A car ride to Vannes

FOR far too long, driving in France has for me been no more than a direct route to Italy.

But if France has been somewhat under-appreciated, my week in Brittany changed all that and reminded me what a beautiful country it is.

One of the benefits was that we were able to avoid the hassle of airports; we took the car across the Channel from Poole to Cherbourg aboard the Brittany Ferries’ vessel Barfleur, a relaxed four-and-a-quarter-hour voyage.

Our destination, some 220 miles south-west, was the handsome old walled town of Vannes, on Brittany’s glorious Gulf of Morbihan, and it proved a perfect base from which to explore the region.

The old town is characterised by narrow cobbled streets and medieval gates. At its heart is the Cathedral of Saint-Pierre, a mix of Romanesque and Gothic styles, while Place des Lices is lined with colourful timber-framed houses.

Our stay included visits to Carnac, with its world-famous prehistoric stones, and Rochefort-en-Terre, voted in 2016 the most beautiful village in all of France. Boat trips took us to the glorious Ile d’Arz and to the island of Gavrinis with its unique Neolithic art and architecture.

The early July weather was hot and sunny throughout our stay, sometimes so extreme that sleeping became all but impossible. But we adored Brittany and we were thrilled to have properly renewed acquaintances with France.

Pictured: Timbered buildings in Vannes; the gardens by the Vannes ramparts; scenes in the Vannes market;