WHERE: Vannes, France
WHY: It is a magical medieval “commune” in Brittany- which is one of the six Celtic nations, located in Northwest France.
With a serene coastline nearby and a plethora of winding medieval streets, Vannes is a quaint and picturesque town.
A harbor filled with boats alluded to the wondrous summer season out on the water and the widespread timbered buildings made me feel as if I were on a movie set or in a Renaissance Faire village.
Vannes was also my first experience in mainland Europe, so my serious awe was definitely warranted.
I strolled through pedestrian lanes, eating kouignettes (yes, plural… dark), gazed at a grand gothic cathedral to then find myself in a perfectly landscaped garden against ancient fortifications. So surreal.
FOOD: Maison Georges Larnicol
Located in the most scenic part of the town, Place Henri IV, you can get a real feel for the medieval zoning in this market square. It is truly atmospheric, with plenty of cute shops and cafés.
I will perpetuate the cliché- the food in France is divine.
I was staying with my friends, who are natives, and they graciously overfed me with home cooking.
My stomach was stuffed with traditional savory crêpes with ham, cheese, and egg, as well as sweet crêpes lathered with nutella and speculoos. It is safe to say it was a fairly indulgent trip.
I also tried Brittany’s infamous Breizh Cola. It was essentially Coca-Cola’s second cousin, or Pepsi’s first cousin twice removed.
I was brought to Maison Georges Larnicol to further get an authentic taste for the cuisine. My pals said a kouignette was imperative to try: it is a small version of the kouign-amann, which is a Breton cake that’s doughy, buttery, sugary, and flaky.
My particular kouignette included some baked apple, it was simply scrumptious and literally melted in my mouth.
They then swore I had to nibble on some of the heavenly looking chocolate square concoctions. I thought I would likely go into sugar shock so I resisted.
Maison Georges Larnicol is a dreamy little bakery offering a diverse selection of incredibly tasty desserts. Of all treats, a kouignette is absolutely necessary. But if you are not stuffed or overwhelmed by all the irresistible options, go big with a kouign-amann.
ARTS: Vannes itself
By simply being in Vannes all my artistic desires were satisfied, my creative juices were just flowing. It is a particularly excellent location to engage in some excessive photography.
I suggest honing your camera skills and documenting everything, because it serves as a truly unique and authentic backdrop or central subject. I am constantly shooting 35mm film and went through so many rolls.
Film is my preference as it really captures the authenticity of a moment and location.
Another creative route to channel while in Vannes is writing. I felt very contemplative with the city’s beauty and history; I dedicated some time to sit and reflect over a coffee at the Hemingway Café while overlooking the harbor.
As cheesy as it sounds, some poetry flowed out of my pen onto my moleskine notebook and it was such a satisfying feeling.
Vannes will most definitely trigger your imagination, so be sure to tap into a creative outlet. You can even just jot down some thoughts in the notes app on your phone, or come prepared- throw a little watercoloring kit and a small notebook in your bag.
You will feel really accomplished and have a memorable, palpable, and personal treasure from the trip.
Check out John Gunn Camera Shop to get some great deals on film and retro cameras before heading on your adventure.
RELAX: Jardin de Remparts
Vannes is a walled city filled with towers, ports, gates, and châteaus, dating back to the 4th century.
Jardins de Vannes includes gorgeously landscaped lawns amidst these old structures, with an old wash house still in pristine condition.
You can stroll through here and feel the presence of the old ways. In my mind, I imagined men in leggings sword fighting and juggling fruit.
Vannes is a prime location to be a flâneur.
Get to the Jardins de Vannes and appreciate the well sculpted green acreage while examining phenomenal old construction.
It is so breathtaking and almost convinces you you were meant to be born in an earlier century.
And of course wandering through here is free of charge!
DRINK: Le Chat qui Grogne
Also known as The Grumpy Cat, this is the token Irish pub of Vannes, fully equipped with Taytos.
With an intimate, cosy, moody interior and traditional music on the one’s and two’s, Le Chat qui Grogne is a lovely wee bar to enjoy a chill evening out on the town.
Play darts, and order the bull while you are at it- it is sliced up into bite-sized circles and is super chewy.
The owner/ bartender is really pleasant and appreciated my efforts in ordering in French.
Embrace Brittany, this mighty Celtic nation, and get your jig on at Le Chat qui Grogne.