION. To get from the train station to the tourist office, St-Yves, take av. Jean Janvier to quai Chateaubriand, turn left, walk along the river until you reach r. George Dottin, then turn right onto r. St-Yves. ( 02 99 67 11 11; fax 02 99 67 11 10. Open Apr.-Sept. M-Sa 9am-7pm, Su and holidays llam-6pm.) Access the Internet at Neurogame, 2 rue de Dinan. (02 99 65 53 85; www.neurog-ame.com. â‚¬3 per hr. Open M-Th 2pm-lam, F-Sa 2pm-3am. The post office ( 02 99 01 22 11) is at 27 bd. du Colombier, near the train station. Postal Code: 35032.
ACCOMMODATIONS AND FOOD. The Auberge de Jeunesse (HI) O, 10-12 Canal St-Martin, provides cheap and decent lodging. Take the metro (dir: Kennedy) to Ste-Anne. Follow r. St-Malo downhill to the river, bear left onto r. St-Martin, and the hostel will be on the right. ( 02 99 33 22 33; fax 02 99 59 06 21. Breakfast included. Reception 7am-llpm. Dorms â‚¬13. MCV.) Hotel d’Angleterre ,
Marechal Joffre, can’t be beat for location. Take the metro (dir: Kennedy) to pi. de la Republique, walk towards the river and turn right onto r. Jean Jaures; the hotel is on the right. ( 02 99 79 38 61; fax 02 99 79 43 85. Breakfast â‚¬5. Reception 7am-10:30pm. Singles â‚¬21-37; doubles â‚¬3244; triples â‚¬41-46. MCV.) Camping Municipal des Gayeulles , deep within Parc les Gayeulles, is packed with activities. Take bus #3 (dir.: St-Laurent) from pi. du Colombier (left of the train station) to PiscineGayuelles. Follow the paths and signs to the campground. ( 02 99 36
Reception mid-June to mid-Sept.’7:30am-lpm and 2-8pm; mid-Sept. to mid-June 9am-12:30pm and 4:30-8pm. Electricity â‚¬2.60. â‚¬3 per person; â‚¬1.60 per car. MCA.) Rue St-Malo has many ethnic restaurants. Inside the vieUe ville are traditional brasseries and cheap kebab stands. In general, the best food is found on the outskirts of the city center. The upscale ilCafe Breton , 14 r. Nantaise, serves Breton cuisine at reasonable prices. ( 02 99 30 74 95. Open M and Sa noon-4pm, Tu-F noon-3pm and 7-1 lpm.)
SIGHTS AND ENTERTAINMENT. Excellent examples of medieval architecture are near the tourist office on rue de la Psalette and rue St-Guillaume. At the end of r. St-Guillaume, turn left onto r. de la Monnaie to visit the imposing Cathedrale St-Pierre, which was begun in 1787. The center of attention is its carved and gilded altarpiece depicting the life of the Virgin. (Open daily 9:30am-noon and 3-6pm.) Across the street from the cathedral, the Portes Mordelaises. down an alley bearing the same name, are the former entrances to the city and the last vestiges of the medieval city walls. The Musee des Beaux-Arts, 20 quai Emile Zola, houses a small but stunningly varied collection, ( 02 99 28 55 85 40. Open Su-M and W-Sa lOam-noon and 2-6pm. â‚¬5, students â‚¬2.50. Under-18 free.) Across the river and up r. Gambetta is the lush Jardin du Thabor, considered to be among the most beautiful gardens in France. Concerts are often held here; a small gallery on the north side exhibits local artwork on a rotating basis. (Open June-Sept. 7:15am-9:30pm.)
With enough bars for a city twice its size and a collection of clubs that draws students from Paris and beyond, Rennes is a partygoer’s weekend mecca. Look for action in place Ste-Anne, place St-Michel, and the radiating streets. liDelicatessen, 7 allee Rallier du Baty, is tucked around the comer from pi. St-Michel in a former prison, having swapped jailhouse bars for dance cages to become one of Rennes’ hottest clubs. (Cover â‚¬10 Th-Sa after 1:30am, F-Sa â‚¬14 after 1:30am. Open Tu-Sa midnight-5am.) Le Zing, 5 pi. des Lices, packs the house with the young and beautiful. (a 02 99 79 64 60. Opens daily at 2pm, active from midnight until 2am.)