Le Mont St Michel
Le Mont St Michel is a world heritage site and one the most visited places in France outside Paris. The Gothic-style Benedictine abbey, dedicated to the archangel St Michael, and the village that grew up in the shadow of its great walls, date back to the 8th century.
A €150 million project to build a hydraulic dam, to remove the silt and make Le Mont St Michel a tidal island once again was finally completed in 2016.
Le Mont receives c. 3 million visitors per annum and, as you can imagine, it gets very busy during the summer months, so we would recommend going either early or late in the day. In fact, during July and August it is possible to take a night-time tour of the abbey which can be spectacular on very dark, clear nights with the moonlight and the floodlighting on the Mont.
“This castle really is way above and beyond anything that words can say –
I am sure that Fougeres must be the most beautiful of them all”
Laurence of Arabia / Letters 26 August 1907
Fougères’ major monument is a medieval stronghold built atop a granite ledge, which was part of the defence system of the Duchy of Brittany against French aggression. Fougères also has one of only three belfries in Brittany. A sizable section of the town walls survive stretching from the château in the lower town up the hill to surround the upper town, and there is a delightful (but steep) walk down through a public garden to the chateau. A selection of reasonably priced brasseries and creperies are situated in the courtyard overlooking the chateau and moat – great for lunch or a cup of coffee on a sunny day.
The tour of the chateau is very child friendly, and on Thursday evenings in the summer there is free outdoor family entertainment. The cobbled street past the belfry in the upper town also serves as the centre of the Saturday market.
The old church (St Sulpice) near the chateau is also worth a visit as the inside features un-restored wood.
The American cemetery
The American cemetery at St James.
The Brittany American Cemetery and Memorial in France contains the remains of 4,410 American war dead, most of whom lost their lives in the Normandy and Brittany campaigns of 1944. Along the retaining wall of the memorial terrace are inscribed the names of 498 of the missing. Rosettes mark the names of those since recovered and identified.
The cemetery is open to the public daily from 9 a.m.to 5p.m including bank Holidays (except for December 25 and January 1). A staff member is on duty in the Visitor Building to answer questions and escort relatives to the grave and memorial sites. It is located about a 10 minute drive from Les Touches, on the road between St Georges and St James.
Superb long sandy beaches are to be found on the Cotentin peninsula, between Avranches and Granville – about 45 – 50 mins away from Les Touches. Our favourites are Carolles, Julloville and especially St Jean le Thomas (our favourite).
The medieval town of Dinan is well worth a visit. The medieval town on the hilltop has many fine old buildings, some of which date from the 13th century. The town retains a large section of the city walls, part of which can be walked round.
Major historical attractions include the Jacobins Theatre dating from 1224, the flamboyant Gothic St Malo’s Church, the Romanesque St Saviour’s Basilica, Duchess Anne’s Tower and the Château de Dinan.
A major highlight in the calendar is Dinan’s Fête des Remparts. The town is transformed with decoration and many locals dress up in medieval garb for this two-day festival. The festival takes place over the third weekend in July every even-numbered year.
After Mont St Michel, St Malo is the most popular tourist destination in the region. It is the historic centre of naval exploration and piracy, and the original ramparts were extensively rebuilt after the war and offer excellent views of the town and the sea.
Tall granite walls surround the old town, which was once a stronghold for privateers (pirates approved by the king). The Saint-Malo Cathedral, in the center of the old town, is built in Romanesque and Gothic styles and features stained-glass windows depicting city history. Nearby is La Demeure de Corsaire, an 18th-century privateer’s house and museum.