Welcome to our Brittany Blog
Sunday, 1st March 2020
The Bretons can’t make cakes.
The Bretons can’t make cakes, BUT they can make delicious bread and pastries. Over the last twenty years I have been on a mission to find the BEST pastry cake. It has been tricky but I’m up to the challenge. For years I searched for the best pain aux raisin….then I discovered Kouign amann (no, I can’t pronounce it either!!).
This ‘cake’ brings all the Breton bread / pastry making skills together. A kouign amann is a flaky caramelized cake made from bread dough, butter and sugar and is absolutely delicious especially when served warm. It is probably best not to dwell too long on its calorific content…
The origins of the kouign amann are uncertain. Did it stem from an unsuccessful batch of bread that was dusted with sugar and butter? Was it inspired by a Norwegian dessert, as the two countries were linked during the sardine fishing era? Or was it simply created during a family get together? It is said to have been invented by a Douarnenez baker during the 1860’s.
The kouign amann is not easy to make, and the old proverb, ‘make it if you want, successfully make it if you can’, particularly applies to this cake.
My challenge now, is to find the BEST kouign amann in Brittany. As it is very tricky to make, the quality varies enormously, but I promise you, one mouthful of a very very good kouign amann and you will be hooked!!…The best kouign amann so far has to go the boulangerie at Saint Martin sur Oust.
My quest continues, so if anyone has anyone has tasted an exceptionally good kouign amann please let me know.
Wednesday, 19th February 2020
Discover the legends of the Château de Suscino
If you are looking to visit a castle during your stay in Brittany, this is the one!
Built at the end of the Middle Ages, this is a most impressive castle.
The Duke that built this castle was a very clever man. This castle is set in 2,600 hectares which borders onto the sea. Within these 2,600 hectares are immense forests for hunting and wood for heating, the sea for fishing and salt beds.
Over time the Château de Suscino became a commercial agricultural center with vast fishing lakes, vines, flour mills and salt beds all of which contributed to the dukes wealth. As you approach Suscino you will pass through the villages Le Grand Bois (the Big Wood), Bon Bois (Good Wood) and le Vieux Bois (the Old Wood).
The Castle is pretty impressive but be prepared to climb some steps!.
Of course, a castle of this age is surrounded by myths and legends. Be enchanted by Merlin and the legends of King Arthur, the round table and their extraordinary adventures.
Legend has it that the Château se Suscino is home to the ghost of a very kind young boy and the the fairy ‘Mélusine’ uses the underground passageways from the Château de Suscino to get to the convent of the Trinitarians.
Thursday, 6th February 2020
Take a walk into the neolithic way of life, it is not what it may seem...
Step right back in time to the prehistoric days. Just a five minute drive from our gites takes you to the Standing Stones of Monteneuf. Our very own Stonehenge!, but children (and adults!) can climb on these stones!.
These stones date back to prehistoric times and are truly magical. The site is free to enter and whilst you are there you can discover the Neolithic house that has been reconstructed together with typical Neolithical garden (no bedding plants here!)
At the lower end of the site you can see how a stone block was moved and erected into a standing stone by our ancestors.
During the summer months workshops are held which I have attended when my children were younger. If they are running during your stay they are fun and our children thoroughly enjoyed learning how to make a fire with stone, making a clay pot, making a ‘necklace’ and then making a galette all using traditional neolithic methods and tools!.
Around the standing stones are marked pathways that lead off in all directions into the forest which now and again cross the Roman road. These paths take you deep into Brocéliande’s mystical world of folklore and legend. Reality and imagination merge into one when you reach the passage grave known as ‘La Morinais’, or the burial chamber called ‘La Maison Trouvé’, or walk around the lake of Chaperon Rouge (Little Red Riding Hood). Circular tours ranging from 1.5 to 15 km follow the line of the rocky outcrops that break through the grass-covered earth. Don’t be surprised if you find yourself in the company of a korrigan (the local name for a mischievous little elf). You’re on his land!
As you can tell I love it here!..and I regularly walk through these forests. I also know where the korrigans hang out, where they live and work. They make some truly magnificent forest art. If you can keep a secret I will give you a map so you too can discover the work of these clever elfs.
Thursday, 30th January 2020
Visit the Medieval town of Malestroit
I am sure that I’m not the only person that visits their local towns and takes it all for granted. The old buildings, cobbled streets, amazing tourist attractions. Well, my New Years Resolution is to explore all of our local towns and to whet your appetite for Brittany!..
We will start with Malestroit (yes, it is a bit tricky to say!), a small medieval town just 10km away.
Malestroit dates back to 987 and was formerly on the pilgrimage route to Compostela. However, Malestroit’s real claim to fame was it was in the Chapel of Madeleine the the Kings of France and England met to sign the truce of the Hundred Years War.
A trip to Malestroit should definitely be on you itinerary if you are visiting this corner of Brittany and I would allow a half / full day. So, what is there to do ?
1. First stop, the tourist information office and ask for their free guide to the town (they usually have this guide in English as well as French!). This guide takes you all around Malestoit and points out things that you will easily walk past. The Chapel de Madeleine is just on the outskirts of Malestroit and is now just a ruin and whilst of great historical importance it really isn’t worth the 20 minute walk.
2. Visit on a Thursday, it is market day! Eat hot crepes as you wonder through the stalls buy a baguette, a spit roasted chicken or a bowlful of Paella and head for the canal for your impromptu picnic
3. After lunch take a stroll up the canal and if you are feeling really energetic you can hire a canoe or two.
Malestroit is a typical Breton town. It hasn’t changed since we first arrived over 20 years ago, but that is precisely why we like it. Everything else around us moves so fast, but when you are strolling through the cobbled streets you can really imaging what it would have been like working for the resistance in World War II. What goes on behind the enormous shutters. The houses look so tall and dreary from the outside but if you manage to walk past one of the gated entrances where the gate is open, peer in, the gardens and courtyards are amazing.
Wednesday, 22nd January 2020
Galette des Rois
The Galette des Rois (Kings cake) is one of my favourite French traditions. The Galette des Rois is a delicious cake of puff pastry stuffed with frangipane, where only refined almond powder is used.
Traditionally this cake should be eaten on 6th January, Epiphany, the Feast of the Three Kings, but if I am honest I have been eating them since they first appeared in the shops on 2nd December!!
It is now 22nd January and they are still in the shops, but I think that this may be my last one this year!
Inside of the Galette is placed a small ‘feve’, the prize, which usually is a small ceramic figurine which I am amazed is still permitted as these could easily be swallowed or at the very least break a tooth !!..
1.Gather friends and friends around a table.
2.The youngest person then crawls under the table.
3.The oldest (or the most honest !!) person then acts as distributor.
4.The distributor then cuts a slice of the galette and the person nominates who should be served each slice.
5.The person who finds the ‘feve’ is the King and wears the crown !!
Tuesday, 14th January 2020
The Old Ivy restaurant in Reminiac reopens next week ....
The good news is that the Old Ivy is re-opening on the 20th of January 2020 after being closed a while due to the previous owners ill health
A local family is taking it over and intend to offer all sorts of local Breton produce both lunchtime and some evenings
There will also be a bar plus café and fresh bread will be on sale daily..........
As soon as we have tried it out we'll let you know
Sunday 12th January 2020
Brexit and Travelling to France in 2020
At last some sort of resolution to Brexit is on the horizon so here's the latest we have as far as travelling to France goes for 2020. The good news is nothing should change this year- plus, assuming the details get sorted out not a lot should be different for 2021 onwards either
The UK is leaving the EU on the 31st January 2020 but there will be a transition period until the 31st December 2020. During that time nothing will change as far as UK citizens rights in Europe are concerned. No extra paperwork, visas etc will be required to travel to France. The European Health card will still be valid during this eleven month period
Brittany Ferries have said on their website ......"Whether you have already booked or are thinking of travelling with us, deal or no deal, Brittany Ferries will continue to operate all routes after the UK has withdrawn from the European Union. The fundamentals of travel by sea will not change regardless of the post-Brexit landscape, so please continue to book with confidence"
Passports: The Goverment advises that you should ensure that there are at least six months duration reminiang on your passport from your date of arrival abroad. For the latest information, visit the government’s webpage on passports
So book with confidence and come and visit sunny France !