Brittany: My Home Away from Home and the Île-aux-Moines
It’s official! I now have a “second home” in Brittany. I use the quotes around “second home” because (as you know if you have been following my series on Buying Property in Paris) I don’t exactly have a primary residence at the moment! But details, details…
I rented a house with a friend in Baden, a small town south of Auray in the Morbihan, just 1 ½ kilometers from the closest water of the Gulf of Morbihan. The house will serve as a weekend house, vacation home, furniture storage site and a place to spend good times with friends and family. And it will also be my springboard to exploring more of this region of France that I have fallen madly in love with.
Last year on my birthday, I visited the Morbihan, on Brittany’s southern coast, for the first time. So I suppose it’s fitting that this year on my birthday was my first weekend in the house post-move. Two weekends ago, we spent three days unpacking. This weekend I could come back to purely enjoy the place.
Saturday, I puttered around the house (as one does with a new house), went to my local market, took a walk along the coastal path, covering some of the same ground I first trekked on last year, between Le Bono and Baden, welcomed a friend who was visiting from nearby Carnac and then dedicated the evening to Steps 1 – 25 (out of 40) of the manual on how to put together my new IKEA bed.
Sunday the weather was magnificent. No more chores – it’s my birthday and I am going to have fun! The drive back to Paris would be 4h30 even without traffic, so I was reluctant to take the car out during the day. Instead, I biked about 20 minutes to Port Blanc, where I caught the ferry over to Île-aux-Moines, a cross-shaped island about 6 kilometers long that lies just a 5-minute boat ride off the coast, in the protected Gulf of Morbihan.
The ferry costs just €4.30 round-trip plus an extra €3.50 round-trip to bring your bike along. There is also no shortage of bike rental stands when you arrive on the island (€10/full-day). With very few cars that are limited to 20 km/hour, the island lends itself well to bike exploration (though be warned, there are some steep hills!) I chose to leave my bike at Port Blanc as my primary mission was to hike the entire perimeter of the island, mostly on dirt paths that do not allow bikes. (A number of people were cycling them anyways….)
The path around the island follows some of the small roads, but it is primarily a dirt trail. It is not well-marked in all places. The best thing to do to avoid getting lost is to visit the island in a counter-clockwise circuit. Where there are trail markings, they tend to be small yellow signs with arrows pointing you around the island counter-clockwise and it’s not always easy to determine which path the arrow-followers are deemed to be coming from. Nonetheless, it’s a narrow island, so it’s difficult to get too lost.
Before boarding the ferry for my return to Port Blanc, I wandered through the small town center on Île-aux-Moines (“Le Bourg”), which is reserved for pedestrians only. A handful of small restaurants and cafés make for a lively little gathering place.
If you visit on a warm, sunny day, be sure to bring a bathing suit and towel, as you will pass by a number of inviting beaches. Or, if you are not into hiking or biking, Île-aux-Moines makes for a wonderful destination to just relax at the beach. The nearest and perhaps largest beach on the island is only a 5-minute walk from the ferry dock.
More ferry details
The ferry between Port Blanc and the island runs year-round every ½ hour between 7h00 (8h00 on Sundays and holidays) and 19h30. From July 1 through August 31 the ferry runs every 15 minutes, with the last boat at 22h00. Purchase tickets (€4.30 adult round-trip/€3.50 bike round-trip) at a ticket booth in Port Blanc in season or off season directly on board.
Have you visited Brittany? Which is your favorite place to visit in Brittany?
For a longer hike (3 days) and that does not require a car, combine a visit to Île-aux-Moines with a hike on the GR 34 (see my post on hiking from Auray to Vannes).